Saturday, November 25, 2006

Gordon O'Connor: Santa Claus?

Our Minister of Finance just made the strong case for reigning in government spending as a way to secure our financial future. It would seem that the Department of Defence doesn't fall under Flaherty's umbrella because it is spending like a drunken sailor:
Canada's military is asking the federal government to approve more than $4-billion in new spending on planes, unmanned aerial vehicles and a ship to patrol the Arctic...

Sources have told CTV that the navy is asking for an Arctic patrol vessel. This would not be one of the three heavy icebreakers that were discussed during the election — ships that cost about $1-billion each. But it would be armed and could operate in Arctic conditions.

The network is also reporting that the air force has asked for $3.4-billion to replace the existing fleet of six CC-115 Buffalo aircraft. Those planes, which are all based in Comox, B.C., are primarily used in search-and-rescue operations. They are able to fly in almost any weather and are especially suited for flying in the coastal and Rocky Mountain ranges.

In addition, the Forces say they need utility transport planes, perhaps something like the Dash-8 that is built by Montreal's Bombardier.

And finally, CTV says there is a request for new unmanned aerial vehicles that can hover over an enemy and relay information about their location back to artillery units. Some models can even launch missiles at targets. That type of gear is urgently needed in Afghanistan, military sources say.

All of this equipment, if approved by cabinet, would come on top of about $17.1-billion in equipment and related support services that was announced in June. That included trucks, heavy-lift helicopters, strategic and tactical aircraft, and support ships.

These new figures don't include the increase in our military expenditure for Afghanistan that O'Connor has announced the past months, nor does it take into consideration expanded recruitment. You can make the argument that the Tories are merely modernizing the military, in the face of years of neglect. That logic has merit to a point, but it would seem that the Tories are moving well beyond simple "re-tooling". It is almost as if the D of D now operates with the "it would be nice to have" mentality, rather than necessity. Does anyone really believe a few unmanned drones will have any real impact on our success in Afghanistan? Was it really necessary to conduct mock amphibious invasion operations on the American coast for the first time in decades, at great expense? Please explain the realistic scenario where Canadian forces are storming the beaches as invasion force?

The Tory pre-occupation with all things military, the sense that O'Connor merely has to ask and any expenditure is rubber stamped, seems a departure for reality, when considering Canada's place in the world. I see the latest expenditure request as further evidence that the Tories view militarism as a means for greater influence on the world stage. Where are the announcements for greater reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan? What is more important, new toys like drones, or training an effective Afghan army? There seems a striking lack of balance in our approach, as we adopt the "might is right" philosophy, despite the fact Canada will never be relevant militarily on the world stage. All the other government departments are supposedly tightening their belts, but apparently, when it comes to D of D everyday is Christmas.

1 comment:

Mark Dowling said...


Just because Chretien and Martin gave lumps of coal (and paid $500million to not get helicopters) the Tories can't be blamed for filling the gaps now. You know, the 40 year old Hercules and Sea Kings and that sort of thing.