This was, until last year's shipbuilding contract, the largest single purchase in the country's history. And yet it was carried out, as we now learn, without proper documentation, without accurate data, and without any of the normal procurement rules being followed. Defence officials simply decided in advance which aircraft they wanted, and that was that. Guidelines were evaded, Parliament was lied to, and in the end the people of Canada were set to purchase planes that may or may not be able to do the job set out for them, years after they were supposed to be delivered, at twice the promised cost.And he concludes with ...
But of course it's much worse than that. If department officials played two successive ministers of defence, Gordon O'Connor and Peter MacKay, for fools, the evidence shows they did not have to exert themselves much; if they did not offer evidence to back their claims, whether on performance, costs, or risks, it is because ministers did not think to ask for any. Nor was this negligence confined to the Department of National Defence.
So this is also what comes of Parliament's prerogatives, its powers to hold ministers to account, being ignored or overridden. These aren't procedural niceties, of concern only to constitutional law professors — "process issues," as more than one member of the press gallery sneered at the time. They're the vital bulwarks of self-government, the only means we have of ensuring our wishes are obeyed and our money isn't wasted. Parliament having long ago lost control of the public purse, it was only a matter of time before the government did as well.It's good of Coyne to finally recognize the clear and present danger to this country's parliamentary democracy. We have been filling these pages with warnings of such impending events for years.
Be careful, Andrew. Someone will accuse you of being "reactionary" or "hyperbolic". And I might point out that the people who accused the writers here of those things have not returned to call us what we actually were: right all along.
The who-knew-what about the real costs of the F-35 fighter jet Canada wants to purchase is worrisome enough. But at the heart of the fiasco is a far more serious concern about what public honesty means to this government.Brian Stewart has been on the beat for longer than I can remember. His article should be read in its entirety because he goes on to describe the obsessive secrecy in which the Harperites surround themselves on all things. But the highlight was the continued attempt to suppress information on the Afghanistan adventure.
It's a sad state that few Canadians appear surprised by the auditor general's findings that Parliament was kept in the dark over the real costs of this program and what looks to be a $10-billion overrun.
Many seem to assume that misleading and denying whenever it suits is a government's normal default position. After all, this government seems to have done it for years on Afghanistan and with its other problems in national defence.
In my own attempts to unravel the F-35's real costs I never once met a single soul outside government and knowledgeable about defence purchases who believed the prime minister's promise that the planes could be delivered for a bargain-rate $75 million each.
I never met anyone inside the Canadian military who thought so either.
I'm sure thousands in the aviation industry who follow these programs, especially in the U.S. and Europe, simply assumed Ottawa was dealing in fairy tales for public consumption, from which it refused to budge.
This is why we need to see if this current mess is part of a pattern of official "misstatements" on defence matters. If so, we've got a serious national problem.
Unlike Coyne, Stewart never offered us Harper as a "good thing". He just kept chipping away at things that seemed to exist in the strange shadows of the Harper government.
This trend towards denial makes everything about the misstated F-35 billions a deeply serious affair.
We really need to know how deep the deception went in this case. And we ought to be much more curious about what is being carried out in our names under the cloak of secrecy.Yes, we do.
And we need to know who knew what when back in May of 2011, when thousands of calls went out misdirecting voters to bogus polling stations.