Friday, October 08, 2010

Conservatives Losing F35 Issue

I'm not sure the "attack the witness" strategy works for the Conservatives on the F35 file. Never mind the jet purchase, the forever recurring dynamic of Harper vs apolitical bureaucrats only serves to reinforce other negative frames for this government. Yesterday, the Prime Minister was decidedly angry, a clear sign that this F35 debate is rife with risk for his side.

The Liberals have to tread carefully, because there is some rationale for new planes, which could turn this into a "support the troops" debate. That said, so long as the Liberals play this smartly, there is plenty of third party, sober, detached perspective to shield them from this attack line. Fact is, we now have people intimate with the process who support the Liberal position, who counter this "political" angle that Harper is now using to distract.

Williams told the Defence Committee yesterday that the Conservatives could have saved a whopping 3.2 billion on the planes, had they opened the plane purchase up to a competitive bidding process. An incredibly important number, when one considers Finlay calls the relatively small 1 billion Liberal health care commitment "reckless". What then, do we make of 3.2 billion which is essentially wasted, we get NOTHING for it? You can see why this F35 purchase is a potential albatross for the Conservatives, that threatens to undermine ANY attack they make towards the Liberals on the fiscal front.

The Conservative trump card is their perceived management of the economy. It is on this score that Harper towers over Ignatieff, and it explains why Conservatives like to talk up their economic record at every turn. However, this perception has the potential to unravel, the "planes, prisons and photo-ops" line threatens to undermine the "competent manager". If it does, Harper is essentially left for the taking, the main line breached, it could all unravel from there. What complicates it further for the government, their own expenditures have now given Ignatieff a certain amount of "free reign", in that he can offer attractive social polices, and still be shielded from the big spender tag, because the compare and contrast is obvious and stark. Attack the employment leave plan, well you've wasted 3.2 times that with your "reckless" plane purchase. The Conservative hysteria rings hollow, the Liberals can retort with strength, on every front. The debate reduced to a dueling expenditures, which in the END still works for the Liberals. A draw on fiscal "management", equals an overwhelming victory in the grand scheme.

Harper attacking the messenger, becoming bombastic, is proof positive that the PMO is very worried about how this F35 debate is shaping up. It creates problems for the Conservatives cornerstone reputation, but it also gives the Liberals the freedom to spend elsewhere, on more attractive electoral options, and lose NO ground on the deficit front. So long as the Liberals stay measured on this F35 file, these planes will become another powerful equalizer on terrain which the Conservatives can't afford to have compromised.


Kirk said...

As long as the Liberals keep this mainly about the process with just a hint that they may be the wrong planes, the Liberals can work this.

Let doubts about the F35s themselves accumulate elsewhere before the Liberals bring that point up. And there are always doubts...

It's the process that wastes money, it's the process that denies Canada the best return for our tax payer dollars. It's the process that makes the Conservatives bad managers of our money.

marie said...

Great post Steve and I am totaly in agreement.

We need to see a lot more of M. Ignatieff in the media and I am thinking that maybe a little money to the media would be in order at this time.

All of Canada needs to see more of Ignatieff and the internet is not an option because a great percentage of them and mostly seniors do not even have a computer let alone connected to the internet. They care greatly for health care and will fight tooth and nail to make sure they protect it and a lot of them know by this time that the Harper government is not trustfull or honest.

I watched Harper this morning do an interview and one of our elderly friends came in and commented by saying, what kind of lies has he got up his sleeve this time?

And we all know that seniors have lived through many different governments and there lies a great many votes because as a rule they do express their rights and dislikes on election day polls.

And they are not as gullible as the younger generation and can tell the difference between spins and lies and who they can trust.

Thats my opinion based on several seniors I know and come across on a daily basis. Basically the only information they get is from TV and we know what sort of partisan bais they report.

Harpers supporter base is the younger generation and basically from the Alberta areas and we all know that they have that area in their back pocket but it will take a lot more than one province to give him the majority he so desperatly wants.

I can hardly wait for an election to be called so that ALL Canadians have a chance at really showing the cult like Harper gov where to go.

Happy Thanks giving everyone.

Dame said...

maybe half dosen planes now /// that is to chase away the Russians,.
I am just half kidding.We need more helicopters and other usuful things... But NOT THESE FIGHTER JETS.
and not NOW WHEN WE LIVE ON CREDITS..... maybe five years fom now we can take a look.
And cancel those damn prisons !!!

JF said...

I actually think this is a pretty safe avenue... the only way that this can be turned into a "X doesn't support the troops" line is if the avenue is that the planes shouldn't be bought at all... so long as you stick to the sole sourcing/value for money aspects there is pretty much no downside.

Post was an excellent read on the situation I think.

Tof KW said...

Our military does require new aircraft to replace the CF-18 hornets at some point in the near future, the Conservatives do have that part right and the Grits need to remember this. But aside from the competitive bidding issue, another quite reasonable question is whether the F-35 is even the right plane for our nation's needs.

The F-18E/F Super Hornet is a current production generation 4.5 twin-engine fighter that would fit the role of border reconnaissance and search & rescue more appropriately that the single-engine F-35. What it doesn't have is stealth technology (although Boeing is working on adding some forward stealth to the design) which makes the Super Hornet less expensive. It also has combat experience.

It's worthwhile to ask why the F-18E/F was not considered as a replacement for our 30-year old F-18's?

Steve V said...

And, once again we see a CBC interview with a distinguished public servant, defending himself against Conservative attacks.

Jerry Prager said...

I have no idea how the Cons have managed to con their way to the fiscal responsibility pedestal, now how the Liberals are suddenly wastrels after Paul Martin. Jim Flaherty left 5.5 billion dollars in "hidden" debt in the Ontario bank account when McGuinty took office: all the 'fiberal' flak the provincial libs took was based on their inability to fund projects because of Flaherty's mismanagement. The whole thing is just more corporatist media spin, and as such is bullshit. Flaherty is no Paul Martin, by a long shot.

Jerry Prager said...

As for the Lib's don't support the troops BS, the Cons are getting no respect from veterans precisely because the cons don't support them, Harper has more of wham bam thank you mam attitude to military, useful for photo ops and propaganda and dying, but otherwise shut up bugger off.

ridenrain said...

Why do the Liberals hate the forces? Chretien puts them into a war without public input. Martin moves them directly into the fight without effective gear. No helicopters, no anti-mine trucks, green woodland cammo...

Seriously.. I don't think anyone in the forces even considers voting Liberal.

Steve V said...

Seriously, why do you never say anything beyond a grade 5 level retort? Seriously.

RuralSandi said...

ridenrain - if Chretien/Martin's decision was so bad on entering Afghanistan - why was Harper so keen of furthering the mission? He had the opportunity to pull, but he didn't want to, and if you remember (which I doubt because you only know Harper's talking points) Harper made threats on the issue.

Anyone who falls for this "you don't support the troops" BS is so gullible it's dangerous.

Try thinking for yourself, if you are able.