Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Dear Stephen: Bev Oda is not fit to be a Minister

Interesting tidbits from Tuesday’s Winnipeg Free Press

Apparently the ability to cut and paste is important to the Stephen Harper Party, however the ability to proofread is sorely lacking…

//"Our government treats taxpayers' money with the upmost (sic) respect and we require that travel on government business be done at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers," Ritz's spokeswoman, Meagan Murdoch, wrote in an email.//

//"Our government treats taxpayers' money with the upmost (sic) respect and we require that travel on government business be done at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers."// Flaherty’s spokeswoman, Mary Ann Dewey-Plante

Even down to the typo.

Same words they used in the House of Commons while defending Bev Oda as well.

You remember Bev not Oda, the Minister who signs has her underlings use “the arm” to sign documents and then toss a not in there when they realize they shouldn’t have signed it after all?  She was found prima facie to be in contempt of Parliament over the lies she used to cover her indiscretion. 

Well Bev was in London England last year and decided the 5 star hotel she was to stay at wasn’t to her taste.  So she upgraded to the Savoy.  Word has it she could get a smoking suite there.

Oh, she needed chauffer driven limousine to get back and forth to the conference she was to attend.  Oddly enough, the meetings were at the hotel where she was originally booked to stay.  I don’t know if she could smoke in the limo.

The room cost us (you and me) about $2300.00 for a 3 day visit.  $665 per night for the Savoy, $287 for the last minute cancellation at the Grange St. Paul’s, and $16 for an OJ at the Savoy. 

Now Bev says she is really sorry and paid back the difference this week, $1353.81 which included the orange juice but not the chauffeur driven limousine.  The car and driver cost us about $3000.00.

Oddly this was shortly after the press found out what she had done.

So Bev, are you sorry you spent taxpayer money recklessly or just that you got caught? 

I’d bet on the latter.

In the real world, if you go to a business meeting and the boss puts you up, if you don’t like the place you can upgrade.  But when the bills come in, you square up then, not eight months later when you get caught.

This apparently is not done in Ottawa under the Stephen Harper Party.  Apparently under Stephen Harper, no one even bothers to look at the bills when they come in.

This is not the first time that Bev Oda has tried to live a champagne lifestyle on the taxpayer’s dime and it has to stop. 

Bev Oda is not fit to be a Minister and Stephen Harper needs to demand her resignation.

The saddest part of this is the fact that the conference she was attending was for donors to an organization that helps fund immunizations for children in the developing world.  Places where people live on $1.00 a day or less.

$4300.00 is almost 12 years income to someone in a developing country.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

What is the cost of the F 35 to Canada?

I see that we have an Emergency Meeting of the Commons Public Accounts Committee on Thursday of this week.

The Opposition Members of the Committee forced this to happen but they are concerned that the Harper Party majority on the Committee will vote to hold the session in camera. I hope they don’t, this is important and needs to be done in public.

The Opposition Members want to hear from National Defence about the costs of the F-35 JSF versus to costs stated by the Harper Party Minister, Peter MacKay.

In the US, they have already put the JSF program “on probation” because of the soaring costs and pork barrelling that occurs in many US programs.

We need to know what the costs will be as well.

It is not the minivan scenario that MacKay trots out, that you only consider the sticker price when you buy a minivan. Most of us have bought cars and vans and we consider what the mileage will be like, so we can afford to put gas in it, many of us consider what the impact will be on our insurance premiums…

And yes we look at the sticker price. The Captain’s seats might be nice and the two sets of DVD/video game systems would keep the kids happy, but if it’s for getting groceries and never leaves the city, well it’s kind of pointless isn’t it?

The other reason that we have to have the F 35 is that the other countries will have them and we don’t want to be left out. Except the Aussies just bought some F 18 Super Hornets, and the US Navy just bought some too.

The fact that the US Navy bought these Super Hornets is interesting, as our current CF 18s are basically the same model as the F 18 Hornets the Navy used to fly using the same suspension and even down to the tail hook for catching the wire on carriers. Our tail hooks are for small airports in the North.

Another interesting fact about the Super Hornet is the price, around $42 Million each. Compare that to the current $160 Million of the F 35 and for the same $9 Billion we have set aside, we could have over 210 Super Hornets compared to 56 F 35s. Or we could get 100 and set aside $4-5 Billion for gas… or pilots.

Apparently we are so short on pilots we are recruiting from the RAF who have been laying off their excess pilots.

But then again it’s probably just an accounting thing, it’s likely cheaper to hire foreigners to work in Canada than to train Canadians for those jobs.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The pesky Joint Strike Farce F-35 has raised its nose again.

