Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Leadership

Dear Prime Minister,

A disaster of unprecedented proportions has just occurred. Canada is in a position to show leadership and respond very strongly in support of those affected. That leadership should start from your office.

The Canadian Forces has the Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) on standby, but the call isn't coming. This team of 200 personnel is specifically configured and mandated to assist in situations like what is occurring around the Indian Ocean. They are sitting idly by, while other nations and other Non-Governmental Organizations are taking the lead. The $4 million that Minister Graham announced is a drop in the bucket, and we should be providing hands-on assistance, as well as a lot more money. To be sure, Canadians are responding individually, but leadership at a higher level seems to be missing.

The excuse that deploying DART would cost money that could be better utilized by on-site national agencies is only partly true. The cost figures quoted, when government is trying to justify inaction, include things like salaries and other fixed costs that will be paid whether DART deploys or not. The real reason that we are in our now-customary role of dithering is much more fundamental. We simply can't get there from here, because that capability has been allowed to wither, and it would be another international embarrassment to show how weak we have really become.

Our strategic airlift capability is virtually non-existent. Our fleet of 32 C-130 Hercules, which are not even strategic airlifters, can muster only 6 - 8 serviceable aircraft on most days. It would take several dozen C-130 chalks to deploy DART, depending on the destination. We have been embarrassed in the past, when even small-scale deployments have been aborted due to lack of serviceable aircraft.

Our strategic sealift capability consists of two supply ships, overdue for replacement, and several smaller warships, not designed for the task of personnel, equipment and supply transport. All are over-committed, in any event, and are not available to respond in a timely manner.

Your government continues to pretend to support the requirements of the Canadian Forces. At times like this, the truth will out, and we are again embarrassed on the world stage. The many Canadians who are working and contributing selflessly in response to this disaster (and others) have nothing to be embarrassed about. I can't say the same for our nation, as a whole, and the buck stops at the PMO. Sir, you can fix this, in playing a larger role in the current crisis and in being able to respond more appropriately in the future.

If it's not possible to get DART to where they're needed today on Canadian Forces aircraft, find a way to get them there on someone else's. I suspect that most readily available aircraft are already being hired, but we should try. The deployment of DART, and a lot more money, would demonstrate some national leadership and will that used to be our hallmark, and which we have lost.

Please stop pretending and actually fund the Canadian Forces requirements in the areas of strategic airlift and strategic sealift. This will take several years but, like so many overdue programs, they simply have to start immediately. You may recall that a previous Minister of National Defence, John McCallum, quietly cancelled the strategic airlift program. I doubt that he did that alone. You may also recall that potential new strategic sealift assets were misrepresented as traditional aircraft carriers during the last federal election. I understand the politics of that, but it is counter-productive to what should be our national objectives.

Also, please have someone look at an out-of-the-box supplementary solution of agreements with airlines and shipping companies to treat their equipment and crews as national assets in times of emergency. They could be under contract to National Defence or Foreign Affairs on a cost-recovery basis and fill in gaps that cannot be covered by National Defence capability.

Prime Minister, at times like this, the world should be able to look to Canada for leadership, and we should be able to look to you. Please don't let us down.

Sincerely,
Laurie Hawn, CD
Lieutenant-Colonel (retired)

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

We just can't get there from here.

December 26th will forever have new meaning to several countries bordering the Indian Ocean, after the devastation wrought by the undersea earthquake and resulting tsunami. The tens of thousands of dead and missing and their surviving families need all the support that the rest of the world can muster. The United States, Great Britain, Australia, and others stepped up immediately to offer financial and, more importantly, human assistance. Canada stepped up with $1 million in pocket change, later upped to $4 million.

What the devastated area really needs is our capability to deal with such emergencies with direct medical aid and other life saving requirements, such as potable water. We have that capability standing by in the Canadian Forces Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART), but we just can't get there from here. The reason for that is that we have lost our capability to deploy such an asset by sea or air in a timely manner.

Our strategic sealift capability consists of two overtasked supply ships, in need of replacement, and smaller-sized and equally overtasked warships, not designed to haul equipment and supplies. With the Navy's shortage of personnel and existing deployments of ships, timeliness would be a major handicap in addressing the short-term requirements.

The capability of the Air Force to reliably deploy in an emergency situation has gone the way of the serviceability of our C-130 Hercules fleet, that is straight downhill with age and overuse. We will use what Hercs and Airbuses are available to send equipment and supplies, but it will be on a catch-as-catch-can basis. To commit to sending DART would require a carefully planned operation and a large number of serviceable C-130s to conduct it in a timely manner. The emergency operational planning is a no-brainer for the tremendously capable people we have in uniform. The expectation of a large number of C-130 missions without embarrassing breakdowns is another question. We've been there before and that just might be the real reason behind the slow/non-existent response with DART. We don't want to risk looking like the international weaklings that we have become.

When he was Minister of National Defence, John McCallum quietly cancelled the Air Force's Strategic Airlift Replacement Program, which would have resulted in an aircraft like the Boeing C-17 being available. The Honourable Mr. McCallum then misled his successor as MND on the capabilities of the
C-130 to transport heavy equipment, such as the new Stryker combat vehicle. A C-130 can take one disassembled Stryker, and nothing else, a total of 700 nautical miles, i.e. Edmonton to Kenora. In a direct comparison of moving stuff, one C-17 is the equivalent of eighteen C-130s in deploying Strykers from Edmonton to Kabul, and that is assuming that both aircraft remain serviceable for the entire mission. Similar comparisons are obvious for moving DART to the Indian Ocean or other emergency requirements.

This is just another example of our deeds not matching our words, and Canada letting down the side. This does not denigrate, in any way, the selflessness and generosity of Canadians who are doing all that they can to help. It does denigrate our government's apparent lack of ability to acknowledge and react to real-world priorities. There are two solutions to this current situation of not having an ability to react in a meaningful way to urgent world situations.

Firstly, the government needs to quit pretending to support the missions of the Canadian Forces and get on with implementing strategic airlift and strategic sealift programs. Aircraft like the readily available C-17 and ships like the proposed large supply ships capable of carrying personnel, supplies, equipment, medical facilities, helicopters, and command and control capability, would fit the bill. These programs will not help in the current emergency but, if we don't start, then we'll never get there from here.

Secondly, the government needs to get outside the box and look at programs that are in place in other countries, such as the United States and Great Britain. We need agreements whereby civilian airlift and sealift capability can be considered national assets, in the event of an emergency. Available aircraft, ships and crews could be put under contract to the Department of National Defence and/or the Department of Foreign Affairs, and used as a second-wave response to a national or international emergency. The first responders would always be the (properly manned and equipped) Canadian Forces, but situations like the current disaster will not be short-term, and more capability will be needed.

I believe that the Prime Minister may know someone in the shipping business, and I believe that Robert Milton may have the odd IOU outstanding. Are they paying attention and do they care?

Friday, December 24, 2004

Politics Makes Strange Bed(ouin) Fellows

So, Muammar Gaddafi is no longer a terrorist, and he is no longer pursuing the development of weapons of mass destruction. I guess that a trip to Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize can't be far behind for the tyrant from Tripoli. Don't get me wrong. Anything that we can do to bring to heel such dictators and murderers is a good thing. I just want to inject a word of caution. Despite probably being a basically good breed, some pit bulls are trained to kill and it never leaves them. I think that human nature is basically good; but there are individual members of the human race who are habituated to violence.

Yasser Arafat lived his life as a terrorist and he died a terrorist. His brief flirtation with legitimacy and the folks in Oslo didn't change the ultimate course of his life. Is the Libyan Colonel of International Crime any different? Maybe, but I doubt it.

Paul Martin gleefully breaking pitas in a tent with his new best friend says more about securing a billion dollar contract for SNC Lavalin than it does about ending Libyan support to terrorism. Muammar needs the West's support for his new focus on becoming the pre-eminent leader of his continent. The West needs his oil and the contracts for SNC Lavalin, etal, which go with it.

I don't have a problem with international business and looking after our energy needs, while we work towards self-sufficiency in that area. Let's just do it with our eyes open. Promises to look into general or specific areas of human rights abuses are easy to give. The Prime Minister and Pierre Pettigrew are not suddenly masters of international human rights negotiations because Muammar and his officials give them a "yeah, sure, whatever" when they raise the issue.

Should they try? Of course, they should. They should also note that the Iraqi embassy in Tripoli is Ba'ath Party Headquarters-in-exile, from which they continue to fund and direct the terrorists operating in Iraq today. Muammar the Peaceful has granted to a career Saddam thug, Anwar Mawlud Dhiban, political asylum and unhindered use of the embassy. Dhiban is ably assisted by Abdul Aziz Al Najm, the Tripoli head of that great charity organization, Hamas.

