I was given to chuckle earlier in the week when the Minister of Defence unveiled an "interim" Cyclone Maritime Helicopter at CFB Shearwater in Nova Scotia.
As it's been with a growing number of Mr. MacKay's military procurement sales jobs; Thursday's effort in front of what at best can be described a loaner mock-up of a Sikorsky "Cyclone;"- the sales pitch is energetic; but unconvincing. It's the same near boring TV infomercial sales pitch we saw last July back here in Ottawa when Lockheed-Martin flew-in a shiny make believe mock-up of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter for McKay to play with in front of the TV cameras.
Making War satiates the base of the newly-minted Conservative majority supporters primarily in western Canada. Alas! As our American neighbours south of the border have discovered since the end of their "neo-con" Bush Administration, it's damned expensive...and in that case (at least) has just about bankrupt the largest economy in the world.
Interesting that here in the Great White North as Minister MacKay ascended the podium at Shearwater on Thursday, he was forced to defend a leaked DND report that his department will be cutting as many as 2500 civilian public service jobs. The story (and he's sticking to it) is that..."We are going through a belt-tightening exercise to achieve efficiencies and Canadians would expect and respect that." Ahem; Er; well except perhaps of course the 2500 poor sods and their families who will be turfed-out of their jobs. For whom the belt-tightening may be damned suffocating. - I digress!
The once proud National Leader of the Progressive-Conservative Party of Canada; Peter MacKay is now relegated to playing second and most often third fiddle to Stephen Harper's neo-Conservative Reform-Alliance movement which ultimately in 2005, swallowed-up the P.C.'s and morphed into the Conservative Party of Canada. Little wonder that in the immediate aftermath of the May 2nd Federal Election, the now retired longest-serving Speaker of the House of Commons, Peter Milliken, lamented publicly Canada's erosion of democracy. Mr. Milliken who served 10 years as Speaker blamed the erosion on the increase in the power of party leaders: "The leader says you vote this way or else you're out, and bango, you have to do it, or else. I don't think that's the way democracy was intended to function." Enough rant.
Somewhat like the logic for buying the F-35 jet fighter the rearmament factor doesn't fly. Because increasingly it seems to be financed by belt-tightening and increased efficiencies...your "new" Conservative Government Buzz-Words for Public Service cut-backs and lay-offs.
Despite some wonky and frequently clumsy sales gimmicks; on just about every file of the military ramped-up procurement programs, the personable Mr. MacKay does his level best to blow-down critics. Even with the new Conservative majority in Parliament, the Minister's ultimate challenge remains to convince our cash poor nation that the jaw-dropping cost of the untested, unproven,(just may never-fly) Lockheed-Martin F-35 jet fighter is in the country's best interest. On that file his worst enemy may be the Congress of the United-States. Facing a $14-Trillion national debt, Washington's political elite on both sides of the aisle are becoming increasingly jittery over shiny new military toys which are gobbling-up the U.S. Treasury. As Presidential elections loom large in 2012; this crown jewel of "out-of-control" military expenditures is clearly in their sight.
If, as some suspect, the F-35 "joint Strike Fighter" turns-out a lemon. We may all drown in lemonade before they are ever delivered to Canada.