Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Other Shoe Drops With A THUD

Yesterday, the Conservatives were found to "may be in contempt" of Parliament for withholding, among other things, the F35 fiscal information. Today, we get a clear "independently review" that provides partial explanation for the Conservatives withholding cost information. About the best way to describe the PBO release is "alarming", the government's F35 numbers complete propaganda, the discrepancy is simply staggering:
An explosive independent report on the Harper government’s controversial purchase of new fighter jets estimates their full cost, including maintenance, could hit $29.3-billion (U.S.).

That’s about $12-billion more than what the Tories have been telling Canadians it would cost.

...His report was independently peer-reviewed by non-partisan experts at the United States Congressional Budget Office, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, and Queen’s University. Opposition Liberals, who’ve promised to cancel the F-35 contract if they win office, said Mr. Page’s report is proof the Tories have been hiding the program’s full costs of nearly $30-billion.

It is reasonable to conclude that the government was purposely hiding known information from public view, they intentionally withheld information for partisan reasons. In addition, the government is also withholding the normally released Statement of Operational Requirements document for the F35- one now wonders what jewels that paperwork contains??

Yesterday the Speaker held the government in contempt, today we learn why, the F35 issue just got a whole lot bigger. The Liberal position has been entirely vindicated, in fact it now looks downright sensible. Page confirms that sole sourcing is partially to blame, and he also states that we are not obligated to purchase these planes. The cost has become offensive, without a legally binding commitment, the Conservative case now looks completely irresponsible, rather than pragmatic, stubborn refusal in the face of glaring overruns, a hard sell is kind.

This government didn't release the SOR on this plane(hopefully today forces a media revisit on this curious omission), they didn't release their numbers on this plane, there is zero evidence of transparency. In fact, today is confirmation of a secret, behind closed door process, which now looks like a sham at the taxpayer expense. Today, highlights another example of the now emerging opposition theme that you can't trust this government. The 12 billion dollar figure obliterates any reasonable line on fiscal discipline, as well as neutering any attack on the Liberals spending commitments.

If played properly, I think today's release will haunt the government throughout a campaign, an already weary electorate will now move to astonished concern. It's a big number for Canada, which no amount of fear mongering or spin will necessary purchase. In addition, the F35 is now another primary example of all the themes the opposition has been cultivating recently, tailor made, a concrete dollar figure to highlight all the stems from it. The discrepancy between this independently reviewed, INTERNATIONALLY reviewed figure, and the government's sales job borders on a fraudulent presentation given to the Canadian people. There is really no other reasonable conclusion, factor in the Speaker also being forced to hold in contempt for STONEWALLING, intent seems quite clear.

Another sad day for transparent and open government....

23 comments:

redgranite said...

And yet Liberals still manage to fall in the polls. Canadians get the government they deserve.

Steve V said...

Honestly, don't sweat the polls right now. I think we are on to something very fundamental that will resonate. I've worried before, so this isn't partisan denial, but something is afoot here, a coherent presentation that is increasingly powerful.

Steve V said...

As an aside, I edited my first sentence from "contempt" to what the link states "may be in the contempt" of Parliament. An important legal distinction, I inadvertently glossed over.

redgranite said...

Ugh... just really depressed about the whole thing.

Steve V said...

This story today is devastating for the government, I honestly believe it will resonate, something people can understand. I knew these guys where burying the numbers, but even I was completely flabbergasted by today's release.

Tof KW said...

Imagine if we can get the 'law & order' agenda numbers for the jails on top of this?

As for poll numbers, I bet if Harper punched Kate Middleton during the royal wedding, then followed that by stating Canadian beer 'sucks' ...he'd probably hit the 50% mark.

Steve V said...

I want the law and order numbers and I hear people are pushing to get the Economic Action Plan ad buy numbers.

Shiner said...

Have a drink redgranite, it dulls the pain. Steve's right though, we still haven't seen Ignatieff in an election, and all that the people have seen (the 15% paying attention) is the view presented by Harper. Anyone who has ever seen him in person should know the poll numbers don't reflect a charisma that's definitely there, along with an interest in engaging voters.

That said, I'll start looking for a nice lake somewhere that we can all escape to should the worse happen.

Tof KW said...

Shiner, should the worst happen, I'm considering moving back to Ile Perot - and joining the PĂ©quistes in separating.

Steve V said...

I have hope, because some of these themes can resonate. And, because anyone who I've talked to that has heard Ignatieff has been surprised. That speech he made to caucus, the reception he gets on the road, important because the average Canadian has NO impression of these guy yet, apart from superficial attack ad stuff. Once a campaign comes, people will finally take five seconds to look at the guy. I'm convinced his stature will improve as a result, and that is what I have my eye on. How many times have we seen polls change, how many elections have gone differently than advertised, I just see no reason to be fatalistic at this point. I think this guy has a message now that he can deliver. I'm not sure we can beat the Cons outright, but I also don't see a repeat of 2008, I really really don't.

Paul said...

I don't think the Liberal Party "gets it". What is happening now is no different than back in the late 1990's except the Liberals where in power and the Consevatives where the ones coming up with all the "scandals".
People aren't going to vote for the Liberals because they find a few things wrong with the government. People are going to vote for who they think would make the best government and the Liberal Party is not giving Canadians anything to vote for....
Time to stop pointing fingers and start coming up with some vision.

Steve V said...

I don't care for that analogy, way, way different dynamics at play today- doesn't fit. As for vision, I think progress has been made, let's see what the red book brings.