Should we trust Gaddafi? At the very least, we should draw on some advice from Ronald Reagan, when asked abut trusting the Soviet Union's word - "Trust, but verify."

And, SNC Lavalin? For the ten years between 1994 and 2003, they contributed $454,736 to the Liberal Party of Canada. Before you ask, I'll add that, during the same period, SNC Lavalin contributed $102,018 to the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and $10,120 to the Reform Party of Canada and the Canadian Alliance Party.

I hope that the Prime Minister enjoys his Christmas (yeah, I said CHRISTMAS) in whatever other tents he visits, at our expense. I really do, just as I hope that everyone can find something to celebrate at this time of year.


Saturday, December 11, 2004

Snowbird Sorrow

Canada has lost another hero and the Snowbird family and the Canadian Forces are in mourning. Captain Miles Selby had served his country faithfully and fearlessly for thirteen years; saw combat over Kosovo; and was part of what is Canada's best ambassador to the world - the Canadian Forces Snowbirds.

It is at times like this that some people like to rush to judgment. There is no question that the Canadian Forces is in very serious trouble due to government neglect and negligence that approach criminal levels. To simply call for the Snowbirds' disbandment because of an accident shows a deep lack of understanding of the value and importance of this Canadian icon.

For thirty-two years, the Snowbirds have thrilled millions of spectators at airshows around North America. They have become just about the most recognized symbol of Canada and, along with the RCMP Musical Ride and the Canadian Forces Skyhawks, they are much better ambassadors for our country than any politician from any party could ever be. I'd be hard pressed to lose money in saying that more Americans have heard of the Snowbirds than have ever heard of Paul Martin or anyone else in Ottawa.

I have known many, many Snowbirds over the years and have had two trips with the team during practices, one on Canada Day over Parliament Hill. Having organized several airshows; having seen the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, USAF Thunderbirds, RAF Red Arrows, Patrouille de France, the Russian Knights, many non-jet teams, and having flown with the Italian Frecce Tricolore; there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the Snowbirds are at the top of the ladder. That doesn't mean that they have the most spectacular aircraft or the flashiest "side-show". It means that, in the air and on the ground, they are consummately professional and precise, and engender nothing but pride in the hearts of any Canadian who is around them. Their professionalism is matched by their easy-going and fun-loving attitude, in contrast to some of their more anal contemporaries. Airshows are simply better with the Snowbirds than with any other team.

Accidents happen and they are a part of doing the business of military aviation. Instead of jumping to a convenient conclusion for political reasons, let's look at ways to continue the great contribution that the Snowbirds make to military aviation, recruitment, and Canada's image with the public, at home and abroad.

I have advocated in the past that the Snowbirds are much more than an Air Force Squadron. For reasons I have already alluded to, they are a national program and a national treasure. As such, they should be financially supported by more than the Department of National Defence.

The Snowbirds represent a lot more Canadian Heritage than many of the things that we waste taxpayers' money on today. I think that more Canadians would go to watch an airshow than would trek into the forests of Manitoba to view a work of art paid for by you and me and called "A Salute to Putrefaction", consisting of dead rabbits hanging to rot from tree branches. I think that more Canadians would rather get a ticket to an airshow in the mail than a small Canadian flag from Sheila Copps, the rabbit lady. Two pieces of art hanging in the National Gallery are particularly "marvelous". One is a very large canvas that is all black. It is called, duh, "Shades of Black", and the other is a very large canvas with two large red and one large blue stripes (or the other way around). I'm not sure what that one is called, but "Thanks, Suckers" would be appropriate.

Other departments should be financially involved. Health has used the Snowbirds in some of their children's play-safe programs. Industry and Trade should be using the Snowbirds to promote Canadian industry. Foreign Affairs should be taking advantage of the Team's ambassadorial qualities.

The Tutor is getting long in the tooth, as is so much of the CF's inventory. I think it's safe to say that the age of the Tutor had nothing to do with yesterday's accident. It is a reliable aircraft, that is well maintained, and it is very well suited to its role with the Snowbirds. That is not to say that it shouldn't be replaced. Because the CF does not use it for pilot training any more, fewer and fewer future Snowbird pilots will have flown the aircraft, and fewer and fewer technicians will have worked on it. This presents challenges that can be safely overcome, but they are challenges, nonetheless.

The ideal replacement for the Tutor would be the BAe Hawk, being used as the CF's advanced jet trainer. It is also used by the RAF Red Arrows. It would probably mean reducing the team to six aircraft from nine, due to cost considerations, but the Hawk would better represent the CF's current programs and Canada's current state of industry and technology. Critics will say that the aircraft does not represent Canada, since it's built in the U.K., and that is true. It still represents the level at which the CF is operating and the strength of our commitment to free world military pilot training.

The alternative would be the Harvard II, and that would probably allow the team to continue as a nine-plane. Unfortunately, the show would be far less impressive and would put us in the same league as many third-world air forces. That may be a regrettably true statement of affairs, but I'm not ready to go there, yet.

Whichever option might be chosen, an "outside the box" aircraft leasing, maintenance support, and operational funding arrangement would be required. Rather than throw up their hands, politicians on all sides should be focusing on a positive solution that moves the yardsticks ahead and doesn't simply burn them.

All of the above is moot, at the moment, and we should pause to remember a fallen comrade. Captain Selby is the latest in a long list of men and women who have died in their service to Canada. Here's a nickel on the grass to you, my friend. Per Ardua Ad Astra.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

And, they are surprised, why?

The Senate Committee on National Defence and Security was apparently shocked to learn, from Vice Admiral Ron Buck, that a Liberal election promise to increase the Regular Force by 5,000 and the Reserves by 3,000 will take at least five years. And then, only if there is a significant increase in defence spending.

With the greatest of respect to the House of Sober Second Thought, which planet have they been on for the past forty years? You cannot cut the heart out of the defence budget and increase tasking, and not pay the price. One of the prices is that the CF has no, repeat, no capability to grow in anything resembling the short-term. I, and many others, have repeatedly said that it will take twenty years to restore the CF to what should be expected, and that can only happen if we start doing the right thing today.

The capability to recruit and train has been stripped away, because all the recruiters and trainers have been required to be doers. The more the doers are forced to do, the more decide to move on so that they and their families may have something resembling a life. The more doers that move on, the more recruiters and trainers are turned into doers. The fewer recruiters and trainers we have, the longer it takes for new members to be recruited and trained, and the more give up in disgust and impatience on a military career. And, I haven’t even talked about capital acquisition programs that are long, long overdue and can’t find the people or the money required to progress.

This spiral has been spinning out of control for many years and it doesn’t take one of Don Cherry’s rocket surgeons to figure out where it leads. It leads to where we are today. The CF is flat on its butt and the only thing keeping it going is the incredible quality, dedication and can-do attitude of its members, from the buck-privates to the Admiral Bucks.

We have collectively let them down; and, by doing that, we have let Canada down; and by doing that; we have let our allies down; and by doing that, we have let the World down. Everyone in that chain of let-down deserves better.

Much Ado About Much Ado

Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) has taken center stage for the “everything associated with George Bush is bad” crowd. Their furious tilting at the BMD windmill seems to render them incapable of grasping some simple facts.

Great concern is being expressed about the future weaponization of space. Rightly or wrongly, space became weaponized on October 4th, 1957 when Sputnik 1 was launched from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. BMD, per se, is not about weaponization; it is about protection. The Russians aren’t particularly fussed about it and the U.S. has offered to share defensive technology with other countries. What weaponization that may or may not follow is completely beyond our control, in any event.

Socialists decry the waste of money; and it is a lot of money, to be sure. The point is that it is their money and the American people seem to have given George Bush the mandate to spend it.

Many express concern about a new arms race. Did NORAD start a new arms race in 1958, just because it was a new capability put in place to counter the perceived threat? Sure, we were simply talking about airplanes that had been around for about fifty years or so, give or take. Now we’re talking about space that has had its domain entered for the past fifty years or so, give or take. In case some of those folks haven’t noticed, there are regimes out there that could care less about western liberal humanitarian values. Some may also have noticed that Vladimir Putin has never really given up on the dreams of the Soviet Empire. My recollection of the Cold War (Which was really World War III and we won; thank you, Ronald Reagan.) is that we were probably safer under the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) concept than we are today. Both super-powers kept their subordinates in check.

“Brilliant” scientists piously proclaim that the bullet-versus-bullet technology will never work. I attended a noontime CBC forum in Edmonton Centre at the base of our office tower last week. The topic was BMD and, as one might imagine, the CBC crowd was pretty hostile towards the concept. Speaking for Canada’s involvement was an extremely articulate young lady, named Mercedes Stevenson (sp?), and speaking against was Mel Hurtig, who needs no introduction. Mercedes stood up to Mel and the mob extremely well and stuck to facts and logic, as opposed to Hurtig’s hysterical hyperbole. Hurtig kept trotting out his “brilliant” scientists as proof-positive that BMD would never work.

