Oh no, not another CF-18 controversy


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OTTAWA -- Whenever I hear the term CF-18 I cringe a little.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/01/2010 (4871 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — Whenever I hear the term CF-18 I cringe a little.

Not just because I have an irrational fear of fighter planes (although I kind of do).

But because in my job reference to a CF-18 usually means some government is playing regional politics. Again. Or at least someone is accusing them of doing so.

In 1986, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney’s government awarded a maintenance contract for CF-18 fighter planes to Quebec-based Bombardier rather than the better and cheaper bid from Winnipeg’s Bristol Aerospace. The issue was so polarizing it helped spawn the Reform Party.

Fast forward to 2010 and Quebec is complaining its not getting its fair share — or any share for that matter — of a $723-million contract to maintain Canada’s new C-130J transport planes.

Winnipeg’s Standard Aero is in line to do the work for engine repair and overhaul. Cascade Aerospace of Abbotsford, B.C., is also getting some of the work. A lot of it will also take place in the United States.

But Quebec, home to half the country’s aerospace industry, isn’t getting any of it. The Bloc Quebecois is calling it a snub and an attempt to shift the aerospace industry out of Quebec.

I am not privy to the negotiations or deals that went into this decision and there is no proof nor even an assertion I’ve found that suggests a Quebec firm made a better bid for the work.

But I do know that there would be a relatively easy way to stop all this bickering and be certain the contracts are not be awarded by political motivation: transparent, fully accountable contract processes that are free in any way shape or form from political involvement.

Translation? When contracts are awarded, the minister isn’t involved, full stop.

It seems odd to me that a prime minister whose need to win over Quebec voters last week led him to put a Quebec minister in charge of the Alberta oil sands file, would actually be working to undermine Quebec’s aerospace industry.

But in the words of Stephen Harper’s former chief of staff, Tom Flanagan, in politics it doesn’t have to be true, it only has to be plausible.

After time and again politicians having been caught with their region’s hand in the cookie jar, that one part of the country might be being favoured over another is definitely plausible.

Canada Day funding

Keeping with the same theme of regional favouritism, it seems a longstanding feud over Quebec getting the lion’s share of Canada Day funding may finally be at an end.

For more than a decade, Quebec has received half, if not more, of the annual Celebrate Canada funding. The program doles out cash to community events for 11 days of fun in June and July to celebrate Canada Day, National Aboriginal Day and Quebec’s Fete Nationale day.

Last year Quebec got $3.7 million out $6.7 million available.

But Thursday, Heritage Minister James Moore said he is finally able to put a kibosh on the practice. The regional committees which had been established to distribute the funds have been disbanded and Moore’s office will dole out the grants directly, ensuring an equitable distribution of funds.

My cynical side tells me not to believe it until I see it but I’m going to trust Moore on this one. For now.

Honouring fallen officers

Manitoba senior minister Vic Toews had a difficult end to his first week as Public Safety Minister.

One of his first official tasks after being moved into the new post Tuesday, was to attend the sombre ceremony at the Canadian Forces Base in Trenton, Ont., for the repatriation of two fallen RCMP officers.

Chief Superintendent Doug Coates and Sgt. Mark Gallagher died in the earthquake which rocked the Caribbean nation Jan. 12.

Coates was leading the international peacekeeping mission in Haiti and Gallagher was in Haiti to help mentor Haitian police.

For the families of these two officers, the ceremony will be agonizing. The first real tangible evidence the nightmare of their deaths is not a dream.

For the minister who is now in charge of the department which oversees the RCMP, to stand and bear witness to their pain, and salute the two officers, may not sounds like much.

But there is no way more fitting for a minister to pay his respects to a Canadian who died serving their country than to be there as their flag-draped coffins are returned to Canadian soil.


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