The Defence of the Realm

Canada is a vast country with important, indeed vital interests all around the globe.

The Canadian Forces bear some (not all) responsibility for safeguarding our people and territory, at home and abroad and for ensuring our sovereignty over the land we claim as our own, the waters contiguous to it and the airspace over both and for helping to protect and promote our vital interests anywhere in the world.

We are not in the military “big leagues,” but we should be playing in the Triple-A Plus (AAA+) league.

What’s AAA+?

The first A is: Appropriate … for a G7 nation with a large territory and global interests;

The second A is: Adaptable … the global strategic situation is both ever-changing and quite unpredictable. The only “constant” is a difference: a difference from what was planned, a difference from what was imagined, and another difference from that for which one is prepared.

The third A is Available … the days of time to mobilize, as in 1914 and 1939, are gone. We are in the age of the “come as you are” war. We will have to meet whatever threats and contingencies we imagine might be likely with the forces we have in being: regular and reserve.

What about the “Plus?”

The AAA+ is for Affordable. No matter what experts and politicians, admirals and generals might predict or demand the Government of Canada is limited by what the people of Canada say they can afford.

We need our government, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s current regime and the next (Conservative, we hope) government, to take defence seriously and to provide Canadians with appropriate, adaptable, available and affordable military forces: combat ready, operationally effective, flexible and cost-effective (efficient).

We do not need a White Paper. A White Paper would do no real harm but they have been, by and large, a waste of time and money. What we need is a government with some vision and a plan.

We also don’t need advice from the ‘cheap seats,’ we don’t need retired admirals and generals and colonels, like me, saying buy this ship and that howitzer or APC and this many of these aeroplanes. The government of the day has, in the Privy Council Office, in the Departments of National Defence, Foreign Affairs and Finance, all the expert advice it needs.

What we “ordinary Canadians,” especially those of us who might be classified as “well-informed laymen,” can bring to the table is a sense of both:

  • What capabilities we want; and
  • How much we are willing to pay for it all.

I would say that we want (need) the following capabilities:

  • A structure to collect and collate information, from all sources and from all over the world and provide useful strategic intelligence to the cabinet and operational intelligence to departments and agencies;
  • A super-structure to make strategic plans and to control and manage our military forces;
  • Surveillance and warning systems to cover our land mass and, especially, the maritime approaches to it and the airspace over both;
  • Military forces to intercept, identify and, appropriately, deal with intruders;
  • Military forces to contribute to the continental defence, especially to the protection of the US strategic deterrent;
  • Military forces to patrol our territory, the maritime approaches to it and the airspace over both;
  • Military forces to give “aid to civil power” when provincial attorneys general cannot manage with police resources;
  • Military forces to provide “civil assistance” when disaster occur and the civil authorities in provinces and cities cannot cope;
  • Military forces to conduct expeditionary, combat operations around the world ~
    • Unilaterally for relatively small scale low and even mid-intensity operations,
    • As part of “coalitions of the willing” for some low and mid intensity operations, and
    • With our traditional allies for the full range of operations, including prolonged general war;
  • Supporting operational and logistical services ~ telecommunications, engineering, intelligence, medical and dental, supply and transport, materiel maintenance, administration and policing ~ to support all other military forces; and
  • An efficient and effective defence procurement system.

That’s a longish list, but …

I’m happy to hear what readers think we don’t need.

My guess ~ and I cannot overemphasize that word ~ is that we will need to ramp up defence spending to 2% of GDP (the NATO estimate) over, say, a ten year period, to give us what we want and need.

The key question is: will I accept an additional tax to get that? My answer must be a resounding Yes!

But, I doubt a major tax increase is necessary. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can cut back on some of his infrastructure plans (they are not all bad, but some, like social housing, are) and divert that money to national defence. He and successive (Conservative) prime ministers could opt or smaller, less expensive and less intrusive governments ~ good grief, Charlie Brown, we don’t need the government to be involved in everything! ~ and apply the savings, many, many, many very small savings, to defence.

Don’t hold your breath

The Globe and Mail says, in an article headlined “Canada faces tough realities to reach Paris climate change target,” that:

“Ottawa’s climate-change focus now turns to reaching a detailed national climate strategy with the provinces by early March while also moving toward a North American agreement on energy and environmental issues.”