I got into the question line and was just about the only one who didn’t lecture Mercedes as if she were George Bush himself and every other devil incarnate that they could conjure up. I pointed out to Mr. Hurtig that the definition of a “brilliant” scientist seemed to be one with whom you agreed ideologically, and asked him why Mercedes’ scientists were any less brilliant, just because they gave him the “wrong” answer. I got my expected response, which was a frothy fluffing of his notebook at me, and the obvious-to-him explanation that it was because he was Mel Hurtig and I was not.

I then asked for a purely scientific answer to an obvious and simple question. Given that so many things that are accepted as commonplace today have been deemed as impossible by “brilliant” scientists over the centuries, how can anyone say that anything will never work? There really is only one answer to this, but more frothing at the mouth and fluffing up his notes made it clear that Mr. Hurtig is anything but a scientist. I suspect that he may be related to those famous flat-earth chappies of centuries past.

One of Hurtig’s “brilliant” scientists, Ted Postol, has made the point that any debris from missiles shot down could land in Canada. This is the same Ted Postol who said that the technology would never work. Which is it, Ted? Apparently, Postol’s “brilliant” scientific mind can’t visualize what happens when two objects collide at 25,000 knots. Makes “hair on fire” and “corn flakes” kind of relative, doesn’t it? And, what did he think was going to happen to the Russian Bears that would have fallen to the mighty arrows from Clunks, Voodoos and Hornets?

George Bush has manoeuvred Paul Martin into a very uncomfortable corner. None of us knows exactly what is being proposed as Canada’s involvement, but it’s probably not much more than other than simple political acquiescence. In any event, our involvement is happening as we speak, under agreements already in place. Paul Martin is so afraid of an ill-informed public whipped into hysteria by the anti-Bush forces that he seems to be paralyzed. His cataplectic mutterings about our control over our own airspace are pathetic and totally misleading. He and his predecessors gave up the capability to control our own airspace, except for specific periods at a low level of participation. Any control that we do have is vested in our participation in NORAD.

BMD is going to happen no matter what we decide. The world is not looking for leadership from Canada on this, or any other issue, because we have made ourselves increasingly irrelevant, with our deeds not matching our words. Several countries have already signed on in support of BMD, such as Great Britain, Denmark (Greenland) and Australia; and they’re not even under the shield.

All we will accomplish by saying no is to be shut out of parts of NORAD; lose yet more input into our own sovereignty; show ourselves to be an unreliable ally and friend; further alienate isolationist and protectionist forces in our biggest trading partner; and succumb to pressures from those who promote weakness as the path to security and prosperity.

I know where my vote lies.

Friday, December 03, 2004

With what and with whom, Prime Minister?

Dear Prime Minister,

At your fund raiser in Toronto last night, you said that "We don't need the Americans to come up here and protect us; we can provide our own sovereignty". My question to you, sir, is with what and with whom do we provide for our own protection?

Your remarks are understandable in the wake of the pressure that you must feel to make some decisions following the comments made by President Bush in Ottawa and Halifax. You have been put on the defensive by your government's lack of commitment to action the requirements of sovereignty, rather than just talking about it. This goes hand-in-hand with your comments at the UN about the "responsibility to protect". Regrettably, these words rang hollow to the few UN members in attendance, because Canada has done precious little, relative to our capacity, to carry out that responsibility. The admirable work that Canada has done has been on the strong backs of our over-stretched military and their long-suffering families.

Our sovereignty in the north, and elsewhere, is under attack. Right now, it's relatively subtle and being carried out by a number of nations, such as Denmark, Russia and the U.S. The number of Russian "cruise" ships visiting strategic northern ports, such as Inuvik and Iqaluit, with specific timing, should be of interest. If we don't do something, and soon, to show that we are serious about what we claim to be ours, we will lose it. The Air Force, Army and Navy have the desire, courage and dedication, but lack the personnel, equipment and operational budget, to do the job. It will take many years to restore the required capability, and the clock is ticking faster and faster.

With respect to sovereignty, your primary responsibility to protect begins at home. President Bush certainly understands that, and he has a clear vision of North American security requirements. There is no doubt that his commitment is to the U.S.A., as it should be, but we would be foolish and naive if we didn't understand the implications for Canada. The most serious general implication is that, if we don't actually exercise our own sovereignty, the U.S. will do it for us. At least we will still have it in friendly hands, in that case. If the U.S. doesn't do it for us, we may really not like who fills the void. Words won't do it, sir, and you have the power to turn words into action.

That action will take place at budget time. Recycling old commitments of cash, such as the Sea King replacement, and pretending that it is new money, won't cut it. Announcing that the CF is getting money to pay for past overtaskings, that were beyond then-current defence plans, and pretending that it's new money, won't cut it. Proudly and publicly committing money to a new program, while you quietly take that money from somewhere else within the current funding envelope, won't cut it. The only thing that will cut it, Prime Minister, is a substantial and permanent increase in the base defence budget and a programmed increase in that budget year-over-year until Canada can once again truthfully say that we are fulfilling our commitments to Canadians, specifically, and the world community, in general.

Canada has a history of courage and commitment. As a population, we are being led away from that attitude by misguided and ill-informed people and groups, who somehow see moral rectitude in physical weakness. We are facing threats that are immoral and strong, by any standards of morality and strength. They are getting stronger by our inaction and our lack of real commitment.

We may disagree with the U.S. and President Bush on many issues, but there is no mistaking America's resolve to face up to its enemies. We need that same resolve and leadership. Prime Minister, that is yours to provide. Please don't let Canada down.

Sincerely,
Laurie Hawn, CD
Lieutenant-Colonel (retired)
Edmonton

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Madame Sgro’s House of Ill Repute

For a couple of weeks, Immigration Minister Judy Sgro has been trying very hard to defend the indefensible. She and/or her staff made inappropriate use of her office to trade financial and volunteer help for her election campaign for a free pass into Canada.

What has really caught people’s attention is that the free pass was given to a Romanian exotic dancer. The rationale was that this industry is apparently in danger of collapse, because there are not enough Canadian women willing to strip, and etc., for cash. The etc. is very important and, while I am not accusing the lady in question of it, a great many women like her are being sold into prostitution and effectively treated as slaves.

About a year ago, I met Victor Malarek, a multiple award winning investigative journalist with many years work at both CBC and CTV. He had recently researched and written a book called “The Natashas”. It is an expose of the sex trade emanating from Russia and Eastern Europe with destinations all over the world, including Canada. According to the U.S. State Department, at least 800,000–900,000 impoverished young women, many of them orphans, from Eastern and Central Europe, are lured with promises of jobs as waitresses, nannies or maids in Western Europe or North America. Instead, they wind up as exotic dancers, prostitutes and sex slaves.

Malarek’s facts and story telling paint a horrific picture of inhumanity. Russian and other organized crime syndicates control this human trade with “ruthless efficiency”, reaping high profits with little risk of interference thanks to "complacency, complicity, and corruption" on the part of national governments and law enforcement.

I’m not accusing the Government of Canada of complicity and corruption in this unacceptable activity, nor am I accusing Canadian police forces of being less than vigilant and dedicated in enforcing our laws. I am suggesting that the Government of Canada is complacent and has lost sight of the objectives of a good immigration program. One of them should be to promote the immigration of people who can play an important role in making their own lives and the lives of Canadians, in general, better. My money would be on doctors, nurses, scientists, teachers, technicians, etc., long before it would be on strippers.

What Madame Sgro was really caught at is the longstanding Liberal practice of using immigration to prop themselves up at election time. It happens all across Canada and it is unethical and immoral. That doesn’t seem to bother “the natural governing party”, but it should bother Canadians. The Deputy Prime Minister announced yesterday that the "stripping for visas" programme would be stopped. Why does it take a determined Opposition and public outcry to make this government do the right thing? And, it hasn't actually done the right thing, yet; just talked about it. We've seen this movie before.


Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Senators-in-waiting

Senators-in-waiting…..and waiting…..and waiting…..

Another Alberta election is history and we have a new crop of senators-in-waiting. Betty Unger, Bert Brown, Cliff Breitkreuz and Link Byfield were duly nominated and received a total of 1,090,246 votes from Albertans. That’s four times more votes than all 28 Alberta Liberal candidates received in the June federal election. All that remains now is for the Prime Minister to make good on his avowed desire for Senate reform by appointing these democratically elected people to the house of sober second thought.

