FACE TO FACE: Should peacekeeping Canada be shopping for bomber jets?
Don't send Defence Minister Peter MacKay shopping for you - it will cost you a bundle. And besides, Mr. MacKay is too busy shopping for stealth bombers (the cool ones with hovering capability, just like the Americans have).
Well, he's not exactly shopping. "Shopping" would imply that he's looking around for a good deal. Unlike we Walmart shoppers, MacKay has committed us to buy 65 F-35 stealth bombers without knowing the actual price, without comparing prices offered elsewhere and without knowing if the plane works.
MacKay says the F-35s will cost about $75 million each. U.S. Defence expert Winslow Wheeler says $75 million wouldn't include options such as engines or guns. Wheeler says a more realistic price is $148 million per plane. (I wonder if that includes HST or if MacKay negotiated an under-the-table cash deal.)
Bomber builders Boeing and Dassault have complained to Parliament that they weren't allowed to bid to build the bombers.
In the U.S., John McCain advocates scrapping the F-35 bomber program because of escalating costs and unproven performance.
So why is Canada buying 65 new stealth bombers? My starred-and-striped colleague and his frighteningly hawkish friends clearly want bombers so that we can bomb people. Oh, they'll talk about protecting northern sovereignty and surveilling things, but that's like saying you need five Lamborghinis to commute to work each week.
Neo-cons are tired of being just well-respected, boring peacekeepers with a moral international perspective. Canada should be a Mini Me to the U.S., able to "contribute to western actions," independent of the pesky United Nations. Instead of "shock and awe," we might term Canadian bombings "concern and mild trepidation."
Canadians should not mistakenly think the acquisition of these expensive, unproven U.S. bombers is a part of the badly needed military upgrade most of us favour. It's not. These bombers cost so much to buy and maintain ($30 billion over 30 years) that there will be no money left to support the things most Canadians actually want a modern Canadian military to do.
Canada's military needs to be equipped to meet Canada's needs, not the GI Joe fantasies of right wingers on either side of the border.
Face to Face columnist Jim Nelson is a retired Tri-City teacher and principal who lives in Port Moody. He has contributed a number of columns on education-related issues to The Tri-City News.