News Highlights – 13 Apr 12

  • Canada has no interest in arming pro-democracy rebels in Syria if a fragile ceasefire fails to take hold in the Middle Eastern country, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Thursday in the U.S. capital. “We’re prepared to provide a substantial amount of support on humanitarian (fronts) … but I don’t support Canada, the Canadian taxpayer, arming the opposition,” Baird said after two days of meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and G8 foreign ministers. Such a move might be counter-productive anyway, he added. “There is a real concern that the more the opposition is armed, the more brutal and tough the government will be. And as disgraceful as the conduct of the (Bashar) Assad regime has been, they still have plenty of tools in their arsenal that they haven’t used.” ….”  More here
  • China has been moving the centre of gravity of human affairs for a generation towards Asia. Famines gave way to reforms and a business formula where growth has been relatively constant, sometimes alarming. Communist ideology seems to have reverted to the default Chinese type – clan-based mercantilism – with undeniable success. But what price do the rest of us pay for this transformation and resurgence on the world stage? What price might Canada bear? ….”
  • Budget 2012 (1)  The budget axe appears to be swinging unevenly throughout National Defence, with some branches and sections uncertain whether they are facing a five or 10 per cent reduction. Specifics of what equipment will be phased out and which offices closed as a result of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s March 29 budget are now circulating through Ottawa and the various commands. But the list is by no means complete as different sections of the military seek clarification, asking the vice chief of defence staff’s office whether it is really certain it wants to proceed with specific cuts. “There is a lot of confusion, and I mean a lot,” said one official who spoke on the condition of not being named. A second source said the commotion stems from the Harper government’s myriad cost-cutting reviews and proposals that have piled onto one another. The 2007 federal budget introduced an expenditure management system that saw departments review all their operations and trim what was unnecessary. Just as those cuts worked their way into the defence system, the government asked each department to prepare scenarios by which they could chop their budgets by either five or 10 per cent …. The sources said some of the cuts do not match the plans that were laid out. A political source said the military was “loath to give up capabilities,” such as weapons systems. There were persistent rumours that the glitch-plagued submarine fleet had been on the chopping block ….”
  • Budget 2012 (2)  Border guards, food inspectors and policy specialists across the federal government are among the thousands of public servants receiving notices this week that their jobs are in jeopardy. More staff received notices on Wednesday than any other day since the release of the cost-cutting March, 2012, federal budget: more than 7,000 workers in at least 24 departments ….”
  • Budget 2012 (3)  The union representing Canada’s customs agents and border guards says cuts at the Canada Border Services Agency threaten public safety, while a Conservative MP accuses the union of fear mongering. The Customs and Immigration Union said the proposed cuts will lead to more drugs, weapons and child pornography getting into the hands of street gangs and criminals. “The reductions are a direct attack to our national security and public safety,” the national president of the Customs and Immigration Union, Jean-Pierre Fortin, told reporters in Ottawa Thursday. But Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner, parliamentary secretary to the minister of public safety, said Fortin “sounded quite extreme, fear-mongering,” and there was “a bit of grandstanding going on.” The Conservative government announced in the recent federal budget its intention to slash 19,200 jobs from the federal public service by 2015 as part of an effort to cut $5.2 billion in spending. CBSA has been told to cut its budget by $143 million over the next three years. More than 1,100 CBSA employees were given notice Wednesday that their jobs are now on the line ….”  More here
  • Budget 2012 (4)  Here’s how Veterans Affairs is explaining its cuts  “A memo sent to staff at Veterans Affairs says 800 jobs will be cut over the next three years as a result of the federal budget. But in the letter, obtained by The Canadian Press, the department’s deputy minister says relatively speaking, Veterans Affairs is fortunate. Suzanne Tinning writes the department expects to manage the cuts mostly through redeployment or attrition, as 30 per cent of the entire workforce is eligible to retire by 2016. Tinning says the cuts are being made because the number of veterans being served is getting smaller. She says that, coupled with improved technology, means some of the work the department does is no longer needed ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  Calls for a “fair and open” competition to replace Canada’s aging fleet of CF-18 fighter jets didn’t really take off until after the Conservative government’s 2010 announcement that it had chosen the F-35 stealth fighter for the job. A former Liberal defence minister says the issue wasn’t on the government’s radar while he was in Parliament. “I don’t recall any discussion around a competition,” said David Pratt, who was defence minister between 2003 and 2004. Liberal Senator Art Eggleton, defence minister between 1997 and 2002, signed Canada up as a partner in the international F-35 consortium. He touted that up to $10 billion in business for Canadian companies would result from that decision, though he insisted the country wasn’t committed to buying the F-35. “We didn’t have an F-35 at that point in time,” Eggleton said on Thursday. “It was a research project.” ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  “Calls are growing louder for the Conservative government to restart the process of replacing the aging CF-18 fighter jets through an open competition with bids from plane manufacturers, instead of pushing toward the F-35 purchase. “It shouldn’t have even been a sole-source (project),” said NDP defence critic David Christopherson on Wednesday. “If (the F-35) was that great a deal, it would have won the competition hands-down, lickety-split, no problem.” The Liberals have repeated similar demands. Still, Canada is in good company in not holding a competition to choose the stealth fighter jet. Among F-35 partners, only Denmark is holding a competition to choose a replacement for its aging F-16 fighters. Lt.-Col. Per Lyse Rasmussen, the Danish assistant defence attaché, said the competition is on hold for now, but will resume after the summer provided there are no changes in the government’s plans to choose a fighter jet before the end of 2014 ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (3)  At 4 p.m. Wednesday, U.S. military industrial giant Lockheed Martin distributed a news release from Redondo Beach, Calif., to announce that the company had just showcased its F-35 Lightning II mobile cockpit demonstrator to state and local elected officials, local suppliers and employees at subcontractor Northrop Grumman Corp. Judging by the release, the F-35’s rise to scandal status in Canada was far from the minds of officials at the unveiling of the cockpit demonstrator for the Lightning II — the model Ottawa plans to order. Local elected officials and community leaders were given an opportunity to “fly” the demonstrator and experience first-hand how its “advanced stealth, fighter agility and integrated information will enable pilots to survive and operate effectively in the projected threat environments of the future.” The main point of the news release, however, wasn’t so much the cockpit, global security or military capability. Most of the release was dedicated to promoting the industrial, employment and development benefits of the F-35 ….”
  • In this week’s Marine Corps Times, you may have read with disgust the story of a man who lied his way into a circle of trust in Canada by posing as a Marine with PTSD. Behind the story about the unscrupulous faker was the story of the REAL infantryman who became his victim. He is Cpl Chris Dupee, a GRUNT with eight years in the 3rd Royal Canadian Regiment who actually has PTSD. He is a combat vet and is on a mission to help others deal with it, too. His organization is called Military Minds and his Facebook page of the same name is up to almost 5,000 likes — and climbing — after only three months. The video you just watched (above) has gone viral with more than 25,000 hits in two days. The struggling artists who performed the song are in awe of the response. “It went full-retard,” said Dupee, who believes the popularity of the song, the web site and the Facebook page “shows people are listening.” Dupee, who is on duty in Toronto now, started a mobile power washing company as a way of employing soldiers returning from Afghanistan, and when he realized that so many of his buddies needed a place to go where they could talk about their war zone experiences, he started the web site ….”
  • HMCS Windsor back in the water  “The wail of a siren at the Halifax naval dockyard heralded the return of HMCS Windsor to the water Wednesday morning. At 8:45 a.m., a 135-metre-long wooden platform powered by 46 motors began slowly lowering the 2,400-tonne submarine into Halifax Harbour after two years out of the water. The bubbling of air from the ballast tanks announced the sub’s return to its watery home at a rate of 45 centimetres a minute. Just after the platform entered the water, the lift was stopped so workers could secure any pieces of the deck that may have loosened over the past two years. That’s normal because the platform has been out of the water for so long, said Roger Barakett, production manager for the dockyard’s fleet maintenance facility. “The deck is made out of wood, sometimes you get floaters,” he said of pieces of wood that could damage the sub if they were suddenly to let go and be propelled upward because of their natural buoyancy. “It’s nothing to do with a defect or a delay in the evolution, it’s just part of the normal process.” ….”
  • Well done, Mark Collins, for spotting a mistake in a columnist writing about Canada’s “nuclear” subs purchased from the U.K.
