Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Ignatieff finally sees "the light" on F-35 fighter jets

While I completely agree with Michael Ignatieff's decision to "scrap the deal on the F-35 fighter jets" and "start from the beginning with a fully open and competitive process," I also have some caution about how he came to his position.
It was as a result of the Auditor General's exposing of the debacle that is the helicopter purchase that prompted the Liberal leader to become clear in his position.
While the bureaucrats serve a very important function in our parliamentary system of government, even they do not and should not trump personal conviction based on a thorough assessment of all the facts.
The AG's report, while significant, is not and should not be the necessary sine qua non for the Liberal leader to arrive at his "cancel" position. In fact, Ignatieff's timing brings into question his priorities:
  • Does he want to cancel the deal because he wants a better purchase process, one that will meet the smell test of the Auditor General? or
  • Or, is he opposed to the purchase because the country does not need fighter jets for either our defence posture or our external affairs posture?
  • Or, perhaps even a third, he wants both positions expressed in his decision?
Peter Mansbridge, of CBC"s One on One asked Ignatieff directly if he would cancel the deal several weeks ago; Ignatieff fudged saying the government had not made the case for need, best price and secure contracts including jobs.
The government's argument, made today again by Industry Minister Tony Clement, that some 12,000 jobs will be lost to Canadian aerospace workers now working on the F-35 for shipping to other countries is not a reason to cling to the contract. These jobs will continue so long as other countries continue to purchase this aircraft. And other aircraft will be designed and built deploying Canadian aerospace workers. They are not now, and will not be in the future, dependent on the Canadian government's purchase of this aircraft.
And we, the Canadian public, must not be either cowed or seduced by the government's flimsy arguments for jobs and the use of the new plane for "recruiting" purposes.
Little wonder the big questions are not being adequately addressed by this generation of Canadian political leaders, when the Auditor General provides cover for the Liberal leader to reach a decision that was staring him in the face months ago.
However, "better late than never," as we often heard when we were late for supper after an afternoon of playing in the fields near home.

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