MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 24 Nov 11

  • Afghanistan (1)  The latest quarterly report is out, this time tabled by the Defence Minister in the House of Commons (unlike the past few released by either the Foreign Affairs Minister or others) – more from media here.
  • Afghanistan (2)  Another Canadian unit packs it in at Kandahar Airfield (via CF Info-Machine, only 8 days after the ceremony)
  • Afghanistan (3a)  Toronto Star continues pressing story of Afghan interpreter rejected for “fast-track move to Canada” program.  “An Afghan interpreter turned away from Canada says he has been hunted by insurgents on motorcycles because of his work with the Canadian military.  Sayed Shah Sharifi disputes the accounts of Canadian officials who have played down the threat he faces for aiding allied forces in Kandahar.  Indeed, Sharifi, 23, says he was forced to move his family out of Kandahar for more than two months last year for safety after motorcycle-borne insurgents left a chilling warning with his father.  “Your son works with the Canadian Forces and we will kill him,” Sharifi recalled Wednesday in a telephone interview with the Star ….”
  • Afghanistan (3b)  TorStar back stops coverage with letters.
  • Afghanistan (4)  Rabble.ca columnist complains about CBC call-in show featuring anti-Taliban writer Terry Glavin.  I’m still waiting to hear if the columnist even tried to call in.
  • Libya  Columnist shares kudos for Canadian mission commander as preparations continue for today’s “well done on the mission” parade at Parliament Hill.
  • Let’s not forget we have troops in Darfur, too – more on Operation Saturn here.
  • Mark Collins:  “Canadian Defence Spending–Less There Than Proclaimed”
  • Armenian media reports Canadians (military and/or civilian staff) helping NATO help Armenia.  “The NATO-sponsored international expert group is in the Armenian capital Yerevan, from Wednesday to Saturday, within the framework of assistance to Armenia’s reforms in military education. The group comprises military and civil representatives from US, Canada, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Romania, Switzerland, and NATO ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying?  Wanted:  someone to design and build “Infrastructure for Tactical Control Radar Modernization, Primrose, AB”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War  The Conservative government insists all of its new F-35 jets will arrive with the hardware needed to talk to ground troops and prevent friendly fire, but some will still need upgrades to make it workAssociate Defence Minister Julian Fantino said the stealth jets will be ready to do whatever the government asks, when it asks. “All of Canada’s F-35s will not only be capable of operating overseas the moment we get them, but be able to communicate with aircraft and know where friendly ground units are well in advance of deployment on operations,” Fantino said under questioning in the House of Commons ….”  More from yesterday’s exchange in the House of Commons here.
  • Canadian plane engine company STILL gets some business from an American buy.  “An unusual turn of events on a U.S. military procurement contract has lightly side-swiped three of Quebec’s largest aerospace firms. Wichita-based aircraft maker Hawker Beechcraft Corp. was excluded without explanation last week from a competition to supply 20 AT-6 Texan II light-attack and training planes to the Afghan air force. Its four main suppliers on the bid to the U.S. air force – which would then turn the aircraft over to the Afghan forces – were all Canadian: Longueuil’s Pratt & Whitney Canada for the PT6A-68D 1,600-horsepower engine, St. Laurent’s CAE Inc. for the crew training, St. Laurent’s CMC Esterline for the flight management system, as well as Burling-ton, Ont.-based L-3 Wescam, which was to provide day-light sensors, infrared cameras with zoom and various lasers. The elimination of Hawker Beechcraft apparently makes a winner of the Super Tucano trainer and light-attack aircraft produced by Brazil’s Embraer, the only other bidder for the contract. Matthew Perra, spokes-person for Pratt & Whitney Canada, said by email that “as with any competition there was some investment made, but this amount is not material to P&W Canada.” But it does not signify a loss for Pratt & Whitney Canada – it also supplies the same engine for Embraer’s Super Tucano ….”
  • My favourite bit from this piece from CBC.ca on monitoring efforts during the G8/G20:  “…. (an undercover police officer) told the court about how he attended a meeting prior to the Toronto summit. There, a protest-planning group that included several of the 17 main G20 defendants was discussing whether to lend their support to a First Nations rally. Adam Lewis, one of the 17 accused conspirators in the G20 case, interjected, “Kill whitey!” The group chuckled. Lewis, like all but one of his co-accused, is white. When a Crown lawyer asked the officer what he thought Lewis meant, Showan said in complete seriousness, to “kill white people.” “Deliberately or accidentally, the undercover officers misinterpreted hyperbolic jokes as literal statements of belief,” said Kalin Stacey, a community organizer, friend and supporter of the defendants ….”  Really?  I’m guessing is a similar statement was made about the protesters, it would NOT be taken as “hyperbolic jokes”.
  • Credit where credit is due:  CBC.ca shared the documents it’s writing about in the above-mentioned story via documentcloud.org (like here for example).  Hello?  Reporters?  News outlets?  Are you listening about sharing ATIP’ed documents?
  • Private Members Bill C-354, An Act respecting the establishment and award of a Defence of Canada Medal (1946-1989), makes it through First Reading in Parliament after being introduced by NDP MP Carol Hughes“Mr. Speaker, I am proud to be able to reintroduce this bill for the establishment and award of a defence of Canada medal for the men and women who served in the defence of Canada during the cold war. This act represents the hard work and vision of one of my constituents, retired Captain Ulrich Krings of Elliot Lake, who presented me with this proposal shortly after I was elected in 2008. Its purpose is to formally honour the people who defended Canada from within Canada for the period from 1946 to 1989. As such, it is intended to be awarded to individuals who served in the regular and reserve forces, police forces, emergency measures organizations, as well as civil organizations, such as St. John Ambulance, all of whom were concerned with the protection of Canada from the threat posed by the countries behind the Iron Curtain. This medal will recognize the support of the men and woman who gave countless hours to Canadians as they trained and prepared in case of an attack on Canadian soil, which fortunately never took place. Their service to our country came at a time when we became aware of how fragile peace can be and how vulnerable we may become to advances in weapons of warfare. This medal would give something back to all those who worked in those years to keep us safe and prepared. I thank my colleague from Thunder Bay—Rainy River (John Rafferty) for his continued support on this bill and for seconding this item for a second time.”  Caveat:  most Private Members Bills do not end up becoming law.  Discussion at Army.ca here.