Steve V said...

EKOS poll gives the Cons a 7 point lead, he sees good news for the government.

ottlib said...

Gee Paul that is exactly what Liberals were saying to Stephen Harper leading up to the 2006 election.

Low and behold, Stephen Harper came up with his "5 priorties" and those along with voter anger at Liberal scandals gave him victory.

If the Liberals and other Opposition Parties can cultivate some disgust amongst voters for the actions of this government they would be half-way to sending the Conservatives to the Opposition benches.

The Liberals have policy and I believe they have the guy that can sell them.

In 2006 Paul Martin had to spend a considerable amount of his time trying to neutralize the negative effects of Liberal scandal. The Conservatives could very well be in the same position this time around and if they are they will have to hope the Liberals implode to hang on to government.

Steve V said...

Apparently the Bloc no longer support this purchase, which is massive given where all the jobs were supposed to be. Harper now has no cover, in Quebec. This will be a big issue come the campaign.

The Rational Number said...

The PBO said DND confirmed they did no such analysis [of the costs]. Yet the Minister's office still sticks with the figures.

What arrogance to never admit a mistake.

Steve V said...

Without this report, we were basically relying on numbers the PMO cooked up. Sad really, when you think about it- why wouldn't DND do that analysis?

As an aside, I don't mean to DRONE on about this, but the fact the gov't won't release the Statement of Operational Requirements, despite the fact you can view other items online right now, is a big RED FLAG. What does that report say, why are they hiding it? Musn't be flattering, and I'm amazed nobody in the media is digging into this angle.

Paul said...

"The Conservatives could very well be in the same position this time around and if they are they will have to hope the Liberals implode to hang on to government."

There is a big difference between overspending taxpayer money and stealing taxpayer money. The public will forgive overspending, they won't forgive stealing. I really don't see a big gain out of all this for the Liberal Party except it might stop Harper from getting a majority, which is more a Harper loss than a Liberal gain.
Next two weeks are going to be interesting....

The Rational Number said...

An SOR at this scale is a big, ugly beast. Simply, I think DND/CF are looking to be "America-compatible" for north-south integration, e.g. NORAD, etc. "America-compatible" probably translates into "F35-compatible", which is usually perceived as meaning "F35".

I think many in DND/CF see increased risk in integrating tech from two or more vendors, and buying everything from one vendor as avoiding that risk. Sometimes that's true, sometimes its an exaggeration; I've seen both.

Anyway, when reading that SOR, you have to clearly understand what level of integration is required between the CF air force and the USAF. I'm sure I don't understand. But I'm also suspicious of the F35 spec that may attempt to avoid that question of integration by simply getting F35s (reasoning that if you have the same plane, any level of integration is possible, so understanding isn't necessary).

However, please cut DND/CF some slack, they typically don't have a lot of extra manpower to devote to SOR development, which leads to more reliance on vendor input - which I don't like any more than anyone else, but what can they do while their non-operational personnel are spread so thin? This is a good case where money spent on non-operational activities would probably pay for itself. However, I'd expect Conservatives to resist spending money on anything but "boots and guns". Penny wise and pound foolish, IMHO.

WhigWag said...

@ The Rational Number: hmm, one MIGHT have some sympathy for that rationale... if it were true.

But acc. to the news, the Cndn. military has actually EXCEEDED its pencil-pushing civilian complement that does that sort of thing by 14%, and has to cut back on them.

"Military sets out to trim all but essential civilian staff," by COLIN FREEZE, Globe and Mail Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2010;

it's behind a firewall now but reproduced online at various sites like:

http://forums.army.ca/forums/index.php?topic=98275.0

Steve V said...

I'm not so sure we need cut slack. They release many SOR's, you would think a signature branch of the military expenditure has that level of inquiry. I actually think it is patently irresponsible if they didn't do one. From what I gather many military observers don't understand why we haven't seen it released.

The Rational Number said...

@WhigWag:

First, your argument that they have enough staff is that they just cut back 14%?

Second, I believe it is actually CF officers who decide and review the requirements, not pencil pushers. Pencil pushers write the requisitions, manage contracts and count beans, but they're not decision makers for requirements. And requirement decisions was my (admitted rambling) context. Sorry if it was confusing.

My point was really, if you spend everything on boots and guns, don't expect increased efficiency, modernization and innovative transformation for free. You can fight yesterday's war cheaper, but why would you want to [fight yesterday's war]?

The Rational Number said...

Let me be more specific, and break this into two points:

1) I blame the pencil pushers for not figuring out the cost, which is difficult to excuse. So I agree with SteveV, pencil pushers don't get the slack.

2) If the SOR is overstated or over-simplified, I blame the CF officers (but immediately shift some of that blame onto Parliament, LOL - I SUPPORT OUR TROOPS! ;-0 )

At the top level, Parliament (ideally) or at least the government caucus (more realistically) needs to debate what missions DND is responsible for and what level of security is required (and some practical definitions for those terms).

Once DND understands what is responsible for, it can (eventually) come back and say: "If that is what you MPs want, then this is what it will cost."

Unfortunately, DND could be called out to do anything, and therefore must prepare for everything - which is expensive and time consuming.

For example, without a clear understanding of the demands upon a new jet fighter (domestic? expeditionary? air superiority? patrol?), you have to buy 1 fighter that does everything (you hope), which yields a bigger SOR.

But I don't blame the SOR developers for not figuring out the cost. The way DND works, it's not their (SOR devlopers) jobs.