The trouble is that The Right Honourable Democratic Deficit is having second thoughts of his own. He and his right hand person, The Honourable Anne McLellan, solemnly state that they are in favour of Senate reform. The latter went so far as to say that “it’s unsustainable to have an unelected upper house of whatever kind.” (Edmonton Journal, April 6, 2004). As is the habit with this Prime Minister and his Deputy, words speak louder than actions. Their position is that reform must be total and carried out in one fell swoop nationwide. They both know full well that this will never happen, so they carry on blithely and fraudulently claiming to support Senate reform while doing nothing to promote it.

There is something fundamentally wrong with a body having the power to legislate without having the checks on its power resting with the electorate. In this and in so many other practical ways, such as the unfettered power of the Prime Minister’s Office, Canada is not the democracy than we think it to be.

At the risk of being labeled pro-American, I think that we can look south for an example of how Senate reform can be carried out in a progressive manner. For well over one hundred years the United States Senate was made up of state appointees. Around the turn of the Twentieth Century, the people of the State of Oregon decided that this was not democratic and elected two Senators, much as Alberta has been doing. Like ours, they became Senators-in-waiting because Washington refused to recognize their legitimacy. They persevered and eventually were accepted several years later. Other states followed suit and, one-by-one, started sending elected senators to Washington. Today, the United States has a Triple-E Senate – Elected, Equal, and Effective. We still have a Triple-A Senate – Appointed, Asymmetric, and Anachronistic.

Are Albertans (and other Canadians) so uneducated and irresponsible that we can’t be trusted to make our own choices? Obviously not. Is the federal government so weak that they feel threatened by the exercise of democracy? Obviously so. It’s just one more way that the “natural governing party” keeps Canadians and their regions beholden to the Liberal version of Big Brother. Alberta and Canada deserve better.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Landslide Ralphie

Only in small-c Alberta could a majority government with 75% of the seats and 48% of the popular vote be considered a bad election result. The small-l liberal and large-L Liberal chattering class crows about their great breakthrough and the imminence of a Liberal government after the next election. They crack me up.

Lorne Gunter (Edmonton Journal) and others have done some good analysis of the votes cast and I won't repeat it all here. Suffice to say that, while the Liberals increased their seat counts and percentage of popular vote, their vote totals actually decreased. Hardly the stuff of an electoral revolution or an imminent breakthrough.

What it does point out is what I heard at the door and on the phone in close to one hundred hours of volunteer time on eight different campaigns. People weren't particularly upset with their current MLA or candidate. They were particularly upset with Ralph Klein. It's obvious to anyone that Ralph has not been in top form for a while now; and his performance before and during the election cost some good people their jobs.

People couldn't bring themselves to vote Liberal or NDP; but they could bring themselves to stay home. That's exactly what happened and only 45% of Albertans bothered to go to the polls, an all-time low. We had the usual mathematicians who calculated that only about 22% of all Albertans actually voted for the government. They are probably part of the 55% who couldn't get their butts off the couch for half an hour to participate, and now they want to de-legitimize the result. Perhaps we should send them to the Ukraine for an exercise in struggling democracy.

What we saw in the Alberta election was not a cry for a new governing party, but a cry for new leadership. I appreciate, applaud and respect what Ralph Klein has done for Alberta; and he deserves all the kudos he'll get next year during Alberta's centennial celebrations. It is time, however, that we looked elsewhere for who will lead us post-2005. Anyone who has led a province or a country for more than ten years will have a tendency to get stale. It's sad to see Ralph risk becoming what thinking people hated about Jean Chretien; that is abusive, arrogant and self-entitled.

I don't think that Ralph has any intention of staying much beyond the time when the royal flight gets wheels in the well heading eastbound next year, or the centennial celebrations in September at the latest. I only hope that Rod Love and others can make our last year with Ralph a happy one. His departure needs to be an occasion of thankfulness that he was here and regret that he is leaving. It shouldn't become thankfulness that he is gone and regret that he was here. Over to you, Ralph.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Parrish the Thoughtless

I went surfing this morning in the Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, Chapter 15. Psychiatric Disorders. I was looking for something.....anything that might explain why Caroyln Parrish insists on making such an ass of herself and, by extension in the eyes of others, you and me and Canada. What I found was interesting.

"Personality disorders: Pervasive, inflexible, and stable personality traits that deviate from cultural norms and cause distress or functional impairment." That fits.

"Mental coping mechanisms (defenses) are used unconsciously at times by everyone. But in persons with personality disorders, coping mechanisms tend to be immature and maladaptive." Bingo!

"Repetitious confrontation in prolonged psychotherapy or by peer encounters is usually required to make such persons aware of these mechanisms." Peer encounters don't seem to be working, so perhaps the PM should refer Ms. Parrish to a professional.

"Without environmental frustration, persons with personality disorders may or may not be dissatisfied with themselves." She seems to be pretty darned proud of herself, thank you very much.

Let's bring in their definition of schizophrenia here: "A common and serious mental disorder characterized by a loss of contact with reality (psychosis), hallucinations (false perceptions), delusions (false beliefs), abnormal thinking, flattened affect (restricted range of emotions), diminished motivation, and disturbed work and social functioning." Can anyone argue that Ms. Parrish does not fit this definition in whole or in part?

"Often they do not see a need for therapy, and they are referred by their peers, their families, or a social agency because their maladaptive behavior causes difficulties for others." Um, like Parliament and Canada?

"Because these patients usually view their difficulties as discrete and outside of themselves, mental health professionals have difficulty getting them to see that the problem is really based on who they are." And who she is is not a pretty sight on any professional level.

Civil disagreement between politicians and ideologies is fine, and it can be a great vehicle for progress in the hands of civil and professional people. Ms. Parrish is neither civil nor professional. Paul Martin has shown no real inclination or ability to deal with Ms. Parrish and, apparently, he and his whole government can "all go to hell". I would point out to the PM that he is our leader and not just the leader of the Liberals; assuming for one silly moment that one does not have to be Liberal to be Canadian. He needs to do something and he needs to do it now.

As for the people of Mississauga-Erindale, what are you thinking?!

None of the above is intended to make light of mental illness. There is nothing funny about either mental illness or Carolyn Parrish. Both need to be treated.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

The Greatest Canadian?

The CBC has been on a quest for the Greatest Canadian for many months and has solicited input from across the land. On the final list of ten, we have:

- the world's greatest hockey player
- one of the world's most irreverent sportscasters
- our first Prime Minister
- a socialist Prime Minister
- another Prime Minister
- a socialist Premier of Saskatchewan, who did one good thing
- the inventor of the telephone
- the discoverer of insulin
- a one-legged runner who inspired a nation
- a geneticist, posing as a climatologist on tax-payer dollars

I was at the Remembrance Day ceremony in Edmonton, when it hit me like a ton of bricks, prompted by an old saying that was read aloud.

It is not the reporter who gave us freedom of speech. It is not the priest who gave us freedom of religion. It is not the campus activist who gave us freedom of assembly. It is not the lawyer who gave us freedom from injustice. It is not the politician who gave us the freedom to vote. As good as some of the ten finalists above may have been at what they accomplished, none of them gave us anything without the help of the person who gave us everything - The Veteran.

The Greatest Canadian - hands down - no questions asked - is the man who lays in repose at the foot of the Centaph in Ottawa. The Greatest Canadian is The Unknown Soldier.

Remembering

As I was driving in to work today, because Canada has not yet seen fit to make Remembrance Day a national holiday, my thoughts drifted to people I remember today. Every once in a while I get out my log book and page through thirty years of memories over a wee dram of fine single malt. Dozens of faces and hundreds of memories leap from the pages to my mind's eye. There are many too many to list, but I'd like to share memories of three.

Brian Dowds was a lineman-sized guy who grew up in Goderich, Ontario and was drafted by the Ottawa Roughriders. He joined the Air Force, instead, and we got our wings together in Gimli in 1967. We stayed at Gimli as flying instructors on the T-33. Brian was an excellent pilot and a great buddy, and our families became very close. We would meet at the flightline early and talk Corporal Boudreau (a Hellyer Corporal, for those who remember) out of a couple of aircraft that really needed airtests for something 'serious', like a navigation light change. We'd launch off and hone our formation skills for an hour or so, including the odd manoeuvre that the boss might have considered aerobatic. Safely back on deck, we'd dutifully sign off the flight test and certify the nav light safe for the rest of the day's flying program. Beer calls were an exercise in mutual support and PMQs were mercifully close to the base. In March, 1969, Brian was killed when his aircraft glanced off the frozen Lake Winnipeg just south of Hecla Island. Two years later and with my first beer in hand on a Friday night in Gimli, I had the most vivid vision of Brian standing in the uniform in which he was buried, just looking at me and smiling.