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 24 Sept 11

  • Libya Mission  Motion tabled in House of Commons for Monday vote on on three month mission extension – another motion condemns the bad guys and supports the troops hereMedia version here, here and here.
  • MCPL Nicole Stacey, R.I.P. “Soldiers and members of the Army reserve community across Alberta and Yellowknife are grieving the loss of a much loved member of 41 Canadian Brigade Group who died suddenly in the tragic aircraft accident which occurred in Yellowknife on September 22nd, 2011. Master Corporal Nicole Stacey served most recently with the Yellowknife Company (C Company Loyal Edmonton Regiment), a unit within 41 Canadian Brigade Group ….” – downloadable PDF of statement here, condolence thread at Army.ca here and media coverage (via Google News) here.
  • Afghanistan (1)  Recent Canadian firefight in Kabul comes up in Question Period“Mr. Paul Dewar (Ottawa Centre, NDP):  Mr. Speaker, today, Canadians learned that our military trainers in Afghanistan were involved in active combat last week when a NATO compound in Kabul came under attack. The Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence repeatedly told Canadians that this would be a non-combat mission. Clearly, that is not the case. This training mission is a combat mission that continues to put Canadian troops at risk. Will the government now acknowledge that there is no non-combat military role in a war?  Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, the combat mission in Afghanistan has now come to an end. We have transitioned to training. That training is taking place in and around Kabul. However, I do not think the member is naive enough to suggest that Canadian Forces are not going to protect themselves when in a volatile city like Kabul. They will return fire and protect themselves. That is what happened in this instance. The member and Canadians would expect no less ….”  Reminder to Mr. Dewar:  I guess you missed the PM’s warnings from April of this year here, here and here.
  • Afghanistan (2)  A senior member of the military says the Afghan army is well on the road to self-sufficiency thanks in part to Canada’s newly established training mission in Kabul.  But the upbeat assessment from Brig.-Gen. Craig King stands in contrast to a warning from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which said in a report earlier this week that allied nations have no plan in place to sustain Afghan troops and cops once they’re trained.  King, who sits on the military’s strategic joint staff, appeared before a House of Commons committee Thursday, where he faced a number of questions about how sustainable both the military and political situation is in Afghanistan.  “We have made some real, significant, systemic institutional progress to get them to the point where (Afghan security forces) will be self-sufficient,” said King, who served nine months at NATO’s southern Afghan headquarters in Kandahar.  But Matthew Kellway, an Ontario New Democrat MP, said the army being raised in Afghanistan far exceeds the country’s ability to support it.  “Afghanistan itself will not be able to take over funding the military and security forces that we’re attempting to build here,” he said. “So, is this financially sustainable?”  The U.S. study, released Tuesday, shows the U.S. paid 90 per cent of Afghanistan’s security bills between 2006 and 2010. According the stark review, Washington covered 62 per cent of the Karzai government’s overall $14-billion annual budget, other donors picked up 28 per cent of the tab ….”
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (1)  This from Question Period yesterday“Hon. Wayne Easter (Malpeque, Lib.):  Mr. Speaker, whether it is a tony royal gazebo, fake lakes, G20 spending or now fishing trips on search and rescue aircraft, the government’s ministers think taxpayers’ money is their personal reserve. No one is buying the defence minister’s excuse that his lift from a fishing camp was a preplanned training demo. Training demonstrations are day-long exercises. Could the minister confirm that his office overrode the local base, which initially denied his demand for vital rescue equipment to give him a lift to the airport?  Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, as I said yesterday, I was on a trip to the beautiful province of Newfoundland and Labrador, a trip I paid for myself. As a result of pressing government business, I was called back from that vacation. I left the vacation early to come back to work. As the member might know, the government has reduced the use of government aircraft by over 80%. We take the use of government aircraft very seriously. It is used for government business. That is the line we will follow ….”  More from Question Period here, and the media here, here and here.
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (2)  This from the National Citizens Coalition (the group the PM used to be president of):  “With new information surfacing about Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s misuse of public funds for personal transportation, the federal government has a lot to answer for. Minister MacKay’s recent use of a military search-and-rescue helicopter for transportation following a holiday carried a price-tag of nearly $32,000 for less than an hour of flying time. “Let’s be clear,” says Peter Coleman, President and CEO of the National Citizens Coalition, “we are not talking about taxi receipts here – this is exactly the kind of wasteful spending this government has promised to eliminate.” ….”
