It’s times like this that I wish my former blogmate Mark Collins was still here because while the F-35 fiasco is well above my pay grade, he’s been dubious of the entire procurement since day one. And while I have to admit that I don’t know enough about fifth generation fighter jet technology to produce more than a few crudely drawn words on a cocktail napkin, it doesn’t take much expertise to realize the defence department just stepped into a Jurassic Park-sized deposit of dino waste.
I’ll be the first to admit it’s rather confusing. I mean, the NDP are asking for defence minister Peter MacKay to resign for not knowing what he should have known, unless in fact he did know, which is much worse, though he claims he absolutely didn’t. Or as one Macleans magazine pundit put it, if a massive abuse of procedure and accountability falls in the forest, but no one is named, blamed and shamed as the culprit, did it ever really happen?
Clearly, somebody, somewhere in the government is due to take a very short walk off a long pier. Do you fire the military commanders who clearly did everything they possibly could to acquire the F-35s without undergoing proper procurement procedures and then fabricating a list of things they needed in a fighter jet so that the list dovetailed nicely with the specs for the F-35?
Or do you fire the people in the defence department who didn’t tell their superiors about the impending mountain of aforementioned dino doo doo about to fall on their heads? Or do you expect the defence minister to accept Thomas Mulcair’s suggestion that the loonie stops at the minister’s desk, and offer his resignation so that Stephen Harper can shuffle him some place else?
Or do you turf Julian Fantino, the man who is currently backing away from the spotlight as quickly and unsubtly as a man wearing orange at a St.Patty’s Day parade? Please don’t look at me, I just work here. One gets the sense, however, as one reads through older news articles quoting Fantino, that the writing has been on the wall for quite some time, and the language of the minister for military procurement had been evolving from certainty about the necessity of F-35s to one very much ambiguous that they might be jets at all, and not flying ponies or something.
The bad news is the Auditor-General’s report puts a giant cannon-sized hole in the F-35 procurement and its budget. The bad news is that the procurement appears to be manipulated to ensure a sole-sourced, untendered contract with Lockheed Martin which has or has not been signed, depending on which part of the government you ask at a certain part of the day.
The bad news is that the defence minister and the procurement minister had no idea about any of this, depending on which part of their mouths you believe when they’re speaking. The bad news is that the defence department itself told the House of Commons that cost data provided by US authorities had been validated by US experts and partner countries, which was not accurate at the time.
Ok, that’s all the bad news. Well, probably not, but it’s probably enough for now. On to the not-so-bad news. The Conservative government, while deservingly drowning in its own arrogance for shouting down those who suggested the whole deal was rotten from the start, is not really complicit in this scandal so much as it is woefully negligent. At the very least they seem to be taking some responsibility now, have frozen spending on the program, spanked the defence department, and handed oversight over to a committee of deputy ministers.
Is it at all ironic that the man whom was hired as part of transparency and accountability legislation brought in by the Conservative government was the one who foreshadowed all of this long ago by saying the government’s numbers on this contract were wrong? And does it make it even more ironic that this same man who estimated the costs were nearly $10 billion greater than the government was saying gets by on a departmental budget of $1.8 million? Perhaps the feds should cut Kevin Page’s budget to $49 and give him coupons to Tim Hortons so he won’t cause so much trouble in the future.
The only actual good news I can pull from all this is that the money for these jets hasn’t yet been wasted, which saves Harper his Airbus A320 moment in power. Which is sort of like finding a wooden plank to float on after stepping off the Titanic. And as Harper is to Rose, who will play the role of Jack, slipping quietly into the deep blue sea?