Peter Mackay and F-35s: Accountability starts with firing incompetents

December 15, 2012 | By | 1 Reply More

So far, Harper has let Peter Mackay skate for his poor performance

Bruce Stewart

Photo: Bruce A. Stewart

By Bruce A Stewart         

Ministers are responsible for their departments’ initiatives. They are responsible for clear, accurate, complete disclosure of information in their remit when asked a question in the House. They are responsible for the work performance of the civil servants who serve them.

On all three measures, Minister of National Defence Peter Mackay has proven himself to be an irresponsible git.

Prime Ministers are responsible for the quality of the Cabinet. They are accountable for sacking any minister who doesn’t do their job properly. They are accountable for sacking any minister who doesn’t take their own accountabilities seriously enough to resign when they’ve botched their job.



Stephen Harper is acting as though he has no accountabilities, no worries.

Let’s be as fair as possible to the Conservatives. The $9 billion number bandied about in 2011’s election for the F-35 acquisition was the capital cost for 65 planes only. How you assess the operating costs — sustaining the planes in flight, using them, replacing the ones that crash, are blown up in combat, etc. — depends a great deal on your expectations for how often they’ll fly, what their maintenance cycle between flights is, and what loss level you’ll encounter, spread over some period of time.

A 42-year operating cycle — the magic “window” of the KPMG study (which essentially just republished US Department of Defense estimates from over a year ago: it must be nice to paid so well for doing so little) — is ridiculous. The estimated flight lifespan of the F-35 from its manufacturer’s own data is only 30 years. Yet KPMG did not include replacing the entire fleet in order to get a 42-year cycle.

Liars and damn liars, and any Minister that tabled those estimates in the House should be keelhauled. I’ll grant a little pity to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister, Chris Alexander, because that job involves going out and repeating the message without deviation through one interview after another. It’s not fun to have to defend the indefensible and he did it well this week.

But Mackay should already be gone, in a very public sacking by the PM.

Both are acting unaccountably — in a government that, way back in 2006 when it first came to power (with a weak minority!) made accountability its very first bill.

From Conservative insiders and others close to the party, I’ve heard that Mackay is a problem, that as the last leader of the Progressive Conservatives demoting him to the backbenches could split the party.

That’s complete and utter craven cow pies. Those looking for an out from the marriage of Reformers and old-style Tories took it years ago. They’ve already stopped voting, or switched to one of the other parties on offer (I know former Progressive Conservatives who today are New Democrats and Greens as well as Liberals). The rest long ago settled into harness for the Conservative Party of Stephen Harper and are going nowhere.

Even on Friday afternoon, as Parliamentarians dashed to Ottawa’s Macdonald-Cartier Airport to get the hell out of town, the gamesmanship over the F-35 continued.

Take a good look at the seven points for a reconsidered aircraft acquisition. They name the F-35 as the outcome within them. All the talk about considering alternatives — and there are several well worth considering — is a smokescreen.

Not even the US Department of Defense (working on its post-fiscal cliff spending plan) cutting significantly its planned purchases of this plane — in the Pentagon there’s a serious question about whether to cut a whole service (the Marine Corps) going on under the covers — is causing any concern in Ottawa. These development programs spread the total cost over the number of planes on order: fewer orders, higher costs per plane (both to buy it, and for parts and services to sustain it).

Evidently that was beyond the Minister’s pet consulting firm as well — and it’s certainly not being talked about in any replies to questions by the Minister, his Parliamentary Secretary, or any of the officials from DND that get asked. Sounds like yet more shading the truth to me!

Insanity can be defined as doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting the outcome to be different. It’s certain, however, that incompetence and unaccountable behaviour can also be defined this way.

So why is Harper so reluctant to remove his problem children from Cabinet?

Is it that he prefers the incompetent if they’re accountable to the PMO as opposed to the Canadian people or the House?

Is he happy when he can deal with Ministers who don’t care to know the details of their files as long as they sing from the scripted song-sheet of the day?

Or is he just too busy racking up his frequent flyer miles these days playing on the world stage to give a damn about his government?

Come 2015, it’s likely that the election won’t turn on any of this. It’ll turn on economic misery, just as it always does.

But it should. Anyone who allows incompetence to continue, unaccountable behaviour to persist, and arrogant ineptitude to carry on deserves to be dumped from office.

It is our government, after all.

Otherwise, the one truth that can be said is that all the old Reformers — starting with the Prime Minister — have abandoned the grassroots.

Bruce Stewart is a national columnist and management consultant currently located in Toronto.


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Category: Opinion

Comments (1)

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  1. Gord says:

    “Canadian Forces links severe adverse reaction to H1N1 flu vaccine, arranges access to a Alberta Health Services neurologist within 1 week and paid for multiple tests at private clinics ”

    In 2009 I received the H1N1 shot (AREPANRIX by GSK GlaxoSmithKline) and had a severe adverse reaction to the vaccine. The CF advised “I confirm that you did receive the H1N1 vaccine on 18 Nov 2009 and as a results suffered an adverse reaction comprised of multiple complex symptoms (neurological, cardiac, respiratory, and gastrointestinal)” which include: dizziness, vertigo, irregular heart rhythms, shortness of breath, muscle weakness and pain, and numbness in hands and feet. The Department of National Defence (DND) paid for immediate access to private clinics such as Medical Imaging Consultants to expedite testing which included Chest X rays (requested 8 Dec 2009, performed 9 Dec 2009), Fluoro scan (performed 26 Jan 2010), Chest Xray (performed 27 Jan 2010), MRI (requested 3 Mar 2010, performed 5 Mar 2010), a referral to a Neurologist at the University of Alberta Hospital (requested 16 Mar 2010, performed 22 Mar 2010), Spinal Tap (requested 16 Mar 2010, performed 13 Apr 2010). My physical fitness changed from marathon fit to that of a 70 year old in a matter of days. In 2012 the Canadian Forces advised “it is our opinion that your adverse reaction to the H1N1 vaccine, resulting in a syndrome of complex symptoms, is service related”. It’s unfortunate the military forced me to release from the CF in 2011 and suffer three years of severe symptoms before they admitted the cause was the vaccine.

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