  • Pile On the Defence Minister About The Planes/Choppers! (3)  This editorial from the National Post“…. Minister MacKay has been a strong champion of Canada’s military, and is understandably popular among the troops. Canada’s military will need such a strong, passionate champion in the lean years ahead. Mr. MacKay owes it to himself, the troops and the Prime Minister to avoid any further acts that give others fair cause to question his judgment and commitment to living within his government’s limited means.”
  • Calgary Stampede board member backs CDS’s fly-in work appearances at the Stampede.
  • More media regurgitation of the same flight logs.  The majority of flights on the government-owned Challenger jets in the month of June were taken by defence officials who could have used commercial aircraft, according to documents obtained by CBC News ….”
  • This columnist asks a very different question on the CDS-Challenger non-fracas:  “…. Natynczyk says the Challengers are often being flown empty on training flights that are needed for to maintain the certification of the aircraft and pilots. That being the case, he argues he is only making use of flights that would have taken place anyway, but without a meaningful destination. After all, the added costs of actually using the jets, after deducting the fixed costs of ownership, is reported to be only about $2,600 an hour, a pittance compared to the $2.4 million an hour we spend on the armed forces that Natynczyk leads. Yet here’s my question. Why are we looking for make-work projects for such expensive aircraft? Three are equipped for medical flights. Why don’t we sell them if there isn’t enough cost-effective work? ….”  Along the same lines:  “…. Perhaps the key is not to expand the VIP list but the VIT (very important task) list.  Three of the fleet of six Challengers are occasionally used for medevacs. What other secondary roles might they be able to perform that could be of value to ordinary Canadians or Armed Forces members with important needs — subject, of course, to the planes’ availability?”
  • The Defence Department says HMCS Chicoutimi will be ready for action by 2013 but a former crew member who was on the sub the day it caught fire seven years ago believes it will never sail again. In an email Tuesday, a department official said Chicoutimi began a refit in July 2010 and work is expected to be finished by late next year. Vice-Admiral Paul Maddison, the head of Maritime Command, welcomed the news on Wednesday. “We are looking forward to getting Chicoutimi back to sea where she is needed,” he said in a separate email.  But a former submariner, who had to leave the navy because of health complications from the 2004 Chicoutimi fire, laughed at the idea the submarine would be ready for 2013. Chicoutimi has been cannibalized,” said the man, who did not want his name used because he still has friends in the navy …. “Chicoutimi will be nothing more than a harbour training sub,” the former crew member predicted.  Still, the sub’s former skipper, Cmdr. Luc Pelletier, is more optimistic about Chicoutimi’s future. “It will be a significant milestone for me personally and for many, I am certain, when Chicoutimi returns to the operational fleet,” Pelletier said. “A lot of effort, dedication and sacrifice was made by the initial Canadian crew during her U.K. reactivation and repatriation to Canada. So her return to the fleet means our plight was not in vain and Chicoutimi can now shape her future in the defence and security of Canada.” Pelletier’s response was emailed to The Chronicle Herald by a Defence Department spokeswoman ….”
  • Way Up North  “Just days after Gen. Walt Natynczyk, Canada’s chief of defence staff, left Moscow after meeting his counterpart last weekend, a Russian official announced that the country would be increasing its Arctic military presence, a move that could increase tensions in the resource-rich area. Anton Vasilev, a special ambassador for Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was quoted this week by the Interfax news agency as saying his country would be beefing up its presence in the Arctic, and that NATO was not welcome there ….”  In case this looks familiar, check bullet # 13 here from Tuesday’s MILNEWS.ca summary.
  • Commander of Canada Command, Lieutenant General Walter Semianiw speaks to Washington D.C. university think tank – highlights of his speech via Twitter here (PDF of Twitter feed of speech also downloadable here if link doesn’t work)..
  • Canada, UK issue “Joint Declaration” – here’s some of the security bits:  “…. We will continue to work with Afghan and international partners to help build a more viable country that is better governed, more stable and secure, and never again a safe haven for terrorists. Through the training of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), regional diplomacy, and development assistance, we are working to help enable the transition of security in Afghanistan to the ANSF by the end of 2014. We will create greater interoperability between our defence forces and deepen cooperation on procurement and capabilities, to be enabled in part by a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Defence Material Cooperation, existing MoUs and the “Partners in Defence” dialogue, which will draw on the lessons of current and recent national and NATO-led operations. We will strengthen our counter-terrorism collaboration, in particular in the Horn of Africa, the Sahel and South Asia, including our efforts to tackle terrorist finance activity in third countries ….”

MILNEWS.ca News Highlights – 23 Sept 11

  • Afghanistan (1a)  Why is at least one media outlet surprised that Canadian troops remain in danger even if they’re training Afghan troops?  “Canadian military trainers helped defend a NATO compound in Kabul last week when Taliban insurgents launched a dramatic attack against the U.S. Embassy and surrounding neighbourhood that killed 16 Afghans and wounded dozens more. This revelation, combined with assertions from a senior military official on Thursday that the Canadian Forces considers the Afghan capital an “extremely violent” environment, has raised fresh questions about the risks Canadian soldiers are facing in what was originally billed a low-risk, “behind the wire” training mission. According to a Defence Department spokesman, a small number of Canadian soldiers tasked with training Afghan counterparts were arriving at NATO headquarters in Kabul when the camp was attacked by insurgents. Capt. Mark Peebles said that during the ensuing battle, the Canadians helped Afghan security personnel and other NATO forces beat back the attack, including returning fire against insurgents in a building located nearby …. ”  Re:  the bit in red above, I guess this outlet missed the PM’s warnings from April of this year here, here and here.
  • Afghanistan (1b)  I guess there were no reporters with said Canadian troops fighting in Kabul during the attack in question.  Meanwhile, here’s what the CF InfoMachine is sharing with the public right now.
  • MacKay’s Helicopter Ride (1)  The latest“Defence Minister Peter MacKay used one of only three search-and-rescue helicopters available in Newfoundland to transport him from a vacation spot last year, CTV News has learned. MacKay was picked up at a private salmon fishing lodge along the Gander River last July by a Canadian Forces Cormorant helicopter. Military sources said the order to collect MacKay came from the defence minister’s own office. “This is not a common practice . . . this is the only time a search-and-rescue asset was used as shuttle service,” a source told CTV News. The Department of National Defence has three Cormorant helicopters based out of Gander, N.L., which are expected to cover a massive region of eastern Canada 24 hours a day. According to the National Defence website: “9 Wing Gander is responsible for providing search and rescue services throughout Newfoundland and Labrador as well as northeastern Quebec,” which the military calls “one of the busiest search and rescue regions in Canada.” MacKay’s office defended the move, saying it was an opportunity for the defence minister to see the helicopters’ search-and-rescue abilities up close. “After cancelling previous efforts to demonstrate their search-and-rescue capabilities to Minister MacKay over the course of three years, the opportunity for a simulated search and rescue exercise finally presented itself in July of 2010,” a statement from MacKay’s office said. “As such, Minister MacKay cut his personal trip to the area short to participate in this Cormorant exercise.” However, military sources say no search-and-rescue demonstration was planned until the very day MacKay’s office made the request to pick him up ….”
  • MacKay’s Helicopter Ride (2a)  “Defence Minister Peter MacKay defended his use of a federal military search and rescue helicopter, saying it was for work, rather than for personal use while vacationing in central Newfoundland. Speaking during Question Period in the House of Commons Thursday, MacKay said that he was on one of the three military choppers based in Gander, central Newfoundland, during the summer of 2010 but it was for work, not pleasure.. “I was in fact in Gander in July of 2010 on a personal visit with friends that I paid for. Three days into the visit I participated in a search and rescue demonstration with 103 squadron 9 Wing Gander. I shortened my stay by a day to take part in that demonstration,” he said ….”  More on this here and here.
  • MacKay’s Helicopter Ride (2b)  MacKay’s set of answers in Question Period yesterday“Mr. Speaker, with respect to the question from the hon. member, I was in fact in Gander in July of 2010, on a personal visit with friends for which I paid. Three days into the visit I participated in a search and rescue demonstration with 103 Squadron of 9 Wing Gander. I shortened my stay by a day to take part in that demonstration and later flew on to do government business in Ontario …. I think I just explained that I shortened a personal visit to take part in a search and rescue demonstration in Gander.  Had any emergency requirement arisen that would have required search and rescue assets, they would have of course been immediately diverted.  As the member would know, having participated in the parliamentary program with the Canadian Forces, members of Parliament, in fact 20 including himself, took part in search and rescue activities in the past. I am very proud of the work of the Canadian Forces, particularly those who take part in search and rescue.  