News Highlights – 5 Apr 12

  • Budget 2012 (1a)  Question Period exchange“Ms. Élaine Michaud (Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, NDP):  Mr. Speaker, military bases are going to suffer the consequences of the Conservatives’ cuts. Troop support staff positions are going to be cut on bases across the country. In all, more than 1,000 jobs will be lost. In my riding, CFB Valcartier will lose 150 jobs. That is huge. A few months ago, I asked the minister whether he had any intention of making cuts at Valcartier. He accused me of not supporting the troops. Is cutting jobs his strategy for supporting the troops?  Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, that is not true. It is false, as usual. With the return to a more normal operational tempo, and with the end of the Canadian Forces combat mission in Afghanistan, we are now focused on redirecting our staff and other resources toward long-term sustainability. It is true that the member and her party have opposed every investment we have made in equipment, in bases, in support for the men and women in uniform and their families.
  • Budget 2012 (1b)  “…. The Union of National Defence Employees said it had learned from government officials that more than 1,000 positions at DND will be affected. The cuts show 345 of the affected jobs are in Quebec, more than any other province. Union president John MacLennan said he sees politics at play behind the geographic breakdown of the defence cuts. “It’s a backlash from the federal election,” he said, in reference to the 2011 vote that saw the governing Tories reduced to just five seats in Quebec as part of the province’s surprise embrace of the NDP. The biggest cuts in the province are to CFB Val Cartier and CFB St. Jean. A spokesperson for National Defence would not confirm any details, but said staffing levels can be reduced now that Canada’s combat role in southern Afghanistan has come to an end ….”
  • Budget 2012 (2)  New Brunswick is losing more than 120 Department of National Defence civilian jobs as part of federal cuts across the country. Canadian Forces Base Gagetown will lose 98 positions, Moncton, 23, and Fredericton, one. About 300 families at the Moncton Garrison will also be moved over two years, as the base is reduced from four units to one reservist unit ….”
  • Budget 2012 (3)  It’s expected up to 51 civilian jobs at Canadian Forces Base Borden will be eliminated over the next two to three years, according to the Union of National Defence Employees (UNDE). Union spokesperson Arlene Preston, who is the vice president for the Ontario region, confirmed civilian workers at Borden and other military bases in the province are facing layoffs. “There are cuts coming and letters will be going out in the next couple of weeks as a result of that,” Preston said. She said meetings were held today (Wednesday) at the bases to break the news to staff members ….”
  • Budget 2012 (4)  The Area Support Unit of London’s Wolseley Barracks is closing. While he couldn’t confirm the date, Union of National Defence Employees (UNDE) national president John MacLennan said more than 34 jobs will be lost with that closure. “You’re losing the military presence in London, which is the heart of southern Ontario,” MacLennan said. “It doesn’t make sense.” ….”
  • Budget 2012 (5)  What labour is saying“The Union of National Defence Employees (UNDE) will be making every effort to fight back against cuts to jobs and services announced in the recent federal budget. “These cuts affect workers across the board from electricians to vehicle technicians, and safety inspectors,” said UNDE National President John MacLennan. “Canadians have a right to know the whole story about these cuts and their impact on support to the Canadian Forces,” he added ….”
  • Budget 2012 (6)  From the Veterans Ombudsman“…. last Thursday, the Government released details of the federal budget. There had been much discussion and speculation about how the budget and the anticipated cuts would affect our Veterans. On Thursday, we learned that Veterans Affairs Canada would be subject to an overall budget reduction of 1.1%. Minister Blaney has issued several public reassurances that programs and services will not be affected, so the Office will be watching very closely over the coming weeks and months as senior managers of the Department determine where and how they will bring about these reductions. It is imperative not only that programs themselves not be affected, but that these reductions not negatively impact the delivery of these programs ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  The Harper government is scrambling to salvage its reputation for sound fiscal management after the Auditor-General tore into its multibillion-dollar plan for stealth fighter jets, a project that the Conservatives have championed since coming to power in 2006 ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2a)  Bob Rae is laying the blame for the stealth-fighter fiasco squarely on Stephen Harper — and he’s demanding the prime minister’s resignation. The interim Liberal leader says Harper “lied” to Canadians during last May’s election about having contractual protection against skyrocketing costs for the F-35 jets. And he says Harper deliberately misled Parliament as well ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2b)  “One day after the auditor general ‘s damning report into the F-35 procurement process — the second biggest purchase in Canadian military history – the question being asked on Parliament Hill was, “Who is responsible?” During question period Wednesday, the answer from the government to that question was a tight script that didn’t find anyone to blame. NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair called for the resignation of Defence Minister Peter MacKay, while interim Liberal Leader Bob Rae said the prime minister should step down ….”  More on the Minister’s responses in the house here.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2c)  “He should resign, or be told to, but it won’t happen. Defence Minister Peter MacKay should take the fall for the incompetent mismanagement of Canada’s F-35 Lightning fighter bomber purchase project ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (3a)  Questions, discussion in the House of Commons yesterday here and here.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (3b)  Even the Senate’s discussing this – more here.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (4)  “Canada’s Auditor General, Michael Ferguson, released a report Tuesday which found the Conservative government’s procurement process for 65 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter planes, one of the largest military contracts in Canadian history, to be deeply flawed. Will the Conservatives sail through this squall virtually unharmed, as they have done countless times before? Probably ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (5)  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. 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 ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (6)  I suspect Ottawa will look even more absurd as usual today, as the Conservatives react to the “scathing” Auditor General report on the F-35. I look for the government to embrace the AG report, even THANK him for his good work in the name of the public interest. The Conservatives will pivot, distance themselves from the military and try to paint themselves as pushing for transparency. In reality, nobody should be surprised, truth is many, many people have sounded the alarm on the F-35 for months, years, news ONLY to the willfully ignorant or patently incompetent ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (7)  Wouldn’t it be funny if someone, oh, I don’t know, changed the text of the canned e-mail being suggested by  Just sayin’ ….
