Tuesday, May 30, 2006

O'Connor goes shopping

Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor is rumoured to have a nice big list of goodies for the Canadian Forces.

I've followed the Forces and their declining state of equipment for some time, and for those concerned with what our uniformed men and women work with, this is all good news. But nothing good comes for free and the C-17s are going to be somewhat controversial, as few nations our size can afford them. Even the UK had to lease theirs. However, Australia recently purchased 4 , so it can be done, especially now that Boeing is desperate for customers. The big advantage of the C-17 is that we no longer have to rely on US air transport, or rented aircraft, to get our Forces to where we want them to be. Theoretically, this means we can enact a somewhat independent foreign/defence policy. Not that this government seems likely to do so. But let's keep our eyes on the big picture (ie. the post-Conservative future).

The other sleeper in the wish list is the three transport/resupply vessels for the Navy. The ships as planned by DND seem to be a bit over the top, throwing every mission capability into the design requirements, resulting in a ship that can perform every role badly, instead of one role well. This critical angle will only appeal to defence analysts. For political purposes, the more important issue will be if the ships will (and, given the state of our shipbuilding industries, still can) be built in Canada. BC and the Maritimes will certainly hope so.

Estimated price tag for all of this is $8 billion. How will it be paid for? To quote the Post:

"Some Conservative policies have also been put on hold, including plans to buy icebreakers for the navy and station rapid reaction army units at remote bases across the country, such as Goose Bay, Labrador."

ie. the exact defence policies that Harper campaigned on.

Chretien used the EH101 helicopter deal to great advantage during his election campaign. This current shopping list should provide some fodder for the Liberal leadership hopefuls. Except for Ignatieff the hawk, of course. Should be interesting...

No comments: