The Unbearable Lightness of Mr. Dithers
I have been thinking a great deal during the past few days about the meaning of our government's refusal to participate in the continental ballistic missile defence (BMD) shield being developed by the United States.
Bill Graham, Canada's current defence minister, having originally made noises supportive of the initiative is now downplaying any suggestion that this decision will have any serious lasting adverse impact on Canada-US relations.
Yet as recently as September 24, 2004, his view was quite different.
But in a speech in Toronto on Wednesday and a separate interview with the Ottawa Citizen, Graham came out strongly in favour of the program, suggesting that Canada "will regret it if we don't participate." In my view it diminishes our sovereignty significantly by not being a participant," Graham said. Speaking to the Royal Canadian Military Institute, Graham said Canada has a "fundamental responsibility to contribute to the defence of the continent. Ballistic missile defence might assist us in doing this."Given his statements above, I believe that Mr. Graham is obligated to resign his portfolio. It is the only honourable thing to do. He clearly understands that refusing to participate in BMD diminishes our nation's sovereignty. Yet he now spends his time diminishing his own credibility by downplaying the impact. Has he no shame?
I remember when ministers of the Crown would resign a portfolio when faced with a decision so at odds with their fundamental views. This is not small stuff we deal with here. This strikes at the heart of the role of a national government. How one longs for the days when Responsible Government meant more than blaming subordinate's when policy initiatives jumped the tracks.
I think that we have crossed a watershed with Prime Minister Dither's BMD decision. It is now perfectly clear to anyone with an ounce of common sense that this nation no longer is a participant in its own defence. Maintaining the capacity and the willingness to defend one's borders is one of the prerequisites to national sovereignty. That which you are not prepared to defend ceases at some point to be your possession. Washington will not fail to grasp the implications.
Keeping in mind that our homeland occupies the northern half of the North American land mass, what is more important than the defence of North America to this government?
The Liberal government is claiming that the BMD refusal is offset by a massive $12.8
billion commitment of funds to rebuild the nation's military. The spin is that by not committing resources to BMD we free ourselves up in order to pursue other national military priorities. Yet this spin is an outright lie. The Americans were not asking Canada for a significant monetary contribution to the BMD initiative. It would not have reduced our ability to spend on other military priorities.
The $12.8 billion has everything to do with an exercise in public relations, and nothing to do with the implementation of defence policy. It is said that the military needs an immediate cash infusion of $1.5 billion per year just to forestall any further rust out of the Canadian Forces capabilities. Over the next two year it is getting one third of that. Please note. The $1.5 billion would just arrest the degradation of military capabilities. It would not enhance them. The rust out continues.
The $12.8 billion budgetary commitment is a mirage. It is a principle of governance in parliamentary democracy that one government cannot bind a future government through budgetary promises made five years out. There is almost no chance that this minority government will last beyond two years. By loading the budget with big expenditures so far down the political road, the Liberals are deluding the public.
The United States will now move forward knowing that it will have to unilaterally defend the continent because its continental ally, the Government of Canada, is led by a gutless ditherer who is cheered on by a caucus chorus of anti-American cheerleaders. You think my use of the word gutless is overblown? Consider his own words on BMD on July 20, 2004.
Martin has said he wants Canada to join Washington's controversial missile defence program, which some say would turn North America into a fortress. "If there is going to be an American missile going off somewhere over Canadian airspace," he said, "I think Canada should be at the table making the decisions.You doubt that the dollars for the military build up announced in the budget is fallacious? Read this from Lieutenant Colonel (Ret'd) Laurie Hawn, a former squadron commander and draw your own conclusions.
We should also be aware of what is happening to our fighter force. For fifty years, we have had Canadian fighters patrolling our airspace, or sitting on alert to react to Soviet incursions or other air traffic situations. The focus changed on 9/11 from looking outward to also looking inward. Our ability to look anywhere has steadily eroded.
We will soon be down to 80 operational CF-18s, the number that we can afford to upgrade. We are also critically short of fighter pilots, many having left in disillusionment. Flying time has been cut back to the point where we no longer train at low level and intensity of training has been reduced to preserve safety. Preserving safety under these circumstances also makes us ineffective. No matter how fast we can spin the earth, the new simulators we're buying will never fly and nothing in the new budget addresses the erosion of our aerospace sovereignty.
Most people probably don't know that 433 Squadron in Bagotville will shut down this summer to make one larger 425 Squadron. It won't be long before some bean counter or other non-warrior sees a source of further personnel cuts. Heck, if you've got 400 people, surely you can make it work with 375, or 350, or............ The same thing will happen in Cold Lake next summer, with the shutdown of 416 Squadron. That will leave Canada with two, count 'em, two operational fighter squadrons. Billy Bishop weeps!
Of course, most Liberal members of parliament have not likely heard of this extraordinary Canadian named Bishop who was the top allied World War I ace with 72 kills to his credit. And if they have, I doubt whether they give a damn. Bishop served on the pointed end of a stick we no longer possess.