David Pugliese, writing in the Ottawa Citizen, says that “The December 2017 “Team Canada” tour – now more popularly known in some quarters in the military as “the party flight” – has without a doubt been a major public relations black eye for the Canadian Forces … [because] … The tour, with VIPs who were supposed to boost the morale of military personnel deployed overseas, turned into a fiasco. Some VIPs on the RCAF flight to Greece and Latvia were drunk and abusive to the crew, in particular the military flight attendants. The VIP civilian passengers, including former NHL player Dave “Tiger” Williams were exempt from security screening before the flight, and some — already drunk — walked on to the Canadian Forces aircraft with open alcoholic drinks in their hands.” Even worse, he repots, “The military flight crew was prohibited from approaching the VIPs except to provide them with service. The crew felt they couldn’t do anything to put a halt to the antics as these very important people were [General] Vance’s guests” … and, now, worse still, we know that the trip for these VIPs cost $337,000.00.
I, and many others, have been on the receiving end of these trips.
Some were great ~ as when for example, the Montreal Canadiens sent their “old timers” to our bases in Germany to meet and play a few games with our soldiers. Some, like the “celebrity” entertainment tours that came to visit us in the Middle east in the 1970s were more noteworthy for creating work for us, the “hosts,” because we seemed to be in the business of entertaining our visitors, not vice versa.
As Mr Pugliese points out, “Retired military personnel continued to contact Postmedia/the Ottawa Citizen to contradict Vance’s claim that the party flight was a one-off incident. Other articles emerged about other drunken VIP excursions coordinated by the offices of previous defence chiefs. Again, taxpayers had picked up the extensive costs on those trips as well.” This nonsense is not new. The Canadian Forces is, right now, very “gun shy” about alcohol use by soldiers anywhere; maybe it’s time they took a similar line with “celebrities,” too.
The solution, it seems to me is simple: stop annoying the soldiers and sailors with costly visits by second rate, minor league celebrities. If the CBC wants to send some semi-professional singers and dancers on a tour of Europe or the Middle East then let the CBC foot the bill … that is what the Montreal Canadiens did in the 1960s. These VIP trips looks more like welfare for washed-up or never was ‘celebrities‘ than entertainment or morale boosting for our sailors, soldiers and air force members.
As scandals go this is a small one, but it is damaging to the reputation of the leadership of the Canadian Forces. It makes it look as though the admirals and generals put the interests of the cultural elites and the Ottawa cocktail circuit ahead of the good of the service and the needs of the men and women who serve overseas.