Neither will happen … some provinces will balk and the US congress will not agree to whatever deal the administration signed.

Even if, by some miracle, Canadian provinces and the USA came “on board” both China and India will continue to warm the planet.

This whole Paris/COP21 thing is a farce. The Financial Times says:

“The obstacles facing this weekend’s historic global climate change accord were thrown into relief on Sunday night when businesses and government officials downplayed the impact of the deal and US Republicans underlined their opposition.”

The (almost always reliable and well-informed) FT then goes on to cite UK minister, oil and gas industry leaders and US politicians all of who say, essentially, “Meh.”

In Canada there is dancing in the streets by the anti-Alberta crowd representing the Laurentian Consensus. But, of course and comme d’habitude, they know not what they say and do …

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… neither Canada nor the heavy oil industry contributes much of anything to global warming.

But, let’s just pretend for a moment that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister of Environment and Climate Change Catherine McKenna actually believe that climate change can be reversed and that Canada can and should keep its promises. What to do?

The obvious solution is to change the ways in which Canadians, you and I, use carbon … they, the Liberals government, can do that in much the same way their predecessors changed how we, Canadians, use tobacco … they can tax it.

We know that ‘sin taxes’ work … they aren’t super efficient or hyper-effective but they’re better than whatever is in second or third place.

But that’s not what the Liberals will do.

If they did millions of Canadian voters, including most of those who fuss and fret about climate change, would punish them at the polls.

No, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Minister McKenna have done what CBC and Vogue, the Toronto Star and Vanity Fair demanded* and that’s what really matters. the fact ~ and I assert it is a fact ~ that Canada will neither meet nor even try to meet its COP21 commitments is neither here nor there.

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* See my earlier post: What the PM is (and is not) doing.

The CPC Leadership Sweepstakes

Christina Blizzard, writing in the Toronto Sun, says:

“She’s beautiful, fluently bilingual and well-educated.

And she’s Justin Trudeau’s worst nightmare.

Caroline Mulroney Lapham, the daughter of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, is the best choice to be the new leader of the federal Conservative party, many Tory insiders believe.

Like Trudeau, she has an impeccable political pedigree and is glamorous. She’s also very smart.

The married mother of four graduated cum laude from Harvard and has a law degree from New York University.

This is a critical time for the Tories as they cast around for a new leader. They can’t ignore the new kind of star factor that Trudeau brings to politics.

If the Tories choose a leader who falls into the same-old middle-aged-white-guy model, they’ll languish in the political wilderness for a decade. Trudeau represents a generation shift in federal politics. The Tories must make their own changes to adjust.”

I don’t disagree with any of that, but …

There’s a always a “but,” isn’t there?

Despite also agreeing with Ms Blizzard when she says …

“It wasn’t so much the substance of Conservative policies that sank them in the Oct. 19 election — it was their style. Harper was an able leader who competently steered the country through tough economic times. It was his scorched earth tone, a certain meanness, that turned voters off.

The party has to find a leader who can unite the different factions — from the old-style Reformers to those who see the way forward as a kinder, gentler conservatism.

… I’m not so sure that brining in a rank amateur is a good idea.

My personal preference is for a social moderate/fiscal hawk. I understand that the fiscal hawk bit is hard to reconcile with my other preference for a strong, effective (and efficient) military that is used to give weight to a principled foreign policy. In order to find enough for defence ~ about 2% of GDP is about right, in my (not uninformed) opinion ~ and still reduce the government’s “fiscal footprint,” the national government would have to make deep, difficult, painful cuts elsewhere. It may well be that my preferences are politically unsustainable.

But, thanks Ms Blizzard, for energizing the debate.

Right now I see the main candidates as:

Rona Ambrose ~ I think, if necessary, the party can find a way to allow her to run

John Baird ~ and outside, but …

Maxime Bernier

Tony Clement ~ if Jason Kenney doesn’t run

Jason Kenney

Kellie Leitch

Peter MacKay ~ he said “no,” but …

Erin O’Toole

Lisa Raitt

Michel Rempel

Mark Strahl ~ possibly a sentimental “favourite son” for some

I’m a bit surprised, and pleased, to see so many women on that list (4/11) and so many relatively young people, too. Both facts speak well for the future of our party.

