Wednesday, November 30, 2005

For my American friends

Babble on.

Canadian federal politics are a dog's breakfast these days. So it's no wonder some of our friends to the south have taken the wrong message from this week's non-confidence vote.

Target Centermass quotes a USA Today line: "A corruption scandal forced a vote of no-confidence Monday..." Captain's Quarters also seems to think the government's defeat is all about Adscam. InstaPundit uncharacteristically goes way, WAY over the top: "Reader T.J. Marshman thinks that Ed Morrissey deserves credit for bringing down the Candadian government, by breaking the publication ban on the Gomery investigation. Could be! I started to say that before, but didn't want to be accused of blogger triumphalism."

Where to begin?

Let's start with the overblown idea that putting Gomery inquiry testimony out in the public sphere a few days early way back in April triggered the election this week. As I mentioned at the time, the publication ban was a temporary one - if Gomery has really and truly wanted to bury it, he would have heard the testimony in camera. And that was eight months ago. Since that time, Gomery's inital report has been published (the fact-finding portion - a second report with recommendations to prevent a recurrance of this sort of abuse of power will be forthcoming in the early spring), and it actually exonerated Paul Martin. Much of the information was already available back when another non-confidence vote was taken, and the Liberals won that one (although they shouldn't have been allowed to - they lost the confidence of the House of Commons a week before the vote, and only survived it by bribing a defector from the Conservatives with a juicy Cabinet post).

If the government's defeat had been precipitated by Adscam testimony, it would have gone down long before now.

In fact, it's not the scandal that triggered the election at all. Jack Layton's nineteen-seat NDP party propped up the Liberal government in exchange for $4.6 billion in budget concessions back in June. They tried to extort even more out of the government earlier this month, and when they were rejected, they decided to pull the plug:

Layton, frustrated with Martin's refusal to meet his demands for health-care reforms, pulled the plug on the uneasy alliance his party forged with the Liberals last spring, depriving Martin of the ability to stave off an election call until well into the new year.

"We will not be supporting the government in a confidence motion when it comes forward," Layton said after a speech to a business audience at a downtown Toronto hotel.

So to my understandably confused compatriots south of the border: this was about parliamentary politics in a minority government, not about scandal. It was most certainly not about blogging.

In a way, I wish you guys were right, since it would be evidence of some sort of moral standard in the Canadian electorate. Unfortunately, corruption on even a grand scale just doesn't have that much pull in Canada.

Babble off.

Update: Welcome to readers from The MotherCorp's site! As a certified right-wing nutbar, I find it deliciously ironic that the first mainstream media outlet to link to yours truly is the Castro Bootlicking Corporation. Serves me right.

Well, welcome to you - beer's in the fridge, munchies are in the cupboards, and the bathroom's down he hall and on the right. Make yourself at home, and come back to visit anytime.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

We could have done better

Babble on.

Over at Let It Bleed, an old debate has been exhumed: as an opposition party, do you put policy out there early in order to get a head start changing minds, or do you hold back until you see the whites of the incumbents' eyes in the the hope you'll prevent them from stealing all your best planks?

What I know about proven political strategy would fit neatly in double-spaced twelve-point Times New Roman on a single sheet of Cottonelle. Probably wouldn't change what the sheet was best used for, either.

Having said that, some things feel right and others don't. My party's strategy - keep your policy cards close to the vest - just doesn't work for me.

Why? Because at most, policy platforms change the way people think, and Stephen Harper's Tory party needs to change the way they feel. Of the 70% of the Canadian adult population who don't particularly want to vote CPC, most would say it's because Harper's scary, or the Conservatives make them nervous.

Imagine for a moment any of those people picking up their morning newspaper next Monday and reading - I'm pulling this from thin air, OK? - that the Harper Conservatives are committed to a fully-funded and accountable public health care system. Can you see them setting the paper down, taking a sip of their coffee, and with a warm smile spreading across their face, saying "Scary? What was I thinking?"

Me neither.

Any sales professional can tell you that emotion trails thought. We have a host of time-honoured chestnuts to remind us of this truism. "A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still." "People will do business with those they know, like, and trust." The best tool for overcoming objections I've ever come across is Feel, Felt, Found: "I know how you feel. Other customers of mine originally felt that way too. But here's what they found..."

All this simply acknowledges that people's buying decisions are most often emotional rather than intellectual. And the fact of the matter is that Harper needs voters to buy him and his party, and quick. All the policy in the world won't do that overnight.

I think Harper and his handlers have mismanaged the opportunity from the start. I think a coherent policy platform followed up with interviews, with editorial board visits, with articles and letters to the editor would have started people talking. I think it would have given him an excuse to get in front of Joe and Jane Canuck with a positive message and start looking like a Prime Minister in waiting. I think it would have done wonders to help him finally shed the Mr. Angry albatross around his neck.

