By The Canadian Press - Tuesday, November 27, 2012 - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Opposition attempts to shed light on spending cuts at National Defence were…
OTTAWA – Opposition attempts to shed light on spending cuts at National Defence were met by lawyerly objections from Conservative members of the House of Commons committee charged with overseeing the military.
Government MPs, led by junior defence minister Chris Alexander, tried to limit the scope of questions put to Defence Minister Peter MacKay by New Democrats and Liberals to a table of supplementary budget documents.
Both opposition parties were stymied in their efforts to find out precisely what is being cut and how the department will meet its budget targets.
MacKay assured them the budget was shipshape, and that Defence wouldn’t be asking for any more cash over and above the $19 billion it expects to spend this year.
The department is holding the line, MacKay said, even though Defence faced increased costs for some equipment projects and payouts to injured soldiers for ending the clawback on their pensions.
“We have identified ways to meet these specific funding needs through decreases in spending in other areas of National Defence and reallocations of previously approved budgetary resources,” he said.
But when opposition members tried to probe planned cuts, or ask why certain projects were not being funded, they were told it was outside the field of what the all-party committee met to discuss.
The chairman supported those arguments.
The tactic frustrated both the Liberals and the NDP, who tried to force through a motion that called on Defence to co-operate with parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page, who has demanded to see details from each department of the Harper government’s planned cuts.
“It just seems we’ve got money moving around with no one knowing exactly how much is going where,” said NDP defence critic Jack Harris.
“The whole object seems to be to limit the amount of information this committee and parliamentarians get, and hence (what) the public gets. There’s something very wrong with that.”
Liberal defence critic John McKay described the committee as being lost in “fog.”
He pointed to the minister’s announcement a few weeks ago that defence would spend $11 million more on the mental health of soldiers.
“So where did that 11 million bucks come from?” McKay asked. “It was reprofiled. Did it come out of trucks? Did it come out of procurement?”
A spokesman for the defence minister said the cash for mental health came from a line item known as the cost move budget — a $408 million fund that has been declared surplus.
A few weeks ago, a leaked letter detailed how Prime Minister Stephen Harper had told MacKay last spring that his initial budget proposals did not cut deep enough on the administrative side of National Defence.
The three-page June 2012 letter, obtained by The Canadian Press, underlined the divide between Harper’s office and National Defence, which has become increasingly resolved to protect the budget gains of the last five years.
Harper set out what cuts he was prepared to accept, what wouldn’t work, and even suggested National Defence unload some of its surplus property.
Questions about the leaked letter and a major transformation report were considered by the majority Conservative members on the committee to be out of order.
Earlier this fall, a defence researcher analyzed the Harper government’s budget statements and concluded that the hit on military would be greater than previously thought, running as deep as $2.5 billion by 2014.
By John Geddes - Monday, June 25, 2012 at 6:10 PM - 0 Comments
Politicians so often make grandiose claims, and these are so rarely taken seriously, that testing them against facts might seem a low-yield exercise. Who, you might well ask, really cares? Yet I wonder if Conservative assertions about how no previous federal government has poured so much money into the Canadian Forces might be due for a corrective.
Immigration Minister Jason Kenney—such a key shaper of the Conservative message—boasted recently that “no government in the modern history of Canada has done more to invest in giving the equipment necessary to our men and women in uniform.” A government op-ed piece (under the triple byline of Defence Minister Peter MacKay, Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino and Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney) stated that the Tories have “increased our investment in our bravest Canadians…to unprecedented levels.”
By Gustavo Vieira - Monday, April 9, 2012 at 10:15 AM - 0 Comments
Fuel, oil, maintenance and salaries make up the difference, according to the Minister of Defence
Canada’s Defence Minister, Peter Mackay, said he had known since 2010 of the $25-billion price tag for the F-35 fighter jets. Mackay, however, claimed the $10-billion difference between what the federal government estimated since before last year’s election and the figures now being discussed is a matter of accounting. Mackay made the comments on CTV’s Question Period on Sunday, after the Government spent most of last week taking fire from the opposition over the issue of the cost to develop and replace Canada’s aging F-18 fighter jets.