I’m not ready to declare my favourite, yet … but it is likely to be someone that I see as a “new conservative,” not breaking with prime Minister Harper’s main policy thrust, but letting Canadians see us as something other than manipulative, mean and secretive.

 

 

Reframing Canadian (and Conservative) politics

I don’t, normally, follow Leah McLaren in the Globe and Mail, but this column caught my attention, especially this bit:

“Trump is not just a crackpot. He is forcefully and very successfully reframing the American political debate. Whatever his political future, he is winning the race to get his message out and, given the extreme nature of what he has to say, that victory is a powerful one. The Overton window (i.e. the list of acceptable subjects of public debate) has now expanded to include ideas that are blatantly fascist, racist – and with which many people agree. Trump’s fans, and indeed the man himself, have argued that he can’t possibly be a bigot with such an overwhelming groundswell of support, but one need only look to the recent history of genocide to see that’s patently incorrect.”

I think Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is, also, “reframing” Canadian political discourse.

 

Why on earth does anyone care about this?

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Nothing that Vogue say about anyone or anything matters in the greater or even lesser scheme of things, but Canadians (and, apparently) many foreigners, too) are enjoying Trudeaumania II … for now.

Speaking of pictures … is this the new face of Canada’s defence policy?

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I don’t know the colonel, given her aiguillettes I assume she is the Canadian Defence Attaché in one of the regional embassies and I guess she has been ordered out to be part of a photo-op. That ~ using the CF as props for political propaganda ~ is nothing new, but I wonder if “building a leaner, more agile, better-equipped military: means a smaller, weaker one that is confined to baby-blue beret style peacekeeping and welcoming refugees.

But I also wonder how long the public’s fascination with either Donald Trump or Justin Trudeau can last.

How long can it be before most Americans discard Mr Trump because he is a racist and a fascist who offers nothing of value? Equally, how long can it be before Canadians realize that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is just an empty air-head, a sock puppet being used by Ontario premier Wynne to further her own deeply flawed social agenda?

 

Conservatives, especially the Conservative Part of Canada, needs to nudge (not push) Canadians back towards the sensible path of social moderation, fiscal prudence and principled foreign and defence policies.

Who could provide a model for our Conservative Party? Some would say Margaret Thatcher, others George HW Bush, still others, people of my age, might pick Harold Macmillan or Dwight Eisenhower, but I would go with a Canadian as an exemplary model for a new Conservative Party leader:

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Louis St Laurent, a Liberal from Quebec, was a good, modern, Conservative PM. We would do well to think about his social, fiscal and foreign/defence policies.

 

 

“Oops,” indeed

Andrew Coyne, writing in the Ottawa Citizen, notes that, in just over a month since it took office it has had four “oops” moments. He writes:

“The 25,000 Syrian refugees who were supposed to be admitted before New Year’s are now down to 10,000 because — who knew? — it would be impossible to screen them all in that time, certainly not on Canadian soil as the Liberals had originally planned.

The fighter jets that were supposed to have been brought home from Syria are still flying missions because — who knew? — our allies are not entirely happy to see us desert them.

The tax increase on the rich that was supposed to pay for the tax cut for the near rich is at least $1 billion short of the mark and probably $2 billion, because — who knew? — the Liberals have discovered the rich tend to respond to government attempts to take more of their income by reporting less of it.

And, of course, the deficit that was supposed to come in at a modest $10 billion for two years is now headed for, well, your guess is as good as mine — $15 billion? $20 billion? Already the Liberals are hinting that some of the other promises on which they were elected — restoring home mail delivery, for example — might have to be delayed or reversed.”

Then he goes on to ask: “Why must the rest of us depend upon the government of the day, of whatever party, to tell us the state of the country’s finances, when we know they are probably lying?”

It’s a good question. We have, as Mr Coyne notes, gone part way down the right path by establishing the PBO, but we need go father. I, generally, disapprove of the cumbersome and burdensome ways the Americans administer their government, but we all should admit that they do a better job of examining their fiscal situation. (The fact that they are incredibly bad at doing anything about it is another matter. They have put the information out there, they have failed to do something with it.)

We need a better structure, within parliament, for committees, aided by officials from the Library of Parliament, to study and report, publicly, on issues. We need more power for the committees and more and better qualified (and paid) officials to support the committees.

