Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Canada's Veterans On Canada Day


As we celebrate our good fortune today, we would do well to remember this country's veterans. Stephen Harper rode to power espousing a new militarism. But, Jeffrey Simpson writes, Harper and Co only love the military in theory. They don't put their money where their mouths are:

Capital spending on military equipment has declined four years in a row and remains on a downward trend. As a share of the defence budget, capital spending has dropped to the lowest level since 1977-78.

These arresting facts, and others, were recently unveiled in a paper by David Perry, senior security and defence analyst for the Ottawa-based Conference of Defence Associations Institute. He notes that the defence budget became the sitting duck for the government’s deficit-reduction strategy. Defence cuts accounted for a quarter of the overall drop in government spending in the 2014 budget.

And those who have returned from battle have been forgotten. Anne Bergeron-Oliver reports that there has been a spike in homeless veterans:

The number of homeless people identified by Veterans Affairs Canada has skyrocketed over the last five years, jumping from just 35 in 2009-2010 to 236 last year.

But the true figure could be much higher. Experts suggest there could be thousands of veterans living on the streets yet to be located by government and volunteer organizations. A City of Toronto report released last year revealed that 16 per cent of the 447 people sleeping on Toronto’s streets identified themselves as veterans.

“It’s quite shocking,” said NDP Veterans critic Peter Stoffer. “How many more have not been identified?.

Sometimes a picture is, indeed, worth a thousand words. Julian Fantino provided that picture as he hustled away, in order to avoid a confrontation with Jenny Migneault, whose husband suffers from PTSD:

“Mr. Fantino, I’m just a vet’s spouse,” she shouted at the minister. “You’re forgetting us, once more. We’re nothing to you.”

But, then, what would you expect from a cabal of armchair warriors? We must do more for our veterans -- starting today.


The Mound of Sound said...

We are saddled with the most bellicose prime minister, certainly in the post-war era, who neglects Canada's military at every turn - at least after he's wrung every drop of political capital he can extract from their dead and mangled bodies.

Yesterday I revisited the Svalbard, the Norwegian Arctic patrol ship we're going to churn out at Irving Shipyards. The Norse designed and built the Svalbard for under $100-million. Ottawa bought the designs from Norway for $5-million. Last May, MacKay handed Irving $288-million, not to build those three ships but to 'design' them. Smell a rat?

Over at Galloping Beaver, Dave, a serving naval officer, notes that with the Iroquois out of service due to structural problems, the Canadian navy is at its lowest state of readiness since before WWII. With Protecteur also out of commission, the RCN has one destroyer and one replenishment ship which means, out of our three oceans, we can deploy one limited naval task force.

Those Brit subs we bought back in the Chretien years? Of the four they've spent about 15-years in refit and we've still got just two of them sort of up and running. Here's the thing we're not told. Submarine hulls are time limited. They come with an expiry date, usually about 20-years. Even if the boat sits at the dock it will still expire. They're fast running out.

Recall how Parliament was misled by DND officials on the Chinook helicopter price. Those same misfits tried to hoodwink Parliament on the F-35 cost.

We don't have money for ships or new light armoured vehicles for the army to replace their clapped out gear from Afghanistan but we're going hog wild to buy 65-F-35s?

Happy Canada Day to you, Owen.

Owen Gray said...

These guys buy advertising, Mound, but they don't know anything about military procurement.

Dave knows that, for all their tough talk, these guys are phoneys. It's so obvious it's painful.

Happy Canada Day to you, too.

Scotian said...

One of the worst aspects of the Harper government is that whoever follows is going to have so much mess to clean up that so many are going to be screwed for long after this government is dead and buried. The vets being only the latest and one of the more disgusting aspects of such. Yet another aspect of my ongoing Cassandraism.

Happy Canada Day, or at least as much as one can have knowing all that we know.

Toby said...

Owen wrote, "These guys buy advertising, Mound, but they don't know anything about military procurement."

Curiously, neither does the Canadian military. At every given opportunity it whines, like a kid in a store, for the most expensive toy in view. Do the generals ever ask for anything practical? Or do they simply take direction from the Pentagon?