Canada has a rescue area of responsibility of over 18 million square kilometres of land and sea, the size of continental Europe. Our Canadian Forces and Coast Guard partners respond to more than 8,000 incidents every year, tasking military aircraft for over 1,100 cases, and in fact save on average 1,200 lives each and every year.  I think that as Minister of National Defence I should familiarize myself at every opportunity with the important work of those who perform these daily heroics …. I am very proud of the work of the Canadian Forces. I have observed the work they do in Operation Nanook in the Arctic. I have observed search and rescue activities. I have observed live fire operations, as have members of the opposition who take part in the parliamentary Canadian Forces program.  I can confirm that all government departments are looking at their departments for efficiencies, as Canadians would expect them to do, as Canadians and businesses themselves are doing …. the parliamentary program put on by the Canadian Forces every year has the enthusiastic participation of members of Parliament, including members of the opposition.  I note that the member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue took part this year in the program that was put on by the air force. I suspect she may have availed herself of a Canadian Forces asset at that time.  This is a great opportunity for members of Parliament to see first-hand the important, critical, life-saving work that the men and women in uniform perform each and every day on behalf of our country.”
  • MORE on use of Military Planes!  A retired major general and an Ontario Conservative MP successfully lobbied National Defence last year for the use of a C-17 heavy-lift transport plane to move a donated fire truck to the Dominican Republic over the objections of the air force. Both Defence Minister Peter MacKay and the country’s top military commander, Gen. Walt Natynczyk, signed off on the charity request, even though senior staff warned most transport flights were stuffed full with war supplies for Afghanistan and no training flights were slated to go the Caribbean resort island. Critics said Thursday that it adds to the growing list of questions about the use of government aircraft, including revelations that MacKay was picked up by a search and rescue helicopter following a vacation. In objecting to the charity request, air force planners noted there are exceptions that allow for specific aid flights. “The airlift of a fire truck to the Dominican Republic does not fit the definition of a humanitarian effort as there is no immediate life-saving or relief of suffering attributable to its provision,” said a Nov. 19, 2009 briefing note prepared for Natynczyk, obtained by The Canadian Press. The report went on to say that the Defence Department had to be careful not to set a precedent ….”
  • No signs in the window on Parliament Hill for YOU!  “Ottawa-Orleans Conservative MP Royal Galipeau says he was told take down two “Support Our Troops” stickers from the windows of his Parliament Hill office. Galipeau says he removed the large ribbon-shaped decals on instructions from Conservative Whip Gordon O’Connor, the former defence minister who was once a brigadier-general in the Canadian Forces. Galipeau complied with the order and instead hung up a flag with the same Support Our Troops logo, just inside his office but clearly visible through the window. “I’m still making my statement,” Galipeau said on his way into the House of Commons on Wednesday. His riding is known to some as CFB Orleans because of the large number of military personnel living there. But on Thursday, Galipeau wouldn’t comment further and complained that the Ottawa Citizen didn’t run a letter he wrote in response to an earlier story about the stickers. He hung up when asked on the phone for more information. A spokesperson for O’Connor said the message behind the stickers was not the problem. “A memo was sent to all Conservative MPs in August reminding them that no signs, regardless of message, are permitted to be displayed in the windows of their parliamentary office,” Andrea Walasek said in an email ….”
  • Some of what the CDS has to say about Canada’s Reserves (via Milnet.ca):  “…. My vision for the Primary Reserve is a force that consists of predominately part-time professional CF members, located throughout Canada, ready with reasonable notice to conduct or contribute to domestic and international operations to safeguard the defence and security of Canada. This force is fully integrated into the CF chain of command …. To support my vision, I will communicate more specific guidance in the future outlining the strategic environment, policy, management, and employment principles concerning the P RES. We will continue to develop relevant and sustainable missions and tasks which reflect the reserve culture in which the majority of pres members serve part-time as an integral part of the CF. As a priority, I will strive to align programs and benefits so that they effectively support all CF members ….”