This, not rejigging the electoral system, is how to make parliament better.

 

What the PM is (and is not) doing

I do not believe that there is, as e.g. Ezra Levant suggests a “media party.” I think the Toronto Sun is far different in tone and approach than the Toronto Star and the National Post differs, substantially enough, from the Globe and Mail; I think that both The Rebel and it’s opposite number, Rabble, are part of the “media,” too and they are different enough.

What there is, however, is a Laurentian Consensus as described by Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson in their book The Big Shift. The Laurentian Consensus is is the “property” of the Laurentian Elites: generally young, well educated, upper middle class academics, journalists and “opinion makers” and the like who live, mostly, in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. Columnists like Jeffrey Simpson are their public face and voice.

The Laurentian Elites have an agenda. Put most simply, too simply: they want big, activist, Liberal and European style government in Canada. They are, broadly, anti-American, even when Barack Obama is president, and anti-capitalist. They are often described as “limousine liberals” and “silk stocking socialists,” because they come from relatively privileged backgrounds and their trust funds and higher than average salaries can shield them from the economic ravages of a failing economy.

In my opinion Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is a puppet whose strings are being pulled entirely and exclusively by the Laurentian Elites. I suspect he actually knows that but, as I have mentioned in e.g. Army.ca, I fear that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lacks what the Brits call “bottom” and I suspect that he is controlled by the wrong people (Kathleen Wynne and the Laurentian Elites) because he doesn’t, really, have a “mind of his own.”

The Laurentian Consensus is not unpopular, but it has, I think, done more harm than good to Canada since it emerged from the Liberal Party’s infamous 1960 Kingston Conference which, essentially, repudiated the fiscally sound, socially moderate and engaged (in foreign policy) policies of Louis St Laurent, arguably Canada’s best prime minister in the 20th century, and tried to outflank the emerging (founded in 1961) New Democratic Party. Mike Pearson accepted the policy proposals of the Kingston Conference and, by so doing, paved the way for Pierre Trudeau and Justin Trudeau and for the decline of Canada.

Everything from tax policies through refugees and pulling our combat aircraft from Iraq through to aboriginals and climate change are part of the Laurentian Consensus. ALL are ill-considered through weak to downright bad policy. But, Justin Trudeau is the natural “child” of the Kingston idea and of the era to which his father tried (and failed) to give it expression in policy ~ socialists, like Pierre Trudeau, never understand the limits of democratic government. We ought not be surprised that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is trying to implement policies that will, ultimately, fail badly … misguided policies pushed by the Laurentian Elites. But we, Conservatives, need to push back … hard.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau could be his own man, he’s not a fool, he could even be a new St Laurent … we Conservatives would support those kinds of policies. But he has decided to take the easy path, to follow the Laurentian Consensus and both he and the Liberal Party will, sooner rather than later, pay the price for policy failure.

Rethink the refugees

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By now we’ve all seen or heard about the horrific attacks in Paris.

There are a lot of reasons for the ‘radicalization’ of people ~ Muslims and others. One reason, maybe not a huge on, but a reason is that some young Muslim men cannot “fit” into our sophisticated, secular, liberal Western cultural-society; they want (they’ve been taught to want) a different, simpler, quranic, downright medieval culture. That may not be the biggest reason for the radicalization of young Muslim men, it’s certainly not the only one, but I posit that it is one of them.

So why, I must as prime Minister Trudeau, would we want to rush the resettlement of 25,000 Syrians into Canada? We must suspect that some of them are going to be young men who will not “fit” ~ who will not want to “fit” ~ into the society that 99% of us want.

(I oppose the entire refugee programme because I think we are “solving” the wrong problem. What we need to do is to help sort out the people and parties who are forcing people to flee their homes: the Assads, the ISILs, the Saudi and Gulf kings and princes, the Wahabi clerics and so on, so that decent folks can exist in the societies they want in their own homelands. But that’s another issue.)

Right now, since we seem bent on a course I think is folly, let’s slow down, let’s demand that our security services do a careful and thorough screening of all applicants for refuge in Canada and let’s accept only those who are above suspicion.

We don’t want repeats of Paris in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.

Resetting the Conservative Party of Canada

The media is full of, mostly useless, advice for the Conservative Party of Canada.