The pesky Joint Strike Farce Force F-35 has raised its nose again.

The events surrounding this flying fiasco are getting weirder by the day, if not faster. It’s too bad the name “Warthog” is already taken, this jet is getting wartier all the time.

I’ve been looking around trying to find prices, if I have to pay for them I’d like to know what the damage will be… and the amounts mentioned in an article at RT.com look plausible. You can see it here: http://rt.com/news/f-35-british-cost-billions-590/

The article says that the Brits are expecting to pay over $160 Million a pop for these jets and that’s at the good price, the price for the partners in the JSF program.

The Harper Party script readers Fantino and MacKay are still holding to their numbers and still insisting on 65 fighters. But at $160 Million each, the $9 Billion we have set aside and “frozen” is going to come up short… by about 9 planes.

This assumes we get the same price as the UK, after all they tossed $2 Billion into the JSF pool and we only paid $160 Million

Another thing the Harper Party sticks to is the 20 year cost.

Now everyone talks about the life of this plane being 40 years, or more recently 36 years, but the Brits are costing theirs over a 50 year window. $1.4 Trillion over 50 years for 150 planes, that would be about $600 Billion for the same 50 year window for us.

Why these discrepancies? We are old enough to handle the truth so why are they incapable of telling us the truth?

Could it be that they are sugar coating the pill?

Let’s use the very tired car analogy they have been beating us with.

When you buy a new car, the service for that car for the first 2 to 5 years is quite low. Oil changes, tire rotations, just the basic stuff. After the first few years have passed, that’s when you start to repair and replace parts. Isn’t that why most people who buy new usually trade after 3 or 4 years? To avoid those expenses?

So by shortening the window to 20 years, are they trying to hide the long term cost of repair and replacement parts?

The average car lasts about 12 years, these jets are going to be used for 40 or 50 years. After about 5 or 6 years, a car gets expensive to maintain, at about ½ of its life expectancy. The ½ way point for these jets is 20 years, is it safe to assume they will become much more expensive to maintain after that point?

Finally, if we are to wait until the F-35 reaches full production, if it ever does, we are looking at 2019 before we can even get the planes. [Edit: US government sources are showing the "sweet spot" is 2021] That means that we will have to stretch the already aged CF-18s even further than they were intended to. Even with the upgrades that they received just a few years ago.

How much more will the upkeep costs of the CF-18 run in order to reach that date?

So where does that leave us?

If we stay the course, we will get the F-35 fighters starting likely in 2019. The CF-18s will be finished between 2017 and 2020. That is an uncomfortable gap.

If we maintain the $9 Billion amount of MacKay and Fantino, we will likely only get 56 of the 65 F-35 that the Harper Party says we need if we can even get that many. That is another uncomfortable gap.

Right now, we have 79 CF-18s. When the recent bomb scare occurred on a South Korean jetliner forcing it to return to BC, it was escorted through Canadian airspace by U.S. fighters.

None of our planes were available.

How many will be available when we only have 65? Or 56?

When we bought 138 CF-18s, we bought off the shelf technology. 30 years later it is still a viable aircraft.

Today we are looking at an unproven technology. Even the stealth characteristics of this 5th generation fighter are suspect.

We need a real competition to determine our future fighter jets, not a page torn from an F-35 brochure.

But most of all, we need a transparent and honest conversation to determine just what are the true requirements needed for a Canadian based fighter jet.

I don’t think Stephen Harper and his gang are up to that.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Q: How can you tell if a politician is lying? A: His lips are moving.

Yes an old joke and unfortunately still true… and applicable to the current regime of Lord Stephen and his Harper Party.

It must have burned something awful to sit and listen to the report drawn up by the Auditor General, Michael Ferguson. Keep in mind this is the fellow all the shouting was about a few months ago, when Stephen Harper installed him in his new role as AG. Apparently he went and took his job seriously…

I wonder if it burns more than that other Harper appointee, Kevin Page who kept knocking holes in the F-35 procurement plans of the Stephen Harper Party.

Remember how Mr. Page said the F-35 fighters were going to cost us around $29 Billion and how the Harper Party pooh-poohed this and stated over and over and over again that it would be around $9 Billion or $16 Billion with everything figured in.

Stephen Harper, Peter MacKay, Julian Fantino all using the same talking points about how wrong Kevin Page was and how right they were.

And now the AG comes along and says the Department of National Defence was figuring about $25 Billion, and that it was in writing, and Harper and his cronies should have known about this…

There appears to be somewhat of a credibility gap growing here.

