There is an editorial comment in the National Post which is headlined: “The Liberals’ money-wasting, defence-shirking, politically craven jet circus gets worse ~ Politics, pandering and pork for a Quebec company is more important to this government than fielding a proper air force.” Regular readers will not be surprised to learn that I agree 100%. I’m not excusing the Conservatives: heaven alone knows that the CPC managed to mangle the jet fighter replacement because, at least in past, weak defence ministers could not prevent the (too numerous) military brass from having fun with numbers as they tried to ‘sell” a project and the government (and parliament, itself) could not be bothered to learn about and explain life cycle costs.
I still do not know what the “best” fighter is for Canada. There is a huge number of strategic (trade and commerce), operational, technical, financial, industrial and political issues that I am not even remotely qualified to discuss.
What I am pretty certain of is that:
- The original promise to not buy the F-35 was good politics but bad, really bad policy; but
- That promise made the companion promise to hold a fair and open competition impossible;
- The “capability gap” was created, by the Liberals, to allow them to delay making a decision until after the 2019 election by which time they hope voters’ memories will have faded;
- The proposal to buy 18 Super Hornets (by all accounts a not bad aircraft) was, I have been told, part of a “bait and switch” campaign which would have seen –
- 18 new Super Hornets in the air quite soon,
- The quiet disappearance of the capability gap and the requirement for about 90 aircraft, and
- The sole source purchase of 50 more new Super Hornets giving Canada about the same number of Generation 4.5 aircraft as the Conservatives said were necessary when they planned to buy the 5th Generation F-35 Lightening fighter; but
- That all fell apart when Boeing attacked Bombardier for being too heavily subsidized (in its civilian fleet projects) by governments.
- The Conservatives failed to make a sound political case for the F-35 project;
- The Liberals played politics with the issue during the campaign; but
- Once in power the Liberals continue to play politics … right up until today.
Thus, the National Post editorial board is quite right when it says that “Incompetence is securely at the controls. The government’s indecision and Canada’s broken military procurement system have delayed the execution of this terrible plan … [and] … There’s nothing new about utter ineptitude in matters of Canadian military procurement. The Conservatives were also terrible, and both parties have long traditions of living down to Canada’s traditionally low standards. But the wheeling and dealing on display here is still a marvel. The primary duty of any government is to secure the safety and security of the country, including by properly equipping an appropriately sized military. There’s also the moral duty of any Canadian government to take proper care of those citizens who wear our uniform and serve as this country’s first line of defence. Somewhere in there, governments also owe taxpayers a duty to not wantonly burn piles of public money for political reasons while attempting a military-procurement process … [therefore] … The Liberals are clearly signalling via their actions, however, that honouring nonsensical campaign promises, avoiding embarrassing flip-flops, and pressuring a U.S. aircraft manufacturer that’s in a dispute with a Canadian industry darling, all come first. Politics, pandering, and pork for a Quebec conglomerate are more important to this government than fielding a proper air force. Don’t take our word for it. Just watch the Liberals in action.” Exactly!