News Highlights – 29 Sept 11

  • Libya Mission (1)  Parliamentary Secretary for National Defence Chris Alexander throws a dig at those who voted against the mission extension in the House of Commons.  “Mr. Speaker, this Monday, a crushing majority of members voted in favour of extending Canada’s involvement in Libya. A total of 198 members stood in support and their votes sent a clear message to the Libyan people: they can count on Canada during this post-Gadhafi transition. At that time, the members of the official opposition refused to support the Libyan people, they refused to support the excellent work of the members of the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Royal Canadian Navy. They believe that the job is finished. They are wrong. The job is not done and Canada does not cut and run. We do not shirk our responsibilities. We will continue to protect and promote Canadian values around the world. We will support the Libyan people as they build a brighter future for themselves. The NDP members of this place should be ashamed of their vote on Monday. They are wrong on the issues and incoherent on foreign policy. The NDP proves yet again it is just not fit to govern.”
  • Libya Mission (2)  One of the “usual suspect” web sites still opposing NATO’s mission.  “…. Due to the targeted killing of the Chief of State’s family, the NTC detention-killing-torture of civilians who are black, current reports in Tripoli and Sirte of group kidnapping of women, the NTC’s pledge to surround the City and starve it out, the destruction by NATO of targets protected by Geneva Conventions, the lack of balanced reporting in Western countries, inaction by global human rights organizations including the United Nations, the fabric of international law is broken and maintains credibility of intention through its support by the African Union, left of centre nations in the Americas, possibly Russia and China, and non-aligned groupings globally ….”
  • Afghanistan (1)  Columnist not happy with training mission.  “…. when asked whether there would be a vote on the third extension, Harper replied, “when we’re talking simply about technical or training missions, I think that is something the executive can do on its own.” The Prime Minister may have dodged a few political bullets then, but this doesn’t change the fact that our soldiers are dodging real bullets now. At what point should political expediency give way to moral responsibility? How will Canadians react when — as is almost inevitable — some of our “trainers” are killed?”
  • Afghanistan (2)  Mark Collins pulls together a swack of “training Afghan forces” commentary.
  • Six thousand Canadians served in Afghanistan and with most of them now back home, the military network needs to know how to care for their well being. Top military brass and defence leaders met in Ottawa Wednesday to send a message through the ranks: Mental health is as crucial as physical wellness. “I expect you to create a command climate where those who need help can get it,” said Chief of Defence Staff Walt Natynczyk. “Ten years ago it was inconceivable to see young macho men and warrior women asking for help, to talk to a counsellor. Now they know they can do so right away.” ….”
  • A bit of back and forth in the House of Commons on this question:  “Why is the government spending $450 million just this year on one of the parts of the Conservative crime bill while neglecting Veterans Affairs Canada and all of the invisible veterans who do not have the family or the ability to actually file a complaint and insist on help?”
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (1a)  Still – this from the House of Commons yesterday:  Hon. Gerry Byrne (Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence made a public declaration that, while a guest at a luxury fishing lodge, neither his host nor his companions had any business dealings with the Government of Canada, and yet the facts speak very differently. Mr. Rob Crosbie is a political appointee in control of a federal crown corporation that receives $200 million in annual subsidies from which he draws a personal salary. How does the minister square this contradiction and, while I am on my feet, was the fish this big or just this big?  Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC): Mr. Speaker, as I said a number of times, I was on personal time in Gander, Newfoundland with some friends on a trip I paid for myself. As a result of work, I made the decision to go back to work early.  Mr. Scott Andrews (Avalon, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, in 2002 the current Prime Minister criticized a minister for staying at a cottage owned by a client of his department. At the time, the current Prime Minister said that he had either acted extraordinarily unethically or extraordinarily stupidly. My question is for the Prime Minister. When a minister accepts a vacation at a luxury fishing lodge owned by the chair of Marine Atlantic, would he say that minister was acting extraordinarily unethically or extraordinarily stupidly?  Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, as has been made clear, the minister paid for his own vacation, so obviously the facts are different. If anyone in the Liberal Party actually has any evidence that the minister or anyone else acted improperly, he or she can say so outside the House.”
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (1b)  Along the same lines as above, only from the NDP.
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (2)  Squeezing every last drop out of a flight log request. “Peter MacKay has racked up nearly $3 million worth of flights on the government’s Challenger jets since assuming the role of defence minister in 2007, documents obtained by CTV News reveal. A probe into MacKay’s use of the jets shows that he is the government minister with the most frequent flyer miles aboard the exclusive Challenger fleet. The total cost of MacKay’s 35 flights amount to $2,927,738.70. Challenger flight logs were obtained through an Access to Information request ….”  Same angle from the Globe & Mail Still nobody sharing the documents with readers who may want to see the context for themselves, though.
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (3)  Not to mention herd journalism…. The Conservative Party of Canada knows that the politics of government plane usage is the low-hanging fruit of oppositional politics….”
  • Hey, why not look into the RCMP boss’ plane rides, too? 
