Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Where Is Helen Milner When You Need Her?

As I watch the diary cartel of Canada perpetuate its reign via "supply management", government policies maintaining the cartel's supremacy in Canada, I have to wonder: where is Helen Milner?

Milner wrote a great book, a model for those working on dissertations, arguing that the interests of protectionists (such as the dairy industry in Canada) are often offset by those with stakes in international stuff:
  • those firms that rely on exports since they understand that trade involves reciprocity
  • those firms with foreign investments that sell back to the domestic market (less relevant here)
  • those firms that rely on foreign parts for their own products.  Barriers to trade increase their costs.
At this moment in time, Canada is engaged in international trade negotiations: the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP).  Canada's status within this has been at risk over Canada's refusal to allow more competition in the dairy markets.  My question is this: where are the Canadian firms that would benefit from TPP?  Shouldn't they be lobbying government?  Shouldn't they be opposed to the perpetuation of supply management?

I don't expect consumers, who are hurt by the dairy cartel via higher produces and reduced selection, to lobby because their pain is diffuse.  I don't expect consumers to solve their collective action problems to organize to push for lower prices and more selection (and better quality--competition does help with that as well). 

Given that dairy farmers are but a few, where are the companies whose interests are threatened by these few folks?  I am seriously confused.  Helen Milner cannot be denied!

Testing My Theories the Hard Way: Islamophobia Is Winning?

Over the course of an interesting brownbag lunch our department was having discussing the debate last night, I had an epiphany:

This election may test one of my beliefs about how ethnic conflict "works".  That is, I have long argued that politicians engaged in symbolic stances on identity issues will be most successful when there is significant insecurity.  That when there is not much real security, the symbolic stances will not fly.

Well, here we are: Stephen Harper's niqab-baiting, securitizing refugee stances seem to be working as the support for the NDP in Quebec seems to be dropping and leading to greater support for the Conservatives.  Why?  Islamophobia seems to be working even though the threat posed by a few women wearing niqabs is just non-existent. 

One takeaway from last night's debate was Thomas Mulcair's relief that the niqab "issue" did not come up.  Instead, Harper emphasized the need to vet refugees, as if the threat posed by terrorists hiding among the refugees is huge.  Indeed, not helping these folks might radicalize more Canadians than whatever terrorists slip through and are admitted as refugees (and forever monitored). 

Yes, there was some violence last October by a couple of individuals aimed at Canadian institutions (the Canadian Forces, the War Memorial, the Parliament), but Canadians have not been acting as if they have lived in fear since then.  Yes, the Conservatives have passed a law (C-51), but that happened quite opportunistically in the aftermath of the attacks.  Since then, how serious have Canadians pondered the Islamist threat to Canada?  Not much.

The actual threat is quite low, but Harper has been able to pander to Islamophobes throughout the country (not just a Quebec thing), putting both opposing parties in difficult spots.  On the bright side, neither the Liberals or the NDP have pandered to these very worst instincts.  Instead, the NDP resisted the bill, and the Liberals are pushing back on the effort to revoke dual citizenship from terrorists.  Neither opposing party is seeking to play to the haters (well, I always discount the Bloc Quebecois), and that is good news.

But damn, this election may lead to another Conservative win due to its manipulation of hate and fear.  And they are, indeed, of the dark side.  This would be an electoral win most tainted.  I am hoping that the polls are either wrong or will bounce back.  Not because I want the NDP to win, but I don't want it to lose this way.  And I certainly don't want the Tories to win this way, since it would likely lead to emulation.  Ethnic outbidding starts this way, with a party seeking to win votes from the majority population by representing a minority as a threat.  The Muslims of Canada have done little to earn this targeting, but we have it nonetheless.

Quick Take on Canadian Foreign/Defence Policy Debate

Last night was a first for Canada: a debate solely focused on foreign and defence policy.  Well, sort of.  Folks dragged in domestic political stuff, but the debate was a success anyway.  Indeed, many pundits afterwards liked the flexible bilingual nature--that any of the party leaders could jump into and out of whichever language they wanted.  A different format, one that resembles life in bilingual places (Montreal, Ottawa).  Of course, this frustrated the truly bilingual since the broadcasts were either English with French translation or French with English translation but not a single outlet without translation....

