Fallout from the KPMG F-35s report: Politics on TV, Dec. 12 edition

Wherein Chris Alexander talks over everyone else until he gets his mic cut, and Justin Trudeau weighs in on jets and CNOOC

Message of the day

“This report proves that the government has been misleading Canadians on the F-35s.”

Hot Topics

  1. The KPMG Report on the F-35s
  2. The opposition coalition in Syria
  3. Union disclosures

Questions not answered

  • Will the government recognize the new Syrian opposition coalition?

The F-35 report:

Power Play led off former assistant deputy minister of procurement at National Defence, Alan Williams, who said that he’s not sure what use the process going forward is unless there is a commitment to modify the Statement of Requirements, make stealth a rated requirement, and open it up to tender. Williams called out the government for “misleading” and “distorting” the figures, and said that the information in the report doesn’t include the cost of attrition aircraft.

Don Martin then hosted an MP panel of Chris Alexander, Matthew Kellway and John McKay, where Alexander insisted that Williams was wrong about the figures for attrition, and chastised Martin for having inadequate experts. Alexander insisted that the $9 billion acquisition cost is correct, and the sustainment costs were set to be about a billion dollars per year. Kellway said the cost figures are new and that the government is retreating into secrecy. McKay said that the government refuses to show remorse for misleading the public on the costs, and wonders why the government has preferred stealth to speed, range or payload. At one point, Martin had to cut off Alexander’s mic because he wouldn’t stop talking over everyone else.

After having Hannah Thibedeau explain the numbers in the report, Evan Solomon hosted the same MP panel, where Alexander added that there are 72 companies across the country participating in the development of the aircraft for $440 million in contracts to date – before he kept talking over his other panellists, especially when challenged about previous government statements. Kellway added that the lifecycle costs were not attached to the original estimates despite being listed in treasury board guidelines, while McKay added that there doesn’t appear to be a reset of the process, and that there is no foreign policy document to inform a defence policy document.

Evan Solomon also asked Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau for his reaction to the report, where Trudeau said that the government has wasted three years on this file while the opposition was demanding answers, and that trust needs to be regained with Canadians on the procurement file. Trudeau said that there needs to be a conversation on what the military’s needs are in order to make the proper decisions on procurement.

Power Play’s journalists panel of Tim Harper and Robert Fife weighed in, where Harper noted that Peter MacKay “steamrolled ahead” on the message track regardless of what former statements were read back to him, while Fife noted that the government noted that the government won’t admit to making mistakes, and that MacKay is dutifully following instructions.

P&P’s Power Panel also gave their thoughts, where Rob Silver said that Canadians were absolutely mislead, and that the government is behaving as though this were all a dream like on Dallas. Brad Lavigne said that both MacKay and Ambrose were twisting on their answers. Tim Powers agreed that it was not a good day as a communications exercise, but that the reset button being pushed is a good thing, and that the system can work when the government responded to the Auditor General’s criticism. Kady O’Malley said that this exercise raises the questions of the broader policy in terms of foreign affairs and defence.


Power Play had an interview with Bessma Momani from the Centre for International Governance, who said that the government had previously been reluctant to endorse the Free Syrian Army and the opposition council because they were unsure of the its composition, however the new coalition is broad-based, with representation from all sectarian groups and geographic regions. Momani said that when a government is recognized, it allows funds to be opened up, and that recognizing this coalition would allow for humanitarian aid to flow and to get a foot in the diplomatic door.

On Power & Politics, David Frum of Newsweek and the Daily Beast said that it’s not clear that Western countries will be comfortable with what comes out of the Syrian conflict. Frum also said that Canada has a special interest in seeing that Lebanon is not destabilized by the situation in Syria because of the number of Lebanese-Canadians in that country.

On Power Play’s journalists panel, Fife noted that the government has concerns about some extremist elements in the Syrian opposition, but that they will likely recognize it next week. Harper said that that the government is probably doing the right thing because of problems that happened with opposition groups in Egypt and Libya.

Union disclosures:

Power Play spoke with Sid Ryan of the Ontario Federation of Labour, who called the union transparency bill a vindictive piece of legislation, as it’s already required under provincial legislation, and it would put people’s private information on the Internet.

Martin then spoke with Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre, who said that unions force their membership to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in dues, and that union members should expect to know where that money goes.

Ryan was later on Power & Politics, where he added that the bill is discriminatory according to the Canadian Bar Association, and that unions have delegated conventions in order to determine what issues they take on. Ryan said that if the bill passes, unions will be tied up in red tape going forward.

On P&P’s Power Panel, Kady O’Malley noted that this bill had previous incarnations that didn’t proceed. Lavigne said that the Labour Code already covers transparency and that Bill C-377 is just mischief making. Powers said that the unions may want to try to embrace the bill to shape it in their favour after the Conservatives have put them on the defensive. Silver said that the bill is full of flaws, and that it’s hard to square how the Conservatives would rail against the intrusiveness of the long-gun registry yet want levels of disclosure for unions that exceed the disclosure for charities or corporations.

Worth Noting:

  • Justin Trudeau said that the CNOOC decision was the right one, but made in the wrong way, and that the government’s lack of clarity going forward is a problem. He also said that he’s not sure that foreign state-owned enterprises are necessarily the threat they are made out to be.
  • CBC’s Mike Crawley reported that the Ontario Auditor General said that there has been no progress in the huge rise in overtime costs of the OPP, thanks in part to an antiquated staffing system. He also criticised the Presto Card transit passes.

Commons Folk: Niki Ashton

For his regular Commons Folk feature, Don Martin spoke with NDP MP Niki Ashton while walking around some of the statues along Parliament Hill. Ashton said that a declining polar bear population will be a loss in tourism for her riding, Ashton said that she was surprised that Rona Ambrose would vote for the motion on studying when life begins. The one thing that few people know is that while she speaks four languages, she has studied five others.

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