Last week, Jason Kenney claimed that Russian aircraft provoked HMCS Fredericton as it participated in a NATO exercise in the Black Sea. When the Ottawa Citizen asked DND for a comment, they refused to go near Kenney's statement and referred the paper to NATO. Stewart Webb writes:
NATO brusquely dismissed Kenney’s tales of an old-fashioned Cold War showdown involving Canadian forces — stating that Russian overflights have operated at altitudes higher than the 500 feet cited by Kenney’s office and that there had been no confrontation with Russian warships. NATO reported that at one point two Russian warships were seen off the horizon by the Canadian task group in the Black Sea, but that the Russians followed all regulations required of vessels in international waters.
Some might put the blunder down to the new defence minister's inexperience. But Kenney's claim is part of an entrenched pattern:
In April 2009 Kenney’s predecessor, Peter MacKay, reported that two TU-95MSs had come within 192 kilometres of Canada’s Arctic coastline. This incident occurred the day before President Barack Obama visited Ottawa. “I am not going to stand here and accuse the Russians of having deliberately done this during the presidential visit,” MacKay said at the time. “But it was a strong coincidence”.
In August 2010, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s communications director Dimitri Soudas e-mailed journalists claiming that a pair of TU-95MSs had been intercepted approximately 56 km from the Arctic coastline by our CF-18s. “Thanks to the rapid response of the Canadian Forces,” Soudas wrote, “at no time did the Russian aircraft enter sovereign Canadian airspace.” NORAD’s commander did not rebuke the accusation this time, but NORAD’s spokesman Lieutenant Desmond James has this to say: “Both Russia and NORAD routinely exercise their capability to operate in the North. These exercises are important to both NORAD and Russia and are not cause for alarm.”
The international community knows that, when it comes to crying wolf, the Harperites have established their bona fides. And, as the man who is rumoured to be first in line to replace Harper, Kenney has established his bona fides as a man who is well qualified to mislead the nation.