Paul Rackham, "Rack", "Mr. Rackers" was a young single rat who grew up in Ottawa, flew the CF-100 in the electronic warfare role, and was one of the most free spirits I ever met. Our paths crossed in Cold Lake in the early 70s, when we were both posted to the CF-104. With another reprobate who shall remain nameless, but who will read this, we became the Terrible Trio. I'm pretty sure that it was a term of endearment, but we did strike just the tiniest bit of terror into the hearts of the odd senior officer. We lived by the work hard and play harder rule, and one memory is of Rackham and another course mate sticking their rental horses noses through our rental house window in Cold Lake much, much too early on Saturday morning. The three of us went off to Europe on separate squadrons together, as the grownups thought that to be the wisest move. We still managed to team up and spread the gospel of good flying and good fun to an international audience. We did contribute to the delinquency of the odd senior officer in other air forces, and Colonel Bill Ongena (Belgian Air Force) was told by his superiors that he had entirely too much fun in Florennes, Belgium one night, shooting up his own mess with our beer can cannon. In May, 1973, we lost Paul Rackham to a flap failure on his Starfighter which drove his aircraft into the North Sea near Bodo, Norway. The Terrible Trio became the Dynamic Duo.

Clancy Scheldrup is a name known to anyone in the Canadian Air Force older than the age of about 45. Clancy was a bear of a man with the softest heart. He filled the cockpits of the Sabres, Tutors and Starfighters that he flew. Our paths crossed many times and we served on four different flying schools or squadrons together. Clancy was everyone's big brother, and uncle or grandpa to everyone's kids. He and his wife, Vena, were the go-to couple for anyone who had a problem of any kind and everyone got their full attention. They were always the ones supplying egg-in-the-hole late Friday night and the first ones ones up with the "cure" on Saturday morning. Our PMQs were side-by-side in Cold Lake, and one of our young son Robb's favourite things was sitting on the front step on Saturday morning eating cold chili out of the pot with his Godfather, Clancy. In June, 1985, we lost Clancy in a Tutor in Calgary, when the ejection seat was not quite up to the challenge after an engine failure at the most critical point just after takeoff.

Today, we all remember someone. For many of us, it is people we knew. For most Canadians, it is people they have never met. Known or unknown, their past has paid for our present and the price was ultimate. For those who serve today, their present will pay for our future. Just as we owe a profound debt of gratitude to those who have gone before; so too do we owe support to those who are asked to sacrifice their present today.

Right now, I am going to the Butterdome in Edmonton to pay homage to those who have given us our today. Tomorrow, I will try to do something for those who serve their country today to give us our tomorrow. Please do the same.

They shall not grow old, as we who are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

What's in a 'Dis'?

"I am here, I admit it, I admit it, because we have to reverse the disinvestment that you have experienced." - Paul Martin speaking to members of 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group and the Royal 22nd Regiment Van Doos in Valcartier the other day.

Disinvestment is a much more genteel 'dis' word than disable, disarm, disarrange, disarticulate, disassemble, discerption, discredit, disdain, disembowel, disengage, disesteem, disequilibrium, dishabille, dishearten, dishonest, dishonour, disillusion, disincentive, disinclination, disinformation, disintegrate, disinterest, disjoin, disloyal, dismantle, dismay, dismember, disparity, dispirit, disregard, dissolution, dissonant, distort, distress, and my favourite, disingenuous. I haven't even touched on the 'dit's such as dither. Look up any of the above 'dis' words and you will see a description of some aspect of the way that the Canadian Forces has been treated by Government.

The Prime Minister also said that "I bear a certain responsibility as finance minister", just before he tried to slough it off to Jean Chretien and Brian Mulroney. He certainly does bear the responsibility to fix what he, and others, broke. His feel good words to disenchanted members of the CF are meaningless unless he follows them up, and right now, with a hard commitment to increased defence spending. Commitments to replace the Sea King are hardly news, notwithstanding that over a decade of mismanagement has left that still not a done deal. Commitments to increased personnel strength are meaningless without a long-term plan and lots of extra dollars to make it happen. It simply cannot happen within the current and projected funding envelope.

Will the Prime Minister call off the dogs from John McCallum's Department of Revenue who are looking for yet more disinvestment? If he won't publicly do that, and immediately, then all of his soothing words to members of the CF will simply continue the Liberal disgrace in the areas of national defence and security. It will lead to more and more members of the CF leaving in disgust and will accelerate us towards the disaster that Canada does not deserve.

Monday, November 08, 2004

To Have and to Have Not

Much has been said and written in the last while about have provinces and have-not provinces and the federal equalization program. I'd like to simplify the situation and put it in the context of government philosophy and ideology.

In the first place, the equalization formula and process is laid out in such a way as to be nearly indecipherable to mere human beings. Enter a Liberal government to put its arm around our shoulders and tell us that, it's okay, we'll look after all the things that citizens couldn't possibly understand.

Let me tell you what I do understand. I understand that Alberta gets to keep the majority of its resource revenues, and that has made us a very wealthy "have" province. We share our wealth with the rest of Canada through the equalization program, and that is right and proper. Newfoundland & Labrador and Nova Scotia have very considerable resource revenue that they are not allowed to keep, and they are "have-not" provinces who get help from Alberta. Call me simple, but, if Newfoundland & Labrador and Nova Scotia were allowed to keep the majority of their resource revenue, wouldn't they likely become "have" provinces? Wouldn't they become the masters of their own economic future as Alberta has become? Wouldn't they have the same justifiable pride in their provinces' capability as do Albertans? Wouldn't they be able to negotiate from a stronger position when it comes to federal-provincial issues? Oops, I may have stumbled onto something.

It is not in a power-focused central government's best interests to let the regions develop any form of independence from the mother ship. How would that central government then be able to hold their "largesse" over the heads of voters at election time? The "if you don't vote for us, economic ruin will surely follow" election advertising would lose its appeal and, clearly, that cannot be allowed to happen. Danny Williams has figured this out and he is right in taking a two-faced central government to task over the issue. I have no doubt that Newfoundlanders & Labradoreans and Nova Scotians are hard-working, industrious people who would like nothing better than to be in control of their own futures.

Canada would be better off if these two provinces, and others, had the shackles of subservience removed from their shoulders. Alberta would not be shackled and neither should they. The Liberals need to stop blackmailing Canada's provinces with their own money. The Liberal philosophy and electoral ideology is one of keeping the masses beholden to them in order to keep their "loyalty" at the polls. Have you heard of universal daycare?

A Winston Churchill quote goes something like "Dictators ride to and fro on tigers, afraid to dismount lest the tigers eat them". Paul Martin had best hang on tight.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Bordering on a Good Idea

A couple of weeks ago, the federal government quietly approved the move of an estimated 800 immigration officers over to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA). The idea is that an immigration and customs issue could be dealt with by the same person, thereby speeding up the overall process. Pardoning the pun, this is bordering on a good idea.

The Customs folks have been underclassified, underpaid, undertrained, underequipped, undermanned and undermotivated for quite a while now and this could help. They have been completely underwhelmed by the support of their Minister and their government. This is not a denigration of the efforts or dedication of the current Customs folks. Their situation is the result of government neglect and negligence over an extended period. Sound familiar?

It's the kind of situation that has resulted in over one hundred long guns per day coming through just the Edmonton International Airport during hunting season and disappearing into the wilds without a trace. They're probably going home with the hunter, but no one can prove it. Multiply that by a lot of major airports in Canada. It's the kind of situation that has seen Customs shifts at airports manned at a fraction of specified levels and unable to respond. It's the kind of situation that has seen high tech equipment sitting idle because of lack of personnel and training. It is the kind of situation that sees minimally trained college students manning the front lines at our borders, while the regular Customs folks squeak in some well-earned holidays.

It's the kind of situation that is endemic to the Liberal government's handling of our security and safety, both at home and internationally. This move of 800 immigration officers over to customs will be a good idea only if they do not become just another 800 mistreated customs agents. I go back to the image of our Minister of Emergency Preparedness and Public Safety beaming happily at Tom Ridge's announcement that the U.S. is turning back terror suspects at their border every day. Why do we let them get to the 49th parallel in the first place?

This is an idea that might work, but only if the implementation of the idea does not follow the Liberal path of good intentions and really bad execution. To my knowledge the under-things mentioned earlier have not been addressed. Until they are addressed, the jury will stay out.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Seventeen Million Here, Seventeen Million There

So, Madame Dyan Adam thinks that Canada's official bilingualism program at $750 million per year and her comfy fiefdom as the Commissioner of Official Languages at $17 million per year should be exempt from a review of departmental spending. The rarefied air dans la tour d'ivoire where she lives must be getting to her.

I guess that, to her, it is absolutely essential that we divert not one penny away from such noble causes as trying the make universally accepted traffic sign graphics bilingual. I'm not sure what the difference is between a French turn arrow and an English turn arrow, and I don't recall them being any different in France the last time I was there. Of course, we simply must stop the assault on Canadian dignity and our national identity by criminals like Don Cherry. She is the Commissioner of Official Languages, not the Commissioner of Face Masks. She is Donna Quixote with imaginary windmills, and there is probably no end to the evil from which she would like to rescue us.

