The Scene. For the second time in two days, Jason Kenney was compelled to objectively explain for the opposition the extent of the Harper government’s unparalleled greatness.
“Mr. Speaker,” the Immigration Minister declared, “the reality is 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.”
The general concept of “modern history” is said to describe all time since the end of the Middle Ages, or something like the last 500 years. In that sense, the governments that saw this country through the first and second world wars might quibble with Mr. Kenney’s presumption of peerlessness. If, on the other hand, Mr. Kenney meant something like “recent history,” he might be right. Of course, it might also be noted that none of this country’s other recent governments have spent so long at war.
“The government has consistently reacted to support our men and women in uniform, giving them the modern equipment that they need,” Mr. Kenney continued, “and at every step of the way, the NDP and Liberals have opposed our efforts.”
Mr. Kenney’s proclamations had actually been prompted by news that the government’s promised support for the troops was now deemed to be “unaffordable.”
In the process of quizzing the Conservatives on this file, the NDP’s Nathan Cullen had used the adjective “rigged” to describe the F-35 selection. “Nonsense!” cried Laurie Hawn, the former air force colonel. Mr. Cullen proceeded with his question, but while staring at Mr. Hawn. The staring contest continued even as the NDP House leader returned to his seat.
At the next opposition opportunity, it was Jack Harris who stepped forward.
“Mr. Speaker, the minister’s answer again misses the point. The Conservatives were told by officials a year ago that their entire military plan was ‘unaffordable,’ ” Mr. Harris complained. “One of the main reasons is the mismanagement of the F-35 and the Chinook purchase.”
Mr. Hawn grumbled once more.
Mr. Harris now turned to the details of a photo op to announce a decision that officially has no longer been made. “The minister himself was more interested in photo ops than running his department,” the New Democrat defence critic chided. “The Conservatives’ F-35 photo op cost taxpayers $50,000 and the fake plane had to be trucked in all the way from Texas. How far back will ship, vehicle and aircraft purchases now be delayed as a result of the government’s mismanagement?”
It was Julian Fantino’s duty to stand and convey the official communique. “Mr. Speaker, the announcement to replace Canada’s aging CF-18 fleet was considered significant and necessary to ensure public media and industry awareness,” Mr. Fantino explained. “The cost of this announcement had been reported in many ways, including previous responses to written questions.”
So that the government spent $47,000 to announce a decision it would eventually decide it had not made is either money well spent or old news or both. Either way, Mr. Harris was prepared to move on to another item entirely.
“Mr. Speaker, we have billions in procurement mismanagement, tens of thousands squandered on a photo op and the whole defence plan now back to the drawing board. What incompetence,” the New Democrat sighed. “When the defence minister was caught red-handed using a search and rescue helicopter to fly out on a vacation he expected military staff to cover up for him. Today we learned the minister’s office even had the gall to chastise the military for not defending his reputation properly.”
Mr. Hawn grimaced.
“My question is simple,” Mr. Harris declared. “What exactly was so lacklustre about the military’s response to the minister’s questionable activities?”
Once more to Mr. Fantino. “Mr. Speaker,” he lamented, “these questions have been answered over and over again.”
Since this particular bit of news had emerged only last night, it is unclear how this particular question could have already been repeatedly answered. But perhaps Mr. Fantino was speaking figuratively.
“The reality,” Mr. Fantino clarified, “still remains that if it was up to the NDP our military men and women would have no assets whatsoever.”
And then how would the Defence Minister get back from his fishing trips?
To finish this up, the NDP turned to Christine Moore, a former nurse with the Canadian Forces. “I served in the armed forces,” she proclaimed. “What I had to defend was my country, not the reputation of a minister.” When she’d finished her question, the New Democrats treated her to a standing ovation.
“Mr. Speaker, nobody is denying the contribution made by the honourable member opposite to the Canadian Forces,” Mr. Fantino allowed. “However, there is a strong professional relationship between the Canadian Forces and the minister’s office.”
Sure. But is it the strongest and most professional relationship in the history of mankind?
The Stats. Ethics, 10 questions. National Defence, six questions. Employment, fisheries and the environment, three questions each. Pensions, honey production, veterans and arts funding, two questions each. Pharmaceuticals, drugs, the budget, aboriginal affairs, natural resources and infrastructure, one question each.
Jason Kenney, eight responses. Peter Van Loan, six responses. Julian Fantino and Peter Kent, four responses each. Denis Lebel, three responses. Ted Menzies, Gerry Ritz, Paul Calandra and Steven Blaney, two responses each. Diane Finley, Gerald Keddy, Rob Nicholson, Jim Flaherty, Joe Oliver, Denis Lebel and Keith Ashfield, one response each.