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (8)  The Wacky Funster REALLY Alternative view“…. Curtailing the F-35 stealth fighter program would immediately make more money available in support of Quebec’s university students. In fact the cost associated with one F-35 fighter plane (461 million dollars) would release more than enough resources to finance the hike in tuition fees for years to come. The protest movement against government austerity measures applied in the US, Canada and the European Union must address the issue of the US-NATO led war. The F-35 stealth aircraft are not weapons of peace. They are part of the killing machine. They are slated to be used against China, Russia, Iran and North Korea. They are “weapons of mass destruction” to be used in the Pentagon’s “long war” ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (9)  “…. Embarrassed by the auditor’s observations, the Conservatives have put a new layer of oversight in place, and capped the acquisition budget at $9 billion. But so far, they’re not wavering on their position that the F-35 is the weapon of choice. Meanwhile, the RCAF’s aging fleet of CF-18’s is nearing retirement, and will no longer be viable after 2020. The government needs to revisit whether the F-35 is the right choice to begin with ….”
  • Stuart Langridge, R.I.P. (1)  A civilian psychiatrist who treated Afghan war veteran Stuart Langridge in the weeks before he committed suicide told a military inquiry Tuesday that the soldier could have been suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. But Dr. Bernard Sowa said the corporal refused to discuss his military experiences in Afghanistan so it wasn’t possible to confidently diagnose the disorder. “PTSD was way in the background,” said Sowa of his early treatment of Langridge. “But he was a young man who had been in a lot of distress for a long time. He was in a state of depression — anxious and suicidal. I wasn’t minimizing the possibility of PTSD but I couldn’t prove it.” ….”
  • Stuart Langridge, R.I.P. (2)  Some serving soldiers research post traumatic stress disorder symptoms on the Internet to fake or exaggerate their own symptoms at medical appointments, a military psychiatrist told a federal inquiry Wednesday. The aim, said Edmonton doctor Leo Elwell, is to get cash benefits from Veterans Affairs Canada. “Not everyone in the military gets traumatized,” said the psychiatrist, “and not everyone who gets traumatized gets PTSD.” Elwell, now a civilian doctor, became tearful several times while testifying at the Military Police Complaints Commission hearing into the March 15, 2008, suicide of Cpl. Stuart Langridge who had served in both Bosnia and Afghanistan ….”
  • Veterans Affairs is changing the way it pays for certain services for former members of the Canadian Forces. Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney announced measures Tuesday that will provide veterans with upfront payments for grounds maintenance and housekeeping services. Speaking at a legion hall in Halifax, Blaney said veterans who qualify for the veterans independence program will no longer have to submit receipts for the two services, eliminating the need to wait weeks in some cases before being reimbursed. “Instead of having to submit every single receipt for his housekeeping and ground maintenance, he will get one or two cheques a year in advance so he will be able to pay in advance and get the services needed,” said Blaney ….”
  • Way Up North  Media are invited to attend Operation Nunalivut 2012, in the vicinity of Resolute Bay, Nunavut, from April 15 to 26, 2012. This opportunity will give media a first-hand look at members of the Canadian Forces carrying out their operational tasks ….” If you’re interested, you’ll have to pay your own flight to/from, meals/accomodation in Resolute Bay.
  • From April 7 to 11, 2012, a contingent of 105 Canadian Forces (CF) members will be travelling to Europe to participate in a series of events organized by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), in commemoration of the 95th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The CF Vimy Contingent includes a 50-strong guard composed of personnel from historical regiments, branches and corps that participated in the Battle of Vimy Ridge, a flag party, a vigil party, a 30-strong band from La Musique du Royal 22e Régiment, Department of National Defence historians, and a small group of support staff. The main commemorative ceremony will be held on April 9, 2012, at the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, in France. The event will include the CF contingent; Canadian Youth; Canadian veterans and Veterans Associations; a Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer, Canadian, French and foreign dignitaries; and a French military contingent ….”

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