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Mark McCaw ~ twitter's @bigpicguy

Author of "Insights Inside a Mind" ~ blogging the big picture

Sunday, 17 April 2011

F35's. It's about more than money

     The greatest gift I have ever received came from my parents. It wasn't the latest toy or the hippest clothing, but far more valuable than anything material. They gave me character and taught me to never accept anything at face value. To always educate myself and try to keep an open mind, to have the courage of my convictions yet retain enough modesty to admit when I am wrong and sincerely apologize when it is warranted.

     As a result of this, I can sometimes be blunt and unforgiving when I believe someone is not presenting the truth, especially when it involves spending money out of my pocket.

     I have nothing to hide. Other than being an ordinary Canadian citizen, like most who will read this, the only stake I have in government is the fact they spend plenty of my money. A lot of it is spent on good things that I want or need, or other Canadians want or need. Fine. A lot of it is also spent for a variety of reasons that are for the sole benefit of those who seek political or monetary or personal gain. Not fine.

     I cast my first ballot at the age of 18. I have voted in every election at every level of government for 32 years and I've never missed a single election. I am interested in politics because, other than me, they are the only people directly spending money out of my pocket so I think it's damn important. My opinion. I tell you this because I want you to know the bigger picture, there is always a bigger picture.

     Over my lifetime, at the level of politics where parties are involved, I have voted for Progressive Conservatives (not these Conservatives, no mistake I believe they are different), Liberals, and NDP. I do not belong to, nor ever have I belonged to any political party. For personal reasons I have decided it is in my best interests, and the best interests of my country, to vote for the local candidate that represents the Liberal Party of Canada. That is my personal choice and now that I've made that choice I won't pretend it isn't my choice. I don't demand you agree with me, in fact, I'd love to engage you if you disagree.

     Like it or not, Military spending is an issue in this election. Politicians and media have declared it so, and it is so. They would enjoy it if you would narrow your focus to a single issue. The purchase of a replacement for our aging (and therefore costly) jet fighters. I will admit, jet fighters are kind of sexy-cool, in a technologically-geeky-ominously-scary way.

     In my case, the bigger picture gets in the way. Right off the top I will tell you my military policy ideas are more conservative than my vote. To move forward we sometimes have to compromise. Let's dispense with the F35 kerfuffle and talk about more substantive things.

     I don't want people to take what I say as absolute truth. I want people to think about what I say, do their own research, and form their own opinion. If you agree I'm ok, if not, that's fine too.

     If you're the least bit internet savvy and even occasionally pay attention to the news, you probably know the various arguments. Our Air force, for many reasons (not the least of which is our international/NATO committments) needs to replace the current fleet of fighter jets. This is true, and valid if we expect to be influential among influential nations whether we personally like it or not. We would be led to believe the entire issue comes down to the cost of these vehicles, which, while controversial, comes down to an argument between astronimcal costs and absolutely astronomical costs. Perfect, a lose-lose situation. When it comes to money, whether it's 60 billion or 100 billion or more we can't comprehend it easily.

     Great if it were only about the money. I will clearly state, cost aside I do not feel it is in the best interests of the taxpayers to purchase a box of paperclips without competition among manufacturers/suppliers to ensure good quality at the best price. Just like most of us do at the grocery store. So purchasing billions of dollars worth of fighter jets and absorbing the future associated costs should certainly be subject to rigourous competition.

     The same people who argue for this purchase wouldn't hesitate to insuate you are some kind of communist if you wanted to take 60 billion dollars and make college and university educations a goal for every Canadian. Go figure.

     Even if you ignore all of the above. If you use your search engine to find some of the published industry articles (i.e. Aviation Week, etc) and maybe visit some of the forums you will hear a lot. From a lot of people who make a living in the industry. None of it, outside of official propaganda from the proponents of the F35 could be described as particularly reassuring. From uncontrolled spending to questionable accounting for costs past, present and future this thing doesn't get out of the front office, let alone off the ground. When it does get off the ground (which isn't nearly as often as you might believe if all you know is what you've seen on tv) it has experienced more than its fair share of serious design problems. A growing chorus of voices is raising alarming concerns about the entire F35 program without a word about cost. I leave you to do your own research and decide for yourself.

     As always, I'd like to leave you with something larger to think about. The bigger picture. Should we be pouring billions of dollars in any military purchase without first defining what role Canadians want their country to play? Do we want to be peace-keepers or enforcers of our idea of what is right? In peacetime do we want to maintain a robust military with a reach into the far corners of the world or do we settle for a core of regular forces with a focus on the security of our nation as defined by our borders?

     There is always a bigger picture...

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