It’s hard to find a single plank of the Liberal position on the F-35s that doesn’t creak with empty talk and insincerity. The Liberals say they would immediately cancel the purchase and think about it again later. They can’t say when. They promise they would “save billions of dollars”, but can’t say how. They say they will “put further steps on hold during a review of all military procurement,” which means more delay and more uncertainty for the forces. They promise any future purchases — when they get around to it — would undergo a “transparent competitive process to procure equipment that best suits our needs,” without spelling out what they see as Canada’s “needs.”They do indeed have a hidden agenda as far as the military is concerned. Another embarrassing decade of darkness.
We’ve been here before, of course. Jean Chretien campaigned for the 1993 election on a promise to cancel the Conservatives’ $4.8 billion purchase of replacement helicopters for the military’s decrepit Sea Kings. Like Ignatieff, he claimed they were too expensive and unnecessary. Once elected, he carried out the promise, paying $500 million in penalties and dooming Canadian troops to two more decades aboard dangerous aircraft that spend as much time being repaired as they do in the air. Chretien could never admit the mistake, of course, so it wasn’t until he left office that Paul Martin could place the same $5 billion order for new helicopters.
Ignatieff is in the same position, and for the same reason. The new party platform concentrates on supporting UN operations and promises a “new leadership role in peace operations,” the same puffery used by previous Liberals governments to justify starving the forces. “Peacekeeping” means sending troops to areas where they won’t have to fight, and might not even have to be armed. The UN has been “peacekeeping” in the Congo through years of slaughter, doing nothing to halt the horrors there. It did nothing to avert similar bloodshed in Rwanda or Darfur.
“Peacekeeping” is a pleasant code word that hides the Liberal intent to save money by cutting back again on the military. There is nothing wrong with that, if, and it’s a big if, the party is willing to be open and honest about its policy and its implications, and let Canadians pass judgement. But it’s not. Like Trudeau and Chretien, Ignatieff isn’t willing to have that debate, so he hides behind spurious claims about the high cost of jet planes and pledges to look for a better deal. He knows, (or should know) that cancelling the F-35 purchase means cancelling any purchase for years to come. Like Chretien, he could never admit the decision was a mistake, so no new plane would be ordered for the life of an Ignatieff government.
The Liberals’ policy on the military is to have no policy, and hope no one notices. Mr. Ignatieff has a weakness for tough talk (“Mr. Harper, your time is up.” “Anywhere, any time”), but he plainly lacks the nerve for this debate.
The world is becoming an increasing dangerous place. In order to punch our weight in the world and to have a safe secure nation we need a military that is properly equipped to do their job. A strong safe nation requires a strong military. Vote for a Conservative majority government so that our military is kept properly equipped so that they can keep us safe and are able to carry out what is required of them in the world.