  • A call for more support for Canada’s Reservists  “…. There is a growing consensus around a societal responsibility to ensure that the burden of fielding reserve forces does not fall solely on either employers or reservists themselves. Having well-trained professional part-timers is clearly in the national interest. After all, the Reserves are routinely called up to assist with natural disasters, such as last year’s floods in Quebec; special operations, such as the security for the Vancouver Olympics; or to augment our combat or peacekeeping forces. And politicians have gone out of their way to recognize their valuable contributions. But the inadequate support that we have provided members of Canada’s Reserve forces for over half a century has had an impact on both recruitment and retention. It also sends the unmistakable message to reservists that we undervalue their work. If we want our Reserve forces to function properly, we must re-think how we as a society sustain them ….”
  • Some people – pleased with the decision to return a third chopper to the military airbase in Happy Valley-Goose Bay – say more improvements to search and rescue in Labrador are needed. The family of Burton Winters is said to be happy with the decision to station another Griffon helicopter at CFB Goose Bay. Winters, 14, was found dead on the sea ice outside his home community of Makkovik on Feb. 1. He was reported missing on Jan. 29. The area’s Liberal MHA, Randy Edmunds, said he’s spoken with family members, and they agree moving the Griffon helicopter to Labrador a step in the right direction. Edmunds also took part in the search for Winters. “We want to see a full-fledged search and rescue squadron at Goose Bay that has the capability. It is a Canadian Forces base, it is very central to Labrador and to the Northern Peninsula, you know, an obvious choice,” he said ….”
  • Canada’s chief of defence staff says the military will have talks with the local community before deciding what to do with vacant housing units at 5 Wing Goose Bay. “We will look at ways and means to meet government’s expenditure reduction plan,” Gen. Walt Natynczyk said in Labrador Thursday. We have a lot of married quarters and other areas that are excess, but before we do anything we’ll consult with the community.” Happy Valley-Goose Bay is struggling with a housing shortage, but the Department of National Defence has seemed unwilling to let anyone other than federal government employees rent its vacant properties. Last month, CBC News reported that 60 per cent of the 400 housing units on the Goose Bay base are empty. Asked how much of the base could be shut down in terms of housing, Natynczyk replied: “I can’t really comment on that … we have to do a lot of consultation with the community.” The general says the planned consultation process will include the possibility of making some housing available for people who live in the town ….”
  • More than 130 passengers from Korean Air flight KE72 which performed an emergency landing at the Comox Valley Airport Tuesday afternoon, safely arrived Thursday at their original destination of Seoul, South Korea. The Boeing 777 departed from Vancouver International Airport at 2:35 p.m. April 10, and was intercepted by two United States Air Force F-15’s, operating as part of NORAD – North American Aerospace Defense Command following a bomb threat ….”
  • The Royal Canadian Navy’s use of sonar in Juan de Fuca Strait is unlikely to have had anything to do with the death of an endangered killer whale, according to U.S. investigators. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is investigating the death of three-year-old L112, also known as Sooke, whose body washed up on Long Beach, Washington, on Feb. 11, days after HMCS Ottawa conducted sonar exercises and set off two underwater charges in waters between the south end of Vancouver Island and the state of Washington. After the initial necropsy showed the whale died of massive trauma, there was speculation sonar or a military explosion played a role ….”
  • One letter writer’s worries about splitting Hans Island with Denmark  “Re: Canada Preparing To Go Halfsies On Hans, April 11. The negotiated settlement to split Hans Island equally between Canada and Denmark, signals to the world that Canada is up for grabs. Prime Minister Stephen Harper should reject the proposal. As global energy and mineral resources become scarce, Canada relinquishing territory to a tiny European state will embolden others to take their own piece of the Canadian pie. Being the world’s second largest country by territory, we need a strong military force that can project power and control over all of our territory if we hope to keep it. Hans Island shows that we have just as much to fear from our allies as our enemies in this regard. Only we can protect our interests. No interest is greater than maintaining our territorial integrity. And that starts with Hans Island.”
  • Video games dealing with ‘modern warfare’ settings are easily the most popular genre on the market today. And yet, Canadian soldiers are practically never featured in any of them. However, the new trailer  for Medal of Honor: Warfighter (or should we say Medal of Honour?) showed that Canadian gamers may finally get a chance to take on the role of soldiers from their own country. At the end of the trailer, a number of special forces units from across the world are quickly listed off. One of them is JTF 2 (Joint Task Force Two), Canada’s very own special forces unit. After listing the units from each country, the trailer ends with the phrase ‘Global Warfighters’. Right now there’s no information on what role JTF 2, and the other global special forces, will have in the game. They could be featured in the single player, or perhaps gamers will be able to play as a JTF 2 operative in multiplayer ….”

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