Today's headlines: When will Canada buy new helicopters?

The nearly elderly fleet of Sea Kings really just wants to retire

Ryan Remiorz/CP

Most people have nightmares about giant marshmallows chasing them down the street, or their bank accounts being inexplicably empty, or whatever spooky movie they watched before turning in for the night. Stephen Harper probably has nightmares about big federal purchases gone wrong. Procurement is, to understate things, not a word that’s helped the government’s fortunes.

Procurement gave former defence minister Peter MacKay headache after headache during his fumbling of a fighter jet to replace the air force’s fleet of CF-18s. The government looked bent on buying the fifth-generation F-35, but an auditor general’s report, and a separate audit by KPMG, scared the Conservatives into considering other options. They took their lumps on the file, and who knows what’s next.

But that’s maybe not the most frustrating procurement the government’s struggling to conquer. That dubious honour may go to the feds’ attempt to buy helicopters to replace the military’s fleet of Sea Kings—50-year-old choppers that make CF-18s look like spry teenagers over Canadian skies. Last year, then-defence minister MacKay called several governments’ repeated attempts to replace the Sea Kings “the worst procurement in the history of Canada.” Indeed, no single party can be blamed for a decades-long debacle. Plans to buy new helicopters stretch back to Brian Mulroney’s Progressive Conservatives.

Today, The Globe and Mail reports that the government might scrap its current plan to purchase 28 Cyclone helicopters from Sikorsky. Delivery of the choppers is years behind schedule, and the government, which has already levied $88 million in penalties on the manufacturer, says it’s looking elsewhere.

Tonight, if I have a nightmare, probably it’ll be some spooky adventure triggered by that weird slice of pizza I ate before passing out. But at least the whisk of chopper blades, and the billion-dollar price tag and all the uncertainty about when those aging Sea Kings can finally retire, won’t haunt my dreams.

What’s above the fold this morning?

The Globe and Mail leads with U.S. President Barack Obama running up against opposition to a military strike in Syria as G20 leaders gather in Russia. The National Post fronts one neuroscientist’s attempt to understand a rare condition that is plaguing an Ottawa teenager. The Toronto Star goes above the fold with an expected 10-year wait for a new subway in Scarborough. The Ottawa Citizen leads with the Ottawa teenager, India Taylor, whose rare neurological condition means almost certain death. iPolitics fronts former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page’s forecast of the coming months in Parliament. CBC.ca leads with controversy swirling around a St. Mary’s University frosh chant. CTV News leads with Obama’s mostly unsuccessful call for international support for a strike on Syria. National Newswatch showcases a Canadian Press story about NDP Leader Tom Mulcair’s attempt to fight back against Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau, who’s surging in the polls.

Stories that will be (mostly) missed

1. Honour killings. The federal government has committed $306,000 over two years to a project led by the Canadian Council of Muslim Women that discourages culturally motivated violence. 2. Railway. The bankrupt Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway at the heart of an explosion that killed 47 people in Lac-Mégantic, Que., could be sold to a new owner by January 2014.
3. Public bids. The head of a crown corporation charged with managing public-private partnerships says current bidding rules are so rigid that weaknesses and cost overruns can go unnoticed. 4. Bullying. In Manitoba, the NDP government swatted down a Liberal anti-bullying bill deemed too broadly applicable, even though the NDP’s own legislation has been criticized for similar reasons.
5. North Korea. A human rights watchdog says up to 20,000 prisoners at a now-closed labour camp in North Korea have disappeared, and may have been allowed to die of starvation or disease. 6. Justice. As Kenya’s president and deputy president face trial at the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, the country’s parliament voted to withdraw from the court.

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