A few years ago the big deals in government were things like ‘outsourcing‘ and ‘alternative service delivery‘ and so on ~ all ways designed to ‘help‘ us, we were assured, to “do more with less,” when fiscal times were tough. No one is more familiar with fiscal ‘tough times‘ than the Canadian Armed Forces, even when the economy is booming and people are happy no one ever wants to spend on defence and within the defence department few functions are under more scrutiny than VIP support, especially the VIP aircraft fleet.
Mercedes Stephenson, a very sharp reporter who has good sources in the military, explains, on the CTV News website, that the 31 year old Airbus 310-300 was bedevilled with repeated ‘snags’ during the prime minister’s recent trip to India. The PM was never in danger but I think every reasonable person can understand that the air crew are worried when the sensors that are supposed to tell them that their aircraft is performing well or not continuously malfunction. Can Force One as the aircraft is know also has substandard communications for the leader of a G7 country.
The obvious answer is that the military’s VIP fleet should always be modern, No one doubts the capabilities of the RCAF’s technical people to get the best out of anything but one cannot, always, make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear and the old Airbus 310-300 and the Canadair Challenger 601s certainly fit in the ‘sow’s ear’ category. Bt replacing them is fraught with political difficulties because the PMO does not wish to be seen to be spending taxpayers’ money of ‘perks’ for politicians … the opposition and the media would have a field day with it.
First point: for reasons of security and efficiency, the prime minister and ministers and senior officials need dedicated transport ~ sometimes, actually very often, commercial airlines do not fly to places where ministers and senior officials need to go when they need to go there, and our security people have decided, doubtless for good and valid reasons, that the prime minister ought not to fly commercial, ever.
Second point: it might be possible to have someone other than the RCAF fly this sort of service … it is, after all, a service which is provided by many companies, large and small, and one suspects that a large carrier, like say WestJet or Air Canada could provide an ‘on call,’ flexible VIP aircraft service for an affordable fee.
Maybe it is time for the Government of Canada to step back and rethink why and how it uses so-called VIP aircraft. Maybe flying people around the world is not something that only the RCAF can do.