Official bilingualism is worthy of support where it makes sense, but Mme Adam and her office would have us believe that, without her diligence, the French language and culture will disappear. What self-serving and personally profitable rubbish!

$17,000,000 would go a long way towards supporting some activities that would have a lot more positive impact on the lives of Canadians. How about 17,000 additional CH-146 Griffon flying hours that could be used for search and rescue, fighting floods and ice storms, assisting in border patrol operations to stop smuggling, etc.?

How about a few thousand extra CP-140 Aurora flying hours, so that the CF could start doing patrols over the Arctic regions? These have decreased to next to nothing, and Danish, American, Russian and other challenges to our claims of sovereignty are increasing. For those who say so what; think about the resources that are probably beneath the ice and water in that area. Do we want other countries to reap the economic benefits therefrom? Worse yet for those whose priority is the environment; do we want other countries doing resource exploration and development with lower standards for environmental protection than Canada would practise?

How about one new MRI machine per province and territory with the money to operate them for a year?

Or, maybe we could just buy a couple of golf balls for every Canadian with the Prime Minister's name on them.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Principles of Liberal Power

Have you noticed what a hard time Paul Martin is having these days? Gone is the dictatorial privilege of running a government with a massive majority. Liberals are only happy when they are in a position of undisputed power, and they simply can't stand the current reality. They have no idea how to make actual democracy work. It's hard to blame them, really; they haven't had to actually practice democracy for some time.

The only "principle" of Liberal politics and vision is the attainment and maintenance of power. This is abundantly clear in their pandering for votes to various segments of Canadian society. It was abundantly clear in their 2004 election campaign, built entirely on lies, fear and misrepresentation. The Deputy Prime Minister's principles were at their hypocritical best when she recently decried Ralph Klein's use of the politics of fear and misrepresentation. They pay lip service to core issues of nationhood, such as sovereignty, security and defence; while fostering warm and fuzzy social programs to keep Canadians dependent on government largesse and grateful to such a benevolent ruler.

Cabinet Ministers rise in the House and prevaricate with impunity. The Minister of National Defence tells Parliament that, since 1999, his government has allocated an additional ten billion dollars to national defence. What he doesn't say is that most of that money was injected to pay bills that had been run up by his government years before in assigning unplanned tasks to the Canadian Forces and making them take it out their hide. What he doesn't say is that his colleague, the former Minister of National Defence and now Revenue Minister, is about to rape DND of more core funding. The Minister of Public Works and Government Services tells the House that the Sea King replacement contract was won based on best value for money. I'll be kind and just say that he is ill-informed. That contract was run by the lowest-cost-compliant method, whereby the contender that costs one dollar less will win regardless of quality. If you set the bar low enough, you can get the winner that meets your political requirement of not putting the lie to the legacy of the former Prime Minister, even if it falls short of the real military requirement. Some would call that lying to the House and lying to Canadians. Others would call it Liberal principles.

It is educational to watch the Liberals in Question Period, as they have long since turned obfuscation into an art form. Watching the Member for Kings Hants pop from his seat to spring to the defence of the Prime Minister he was mercilessly slagging scant months ago is really quite pathetic. It does show that Scott Brison really is a Liberal when it comes to the principles of power. He just couldn't resist the temptation of the apple of a Parliamentary Secretary position (and future Cabinet post) in the Liberal Garden of Eden. It really is too bad when someone of Mr. Brison's obvious intelligence can so easily exchange principle for power.

It will be enlightening to see how Team Martin will handle allowing the "unclean" from the Conservatives, Bloc and NDP into their garden. So far, the PM hasn't seemed to figure out that he doesn't actually have a majority. When the leaders of the opposition parties perform in their constitutionally correct roles, he reacts by threatening an election. Smacks of his predecessor, doesn't it? There is a great opportunity here for Parliamentary Committees to do some good work. For as long as this government lasts, the Liberals will be out-numbered on committees and will be forced to negotiate and cooperate. Lester Pearson seemed to be able to make minority governments work, but then, PM is no LP as PM.

How long will it last? At least a year, one hopes, because voters are experiencing election fatigue, especially in Alberta, which will have had elections at all three levels this year (four, if you count the Senate election). There are some ticking time bombs out there and Paul Martin knows it. His personal conduct and knowledge of affairs will likely take a leading role in the Gomery report, and his government's gross negligence with respect to the Canadian Forces will, hopefully, remain an issue.

Government officials, past and present, could withhold information freely in front of a parliamentary committee, but they will have a much harder time doing that before a judicial inquiry. I don't think it's a coincidence that the Gomery Inquiry has ten times the information available to it as did the Public Accounts Committee. I don't doubt that the Prime Minister knows exactly what is in Justice Gomery's hands. I don't think for a minute that he will hesitate to engineer his government to fall at the hands of the dastardly opposition, so that he can go to the people before the whole truth comes out. He did it this year and he will do it again. The Gomery commission is due to report in December, 2005. We'll be dusting off the lawn signs before then.


Things That Go Crack

What appears to be the latest foul deed by the clearly grossly negligent and incompetent Liberals in relation to National Defence is the tail rotor cracking on the new Cormorant helicopters. Before anyone gets too excited, they should understand that this is not new or unusual, much as I'd like to blame the Liberals for everything.

In 1982, we received our first CF-18s and we were like kids with a new bike. It was the latest and the best, and we had a ball training the instructors, ground crew, and first operational squadron pilots. Eighteen months later, we began to discover cracks in the vertical stabilators and everyone was horrified. Some engineering analysis determined that the air flow over the leading edge extension (LEX) in high angle of attack flight (e.g. dogfighting) was hitting the tail in such a way to cause significant flexing. Anyone who flew the Hornet back then will remember being very "impressed" with view in the mirror of the two vertical stabs trying to kiss each other (some exaggeration, but you get the idea).

Significant restrictions were placed on the aircraft until the solution was found and applied. It turned out to be what we called the LEX fence, and was simply a small vertical plate on the LEX, which diverted the airflow in a more harmless direction. For the past twenty years, the CF has flown the Hornet with great effect in peacetime and wartime operations and the aircraft has performed superbly.

I don't know what is causing the tail rotor cracks on the Cormorant, but the Air Force has been there before. Teething problems for even good aircraft and other equipment are nothing to panic about. They just need to be addressed and, if budget constraints and lack of qualified personnel slow that process down, then there will be yet more reason to castigate the Liberals. In any case, they deserve every bit of it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

In Defence of LRPA

The following response was sent to an acquaintance who was lamenting the decline of the CF's long range patrol capability with the aging CP-140 Aurora.

Now why would I disagree with such an obviously good point? The CP-140, like the CF-18, like the CC-130, like the Sea King, like the Buffalo, like the Labrador, like the whatever else you'd care to name in any of the three elements of the CF's inventory, has been used and abused to the point of collapse. The CP-140 is a vital tool in the exercise of our whatever is left of our sovereignty. We are spending considerable money on a long-overdue weapons system, avionics and radar upgrade for 80 of our remaining approximately 120 CF-18s. It is very welcome and I have flown one with the upgraded radar earlier this year - big improvement. We will still have the same old engines, though, and we've lost one pilot this year in a survivable ejection made fatal by neglect of a required seat harness modification. In the case of the CP-140, 16 aircraft cannot do the job required. We have long since stopped doing NorPats with any frequency to see what's going on up there. With the Northwest Passage becoming more passable every year, a regular presence will be vital to any Canadian claim to the land and ice masses in the Arctic. With respect to ASW, if I were a terrorist or a druggie, I would have enough money to buy old Soviet subs and probably hire the crews. The likely numbers wouldn't justify an expensive ASW capability on its own, but maintaining a capability that's already there is a helluva lot cheaper than trying to re-generate it. The CF-18 force stopped training at low level a couple of years ago as a way to save about 12 hours per pilot per year. Aside from being very embarrassing in exercises with our allies, it is another capability that will cost aircraft and lives to re-generate at some time in the future. I grew up in the fighter era when we were re-inventing low level operations and I lost a lot of friends in the process.

Let me give you one short anecdote that will show that the stupidity with which we approach required equipment capability is not new. I was in ther New Fighter Aircraft Project Office when we were buying the CF-18 in the late 70s. At one point, the radar altimeter was an extra cost option on the aircraft. The then-DCDS was a former Commander of 1 CAG, whose comments (at from one- to three-star levels) were on many CF-104 and other fighter controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) fatal accidents, demanding that the CF-104 be modified with a radalt. Despite that, the position was taken that, if it cost a penny more than the baseline aircraft, we weren't going to include it on the CF-18. I personally did a study of all the CFIT accidents in the fighter force, showing how ridiculous this position was, to no avail. It was only when the U.S. Navy spec made the radalt baseline to the aircraft did we get such a basic capability. Lives would have been lost without it.