The other thing that made this a unique debate is that I played a small role--I was on the advisory council that discussed which questions to ask.  As I have no foreign policy experience, I was pretty silent when folks were talking about how to ask questions that would get the leaders talking and perhaps even off of their talking points.  That credit goes to Frank Harvey and Janice Stein.  My role was simply to dismiss the idea of asking a third set of Mideast questions---we had Iran, ISIS, and someone wanted to add Israel-Palestine.  It came up anyway, but given the finite time (we omitted China and trade), spending more time on a region that is really distant was something I opposed.

Anyhow, debates are almost ways shaped by expectations.  In this case, people had low expectations for Trudeau since he has bungled some of his previous foreign policy/defence stances and because he is depicted as "not read" by both the Conservatives and NDP.  But he held up well, showing that he had a good mastery of the facts, pushed back when Mulcair criticized his father for stuff that most folks barely remember and only Quebeckers would be that pissed off about, and did a nice job of justifying some pretty problematic stances.  It is hard to be the party in the middle.

Harper came off well in some segments but not others.  To claim credit for all of the "progress" on Arctic sovereignty was pretty amazing, given that little has actually happened.  All sled, no dogs, indeed!  Still, Harper knows his stuff and did a nice job of pinning the other two candidates to often weak positions.

Mulcair is smart, but came off poorly, I think.  While I am not a fan of Keystone, I don't think Mulcair really justified his stance well.  I got blasted by some on the left for calling Mulcair a protectionist, but his party's stance is consistently less pro-trade than the others.  Given Canada relies on trade, this is a problem.  The debate was a big loss for him mostly because Trudeau did well.  As they vie for the anti-Harper vote, nearly anything that helps Trudeau is bad for Mulcair and vice versa.  Trudeau's solid performance was exactly what Mulcair did not need.

Overall, the debate focused on a bunch of substantial policy issues and showed some clear distinctions among the candidates, so it did the job it was supposed to do.  It will be interesting to see how this was perceived not by the pundits (we pundits disagree as evidenced by my time on CTV news last night with David Bercuson) but by the voters.  And we will only know that in about three weeks.  Oh, and the voters will probably not be thinking that much about foreign/defence policy when they vote, but if they do, this debate will probably shape their views to an extent.  Yea us!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Canada's Foreign/Defence Policy Debate

Tonight is the big foreign policy/defence policy debate for the Canadian election http://munkdebates.com/livestream. I was part of the advisory council that shaped the questions, but don't blame me.

I have no experience in writing debate questions, so my main contribution was trying to make this debate to be focused not just on the Mideast.  Really.  I had to remind folks that the Mideast is very, very far away.  Still, it gets most of the oxygen here. 

Given heaps of discussion about Canada's diminished role in the world, this debate will get some attention even if people will vote mostly on domestic stuff, as always. 

Anyhow, follow Stephanie Carvin​ at @StephanieCarvin as she live-tweets it for Macleans.  I am sure I will have a thing or two to say as well.

Arctic Threats? Yes, I Dare to Pooh-Pooh

Huh?  I got into an argument last night with a friend about a piece by a bunch of friends who downplay threats to the Canadian Arctic.  Why?  Because I am a committed Arctic skeptic.  It is not that I don't that the Arctic does not exist, but that threats to it are not very scary.  Especially compared to other threats in the world.  Of course, since Canada faces little of those threats because it is geographically privileged (surrounded by seas and one friendly neighbor), any modest threat can stand out.

I was accused in this argument of being a dinosaur (ok, being a Cold Warrior throwback) because I emphasize geography.  That is, the Arctic is a hell of a long way from everyone including ... Canada and Russia.  If a cruise ship has a problem up north, help will be arriving in weeks and months, not hours or days.  Ooops.  I also scoffed at the Chinese threat because China is far, far away.  And any effort to get there requires going through a strait or through relatively narrow passages that NATO has much practice monitoring (the spaces in between Greenland/Iceland/UK).