An Auditor-General report on the issue released last week slammed the Conservative Government over the purchase process for the new planes, saying the National Defence Department mismanaged the purchase, low-balled the costs and hid information from Parliament. Later in the week, Auditor-General Michael Ferguson, suggested the government should have known the new jets would cost $10 billion more than announced, but Mackay said the $10-billion difference lies in whether jet fuel, oil, upkeep and pilots’ pay make part of the estimated cost. Mackay, whose resignation was called for by Liberal leader Bob Rae, also warned that pulling out of the program to develop the planes would probably involve costs to the Canadian government.
By macleans.ca - Monday, November 28, 2011 at 10:03 AM - 2 Comments
DND officials reportedly didn’t disclose $600-million reno
Senior officials at the Department of National Defence made sure references to the $600-million-plus cost of renovating a former Nortel research complex were removed from public statements and documents, apparently fearful of what the public and MPs might think if they knew the cost of adapting the former high-tech company’s Ottawa campus to the department’s needs. It’s not the first time Defence has seemed shockingly willing to keep true costs secret. Recently, Parliament was not informed in advance about the department’s plans to spend $477 million on a U.S. military satellite. And last fall the federal auditor general’s office slammed the department for understating the complexities of buying new helicopters, in order to obscure the likelihood of major cost overruns to outfit the Cyclone and Chinook choppers for the Canadian military. In the latest incident, according to an email obtained by the Ottawa Citizen, an assistant to Robert Fonberg, the department’s deputy minister, wrote that Fonberg was concerned about telling the public about the cost, asking: “Why are we using the $623m(illion) fit up cost? It is without context and will be a lightning rod!” That cost estimate was later removed from public documents about the purchase of the old Nortel real estate.
By John Geddes - Tuesday, July 5, 2011 at 7:22 PM - 22 Comments
With Canada pulling its fighting troops out of Kandahar this month, there’s growing interest in whether the government’s enthusiasm for defence spending might wane once the heat of combat cools. Over at the National Post, for example, Mercedes Stephenson warns against “nickel and diming ourselves into another decade of darkness.”
That’s a reference to former chief of defence staff Rick Hiller’s evocative characterization of the supposedly dismal era of military spending restraint, imposed by Jean Chrétien’s deficit-fighting Liberal government, which is often said to have brought the Armed Forces such a low point in the 1990s and early in this century.
Voices on the right tend to see the Liberals as inherently unsympathetic to the military, while viewing the Conservatives as naturally inclined to spend more freely on the Forces. But can this pattern be seen in the historical data?
By Paul Wells - Tuesday, July 29, 2008 at 7:09 PM - 0 Comments
“…We have had, in effect, a de facto bi-partisan agreement between the Liberal and Conservative parties that the cuts in the defence budget during the post-Cold War period had gone too deeply and had to be reversed, and reversed quickly, if the de facto destruction of Canada’s defence capabilities was to be avoided. If you like, there was a real Paul Martin/Stephen Harper/Bill Graham/Gordon O’Connor/Rick Hillier consensus that a massive re-funding of defence in Canada was necessary, the end result of which was [The Canada First Defence Strategy of] 2008.”
I knew there was no boring way to spend a trillion dollars. And despite the valiant efforts of every Ottawa reporter to reward the feds for dumping their $990-billion defence strategy onto the internet late at night, six weeks after they “announced” it in a detail-free and misleading news conference, by not producing a stitch of analysis of a massive, massive spending plan (here’s my poor attempt to plug the gap, with valiant assist from Inkless Irregular MikeG), such a plan simply couldn’t lie around forever without somebody taking a peek at it and writing about the results.
That somebody is Brian MacDonald at the Conference of Defence Associations, and if you click the last link on this page you can get his analysis for yourself. There’s a lot in MacDonald’s review, some of it way over my head (accrual accounting: I dunno), but a few nuggets stand out. One is that operational deployments — like Afghanistan — are to be funded separately from the Canada First spending framework, essentially guaranteeing a considerably higher spending allocation over time than what the framework provides. Another is that the framework, in itself, does nothing to compress the 16-year procurement lag between bright idea and delivered equipment.
Generally it’s an optimistic assessment, however — it would be churlish for even the military establishment to sneeze at mountains of cash for military equipment. But I’m most struck by MacDonald’s conclusion, which I quote, in part, above: that the strategy’s “budgetary roots are traceable to the previous Liberal Party administration of Paul Martin.”