I see two trends:

~ Return to one element’s “Red Tory” roots; or

~ Go the whole hog to the social conservative/religious right flank.

Both are, in my opinion, recipes for disaster.

Both the Red Tories and the “SoCons” are fringes on a large (30%+ of Canadians) “base” that holds, generally, socially moderate and fiscally conservative values.

What do I mean by “socially moderate?”

Let me use two examples: abortion and gay rights.

Some, perhaps even many Conservatives oppose abortion, for good, deeply held, honest reasons. Bot most Conservatives understand that abortion is a “settled issue” and while most Conservatives support anyone’s right to speak out against it they do not expect a Conservative government to act against it. It’s done … settled. Sure some Conservatives can talk about it ~ some Liberals used to have that right, but no more ~ they can even, if they want, raise it in parliament, but a Conservative leader and a Conservative front bench must vote against restricting a woman’s right to choose, in private, her own actions.

Some, again perhaps many Conservatives wish that homosexual people would confine themselves to their own, small, private spaces. But, again, our courts have taught us that “rights are rights,” and homosexuals and transgendered people have the very same basic, fundamental, individual rights as anyone else. Some of us may wish that “Gay Pride” was a little more subdued but most of us understand that gay people are still fighting for recognition and acceptance and, in our society, we “fight” with words and art and ‘display,’ not with rocks and billy clubs.

Most of us, Conservatives, are socially moderate. We expect our leaders, including the front bench critics our leaders pick, to represent our views, no mater their own, individual ones.

What is “fiscally conservative?”

This is an equally broad spectrum. Fiscal “hawks,” like me, who would slash government, including social spending, are also a fringe, just as are the free-spending “Red Tories.” Most Conservatives want less and less expensive government, and we, naturally, want more money in our pockets. But we also want SOME social spending and SOME infrastructure spending, and, and, and … there needs to be a balance by giving something to everyone and slashing and burning, as I would do.

So, where are those socially moderate and fiscally conservative Canadians?

In the suburbs, first, around e.g. Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, Winnipeg, Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City and Halifax and, especially, in the ‘Golden Horseshoe’ around Toronto. They are, second, in the small cities and towns in all provinces, but, especially, in the vote rich area surrounding the Golden Horseshoe and in Western Canada. One attribute of these two vote rich ‘regions’ is that they are moderately young (aged 30 to 50), “married with children” ~ two parent families, reasonably well educated, employed, over-taxed (by cities, provinces and the national government) and, frequently, ‘ethnic,’ especially East and South Asians. They have both socially moderate and fiscally conservative values of their own and they are looking for someone who represents their views and their needs.

Of course we also have a rural base and we can, often, win some seats in large cities, too, but out biggest base is in suburban and small city/town Canada, from coast to coast to coast.

We need leaders ~ an interim leader in the House of Commons, soon, and a new, Party leader later, perhaps in 2016 or even 2017 ~ who share, enunciate, embody and advocate for the “values” of suburban and small town Canada:

For Main Street, rather than Bay Street;

For prudent saving rather than reckless spending;

For helping those in real need rather than those who are just ‘entitled;’

For working families rather than special interests;

For steady, honest jobs rather than handouts;

For equality rather than queue jumping;

For equality of opportunity, not equality of outcomes and quotas;

For honesty and integrity rather than cronyism;

For a foreign  policy based on Canada’s vital interests, not those of various “old countries;” and

For a suitable, efficient and effective military rather than for using the defence budget as a job creation tool.

The Blame Game

Everyone and his brother is coming out of the woodwork to lay blame for the Liberal victory/Conservative loss in the recent election. It was Stephen Harper’s fault or it was Jennie Byrne’s fault, or, or, or …

I think it’s a bit simpler than that.

I think Canadians have, almost unconsciously, accepted the American notions of fixed elections and four-year terms and I think most Canadians are uncomfortable, now, with a government staying in office for longer than two of those four years terms.

It really doesn’t matter what plans Prime Minister-designate Trudeau may have in his mind, or what promises he will not keep … we, a substantial minority of us, anyway, were tired of Prime Minister Harper, his nine years were up, it was time for a change, and we (you) chose Justin Trudeau over the (grown-up) Thomas Mulcair.