My combatant argued that my thinking was too conventional, and that cyber stuff, satellites and pesky research ships (where research means spying) matter in all of this.  And I ponder how?  How can stuff that cannot occupy any space threaten Canada's holdings in the Arctic?  Yes, other folks can have heaps of information about the Arctic and where the resources are, but getting those resources out in any volume requires either massive teleportation devices or ships and much effort to sustain a resource extraction enterprise.

My friend mentioned subs.  Indeed, Canada does not really know what is happening underneath the waves.  Join the club.  The undersea is vast, and only a few countries can operate in any kinds of numbers there--US, Russia, maybe China.  But what can do those subs do to threaten Canada from under the Arctic?  They can launch missiles, but doing so from there is not that meaningfully different from doing so in the Pacific or elsewhere.  What else?  They can launch some squads of Special Operations Forces .... to do what?  Occupy briefly a random island?  For what purpose?  To declare that said island is now part of China or Russia?  We already play the island hopping game with the Danes over Hans Island.  And any island way up north is far easier to isolate.  Again, straits.  Until the Chinese develop planes that can have damn near infinite range, I am not too worried.  Canada could easily invest in the anti-access/area-denial stuff that the Chinese have done in their neighborhood.

What else?  Ah, the Northwest Passage came up.  Canada would like to consider the NWP internal waterways and part of Canadian territory.  Good luck with that, as the Law of the Sea is pretty clear about such stuff--folks can steer their ships between whatever straits they want, ultimately.  The real problem is who is responsible for when one of those ships hits a rock, spills oil and maybe starts to sink.  Back to the cruise ship problem.

Unless Canada seriously invests in the Arctic, which no party really promises to do, Canada will have to rely on the traditional strategy: partnership with the US.  Oh, yes, the US which has a different stance on NWP.  But given Canada's size (population) and size (territory) mismatch and the relevant threats out there--US, Russia and Denmark (and China if one wants to dream), the choices are obvious and obviously constrained.  Either work with the Russians against the Americans or work with the Americans against the Russians (and mythical Chinese).

Harper has been reluctant to bring NATO into this (unlike the Norwegians), and the Canadian First Defence Strategy is a nice bit of nationalist propaganda, but Canada already depends on the US for help in defending the skies above Canada and the waters off of Canada.  The US has far better eyes undersea than Canada ever will.  That is the reality.  Just because it was true during the Cold War does not make it less true now.  The math of distance and expense still apply.  It is incredibly expensive to operate and sustain way up north, so if the Russians want to blow a lot of money on it, I say let them. Yes, Canada needs to improve its search and rescue capability and have a few icebreakers around, but there is nothing going on up there that is genuinely threatening.

Of course, I could be an old codger with a fax machine, betamax recorder, three main channels on ye olde big-ass un-flat screen TV.   And this dinosaur still thinks that sovereignty means making choices in a constrained environment and not so much being able to independently defend one's stuff.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

That Which Is Easy and That Which Is Right

Playing upon people's hate and fear is, well, of the dark side.  The rise of the niqab issue in Canadian politics is symbolic politics at its worst.  How so?  Because it takes a non-problem and puts it at the center of the political system.  A very small minority of a small minority wear niqabs.  Despite their utter irrelevance to larger political issues, these women have become a focal point because Stephen Harper wants to appeal to the xenophobic tendencies in Canada. 

Yes, majorities in country don't like the niqab.  So what?  I bet majorities don't like a bunch of religious practices.  But that is why the right to observe one's religion is enshrined in Canada's constitution.  Picking on the small is easy, picking on them when others fear them is very easy. 

But that which is easy and that which is right are actually pretty easy to distinguish in this case.  One of the basic challenges of any Prime Minister is to choose between that which is easy and that which is right (thanks, Dumbledore), and the current PM is disqualifying himself for holding that office as he continues to choose that which is easy.

The bigger problem here is that once one decides to ride the wave of xenophobia, one cannot simply get off easily or safely at a time and place of one's choosing.  Oh, and if we want to radicalize the next generation of Muslims in Canada, alienating their mothers/sisters/daughters/etc is a good place to start. 