Owen Gray said...

Like kids mesmerized by the latest smartphone, everyone assumes that the latest technology is the best, Toby.

Unfortunately, the more complicated things get, the more things can go wrong.

Owen Gray said...

Sometimes -- when I'm completely cynical -- I think that they want to leave behind the kind of mess that no one will want to clean up, Scotian.

I'm assuming that we are better than that.

Happy Canada Day.

Toby said...

Owen wrote, "Like kids mesmerized by the latest smartphone, everyone assumes that the latest technology is the best, Toby."

People responsible for spending billions should know better than that.

Owen Gray said...

But when the numbers get big, Toby, they go from being kids with smartphones to kids in a candy store.

The Mound of Sound said...

Speaking of big ticket military spending I read an item in Aviation Week about a speech given by the head of DARPA at a RAND conference. She warned that today's military mega-projects, because they sap defence budgets, now pose a threat to national security.

Stalin is credited with observing that "quantity is a quality unto itself." That exemplified the Russian/Soviet approach to building weapons en masse, such as the effective yet rudimentary T-34 tank.

During the Cold War, Nato didn't fret about the relative quality of our weaponry. It was their superiority in numbers that scared us, something reflected in our adoption of tactical (battlefield) nuclear weapons. It was these mini-nukes that were going to save our backsides when the Russian tank armies came swarming through the Fulda Gap.

Today we're putting all of our eggs in one basket, the F-35. We'll be signing on the dotted line without so much as a chance to kick the tires.

Owen Gray said...

It really is remarkable, Mound, that folks who tout their management skills don't practice the simple strategies one relies on when buying a used car.

Scotian said...

Owen Gray:

Substitute able for that second want you used and I think you are closer to the mark, and I say that with complete seriousness. Harper's aim has always been to destroy government services, institutions, and infrastructures as we in this nation have traditionally understood them from PCPC to Lib to Dipper alike since Confederation. This was rather clear if you paid attention to the man for as long as I had, indeed it has always been one of my most profound frustrations why what appeared so obvious to me was not apparently so obvious to so many other people whose ability to reason I have seen work at least as well as my own. This is why I keep referring to the Cassandra thing for myself, it wasn't just the disbelief, it isn't just the scorn, it is also watching everything I warned of coming true and watching people finally waking up to the reality around them and going, how could this have happened, after it is too late. I know you acknowledged your own underestimation of the reality, and I know how powerful the "it can't happen here" blind spot was in this country, but it doesn't change the fact that for almost a decade this nation has been under the control of a man whose primary "hidden agenda" was always the systemic destruction of what took 140 years to create.

Harper isn't out to leave a legacy of creation, he is out to leave a legacy of destruction. Everything he does is far easier to understand when you view it with that as a working assumption, because one cannot be as wrong/"incompetent" as he has been for as long as he has been PM except by intent/design. This was why I kept screaming that this was not the usual run of the mill Con we could let into power, that this time the wolf really was at the door and not just for the progressives, but the centrists of all flavours as well.

The national disgrace that is our veterans policy is alas only one of innumerable collateral damages created by Harper's true "hidden agenda", and even with a change in government given all the disasters within government needing dealing with I fear they will be a long time seeing proper relief. They have too often ended up getting the short end of the stick as it was when things were far less fucked up (and yes I use that term deliberately, I see things are really being unable to be described in any less powerful terms and be close to accurate) than what they are today thanks to the Harper legacy has created, and that presumes we are rid of him and the CPC government in the next election, something I sincerely aspire and work towards but will not for a single second assume is the case until all the votes are counted election night.

As much as I love my country I weep for it as well these days when this day arrives, because I wonder for how much longer we can survive thanks to what we let get by us into the PMO.

Owen Gray said...

I agree, Scotian, that Harper's legacy is purpose driven. He leads a wrecking crew who truly believe that their destruction is creative.

As citizens we ultimately bear the responsibility for the damage Harper has done. Whether we will be wise enough to halt that damage is an open question.