I have yet to drop a bomb or fire a missile from a simulator, and have it leave the building. We have become so wrapped up in reducing costs at all costs, that we now have a simulated combat capability. That may match nicely with our simulated sovereignty that we have devolved to under our simulated government, but actual Canadians and our future deserve better.

Maritime aviation forever! I can't believe I said that...................

Friday, October 15, 2004

It's Crunch Tme

Dear Members of the Defence Committee:

It is crunch time and the country will be looking to you for leadership in the wake of the undeniable evidence that the Canadian Forces (CF) has been starved of resources for decades. It truly is time to put aside political rhetoric and hyperbole for the sake of Canada's future security, sovereignty, and status in the world. Your newly appointed committee is starting to sit in deliberation of the most serious state of unpreparedness in which Canada has found itself since the late thirties. While it will still be debated, there is no useful purpose in rehashing how we got to this state and who is guilty of what. The time has come for all-party action.

The plain and simple fact is that the CF is at the lowest state of combat capability in its history, and at a time when the world has become more dangerous than at any time since World War II. To be sure, we do have some good equipment; but we don't have nearly enough, and it is poorly supported, due to lack of funding for operations and maintenance. We have a bow-wave of equipment replacement requirements that is sweeping over the deck and will quickly swamp any bailing effort. This is, in no way, an indictment of the courage, loyalty, dedication and perseverance of Canadians in uniform. They have given and continue to give much more than could reasonably be asked of anyone. They have taken on tasks made virtually impossible through lack of equipment, personnel and training and, somehow, keep pulling it off. They perform these miracles at enormous cost to themselves and their families. This can-do attitude is the CF's greatest strength, but it also lets government (Liberal and Conservative) off the hook. If we're doing so well, why do we need more money?

In the past several years, members of every element of the CF have died due to lack of equipment and/or training. We lost soldiers in Afghanistan, partly due to lack of adequate communications equipment and vehicles. We lost a fighter pilot in Cold Lake in a survivable ejection made fatal by the lack of repeatedly postponed modification to the seat harness. Although the jury will be out for some time, we now also have HMCS Chicoutimi. There are many other examples that could be quoted and argued, but, simply put, enough is enough. Every time something catastrophic happens; media, government and Canadians wring their hands in dismay and fret over what has become of us. After a couple of weeks, the fretting dies down and we get back to our normal state of somnambulism in a world where our enemies are wide awake. To think that Canada does not have enemies would be dangerously naive. They are the same enemies that face our traditional allies.

This brings in the relationship that your committee's work must have with the committee on foreign affairs. At the moment, our foreign affairs strategy is cloudy, at best. We cling to the hope that the United Nations will magically re-invent itself into what it should be. That's not going to happen. We exhort other nations to step up to the plate, while we hide in the dugout. We alienate our traditional allies and trading partners. We knee jerk from crisis to crisis in a vacuum, devoid of any national strategy. A clear vision of where we fit in the real world and where we would like to fit is essential. A coherent and logical foreign affairs strategy will lead the way to a coherent and logical defence and security strategy.

There is an enormous capability within Canada for strategic studies that would assist you in your deliberations. This capability has been largely ignored in the past because, in some circles, it was deemed to be coming from out-of-touch retired senior officers. As one of those officers, at a more junior level, I can tell you that what is offered is centuries of collective experience and wisdom from soldiers, sailors and airmen who have been "there" and who have seen first hand the effects of neglect in foreign policy, defence and security matters. Many of these officers also have decades of experience, out of uniform, in areas of current concern. The only axe that we have to grind is the one that compelled us to serve in the first place. That is the strong desire to make Canada the best and safest nation on earth, and one that is truly looked up to and respected by the rest of the world.

Canada's level of respect has slipped drastically for anyone who has taken the time to look through clear glasses. Canadians in uniform are very highly regarded for their personal qualities, knowledge and professionalism. The same cannot be said for how we are perceived by our allies, when it comes to our contribution as a nation. To be sure, we do superb work in isolated cases, such as Afghanistan. Efforts like that bring the rest of the Army to its knees; just as a combat deployment of a mere six CF-18s would bring the fighter force to its knees. Our people in exchange and co-manning positions are often embarrassed, in the presence of their host forces, at our apparent lack of national resolve and commitment. We must change that perception and the only way to do that is to change the reality.

There are many areas where an immediate infusion of money could be put to effective use. An example would be some of the equipment programs that have been lagging badly, such as strategic airlift and strategic sealift. What will be required is a sustained year-over-year increase in defence spending to make our capabilities eventually match the expectations and realities that will derive from a well-developed national strategy. In my view, this will likely take twenty years. The CF's capacity to recruit and train has been so severely debilitated that it will take a slow-starting, accelerating and determined effort to catch up. At the moment all the trainers are committed doers; and there is no one left to train the trainees. They sit around waiting; get into mischief; and eventually leave in boredom. Breaking the logjam in training and stemming the tide of early attrition should be high priorities. The expertise and experience that has walked out the door has a direct impact on combat effectiveness and safety. With cutbacks in equipment, flying hours, field training days and sailing days, the warrior spirit that is at the heart of our capability is eroded. A decreasing "quality of work" becomes a decreasing "quality of life", and the effects can be insidious and serious.

The work of recovery of the Canadian Forces will take much longer than any of you will likely sit in Parliament, but you can be a part of starting it. The more balanced makeup of your committee over previous Parliaments gives you an unique opportunity to make strong and non-partisan progress in a very difficult and critical task. I urge you most strongly to take advantage of every resource at your disposal to bring some vision, hope and solid planning to Canada's national defence and security programs. Our survival as a sovereign nation depends on it and Canadians are depending on you. Good Luck!

Sincerely,
Laurie Hawn, CD
Lieutenant-Colonel (retired)
Edmonton

Smart Border / Dumb Border

U.S. Home Security Chief Tom Ridge and our very own Minister of Public Safety, Anne McLellan, were together yesterday, extolling the virtues of the Canada-USA Smart Border Plan. Mr. Ridge waxed eloquent about how it is working so well, because terrorism suspects are turned back at the border and prevented from entering the U.S. almost every day. Ms. McLellan beamed beside him, apparently oblivious to the implication that we are, therefore, keeping them all in Canada. I know which side of this border is smart and which side is dumb.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Risk Management, Stiff Upper Lip, and the CF

In the recent controversy over the HMCS Chicoutimi, various politicians have made some pretty ill-informed comments. While this will surprise no one, they should be excused, because all but a couple have had their nearest brushes with death in service to their country on Nintendo. This is not to minimize personal tragedies that any one of them may have suffered.

Today in Question Period, the Deputy Prime Minister (Anne McLellan) and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence (Keith Martin) practiced the parliamentary art-form of never answering a question. It started with a question from Stephen Harper about whether Canada knew that the Brits were offering us the Upholder-class boats on a "buyer beware" basis. Anne McLellan, as is her habit, completely ignored the question and gave a stock Liberal answer. Stephen Harper followed with a question about a documented $54 million reduction in the submarine programme funding, that affected personnel training. Once again, Ms. McLellan made reference to the boats being ready, but ignored the question about crew training. Several other questions for Keith Martin about training being short-changed were met with similar non-answers.

Keith Martin did say that the Liberal government is committed to giving the CF the tools to do the job. What complete bovine scatology! He also said that no one in the CF is sent out into harm's way nor do they have their lives put at risk. Excuse me, Dr. Martin, but that is exactly what they do for a living.

They do it well and they do it proudly and, for the most part, they do it safely. What McLellan, Martin, etal don't understand is that the operations of the CF entail continuous risk assessment and risk management. Every time an individual soldier, sailor or airman performs a task, he or she is assessing the risk attached and is making a decision to proceed or not. Every time a commander assigns a mission, risk assessment and risk management are a critical part of the decision process. In peacetime, acceptable risk is much lower than in wartime, but there is always risk. All three elements of the CF have exceptional safety records, albeit with the occasional and inevitable lapse.

Besides having good equipment that is well supported, the most essential element in reducing risk is training. It is also the element that is easily allowed to slip. Training and training requirements have slipped in all three elements to an alarming level. Stocks of weapons and ammunition for qualification and training have slipped to well below critical levels. Qualification requirements don't necessarily entail hitting anything (except, eventually, the world); merely be able to drop it, fire it or throw it a (very) few times. Flying hours, sailing days and field training (especially large units) have been slashed to the point that low "quality of work" is adversely affecting our cherished "quality of life" mantra. There is simply no buffer left where experience gained through training can help to ensure survival as missions get more and more complex and dangerous. Risk management is now done on a razor's edge.