This stance is simply un-Canadian (and un-American for that matter).  I have always been ambivalent about Stephen Harper, disliking his stances on transparency (he's against it), his hostility to public servants, and his hypocrisy about the military and NATO (defending/supporting when convenient, undermining the rest of the time) but appreciating his political acumen, his sincerity when it comes to his love of Canada, and all that.

But this late grasp, this desperate reach for one of the worst yet tempting tactics in politics is below him and below any Canadian politician worthy of higher office.  There is no problem here---just a group of people who are feared by the majority, so why not exploit those fears to hold onto office for another few years?

Friday, September 25, 2015

If Only It Were Made of Ice

Alas, the wall that some 40% of Americans want would be of bricks and mortar.  Takes the Game of Thrones joy out of it.

What to make of this survey result?  The actual question is thus:
If a wall is good for the Mexico border, it is good for the Canada border as well
Okey, dokey.  The result of 41% agree is the same as for the following question:
There should be a brick-and-mortar wall between the U.S. and Mexico
Let's take the second one first.  Is 41% high or low?  Given all of the rabble-rousing and the actual existence of some walls along the border (see the Volleyball picture to the right), 41% is probably low.  After all, the loudest candidate for higher office is making this one of the very few distinct policy proposals, and this has led to an outbidding process where the rest of the GOP candidates have promised to stop the hordes of Mexicans with walls, drones, frickin' laser beams, etc.

Ok, with that context, what about the Canadian question?  It seems like most of the people who want a wall with Mexico want one with Canada, perhaps because it makes them sound fairer and less racist?  What would be the survey result if the question was asked without any reference to Mexico:
Should the US build a wall between Canada and the U.S.?
My guess is that the result would be somewhere around 20% since one can get about that much support for any wacky policy proposal.  Some folks will always say yes because they think the country should be surrounded by walls or because they have family in industries that would benefit from the wall-building or because they would like the acreage of potential graffiti space (see East Berlin Gallery to the right).

And some Americans may actually be threatened by Canada in some way.  What would these Americans want to keep out?
  • Rabid moose?
  • Maple heist-ers?
  • Superior hockey players that keep Americans on the bench?
  • Xenophobic politicians as America has reached its capacity?
  • Tim Horton's?  The lines are too damn slow!
  • All the comedians that are stealing American jobs!
  • Celine Dion?  Too late.
What am I missing?

The key point, of course, is that this survey question is mostly .... air.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Rancid Distraction Sauce

I didn't watch or listen to the Canadian debate tonight, as I was elsewhere.  But I got back in time to see people tweet that Harper raised the niqab issue in his final statement of the evening. 

This is obviously an effort to pander to the worst instincts of Canadians and especially Quebeckers since tonight was the French debate (for the non-Canadians, the leaders of the party have multiple debates with some in English and some in French). 

So, I asked on twitter the following:
Is Harper insulting Quebeckers by assuming that pandering
 to Islamophobia is his best bet in Quebec?

Pretty sure the answer is yes. And yes, this makes for a particularly bitter tasting distraction sauce.

Kandahar Journals Documentary

Tonight, I went to the world premiere of Kandahar Journals, which is a documentary about the experience of Louis Palu, a photojournalist.  Murray Brewster, the Canadian Press's defence correspondent, co-wrote the doc.  It was very moving and a pretty sharp depiction both of the war and of the experience of a war correspondent.  It resonated more the week after the story of CJ Chivers ending his work as a war correspondent. 

There was a Q&A afterwards:
Devin Gallagher, Murray Brewster, Louie Palu (L to R)

The first question was by Chief of Defence Staff General Jon Vance about the legacy of the war.  Apparently, Vance gets this question frequently.  Murray's answer was that it is too soon to tell.  Louis Palu spoke more about the legacy of the war for him and also how this movie is one of the legacies of the war.  It got me thinking about that question, as I might be asked it as well when I do book talks next winter when my book comes out.

I did have one thought about this.  Well, many given how the video and photos did a really nice job of showing how complex and difficult this war was/is.  But one stood out: no footage of development/governance efforts.  Paulu used only photos and video of patrols, embedding with the medical units, and the like--no interactions with the other parts of the Whole of Government effort.  I am not surprised as this omission is fairly typical.  Given how uncooperative some parts of government (see my forthcoming book) were, this is, again, not surprising.  But still worth remarking.  I was tempted to ask about it, but I felt I could do so some other time.

