The Commons: Rona Ambrose slips on a fifth generation banana peel

The Public Works Minister commits a Kinsley gaffe

The Scene. The NDP’s Matthew Kellway, blessed of the deadest of pans, seemed typically unimpressed.

“Reset and refresh are the new spin words, Mr. Speaker, but not so long ago the Minister of National Defence was unwavering,” Mr. Kellway recalled. “He stated, ‘This is the right plane, this is the right number, this is the right aircraft for our Canadian forces and Canada.’ Now he has lost that loving feeling.”

The New Democrats chuckled.

Throughout the fall this matter of the F-35 has lingered in the air, not quite at the forefront of the discussion, but not quite forgotten. And in the eight months since the auditor general’s report, the government’s position has not improved. Now, apparently, there are other options to consider. Now, apparently, the phrase “fifth generation” is “not helpful.” And soon, assumedly, there will be confirmation of a decidedly larger price tag for a plane the Conservatives once insisted the country absolutely had to have.

Here Mr. Kellway stood to mock the Defence Minister.

“Gross Conservative mismanagement has caused it all to come crumbling down around him and he sits and sits,” he sighed. “Will any minister stand up and apologize for deceiving Canadians?”

Rona Ambrose, the Public Works Minister, stood to take this one, as she mostly has since the auditor general interrupted the crusade (to use Julian Fantino’s word of just over a year ago).

“Mr. Speaker, the member knows full well that no funds have been spent on the acquisition of any new aircraft,” Ms. Ambrose responded. “The member agrees with me, I know, and everyone in the chamber I am sure does, that we need to replace our aging fleet of CF-18s. However, before we do that, we have set up a process to make sure that all of the costs for the F-35 are verified, that there is public and full transparency in this process. All options are on the table and we will make sure that we take all of those steps before making any decisions to replace the CF-18.”

Mr. Kellway continued with his lament.

“And still he sits, Mr. Speaker, cover gamely provided by the Minister of Public Works and Government Services,” he lamented, “and yet here is what she once had to say about holding a competition to replace the CF-18. She stated it, ‘would risk the future of our aerospace industry because any delays, frankly, would be slamming the door shut on Canadian jobs.’ Yet today the Conservatives have committed just shy of $1 billion on the joint strike fighter program and Canadian companies have received less than half of that in contracts. Billions of dollars in industrial benefits forgone. Are they finally prepared to start to open a transparent process?”

Ms. Ambrose, normally sure-footed, now stumbled badly.

“Mr. Speaker,” she responded, “that open and transparent process started right after the Auditor General’s report.”

The opposition descended into laughter, the joke being the nearly two-year gap between the Defence Minister giving the thumbs-up and the Auditor General’s report. Down the way, Liberal MP John McKay, a veteran of this file, clapped.

Here, perhaps, Ms. Ambrose had committed something like a Kinsley gaffe.

The Speaker called for order and Ms. Ambrose attempted to recover. ”Mr. Speaker, when we became aware of the concerns raised by the Auditor General, we immediately pressed reset on this process and we have set up a secretariat to ensure that there is maximum oversight and due diligence, including independent oversight,” she explained. “Again, no funds have been spent on the acquisition of any fighter aircraft and no funds will be spent until we do the due diligence necessary.”

If only this had been something like the explanation two years ago.

The Stats. Aboriginal affairs, six questions. The coast guard and crime, four questions each. Government spending, the F-35 and foreign aid, three questions each. Government contracts, Maxime Bernier’s car keys, the Arctic, fisheries and privacy, two questions each. The economy, national defence, border security, transportation, the budget and the Middle East, one question each.

Gail Shea, eight responses. Stephen Harper, six responses. Rona Ambrose, five responses. Julian Fantino, three responses. Rob Nicholson, Maxime Bernier, John Duncan, Tony Clement and Leona Aglukkaq, two responses each. David Christopherson, Vic Toews, Peter MacKay, Denis Lebel, Jim Flaherty and John Baird, one response each.




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The Commons: Rona Ambrose slips on a fifth generation banana peel

  1. Is Peter McKay a man or not… he is akin to the dead beat dad… hiding, behind a skirt yet again… whining oh wheres my dog.

    • Not a man?! But but, I saw him yesterday, stepping into the “brawl” to drag PVL back to his seat on the right side of the house! He got right in between those salty words between two plump angry white men, who were not even standing up! He’s every bit as much of a man as the Speaker of the HoC, who stood and looked away from the fray to the pm for instruction.

