The good, the bad, and the ugly
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 Graham...today.
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.