Those I've heard argue the other side of the coin - that hanging on until the last minute keeps Liberal paws off your best ideas - are missing the point. Unless voters get a better feeling from Harper and the CPC, the policies won't matter. Keeping the policies under lock and key until an election starts just reinforces that you have something to hide, and you just can't overcome that in eight weeks.

Think I'm nuts? Ask yourself this: if Harper ran on the Liberal platform, but with the trust of the electorate, would he win? Anyone answering no needs to pull their head out of...the sand. Trust trumps ideas. Putting the ideas out there early would have given people an opportunity to see the sincerity, the integrity, the compassion of the Conservative Party as Harper defended and explained them in public. And once he had their trust, the rest would have taken care of itself.

Harper may yet salvage a frail minority out of this election. I'll be working with my local CPC candidate to ensure he manages at least that.

But he could have done so much better.

Babble off.

Monday, November 28, 2005

And then there were four...

Babble on.

For too many Canadians, remembrance of our war veterans stops the minute the poppy comes off their lapel. It shouldn't.

The last veteran of the First World War believed to have seen action has died, leaving only four Canadians still alive who served in the 1914-1918 conflict.

Clarence (Clare) Laking died at Sunnybrook and Women's College Health Sciences Centre in Toronto on Saturday.

Laking, who was 106, served on the front line as a private with the Canadian Field Artillery, 27th Battery, 4th Brigade.

In 1917, at 18 years of age and against his minister father's wishes, the native of Campbellville, Ont., enlisted in the 64th Battery in Guelph, Ont.

He served two years in France as a signaller, stringing wire for field telephones along the trenches for $1.10 a day.

Thanks for e-mailing this story to me, Andrew.

Babble off.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Pro Patria

Babble on.

Military service is a dangerous job, for infantry more than any other branch. They know that going in, and every one of them is a volunteer. That doesn't make it any less difficult when we lose one.

My condolences to the families of those Canadian soldiers involved in a serious vehicle accident while patrolling in Afghanistan yesterday: Pte Paul Schavo, Cpl James Edward McDonald, Cpl Shane Dean Jones, Sgt Tony Nelson McIver, who were all injured, and especially to the family of Pte Braun Scott Woodfield, who died in the accident. My heart is also with 2RCR, their extended family.

Pro Patria.

Babble off.

Update: Col (R) Howie Marsh, a well respected Canadia defence analyst, rebuts some of the speculation that the rollover was caused by a design flaw.

To put this matter in context, the LAV III has had very few rollovers per million kilometers of fleet usage; probably less, in fact, than a typical SUV.

This is a tragic accident. But from a systemic point of view, events such as this one can be reduced, but never completely eliminated. As I said, soldiering is a dangerous profession.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Babble on.

According to Stephen Thorne, one of the few Canadian journalists with any credibility on military matters, Minister of National Defence Bill Graham is turning out to be a clever and creative political advocate for the military in this Cabinet. Unfortunately, since it's a Liberal Cabinet - that is, a Cabinet stocked completely with pin-dicked weasels and spineless morons - Graham's persuasive talents are used mostly to salvage what he can from sordid and selfish decisions based upon electoral politics rather than clear-headed statesmanship.

The federal government expects to announce Tuesday it will proceed with the $4.6-billion purchase of 16 transport aircraft for the Canadian military, The Canadian Press has learned.
A relentless series of phone calls from Defence Minister Bill Graham to cabinet colleagues and overseas conversations with Prime Minister Paul Martin travelling in Asia over the past week resurrected a priority portion of the original $12.1-billion purchase.

Good on Graham for salvaging what he could. Given the quick comeback time, I'm guessing this was a planned fallback position - which speaks volumes about the improvement in how business is being conducted in Rick Hillier's NDHQ: stop whining, and start working smart to get as much as you can as quickly as you can. The fact that this surprised even uniformed sources below the top tier is also a good sign.

A senior military officer said the reversal is almost too good to be true.

Uniformed staff at National Defence Headquarters are having a hard time believing Graham managed to bring the purchase back from the dead - the political equivalent of what one observer called a "back flip with a twist."

"And to see this happen fast is outstanding. It shows a solid commitment that we're not used to."

Of course, the fact that a guy who was in Cabinet for the past decade can get away with the following statement, as though he and his colleagues had absolutely nothing to do with it, still rankles:

He said Martin knows the military has a key role to play in Canada's foreign policy and can't do so without the right equipment.