  2. Please, please, please tell the Canadian taxpayers what we need this aircraft for! There is no military requirement for them. We should not burden our children and grandchildren by making them pay for this colossal waste!

    Ask yourself to imagine a credible scenario that could arise and be countered by 65 F35s or, for that matter, fighter aircraft of any type. I doubt if you can come up with a realistic scenario.

    The interception of the odd Russian aircraft just outside our territorial borders has been going on since the 70s. The intercepts were done with CF101s and now with CF18s. The Russian aircraft presented no threat then and they present no threat now. An all out attack would be insane and involve ICBMs. No role for the F35.

    Further, why would we, in support of NATO, be buying an aircraft capable of attacking third world nations. That makes no sense to me. Do Canadians want to be a part of that organization? I think not!

    Further, if an airliner approaching any major airport in the world turns rogue it would be on its intended target before any meaningful action could be taken to stop it. No role for fighter aircraft. In this case we must simply be ready to pick up the pieces that such an insane action would cause.

    We cannot defend ourselves against an insane all out massive air attack. No matter, that is not going to happen. Those who covet our resources are buying them! No role here for fighter type aircraft.

    Notwithstanding the foregoing, a few token fighter aircraft for use at air shows are always impressive. What a waste!

    As I see it, the real threat to our sovereignty is an economic threat. The Russians, Chinese and the USA want and need our resources. It is not in their interest to bomb us. Rather, they are buying our country.

    For our part, the threat is that unaffordable actions by our government will bankrupt our country and compromise our ability to do what is necessary to defend against the real threat. To defend our “sovereignty” we need to counter the economic threat to our Arctic, protect our coastal fisheries, deal with internal unrest, root out terrorist cells, and, most importantly, keep our country financially viable. No role here for the F35.

    In support of our most important ally and neighbour to the south, since we are not a super power, we must ensure that they are never threatened by activities that occur or originate in this country. That will allow them to handle “the big stuff”. They always have. To say otherwise is to be kidding ourselves about our own importance.

    • Typical response from someone who sees things from a micro perspective. If you look at at this from a macro perspective, you need to ask yourself a couple of key questions;

      We are a modern western country and like it or not we have international and treaty obligations that require us to maintain a military capability. So firstly, are you proposing we scrap all military capabilities? If we are going to maintain a military then our men and women in uniform deserve the best equipment we can provide. Images of our air force personnel flying in decrpid Sea King helicopters and flying around in 30 year old F-18′s where the wing tip side winder missles have rusted off their struts are lasting and damaging. Should we possess the capability to protect our territorial borders or leave it to the US? I am aware of the huge costs of procuring and supporting this kind of military program but there are a number of ways to skin a cat. We could buy alot less of the F-35′s [say half] and then augment the fleet with another cheaper kind of aircraft. But if other NATO countries buy the F-35 [the only mass produced 5th gen fighter] and we’re flying around in a deficient substitute well you do the math. As far as mission profiles are concerned; not all of our responsibilities are on Canadian territory, we have allies all over the world so you need to again ask the question; should Canada maintain a military capability? If you answer yes then our people deserve the best.

      • No, I am not proposing that we disband the military. Please re-read my post.

        You say “our people deserve the best”. We cannot afford to arm ourselves against all imaginary threats. Otherwise someone would suggest we buy Starship Enterprise type vehicles to fend off a possible attack by the Klingons!

        There is no classic military threat to Canada that could be countered by 65 of anything. The Russians, Chinese, and the USA all covet our resources. They are not stupid. They have discovered that it is far easier to buy our resources and the companies that produce them than it is to bomb us into oblivion! So that is what they are doing. No role for fighter aircraft or submarines here.

        The other more insidious threat of terrorism can also NOT be countered with high tech fighter jets or, for that matter, submarines.

        Are we planning to go bomb some third world nation? That makes no sense. I believe that most Canadians want no part of that insanity.

        We need to spend our defence dollars prudently. Our parliamentarians need to come up with a useful, affordable, realistic role for the CAF. Let us not buy equipment for traditional symbolic reasons!

  3. OMG: “Mr. Speaker,” she responded, “that open and transparent process started right after the Auditor General’s report.”

    Is this just one of the many gaffes the illegitimate Harper government will make but never sit in front of a committee to answer for their stupidity? I say drag her into a committee to be cross examined and then beheaded! sarcasm off.

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