A commander can respond to reduced training availability by taking the full steam ahead approach, or by reducing the intensity of activity and, with it, the risk. Any peacetime commander would take the latter approach. Has it affected our operational readiness and combat capability? You bet it has, and the folks at the pointy end will tell you that freely. They still take great and well-deserved pride in what they do and how they do it. They are dying to do more and, regrettably, there may be the occasional pun in that statement. You won't hear them complain in public, because they are loyal to the Service, and that is the way it should be. That loyalty does have limits, though, and the real indicator is how many are expressing their views with their feet. Commanders at all levels must also exercise discretion in expressing what they truly feel, and I know enough of them to know that there is a lot of restrained disgust out there.

It is this stiff upper lip approach that is, at once, the CF's greatest strength and one of its greatest handicaps. Failure is not in their dictionary and people will go to extraordinary lengths to get the job done. When they perform one of their regular miracles, it allows politicians to bask in the glow and pretend that government was part of the mission's success. It also allows government to pretend that all is well and that the CF is being properly looked after. What a load of crap! Every success of the CF for the past forty years has been in spite of the disgraceful negligence and dereliction of successive governments. Will it ever change? Not unless the government is changed.

Let me put the punctuation on government attitude with an observation from an MP during Question Period the other day. When Conservative Defence Critic, Gordon O'Connor, rose to ask a question shortly after the death of Lt. Saunders was announced, the President of the Treasury Board, Reg Alcock, started laughing. I would suggest to the Honourable Member that he may want to hike off to Halifax tomorrow for Lt Saunders' funeral. I'm sure that he will find the part where Mrs. Saunders accepts the flag from her husband's coffin particularly amusing.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Who Pays the Price?

Who pays the price when government fails? That depends on the failure and how it is perceived. If government fails the people, and the people understand it, government MPs pay the price with the loss of their jobs and the government pays with the loss of power. If the people don't understand the failure or that it affects them, then the government gets away with it and someone else pays.

For decades, Liberal governments have been failing the people, with catastrophic long-term implications. Like many things in the warm and cozy Canadian imagination, this failure hasn't hit home, yet, except to a relatively small group of people directly affected. It probably won't hit home nationally, until it is too late, and our warm and cozy imagination is shaken into reality. That reality is that Canada is no longer looked upon as a reliable ally. We are no longer looked upon as a country that will back up words with actions. We are systematically eliminating our ability to turn words into action. In the meantime, the government deludes itself and Canadians that we are what we used to be. In an effort to maintain that delusion, government commits loyal and brave Canadians to missions and roles without the tools to carry them out safely and completely.

Who pays the price for our national delusion? Most recently, Naval Lieutenant Chris Saunders and his family pay for our delusion. There will be much written and said over the coming weeks on this tragedy at sea. There will be a thorough investigation by a safety board and it will conclude that this was an accident. They will make an assessment of how the situation was handled, and my guess is that the crew will be praised for their response. Without knowing the details, I feel pretty safe in that prediction. This is based on an appreciation of the quality and competence of the people in the various uniforms of the Canadian Forces. My guess is that the report will say that the technical failure was not foreseeable and, therefore, not preventable. I will have a little more trouble with that one, in the broader context of government defence policy implementation.

The progressively more disastrous under-funding of the Canadian Forces is a legacy of decades of (primarily) Liberal governments, starting with Trudeau. This under-funding has reached new lows in the past eleven years, despite Liberal smoke and mirrors and minor injections of cash; and then only when the government has absolutely no other option. The great debate will centre around whether the used British subs were a good deal and whether we need submarines, at all.

First, the issue of submarines, at all. I don't profess to be an expert on naval operations and warfare, but I have an opinion. Canada is a maritime nation with an extremely long coastline and claims over vast areas like the arctic archipelago as far as the north pole. If Canada intends to claim sovereignty over such a vast coastline and mass of land and ice (and the resources thereunder), we must be able to exercise that sovereignty and project our presence in the area. That can be done by air, land and sea forces with varying degrees of effectiveness and difficulty. With climate change, access to the northern passages will become easier and challenges to our claims of sovereignty will increase. We have already seen that with Denmark. Both surface and sub-surface surveillance in this area should be one of the key roles of the Canadian Navy. One is overt and one is covert; and covert surveillance could be key in addressing issues in an international court. Covert surveillance is also an important capability under the threat of terrorism and the war on drugs. Canada should feel a commitment to assist the United States in the sub-surface monitoring of the approaches to North America, and the destruction of imminent threats. And, does anyone think that the serious druggies couldn't afford a couple of old Soviet submarines on the black market and hire crews desperate for a paycheque?

Second, on the issue of the British Upholder Class submarines - you get what you pay for. Even the British press is outraged at what their Ministry of Defence has done to us, but I think that their outrage is misplaced. Caveat emptor would be more apropos, and when the emptor is desperate, mistakes are made. The Royal Navy never put these boats into active service and the Australians took one look on the used sub-lot and passed. There was probably a message there. The desperate state of naval procurement, no doubt, impelled the military to grasp at a straw. With their justified faith in the quality and competence of their personnel, I'm sure that the Navy and "purple" staffs felt that they could make it work. They may have been wrong.

In the National Post today, Sheila Copps bleats that this was not the government's fault, but that any blame rests with the Navy. I would ask Ms. Copps that, if she were drowning, would she accept being thrown a cracked life preserver or no life preserver, at all. She wouldn't answer such a rhetorical question because she, like the current Liberal government, is a hypocrite. I caught the CTV item on her stage-acting debut last night. It was pretty tough to watch, but the conclusion was that she is as bad an actress on stage as she was in Parliament.

Let me finish by asking the question again. Who pays the price when government fails? We all do, but we all owe a debt of gratitude, that can never be adequately repaid, to the men and women and families of the Canadian Forces who pay the direct price on our behalf.

I know that he was talking about a different time and a different service, but in summary, Winston Churchill's words ring true today - "Never......was so much owed by so many to so few."

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Down to the Sea in Ships

It's a sad day aboard HMCS Chicoutimi, in Halifax, and in all of Canada. There is nothing worse in the life of an army unit, air force squadron, or ship than losing a mate. I've been there many times as a mate and, thankfully, only once as a commander. It sucks beyond belief, and my worst moment was giving the widow of a fighter pilot the flag from his coffin.....on her birthday.

Today, Canada mourns the loss of Lieutenant (N) Chris Saunders and prays for the safe return of his ship and the rest of its crew. There will be much written and said about the Upholder Class submarines; and much of it will be emotional. There will be much criticism of the Liberal government and its negligence and irresponsibility; and it will be justified. And nothing will change. Rather than get into that now, I'd just like to offer the following passage in memory of a loyal serviceman who made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.

"They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven."
Psalms, 107:23-30, KJV

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

IntroBlog

Hello out there in BlogLand. I had thought that blogs were British footwear, but have now been freed from the bonds of Luddism. As many of you know, I have maintained an expanding Rant List, that I have used to express opinions and to share my occasional poking of grownups in the eyes with sharp sticks. Encouragement for poking grownups in the eye eventually lead to taking on the Deputy Prime Minister in the latest federal election. It was close, but no cigar; but an incredibly positive experience, regardless of the outcome. As Anne McLellan said to me later that night, "I have a feeling that I'll be seeing you again." I told her that I had a feeling that she was right.

Most of my issues are federal, but there is no lack of suitable blogees everywhere. Having listened yesterday to the Speech from the Throne, I would re-name it the Thrown Speech. The Prime Minister, moving the GG's lips, threw out the same old platitudes and Liberal-speak for maintaining the status quo. That status quo equates to several main themes -- maintaining power at all costs -- succumbing to politically correct and feel-good fuzzy whims of the left -- maintaining Canada's position as a hanger-on in foreign affairs, defence, and security matters -- maintaining a justice system that is focused on the rights of the criminal -- maintaining dependency on government for large segments of our population -- pouring endless amounts of money into healthcare instead of reforming it -- ad nauseum. Paul Martin threw away a chance to show courage and leadership, to the surprise of absolutely no one.

While many issues matter to me, my most prominent passion is defence issues and the utterly disgusting Liberal record in decimating that once proud institution. Canadians in uniform are still justifiably proud of what they do and who they are. Just this moment, I heard Paul Martin say that, "There are so many instruments of war in the world; let Canada continue to be an instrument of peace." It doesn't get much more hypocritical than that. He and his predecessors have systematically destroyed the instrument that would allow Canada to play that role. I do not believe that the Prime Minister is not intelligent enough to realize that what he is saying is blatantly false. I do believe that his priorities and those of his government are grossly misplaced and that the only way that we will change government priorities is to change government.

And as I listen right now, the Liberal seals are all on their feet clapping their flippers wildly at their leader's stirring flood of Parliamentary pap ........ pathetic! Why the heck would anyone want to work there? I do!