Frequent readers will know there is no love lost between me and the professional media, but their treatment of the naval shipbuilding plan has been abhorrent even by their usual low standards. The most recent evidence for this is John Ibbitson’s column in the Globe & Mail, in which, despite the fact that we are living under the most “centralized” (a polite term for authoritarian) regime in Canadian history, Ibbotson appears to think that the decision of which shipyards will get the navy’s contracts is going to be made by deputy ministers. Maybe Ibbotson is trying to be sarcastic. If not, this is journalistic incompetence of the worst sort. Even under a less power-hungry government, it’s hardly even worth mentioning that there’s no way the final decision would be made anywhere except in the Prime Minister’s Office.
Let’s review the myriad ways in which media coverage of the shipbuilding plan has been farcical. As I do so, it’s worth bearing in mind the coverage of the F-35 jet purchase, which for all its flaws has been supreme by comparison. First, the cost. By the government’s own estimates, the new ships are going to cost $30 billion, twice as much as the fighters. There has been no serious consideration of whether these costs are accurate. If the government is low-balling it by the same proportion as with the fighters, which seems likely, then really we’re talking $60 billion here. Canada could have its own space station for that price.
Second, there has been no serious consideration of how the new ships stack up on a list of Canadian defence priorities. In fact it’s surprisingly difficult to even find out what ships are being planned. Basically all the major ships in the Coast Guard and the Navy are up for replacement. If it’s worth pondering whether the F-35 is a necessary purchase for Canada, surely it’s worth askig the same question about $30-$60 billion worth of new ships.
So far, the only question the media seems to have realized it should be asking is whether the two winning shipyards will be chosen fairly and what that will mean for the third shipyard which gets left out. It’s a shame that we’re unable to ask more sophisticated quesions about such an extraordinarily large sum of money.Tweet