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (1)  “Liberal inquiry to DND inadvertently sheds light on F-35 procurement – more here from Mark Collins on (alleged?) transparency in the process.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War (2)  What Associate Minister of National Defence Julian Fantino had to say during Question Period yesterday:   “Mr. Frank Valeriote (Guelph, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government has been caught, yet again, unable to justify sole sourcing its contract for new jet fighters. Despite repeated assertions that Canada needs a fifth generation fighter and that the F-35 is the only jet to meet those specifications, the government did not bother waiting to review complete F-18 Super Hornet specs. Fifth generation is merely a U.S. trademark of Lockheed Martin, not a guarantee of suitability. Why will the Conservative government not serve both our forces and taxpayers by holding an open competition for the best fighter jet?  Hon. Julian Fantino (Associate Minister of National Defence, CPC): Mr. Speaker, in 2001 Canada participated in the extensive and rigorous U.S.-led competition process where the two bidders developed and completed prototype aircraft. Partner nations were engaged during the competitive process. This led to the selection of Lockheed Martin as its partner at the joint strike fighter manufacturing of our F-35.  Hon. John McKay (Scarborough—Guildwood, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, for months now the government has been saying that the price per plane for the F-35 is $75 million. In light of statements made yesterday, the cost must have gone up to at least $125 million per plane. This leaves less than $1 billion for engines, spare parts, training, maintenance, initial suite of weapons, and everything else. The numbers just do not add up. In light of these new figures, would the Minister of National Defence now agree that the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the Congressional budget officer were right all along?  Hon. Julian Fantino (Associate Minister of National Defence, CPC): Mr. Speaker, Canada needs military aircraft in order to protect our sovereignty. The current CF-18s must be replaced. We have budgeted $9 billion to purchase F-35s. Let me be clear. In the last election, Canadians gave our government a strong mandate to ensure that the brave men and women of the Canadian armed forces have the tools they need to do their job, and come home safe and sound at the end of their ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (1)  The bidding process for a controversial billion dollar relocation contract for Canada’s military, RCMP and federal employees wasn’t perfect, but it was fair, a lawyer representing the government told an Ottawa judge Thursday. Derek Rasmussen said allegations by Envoy Relocation Services that senior officials in Public Works had a conflict of interest and rigged the competition so Royal LePage Relocation Services would twice be awarded the contract in 2002 and 2004 were not supported by the evidence. There was also a question as to whether Envoy’s bid was adequate to handle the massive contract that involved the coast-to-coast management of relocating Canada’s federal employees, Rasmussen suggested. Envoy’s allegations that senior officials involved in the procurement process accepted gifts and hospitality from Royal LePage and were therefore biased were unsubstantiated, Rasmussen said ….”
  • What’s Canada Buying? (2)  Wanted:  training ammo to train Jamaican counter-terrorist forces (more details in extract from bid documents here (6 page PDF)) and lots of “leather, cattlehide”.
  • What’s Canada Buying:  Big Honkin’ Ships  “On a billboard one block south of Parliament Hill in Ottawa, amidst a row of trendy bars and coffee shops, a hand holds up a dime with the caption Ships Start Here. But the ad for Halifax’s bid for national shipbuilding contracts, paid for by the Irvings themselves, is an anomaly. The real public relations war is taking place thousands of kilometres away. Many shipbuilding watchers agree the Ships Start Here campaign is not about convincing Ottawa power brokers but leveraging as much political capital as Nova Scotia can muster. On first blush, the lobbying campaign makes little sense. The federal government has promised the $35 billion in contracts will be awarded purely on merit. A committee of top bureaucrats will make the call. Consultants from Knowles Consultancy Services and Hill International have been brought in to ensure there is no political interference. When Premier Darrell Dexter travelled to Ottawa, he couldn’t even speak to the committee without independent watchdogs watching from the corner. But few insiders seem to buy it. Of about a dozen MPs, political staffers and industry watchers contacted by The Chronicle Herald, only the Tories expressed confidence that politics will not be a factor ….”
