Monday, October 15, 2018

Confirmation Bias: Canadian Defence Procurement Edition

I have been arguing that defence contractors in Canada have been underrated..... as sources of dysfunction.  So, when I read today's story about the defensive strategy of the former Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, Mark Norman, who has been accused of leaking stuff, I find myself nodding my head.  Norman's attorney is going after the Liberal government and specifically the ties between the head of the Treasury Board (key budgetary watchdog) and the Irving Shipbuilding company, which seeks to monopolize all naval defence contracts.

Sure, of course, a guy with ties to the Irvings is in a spot to help them, one who has leaked before.  If it is not true, it is still useful "reasonable doubt" fodder.  I do wonder if the government has any ability to wave off the prosecutors since this is a bad news story timed for the election--that is when the trial will be. 

But to step back and examine my own bias for a second, I have long thought this case was handled poorly, that it made little sense to go after a VCDS for leaks when the entire government (which the defence attorney will prove pretty easily according to this article) leaks like a sieve.  However, this article is pretty much PR for the Norman defence and does not have much else in the way of sourcing.  Which gets to a different existing bias I have--that parliament does not have much of a role in this, and, if it did, it would be operating like Pugliese--via leaks. 

And so, I have to remember leaks do not perfectly portray what is going on but portray reality as the leaker would like it to be portrayed. Media outlets that rely on leaks can get played. I am not saying Pugliese is getting played, but I am not saying he is not. I tend to agree with him that Norman is getting shafted because the Liberals fucked up--they fell for Irving's pressure, started to push against a plan to fill the gap in supply ships via a Quebec firm, and then got caught via a leak.  As it turns out, Davie, the Quebec yard, was able to get the ship transformed and in service--a good news procurement story that might have gone the other way.

I am fond these days of quoting the Dumbledore line about it being easier to forgive other people for being wrong versus admitting they were right.  Seems to me the government of Canada, under the Liberals, should be reading more Harry Potter.  But again, that is my bias. 

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