By which I mean, in reference to my yesterday’s post, that Auditor-General Michael Ferguson pulled every punch he could in coming out with a report basically accusing the military of conspiring against the government and deceiving them into thinking that the price of the F-35 jet fighter was artificially low. Which the ministers then loyally told to Parliament.
Which is exactly what the government needs the Auditor-General to say. If he came out and said that Peter MacKay knew the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s $30 billion estimate for the cost of the fighters was pretty much dead-on, then that would mean MacKay had lied to Parliament. It wouldn’t be the first time, but it would probably be his last.
Consider which of the following two scenarios is more likely:
First, the Conservative government puts an experienced and influential Cabinet minister in charge of defence to oversee the F-35 purchase. He decides they shouldn’t hold a competition for the fighter purchase, because the F-35 is the future investment of the US Air Force, and America is our ally, and we should stand by them.
Then, as costs start to spin out of control, they gamble that the inflation will be pretty limited and Peter MacKay asks the Defence Department to come up with some bogus numbers saying they’ll only cost $15 billion or so. (But he also has DND produce some internal figures showing the “real” cost, of around $25 billion.) When critics like the Parliamentary Budget Officer start picking at the numbers, the government sticks to their guns — like they always do — and hopes the F-35 won’t get any more expensive than it already is.
Here’s the second scenario: the Conservative government puts a negligent, incompetent buffoon in charge of the army. The military, meanwhile, decides that civilian command of the military is just a silly anachronism and that it’s time to take charge of their budget for themselves. They initiate plans to buy the F-35 fighter. They tell the minister we can’t hold a competition for a fighter. Because he has no experience with public budgeting, he agrees. They tell him that it’s going to be cheap and not to worry about cost increases. Because he’s a clueless moron, he accepts the internal figures. Because he never watches TV or picks up a newspaper, he doesn’t realize that no less than the United States government is saying publicly that his “official” F-35 figures are out to lunch.
The government has picked Option 2: MacKay, we are told, is an incompetent buffoon who apparently saw no need to take any real control over the most expensive government contract in our country’s history, and therefore can’t be held responsible for the fact that things went sour. Um, excuse me? Either he’s a liar or he’s incompetent. Maybe even both. Why do we want a lying incompetent oaf in charge of a military which, according to the government, has gained so much control over its own affairs that it can now push multi-billion-dollar jet fighter purchases through Cabinet on the nod? What will our out of control military do next?
Moreover, now that the military has been “caught” trying to hoodwink the government into buying the F-35, the government says it is going to hold a “proper” review of what fighter is best for Canada. That review will be conducted by a new office called the “F-35 committee.” Yeah, I’ll bet they’ll hold a proper review, all right.
If the military is so out of control that it no longer has to answer to competent responsible government, then the entire leadership of the military needs to be sacked now, before things get even worse. If the Cabinet minister responsible for the military is so deceitful and craven that he would lie about his own responsibility and try to fob off the entire thing on his department, then he should respond.
Either way, the fact that someone evidently attempted to sneak $10-$15 billion past Parliament by hiding the true figures and submitting false ones to Parliament means that somebody needs to be fired. Preferably a lot of people. If the Prime Minister refuses to do so, what he is saying is that he really doesn’t mind if Cabinet ministers and their governments lose literally billions of dollars through shady accounting. That doesn’t exactly square with the “ruthless budget cutting” we’ve been hearing about lately.
It’s worth thinking back to last year. The reason the government was held in contempt of Parliament was because they were refusing to provide costing details on the F-35 jet fighter. Now, the Auditor General would have us believe that they couldn’t supply the true details to Parliament because the military wasn’t supplying the details to them. Yeah, right.Tweet