"Certainly, the airlift capacity is a key part of that," said Graham. "Take the Hercules fleet - everybody in the country knows it's coming to the end of its useful life." (Babbler's italics)

Exactly whose fault is that, Billy? *Deep, calming breath* Still, I'm not here to bash

No, today I think I'll point out just how stupid Paul Martin's PMO thinks we all are:

A source in the Prime Minister's Office said there has been a fundamental shift in the way Ottawa conducts military procurement.

"This government is not just talking the talk, it's walking the walk," said the senior official. "We have to ensure fairness in any procurement process but, once we have met that condition, there are two principles that guide the PM, the minister and the chief of defence staff.

"First, we must act swiftly. Second, we must serve the needs of the troops, not the defence contractors or lobbyists. Evidence of the government's commitment to the proper equipping of the forces will be on prominent display this week."

You hear that? This week it's all about equipping the CF properly and telling those defence contractors and lobbyists off. Never you mind that last week it was all about toadying to those same contractors and lobbyists, and denying the CF the equipment they need.

And just in case you don't believe they need it:

Canadian forces Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) with a dedicated helicopter support and is reaching deeper into the quake affected areas.

The Kamov (KA-32) helicopter from Vancouver Island Helicopters in Canada started flights on Sunday, with the first flight bringing tents, food and mobile medical teams to treat victims in Batangi and Nardajian.

"This helicopter support means that we can save more lives," said Lieutenant-Colonel Mike Voith, commander of Canada's DART.

"Some areas are inaccessible by road, but not inaccessible to the hard work and determination of our mobile medical teams and helicopter pilots and engineers." "We are proud and happy to be working with the DART here in Pakistan," said Rick Kernahan, one of the two volunteer helicopter pilots from Canada.

Good on Vancouver Island Helicopters for stepping up. But let's not lose sight of the fact that our Canadian military not only had to rent a heavy-lift chopper to do humanitarian work, it also had to get it into theatre on a rented transport.

CH-47 Chinooks would be a good purchasr for heavy-lift helos, and so would C-27J Spartans for SAR. I've already made that argument. Our forces need these aircraft, and yesterday wouldn't be too quick.

When you go to the polls sometime in the next couple of months, don't forget that the Liberals quashed these proposals without a thought to the men and women in uniform. Don't forget that they caved to Bombardier lobbyists in a feeble attempt to save votes in Quebec.

Don't forget that they can't be trusted to do the right thing when it comes to our Canadian Armed Forces.

Babble off.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Same old same old

Babble on.

Chris Taylor bet me over a beer the other night that within six months I'd be back to posting at least twice a week. The wager was - what else? - beer. If the Liberals continue to raise my blood pressure like this, I might well be buying the next time we raise a glass together.

The federal government has delayed a $12-billion purchase of military aircraft until after the next election, deferring political fallout over buying foreign products, The Canadian Press has learned.

Key cabinet ministers and the defence chief faced "passionate" aerospace industry representatives Monday night. They had to deflect claims they were tailoring the purchase of planes and helicopters to eliminate Canadian competition in favour of specific foreign-built craft they want.

"It's unanimous - we're not moving with it now," a government official said on condition of anonymity.

"We're not moving with this before an election.

"It's all on the basis of the ferocious lobbying by industry. It's all Toronto-Montreal-Bombardier politics."

While I tend towards Gen Hillier's perspective, there are legitimate reasons to oppose this purchase: these might not be the right aircraft for what our military will be doing in the next fifteen years; bundling three separate types of aircraft into one procurement might not be a good buying strategy; making the bid specifications so tight as to effectively decide the winning aircraft beforehand might be bad policy, and set a bad precedent besides.

Notice that offending the tender sensibilities of chronic taxpayer-leech Bombardier is not enumerated among those legitimate reasons. Nor is political manoeuvring designed to win Liberal votes.

This is typical Liberal bullshit, and as has become a pathetic and twisted habit for our Natural Governing Party, soldiers and taxpayers will end up with the short end of the stick, mark my words.

Babble off.

Friday, November 11, 2005

I remember

The Dead
BLOW out, you bugles, over the rich Dead!
There's none of these so lonely and poor of old,
But, dying, has made us rarer gifts than gold.
These laid the world away; poured out the red
Sweet wine of youth; gave up the years to be
Of work and joy, and that unhoped serene,
That men call age; and those who would have been,
Their sons, they gave, their immortality.

Blow, bugles, blow! They brought us, for our dearth,
Holiness, lacked so long, and Love, and Pain.
Honour has come back, as a king, to earth,
And paid his subjects with a royal wage;
And Nobleness walks in our ways again;
And we have come into our heritage.
- Rupert Brooke

My heartfelt thanks go out every day, but especially on November 11th, to all those who have served.