Canada to spend up to $16B for F35 flighter jets -- Liberals to get in a tizzy

I still consider myself a Liberal, but the moral is weakening. We haven't had a leader for a while who has figured out how to do well at his job. All he needs to do is to win. Win a debate; win at competing photo ops; win on principle ... just win something. Winning a lot of things wins you an election.

Our Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, is spending $9B to replace our fleet of F18 fighters, which will not be usable in ten years. The decision was made by cabinet without a competitive bid process.

Predictably, the Liberals smell a chance for a win. In a difficult economy with a soaring debt, how could the government throw billions of taxpayer dollars at such a thing; I mean, do we even face attack by air? Whom do we typically attack by air? Aren't we more of a search-and-rescue nation, than Top Guns?

Well, this is exactly why Mr. Harper will come out ahead on this issue. Perhaps he's even baiting Mr. Ignatieff, whose brilliance at studying human rights and history has not translated to triangulation and political sword fights. Here's why Harper and his Defence Minister, Peter MacKay, will win:

  • We are at war, The Afghanistan mission has galvanized support for the armed forces and, though we are nothing like the Americans, there is a sense of providing soldiers with the right equipment to do their job well. The fact that this war is scheduled to end for us far before these planes would be delivered is not too relevant; the war is based on a threat that is not ending.
  • Our military was not well funded for many years. In particular, some of the rescue of Canada's fiscal solvency in 1995 came at the expense of the military's budget. Canadians recognize that we have a poorly funded military; they accepted that during our transition from an imperial/colonial power supporting mother Britain to a liberal nation of peace-keepers. But pendulums swing back and this one is now.
  • Given our military's central place in our history, stretching from Vimy Ridge to Normandy, Desert Storm and Bosnia, the public will support a leader who takes actions to strengthen the Forces.
  • Canadians are broadly supportive of Harper's aggressive defence of our arctic sovereignty. That clearly takes more than snowmobiles and rifles; yes, it takes a strong Navy with icebreakers, but world class fighter jets making periodic passes over remote sovereign regions is arguably the height of patriotism. Opposing that is the visceral image of limpness. 
  • The Liberals would have done roughly the same thing; perhaps they would have had the illusion of multiple tenders, or perhaps they would have postponed the announcement to coincide with the release of a deficit reduction statistic, but I think people recognize that a Liberal government is unlikely to end the fighter capability of our Air Force. 
  • If the Liberals did meddle in such a need (not necessarily a strategic defence need, but a requirement for maintaining an air attack capability), it would repeat the foolish 1993 kept campaign promise to cancel the replacement of an outdated helicopter force. Our helicopters became a joke following that; but they didn't make a Tom Cruise movie about SAR helicopters; to have a fighter jets that break when they try to fight would be tragic.
  • As I wrote recently, voters like strong leaders. Unfortunately, this principle has been abused by at least one draft-dodging U.S. President who landed on an Aircraft Carrier within sight of San Francisco during a war. However, Harper has never come across as a war monger, and woe is the politician who favours a weakened military.