Saturday, January 12, 2008

More typical Conservative bullshit - Peter MacKay edition

So Peter MacKay is so desperate to grasp for ammo that he's reaching back to 1993, specifically to the Chretien governments decision to cancel the $4.8 billion dollar contract to replace the Canadian Military's fleet of aging Sea King Helicopters.

I guess MacKay figured it would sound "Defence Minister-ish," and he could get a cheap shot in at a Liberal government. And why might you ask, is he resurrecting this old smear? As Mike Blanchfield's article for the Canwest News Service puts it:
MacKay blamed delays in delivering the first in a new fleet of Sikorsky Cyclone ship-borne helicopters squarely at the feet of previous Liberal governments...

"It's a tremendous, tremendous disappointment to see once again this vital piece of equipment may be delayed. And it can all go back to a single, solitary decision and a flippant and callous stroke of the pen,"

However, in his memoir My Years as Prime Minister, Jean Chretien explains the reasoning behind the controversial move, which was far from "flippant and callous" as MacKay puts it.

Chretien, writing about the huge task of getting the Canadian budget back in the black:

"More significant in terms of savings - but just as important as a symbol - was the Cabinet's decision, taken at its first meeting, to fulfill our campaign promise and cancel the Conservative government's order for 43 new EH-101 military helicopters, even though it meant having to pay a $500-million contract penalty. Given the size of the deficit the Tories left us, we would have had to borrow $6 billion to pay this additional bill and, as a result, been that much further from balancing the books. Indeed, when all items were accounted for, we would have had to borrow even more than that: it's a reasonable calculation that those helicopters would have cost the people of Canada at least another $6 billion in interest over ten years. compared to that bill, the penalty didn't look quite so bad"

But you say, what about the fact that the Liberals got the budget in order in a couple years; what's their excuse for not replacing them sooner? Jean covers that next:

Eventually, when we had managed to get from deficits to surpluses by taking hard decision such as this one, we were again pressed by the military to replace its fourty-year-old Sea King Helicopters. "Okay," I said. "If they're so dangerous to life and limb, go and buy some good used ones from the Americans right away." And do you know what our Defence Department discovered? One, the same model Sea King was still in use by the United States military to ferry the president from the White House to his retreat at Camp David. And, two, the helicopters our generals looked at turned out to be in worse shape than the ones we already had.

Hardly flippant Peter. Callous? Maybe, if you call doing the really tough spade work to balance the Canadian budget after it absolutely ballooned under the poor fiscal management of Stephen and Peters good friend Brian Mulroney.

Again, the Conservatives demonstrate that anytime is a good time for a cheap shot, no matter how patently deceptive it is.

Sunday Update: The Galloping Beaver has a much more detailed take on this.

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