The ghost of Stephen Harper haunts Ottawa. Michael Harris writes:
Harper invented the “future appointments” system as a way of governing for years beyond his mandate, tying the new government’s hands on the leadership of agencies like the National Energy Board. He and ministers like Lisa Raitt did it by “filling the pipeline” with Tory candidates for posts long before their existing appointments ran out.
Canadians also found out that Harper had transferred huge swaths of federally-owned pasture lands to the provinces —— without the mandatory strategic environmental assessments put in place by former prime minister Brian Mulroney.
Then there were the specifics of all those cuts Harper made —— and willfully concealed from the Parliamentary Budget Officer and therefore, from Parliament. Treasury Board President Scott Brison published the formerly anonymous cuts.
One of them was particularly hypocritical. Despite all the florid protestations of support for the Canadian Armed Forces, the former PM was secretly pulling the rug out from under the military —— exactly as he had done with veterans. In 2012, Harper cut $1.19 billion from DND’s budget. The current Liberal Defence Minister, Harjit Sajjan, shrugged and said “What’s done is done.”
But most galling of all is the return of that flying white elephant, the F- 35. The Liberals announced last week that the plane is back in the running to replace the CF-18's. Has Mr. Trudeau gone wobbly? Perhaps. But the military-industrial complex is alive and well. And they are waving the unemployment flag:
The Department of Defence offered another, and technically accurate, reason why the Trudeau government was paying its club fees to remain part of the JSF program: to ensure that Canadian companies, which have already won more than $700 million in contracts associated with the F-35, will remain in the running for future contracts.
The reality check? That logic will only apply until the Trudeau government actually chooses a replacement for Canada’s fleet of CF-18s. If that choice is not the F-35, all bets will be off on future contracts, whether Canada is still a member in good standing of the consortium or not. Here is what Lockheed Martin’s executive vice-president had to say on that subject:
“If in fact the Canadian government were to decide not to select the F-35, we will certainly honour the contracts that we have here with the Canadian industry,” Orlando Carvalho told reporters in Montreal. “But our approach in the future would be to try and do business with the industries that are in countries that are buying the plane.”
I suspect the same kind of story is behind the Saudi armored cars. There's big money in the arms business. And the profits are huge. If there is one thing Stephen Harper believed at his core, it was that profit makes the world go round.