And those wonderful little echo boxes, the Harperistas are blathering on about it being the Liberals fault for signing us up for this way back in 1997.

Yep, they signed the agreement and paid out some money, so that Canadian companies could bid on contracts to do with the Joint Strike Force Project. But they didn’t sign up to buy any planes.

As a matter of fact, the planned competition to find a replacement for our current fighters, the CF-18 Hornets was put in place by the Liberals. And ignored by the Harper Party.

So, around 2006, the Stephen Harper Party decided that the F-35 was The Plane… and we were going to buy it. I’m a little fuzzy here whether the Harper Party told the DND or if the DND told the Harper Party, but it was decided and agreed to by the both of them. We didn’t get much of a say in this did we? Neither did the Opposition Parties in the House of Commons.

This meanders along until 2010 and the pre election electioneering that never seems to end under the Harper Party.

Stephen Harper accuses the opposition of wanting to tear up the contract to buy the F-35 fighters.

Peter MacKay says that he has a contract that says we are buying 65 F-35 for $9 Billion [we touched on that earlier]

In January of 2011 Stephen Harper again accuses the Opposition Parties of wanting to rip up the contract to buy these planes.

However, by April of 2012, Stephen Harper, Peter MacKay, and Julian Fantino are all saying there is no contract signed to buy these planes… at least not signed by the government….

Right after the AG released his report.

If this was a business rather than a government, Stephen Harper and his cronies would have been tossed out the window at the Board of Directors’ meeting.

They have either been lying to the shareholders [us] through their teeth or they are so grossly incompetent that they are unable to wipe their own bums after using the washroom. In either case they are not fit for office.

The AG report touches on this as well… remember the contempt charge that dissolved the last government? The report mentions that Stephen Harper withheld the information of the true costs of the program from the House.

In the all too familiar frenzy of finger pointing from the Harper Party crew, the DND and the bureaucrats are all getting blamed for not passing the information up the chain of command to the appropriate people.

In a business, if you are too lazy or too incompetent to pick up a phone and call to find out what is going on, you are just as culpable as the people who are allegedly sitting on the reports. Why should government be different?

It seems far more likely that the reports and documents made their way to the Ministers’ offices and were either ignored or shredded.

Anyhow, the government is spinning and dithering away, no contract has been signed, no money has been spent, the procurement money is frozen…

But what of our existing planes?

By ignoring the planned competition we are now left with a fleet of jets whose “Best Before Date” is rapidly approaching.

The CF-18s performed admirably in their service in Libya, being credited with performing much of the “heavy lifting” and “punching well beyond their weight” in that theatre.

But they are getting old.

The last refit of these planes occurred between 2003 and 2010 to ensure they would be capable until their replacements arrived. This refit was at a cost estimated at $2.6 Billion. Their replacements were supposed to start arriving around 2016 and that doesn’t look very promising now.

Of the 138 CF-18s originally purchased, 80 were upgraded.

Of these 80 upgraded fighters, how many will need to be upgraded again in order to still be viable until the replacements do finally arrive and at what cost?

Had the Harper Party acted responsibly, most of this would never have occurred.

If the competition had gone ahead in 2010 as scheduled, we either would have selected the F-35 or another fighter in its place. If the F-35 appeared to be impractical, as it now does, Plan B would be to go with the runner up. Right now Plan B appears to be casting blame.

If Stephen Harper had put someone in charge, there would at least be a point person to explain why we are where we are at. In a mess.

As Minister of Public Works, Rona Ambrose should have been in charge but either could not control the DND, MacKay , and Fantino, or could not be bothered to control them. The proposed solution appears to be put Rona in charge of a Secretariat with basically the same cast of characters. If it didn’t work the first time, maybe it will work the next time, right?

I all seriousness, I am getting very tired of this nonsense. We have saddled ourselves with a government who has no issue with lying to the House of Commons and to the people of Canada. This is a government that can admit no wrong and spends more time and effort pointing fingers and placing blame than they do actually governing.

How can anyone respect a Party whose communications strategy consists of denial and talking points? Do you not find it telling that when the idea of shuffling Julian Fantino out of the Deputy Minister position was raised in a media story, one of the media representatives suggested he could easily be replaced with a tape recorder?

Even as I sit here and type, the news is on and they are relating how the Harper

Party has now changed tactics and is explaining why their costing of the F-35 is so much lower… a long list of items not included in their cost estimates.

More smoke and spin.

Here’s a thought Stephen… start firing the incompetent people in your cabinet, and when you are done, you can fire the one who hired them.

Works for me.