It was quite clear that the audience was full of people who either served in Afghanistan or who knew people who did.  I didn't stick around to talk to the filmmakers as I knew that there were others who really needed to do so.

The good news for those who didn't attend is that it will be screened elsewhere in Canada, and it will be on the documentary channel.

A Conservative Defence Platform: Last But Most Difficult

A couple of weeks ago, I was frustrated that the major parties had not articulated Defence platforms so I wrote one for the Liberals and then one for the NDP, and then the Liberals came out with their statement.

I left the Conservative platform for last.  Why?  Because it is the hardest to write.  Why?  Because it could simply be "more of the same" but the government has been beaten up many times over the past nine years for procurement problems and for never developing a significant defence review despite changing world circumstances.

The Conservative Defence Platform:

Under the Conservatives, Canada has acted to defend itself and support its interests in a very dangerous world.  Russia's aggression in Ukraine, the spread of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, Iran, and other threats to Canada's security means that Canadians should continue to support the experienced team that we have put together.  Keeping the proven team in place will also help us build upon the Canada First Defence Strategy.

Our opponents propose to weaken Canada's commitments to its allies by withdrawing from the fight against ISIS.  They were fickle while we were steadfast in supporting NATO in Afghanistan.  We will continue to support NATO.  We will continue to participate in the Reassurance Missions aimed at helping our eastern allies and deterring Russian aggression.

The priorities we set forth continue to be ones that Canadians support:
  • Defence of Canada and especially the arctic.
  • Defence of North America.
  • Response to Terrorist attacks
  • Disaster relief and provision of security for major events.
  • Support our allies when they are threatened.
  • Contribute to International Peace and Security
Now that the budget is balanced, we will increase the defence budget to address rising costs associated with the newest weapons systems.  Our government, like previous ones, have faced many challenges as we have sought to procure defence systems.

We have innovated:
  • via independent panels to evaluate the requirements that the Canadian Armed Forces identity, which will lead to more transparency and greater clarity about what we do and do not need.  
  • via leasing quickly that which cannot be bought and built quickly such as helicopters in Afghanistan and support ships for our navy.
  • via establishing an independent, third-party Defence Analytics Institute.
  • via establishing a Defence Procurement Secretariat within Public Works.
We will continue with the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy that will provide both the next generation of RCN vessels and ships that will help assert our rights to the Arctic.  These ships along with new equipment for the Rangers will improve our capability to respond to threats in the North. We will soon make a decision on the fighter replacement, taking the responsible approach by considering all options thoroughly. 

We will continue to improve the working conditions our men and women in uniform.  We will  implement the recommendations made by Justice Deschamps.  We have invested considerable resources to address the challenges of post traumatic stress disorder and suicides.

In this election, one party has experience and has been a responsible steward of the Canadian Armed Forces, the other parties either have no experience at all or responsible for many of the problems we inherited.  There is only one choice for a strong and secure Canada.

Thanks again to Jean-Christophe Boucher and other defence friends.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

NPSIA Job: Reisman Chair

As I mentioned before, Carleton has two jobs this fall. Here is the second:

Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (The Simon Reisman Chair in International Affairs) - Assistant Professor or Associate Professor - Closing Date for Applications: November 1, 2015 or until the position is filled

The Norman Paterson School of International Affairs (NPSIA) invites applications from qualified candidates for an appointment as the Simon Reisman Chair in International Affairs focusing on the area of international economic policy beginning July 1, 2016. While there is a possibility of appointing an accomplished and promising junior researcher at the rank of Assistant Professor, it is anticipated that the appointment will be a more senior scholar at the rank of Associate Professor. The appointment may be with or without tenure depending on qualifications, and while the appointment to the Chair is renewable subject to periodic review, the position of professor will be considered permanent once tenure has been granted.