  • Brazil’s military is hoping to soak up some “how to secure big events” expertise from the Canadian Forces (via the Army News InfoMachine).
  • Canada is among the founding members of a new international organization dedicated to fighting terrorism, announced Thursday. The new group will become “a counterterrorism network that is as nimble and adaptive as our adversaries,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at the inaugural meeting of the Global Counterterrorism Forum. “Let us pledge to learn as much as we can from one another.” Canada is a founding member of the group, whose 30 members include Britain, China, the European Union, Japan, Australia, developing countries in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, as well as leading Muslim nations including Egypt, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The U.S. and Turkey will co-chair the group. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney welcomed the initiative, noting a good friend in Pakistan was assassinated by extremists. Over the last few years, he’s met twice with Pakistan’s prime minister on the subject and in those conversations, Kenney said he expressed a desire for support from countries like Canada ….”
  • The public face of the Milice patriotique québécoise said Tuesday “everything we do is 100 per cent legal.”  The self-styled militia favours Quebec political independence, provides firearms training at gun clubs and recruits using social media. “If we were doing anything even faintly criminal or wrong, we would have been arrested long ago,” Serge Provost said. “We’re not hiding anything.” Provost said the 10-year-old group has about 800 active members and has been growing. The Sûreté du Québec refused to say whether it is probing the group’s activities. “We can’t confirm whether or not an investigation into this group is under way,” SQ Sgt. Ronald McInnis said. Montreal police referred all queries to the SQ. “I’m sure we are under surveillance pretty well 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year,” said Provost, a 42-year-old carpenter. “If we do something wrong, we’re dead.” The group has grown by “between 75 and 100″ during the past year, Provost said, and its Facebook site lists 728 friends ….”  Meanwhile, in the opinion pages, “…. It is not surprising that the shop Mr. Provost opened last November in east-end Montreal to sell militia-related gear has been refused a licence to sell firearms. Instead there are boots, balaclavas, radical books and paintball rifles. On an online message board run by the militia, one participant offered a bulletproof vest for sale. When another participant noted that the “problem with the vest is it offers no protection to the neck,” he received the message, “Thank you for your advice, patriot” from a militia member. Mr. Provost told the Journal de Montréal this week that he is “proud not to receive any subsidies,” although it is hard to imagine under what program the militia would qualify for aid. In addition to charging members a $100 membership fee, the militia makes ends meet by running a garbage recycling business, MPQ Recyclage. In June, Mr. Provost issued an appeal on Facebook for the donation of a used pickup truck to collect recyclables. “The vehicle … will serve the national defence as part of our logistics unit when operations require,” he wrote.”
  • What’s Canada’s Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney doing about homeless vets in the streets?  This from Question Period yesterday:  “Mr. Speaker, not only are we working with our partners, but we are taking decisive action to reduce homelessness in our country and among veterans. That is why we have established outreach initiatives in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver to provide assistance to homeless veterans, and also in all our district offices. I was in Toronto this summer and I could see the action of the Good Shepherd Ministries on the ground in downtown Toronto, and of our officials working hand in hand in the refuge with those people. We are helping our veterans to transition to civilian life in a seamless manner and we will keep up that work.”
  • Billy Bishop – please, step aside. Canada’s most celebrated fighter pilot is about to share the podium with another, much less heralded First World War hero – Lieutenant-Colonel William G. Barker, VC. According to the wording on a plaque being unveiled Thursday in Toronto’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery, it is Mr. Barker, not Mr. Bishop, who stands as “most decorated war hero in the history of Canada, the British Empire, and the Commonwealth of Nations.” ….”  More from the CF InfoMachine here.