  • Is anyone going to compare/contrast, oh, I don’t know, the current Minister’s flying record versus previous Defence Ministers’ flying records?  Just askin’….
  • Speaking of aircraft,Defence Minister Peter MacKay says buying surplus American aircraft will boost the availability of Canada’s beleaguered Cormorant search-and-rescue helicopters. National Defence spent $163 million this summer buying leftovers from Washington’s cancelled VH-71 presidential helicopter program, which are an updated version of CH-149 Cormorants. A briefing note to MacKay warned last year that the Cormorant’s availability is “barely adequate” to meet search-and-rescue requirements, requiring aging Sea King helicopters to be put on standby along the East Coast to replace them …. A Defence Department briefing, obtained by The Canadian Press under access-to-information laws, says cannibalizing spares from U.S. helicopters will allow air force mechanices to stop robbing their own aircraft of parts to keep the fleet in the air ….”  No apparent sharing of “obtained” documents here, either.
  • What’s Canada (Not) Buying?  Defence Minister Peter MacKay has been told that new engines should be a priority for the country’s C-115 Buffalo search-and-rescue planes if the air force is to keep them flying until 2015. But the Defence Department has no plans for new engines. The 44-year-old, twin-engine aircraft were ordered replaced a decade ago when Paul Martin’s Liberal government announced a $3-billion plan to update the country’s fleet of fixed-wing rescue planes. It is a program that has been repeatedly stalled and delayed, despite being named as the Conservative government’s top procurement priority. Last year, MacKay spoke to the only commercial operator of the Canadian-built Buffalo about the “feasibility of replacing the CC-115 Buffalo engines with newer models,” said a Sept. 2, 2010 briefing note prepared for the minister’s office. “The Buffalo airframe is remarkably sturdy, however, the aircraft faces severe obsolescence issues in supporting its engines in particular. “It should be noted that engines are not the only C-115 obsolescence issue; other obsolescence issues would also need to be resolved,” said the document, portions of which were censored. “Re-engine of the C-115 should definitely be considered.” But the Defence Department has not acted on the advice. “While ensuring the day-to-day support of the existing Buffalo engine, the Canadian Forces have made no decision to pursue engine replacement in our existing Buffalo fleet,” said department spokeswoman Kim Tulipan in an email response ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Canada has restarted its politically charged procurement of search-and-rescue aircraft to replace its aging fleet of de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Buffalo and Lockheed Martin C-130H Hercules transports. The Fixed Wing Search and Rescue (FWSAR) project has been overhauled significantly since becoming mired in controversy over claims the Department of National Defense (DND) was limiting competition and the potential for Canadian industrial participation. After essentially sole-source procurements of Boeing C-17 transports, CH-47F heavy-lift helicopters and C-130J airlifters — and a decision to proceed with the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter without competition — politicians accused the DND of directing the FWSAR procurement toward Alenia’s C-27J ….”
  • A reminder:  The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and Canada’s constitution, guarantees the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.  A member of the military at CFB Trenton, Ont., has been charged with one count of possession of child pornography. The charge against Corp. Mario Desrochers, of 1 Canadian Air Division, was laid by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service under the National Defence Act. A court martial hearing will be held Oct. 31 in Trenton. No information was released about any material seized, other than the alleged offence did not involve the use of military computer equipment. Desrochers, an aerospace control operator, has been a member of the Canadian Forces for 20 years ….”  None of this has been proven in court.
  • A Conservative bill that would make it a crime to prevent someone from flying the Canadian flag is an unnecessary distraction when Parliament has real work to do, a New Democrat critic said Wednesday. NDP MP Charlie Angus said the private member’s bill, introduced by rookie backbencher John Carmichael, is akin to “tabloid-style politics” at a time of a looming economic crisis. “I never knew, until John told me 30 seconds ago, that we had a flag crisis of people being intimidated and not being allowed to use the flag,” Angus said on CTV’s Power Play. Angus, who is the NDP’s ethics critic, also pondered why the government would support a new flag bill when it continues to buy Maple Leaf pins from China. “People come to my office and see a flag that says ‘Made in China,’ so I’ve actually stopped giving out the Canadian flag pins, because my constituents say they don’t want to see something made in China,” Angus said. “Why is this government shipping out our jobs overseas?” ….”
  • Stephen Harper is stepping up his efforts to renew Canadians’ sense of history by creating an $11.5-million fund to recognize the War of 1812 as essential to forming the Canadian identity …. The War of 1812 commemoration is actually a four-year process ending in 2015. Heritage Minister James Moore is to announce the 1812 Commemoration Fund within weeks, designed to help support projects – including new plaques, refurbished monuments, battle re-enactments, films, plays and musical performances – in communities across the country, to mark the 200th anniversary of the war. The Federal Secretariat, Bicentennial of the War of 1812, has also been created to administer the funds and help organizations, including schools, aboriginal groups, municipal, provincial and territorial governments, with applications ….”

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