The successful candidate will be expected to research, teach and supervise students (primarily at the graduate level) in fields broadly related to international economic policy, and especially in fields such as trade and investment policy. A demonstrated commitment to applied, policy relevant teaching and research will be an asset; regional expertise in Canada-US or North American relations is useful but not essential. The Simon Reisman Chair will be expected to be a focal point for research at NPSIA and in Canada on his or her fields of expertise, and to contribute to our associated research centres including the Centre for Trade Policy and Law (CTPL).

NPSIA is a recognized centre of academic excellence in international affairs and public policy. It is the largest and oldest school of its kind in Canada with an international reputation and full membership in the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (http://www.apsia.org/). We offer M.A., M.A.-J.D. and Ph.D. degrees in international affairs (http://www.carleton.ca/npsia), and contribute to some specialized undergraduate programs. The School’s multidisciplinary faculty is engaged in a broad and growing array of research projects, innovative teaching initiatives and linkages with the policy community. The School also hosts research centres such as CTPL and the Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies (CCISS).

At the time of appointment applicants should have a completed Ph.D. (or normal disciplinary equivalent) in a discipline or multidisciplinary program relevant to international affairs, such as International Affairs, Political Science, Economics, Law, Public Policy, Public Administration or other relevant programs. The ideal candidate will have a strong record in teaching and research (including relevant and high quality publications) and demonstrated excellence as a teacher and researcher in the identified fields. Candidates should be committed to working in a policy-oriented multidisciplinary environment; related policy experience in the public or private sector will be an asset.

Consideration of complete applications will begin on November 1, 2015. Candidates should submit applications electronically to Karen Howard (Karen.Howard@carleton.ca) in three PDF files including: 1) a curriculum vitae; 2) a statement of teaching interests, a teaching portfolio and any evaluations or other evidence of teaching performance, and a statement regarding their approach to teaching; and 3) a plan for ongoing and future research, a short description of papers or monographs published or in progress, a summary of the doctoral thesis, and links to any publications or some sample publications. Candidates should also arrange to have three confidential letters of reference sent to the School. All candidates attaining an interview will be asked to deliver a research seminar to faculty and students.

Please indicate in your application if you are a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada.

Located in Ottawa, Ontario, Carleton University is a dynamic and innovative research and teaching institution committed to developing solutions to real world problems by pushing the boundaries of knowledge and understanding.  Its internationally recognized faculty, staff, and researchers provide academic opportunities in more than 100 programs of study to more than 28,000 full- and part-time students, from every province and more than 100 countries around the world. Carleton’s creative, interdisciplinary, and international approach to research has led to many significant discoveries and creative work in science and technology, business, governance, public policy, and the arts.

Minutes from downtown, Carleton University is located on a beautiful campus, bordered by the Rideau River and the Rideau Canal. With over 12 national museums and the spectacular Gatineau Park close by, there are many excellent recreational opportunities for individuals and families to enjoy. The City of Ottawa, with a population of almost one million, is Canada’s capital city and reflects the country’s bilingual and multicultural character. Carleton’s location in the nation’s capital provides many opportunities for research with groups and institutions that reflect the diversity of the country.

Carleton University is strongly committed to fostering diversity within its community as a source of excellence, cultural enrichment, and social strength. We welcome those who would contribute to the further diversification of our University including, but not limited to: women; visible minorities; First Nations, Inuit and M├ętis peoples; persons with disabilities; and persons of any sexual orientation or gender identity and expressions.

Those applicants that are selected for an interview will be requested to contact the Chair of the Search Committee as soon as possible to discuss any accommodation requirements. Arrangements will be made to accommodate requests in a timely manner.

All qualified candidates are encouraged to apply; however Canadians and permanent residents will be given priority.  All positions are subject to budgetary approval.

Second Chances on Defence

I was on CTV last night talking about the stances on defence taken by the various parties, but I kind of wish I had a second chance at the last question: which party provides the best option for the militaries?

I said, sort of, the Liberals.  If I could answer again, I would say that the Liberals are currently the only one out there with a platform.  And I would also answer, given the decisions of the past by both Liberal and Conservative governments, the CAF is just royally screwed.  How so?  Having to recapitalize (rebuild) major components of two services (the fighter program, the ships) at the same time is just bad, the result of bad decisions taken over the years and lots of kicking the can down the road.  Other bad decisions involve the shipbuilding program which turned it into a jobs program, which means no party can kill it.  Also, heaps of contracts that have steep penalties if Canada makes different choices (more the ships than the planes).