Mission Messaging Mambo: MacKay Confirms No Mo’ Troops Post-2011

Since the PM was enroute to China, Defence Minister Peter MacKay took the latest question in the House of Commons on the post-2011 mission in Afghanistan.  Here’s what was said:

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ):  Mr. Speaker, earlier in question period, the Minister of National Defence refused to answer a very simple question. I will ask him once again.  Given that NATO announced today that Canadian soldiers will be leaving Kandahar in early 2010 and going to a neighbouring district, can the Minister of National Defence confirm that this redeployment will not change the July 2011 end date of the mission for all Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan?

Hon. Peter MacKay (Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway, CPC):  Yes, I can confirm that, Mr. Speaker.

I suppose now, the Bloc Quebecois can complain if there’s even ONE Canadian soldier left in Afghanistan, right?  I guess he didn’t get the PM’s memo about still figuring out what happens next.The mambo continues…

CAN Foreign Affairs Minister Double-Messaging on Afghanistan

I know the details of Canada’s post-2011 mission are still being sorted  out.

Mixed messaging by Ministers of the Crown during Question Period (QP), the most public (and probably least representative) portion of House of Commons business, doesn’t help, though.

This from Hansard during QP 8 Oct 09 (highlights mine):

Hon. Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Lib.):  Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs.  There is some confusion on the government’s position with respect to the military mission in Afghanistan post-2011. For the second time in as many weeks the Minister of National Defence has talked about this. I would like to get the minister again on record. I tried to get him last week on this question.  Could the minister confirm that the Canadian military mission in Afghanistan will be over in 2011, yes or no?

Hon. Lawrence Cannon (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, it seems the only person who is confused is the hon. member on the other side of the House.  Let me be perfectly clear. Canada will end its military mission in 2011. Do I have to repeat it to him in French?

Hon. Bob Rae (Toronto Centre, Lib.):  Mr. Speaker, I am not the one he needs to repeat it to. He needs to repeat it to his colleague, the Minister of National Defence. The problem is that when he speaks in committee or elsewhere, he says the exact opposite, and that is important.  I will ask the minister the question again. How will the government ensure that the House of Commons is consulted before any changes are made to the military mission in Afghanistan?

Hon. Lawrence Cannon (Minister of Foreign Affairs, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, let me quote the hon. member who said, this week, in the House:

I do not believe that Canada’s commitment to Afghanistan can, in any way, shape or form, end in 2011. I do not believe our commitment to the region can end in 2011.

Then he went on to talk about development.

Our position is clear. The military combat mission will end in 2011.

Funny what a difference that one word “combat” can make…

Two Question Periods, Two Messages on Afghanistan

I’ve been ranting about this since July – the Motion passed by Parliament 18 months ago only says Canada is out of Kandahar, NOT Afghanistan, by end of 2011.

Yesterday, during Question Period, the Prime Minister gave another version of what’s next for Canada in Afghanistan post-2011 (highlights mine):

“Hon. Jack Layton (Toronto—Danforth, NDP):  Mr. Speaker, the House of Commons voted last year to have all troops out of Kandahar by 2011, but now we hear hints from the Minister of National Defence that the troops may stay in Afghanistan longer.  It is now the established practice in the House that there be a vote in the House of Commons on the deployment of Canadian troops. Does the Prime Minister believe that he can keep troops in Afghanistan beyond 2011 without a vote in the House authorizing such a deployment?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC):  Mr. Speaker, let us be clear that it was this government that brought in the practice that military deployments have to be approved by the House of Commons.  The position of the government is clear. The military mission in Afghanistan will end in 2011. I have said it here and I have said it across the country. In fact, I think I said it recently in the White House.”

The day before, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon shared this  message during Question Period:

“I will say this clearly and succinctly so that the member will understand. Yes, we are sticking to that motion. Yes, the Minister of National Defence answered that question previously with the same response that we always give. We are putting an end to our military combat mission by 2011, and that is clear.”

On my highlights above:

1)  No, the government’s position is NOT clear, at least so far – check here and over at the Torch for the range of what’s been said in the debate.

2)  That’s NOT what the Motion says – it only says Canadian Forces troops will be out of Kandahar by the end of 2011.

E.R. Campbell over at Milnet.ca sums it up quite well:

“Political leaders, including Prime Minister Harper, Ministers Cannon and MacKay, and Michael Ignatieff have all been careless with the facts and, almost without exception, Canadian politicians have done a real disservice to Canadians, especially to the Canadian men and women who are prosecuting this war. They should all be ashamed.”

I offer only a couple of changes to ERC’s masterful summary to express my feelings:

“Political leaders, including Prime Minister Harper, Ministers Cannon and MacKay, and Michael Ignatieff have all been careless and inconsistent in the facts their statements to the public and, almost without exception, Canadian politicians have done a real disservice to Canadians, especially to the Canadian men and women who are prosecuting this war. They should all be ashamed.”