Which means I am right--no parliamentary oversight over the military. But when the Minister, um, underperforms, and parliament does not do much about it, it raises questions about this whole process (process, by the way, is the dead giveaway when you are talking to someone--Americans say pra-sess, Canadians say pro-sess).
Just in the past couple of days, we have had a series of stories about Canadian civil-military relations that remind us that this stuff is really hard. One story focuses on Libya: that the Minister, Peter MacKay, either didn't know what he was talking about or lied when the question of costs came up. In the new story, one of the papers got the emails where the military folks were pondering how to react to MacKay's announcement that the mission cost half as much as it really did and that he didn't get any different info from the Canadian Forces even though the Canadian Forces, via General Jon Vance said it indeed did tell the Minister about the costs. So, was the General wrong, that they told the Minister the wrong info? Not clear but the exchange is:
Cyr said finance officials were working to confirm what MacKay knew, but "bottom line is that if MND says he did not know, then he did not know."Ah, truthiness with a hint of maple flavor.
"If I was wrong I'll certainly own up to it," Vance replied.
"Not suggesting you are or were wrong," Cyr answered in the last email of the chain. "A political truth can sometimes be different."
The second recent story is that DND is cutting the program whereby the CF takes members of parliament on rides--airborne or otherwise--to demonstrate their programs. This is in reaction to another MacKay mistake--using CF helo on a vacation trip. Folks in DND got the CF to find information about opposition critics using CF for transport in order to silence the criticism, but these other trips were well within the parameters of educating members of parliament about weapons systems and not about convenient vacation rides. I engaged with Phil at the time about how questionable it was for the CF to either be compelled to or be enthusiastic about digging through the records to make the opposition look bad. So, to protect itself, the CF is now out of this business. Which means that members of parliament can be comfortable in their ignorance about how the military works.
Crisis or not, the system here seems broken. Not to say that the American system where Congress actually does have a significant role is better or unbroken. Just that the Canadian system seems broken. The Minister of National Defence has been overseeing a series of train wrecks--the F35 purchase, truck bids that have to be cancelled, mistakes about the costs of Libya (still darned cheap for what they were trying to do), and so on. MacKay, because he was leader of one of the major Conservative fractions in Canada before they united, is, dare I say it, bullet-proof. Harper cannot get rid of him, and so he cannot really be held to account for whatever is going on at DND. So, accountability at the ministry? Not so much. Parliamentary oversight over someone at DND? Not so much.
The good news is that this will raise heaps of good questions for my first class at Carleton--Civil-Military Relations.
Update: See the comment thread as Phil was strawman-ed while out of town. He responds in the comments and then I respond to him. The important thing is this: I distracted him from his lovely vacation in France. So, I win.