Plus Harper has cut taxes and focused on balancing the budget, which means that Canada is not going to go from 1% of GDP to 2% or 1.5% any time soon. 

So, as much as I would like a second chance to answer that last question, it is far more regrettable that Canada cannot get second chances to revise previous planes that got us here to this point.  Path dependence is not kind.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday Silly Take on Ahmed the Clockmaker

This story just is so incredibly frustrating, so it is nice to be able to see some sharp satire from the usual source:  Brian McFadden of the NYT

The Real Liberal Defence Platform

I was frustrated with the first Liberal statements about Defence, so I came out with my own version of what a Liberal platform might look like.  Today, the Liberals released their own, which coudl be summarized thusly:

My first reaction was: FFS!  Defining the defence platform as a jobs program?  If you look at my original platform, I didn't kill the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy like I would like because I was recognizing the political reality that this trap that Harper set (not unlike the tax cuts and "surpluses") was unavoidable.  But embracing it this much?  Yuck. The Navy has done a real nice job of positioning itself in these battles, I have to admit.  "Expand the capital renewal of the Royal Canadian Navy."  Maybe that just admits that the costs are going to grow, not that they will build more ships than already promised.  The existing promises seem unrealistic given the increased expenses, so more ships?  No.

The full platform is here.  How do I feel about the rest of it?  It is pretty good... and probably the one closest to my preferences, as I am far more an internationalist than the NDP (see my guess at their platform) and I am very frustrated with the current government for a whole host of reasons.  

So, the Liberals' promise not to lapse spending is a big one for me, as I hate the Conservatives' duplicitious cuts through the backdoor.  As a friend pointed out, the basics of this are not that different from the Conservative strategy--defend Canada, support multilateral efforts, etc.  No major re-prioritization so most programs can go ahead.

What cannot? The F-35.   They have a heap of contestable math in their platform about the F-35 and alternatives.  But they recognize something that the Conservatives would like to ignore and that Michael Byers has pointed out: the decline of the Canadian dollar makes the F-35 even more frickin' expensive. 

The new white paper?  Yep.  About time and something I anticipated.  Nice to see NORAD and NATO mentioned since Liberals have supported both for generations.

Nice to see more transparency and parliamentary oversight.  Of course, the latter only will matter if the Liberals relinquish the strict agenda control that the Conservatives imposed on the Defence Committee.  Ah, but the likelihood of minority government means that no party will be controlling the agenda of the committee, and that is a good thing.

The Transformation stuff is not surprising given Andrew Leslie's role in the campaign, but the promise of cutting admin for more teeth to tail is an easy one to make and a hard one to implement.  Why?  Of course, administration is unpopular, but these folks are the ones making the decisions.  More importantly, every time Dave Perry talks about the busted procurement process, he mentions that DND/CAF lack the personnel to do multiple projects at once.  Guess what?  Those folks are "admin."  

Cutting the Iraq bombing mission?  Well, the planes are not doing that much.  They could have been clearer that this withdrawal would be met by more trainers for the Iraqi ground forces so that the Canadians keep the same size commitment but will be doing different stuff.  And yes, this aversion to bombing is strange since the Liberals did plenty of bombing in the past, but if one has to appeal to potential NDP voters, I guess one has to focus on less kinetic stuff.

The big problem is one that I mentioned after attending a closed door (I have no idea why) panel on defence procurement.  Dave Perry was there and was willing to have his comments shared more widely (tis his job, after all).  And he did a nice job of showing how truly screwed the next government is, whoever is running it.  Why?  Decades of mistakes and delays by Liberals and Conservatives have meant that Canada has to make many decisions on many programs and make some hard decisions.  Like moving away from a full spectrum military that can do a bit of everything.  It is just too expensive.  And Harper, as I mentioned, has created some traps, such as turning the navy's future into bids for votes, that all procurement must now consider the industrial benefits, which is problematic when cheaper/better versions may be available elsewhere.