Strange but true: Rumours of an early fall Federal Election have surfaced in large measure because the Tories will be forced by the next budget to sabre government expenditures to reduce our homemade $60-Billion (plus) deficit.
It's by no means a small expenditure, and the Harper Government wasn't first to commit Canada to the failing NATO effort in Afghanistan; but by the time Canada leaves in less than a year, our estimated costs will have topped $20-Billion.
Lest I digress further, let me get to the point: In any nation, there is always room for research and innovation. Quite frequently the demand is first dictated by needs related to defence and security. War is ugly; but it's great for business and technological advances. Perhaps there is no greater modern example than the colossal defence industrial complex which has dominated the economy of the United States since Dwight Eisenhower returned from the Front.
Except perhaps for Karl Heinz Schreiber's lame effort, apparently supported by Brian Mulroney, to build assault vehicles in Nova Scotia back in the early 1990's; Canada abandoned its leading role in the defence business, when President Eisenhower torpedoed the CF-105 Avro "Arrow" because (At least some believe) it was superior to any aircraft the U.S. had in their fleet or in development. We've been purchasing hand-me-downs ever since.
Just this week, the Canadian Press touted the 500th Canadian mission flown in Afghanistan by the CV-170 "Herons"; our pilot less "eye in the sky" drones. Our drones are in fact leased from MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates (MDA), based in Richmond B.C., but a major defence contractor south of the border. By the way...our drones don't shoot: For that our Military in Kandahar call-in the U.S. Air Force.
Mostly until now; the Canadian Government has at least called tenders for the major defence contracting endeavours it's entered into with our other NATO partners. Not the one about to be unveiled before month's end. - It's estimated to be worth about $16-Billion; and it's going sole sourced to Lockheed-Martin. In the process, expect at least two other potential bidders to be crying "foul" all the way into the next Federal election.
The contract involves the purchase of about 70 "F-35 Joint Strike", jet fighters
as replacements for our ageing CF-18 "Hornets". Ignored in the bidding war; because there isn't any, are Boeing's new "Super Hornet"; and the European made Eurofighter "Typhoon".
Reliable sources in Montreal say the Harper Cabinet has already approved the deal despite serious concerns expressed by several NATO partners last fall when they were told by the Pentagon, in no uncertain terms, that "no country" would be given access to the software codes that program the F-35's sophisticated electronic systems. At the time knowledgeable critics claimed that without the "codes" any purchasing partner would require direct U.S. involvement in maintaining and/or upgrading the future needs of the jet fighter. Apparently that's "okay" with Mr. Harper: Canada's deal with the American Government includes about $8-Billion for the U.S. to maintain our fleet.
To be sure, some Canadian companies will benefit from this "Work Order." In fact Lockheed-Martin claims so far to have spent about $325-Million in Canada on the planes' development. So sure is the California based maker of it's done deal with the Canadian Government that it's website "Canada's Next Generation Fighter" - http://f-35.ca/ - is already up and runnin'!
This, and other previous governments, have had a habit of waiting until the "dog days of summer" to make major potentially controversial defence purchase announcements. The Harper government is taking every precaution in the timing of this sole source contract to Lockheed-Martin.
Lost in the G-8 and G-20 shuffle just three weeks ago, the Canadian Space Agency used the same tactic to announce a much smaller ($10-Million) contract with SpaceX apparently to hitchhike our next astronauts into the Cosmos after the U.S. Shuttle Program ends this fall. Say What? Yep, you probably missed it. Word from the Space Agency's honcho, Astronaut Steve MacLean, is that we got a bargain by being among the first of the SpaceX clients. The privately held American space exploration company SpaceX is owned by Elon Musk, founder of E-Bay and its companion site Pay-Pal. If its SpaceX, It's gotta be Amex. Don't leave the planet without it!
Bet you thought Guy Laliberte's $50-million "clown ride" into space a year ago was a hoot?