|Protecteur Being Towed Home|
Mr. Harper. It's probably not a brilliant idea to get into Vlad Putin's face when you've left Canada with as navy so neglected that it can't defend one coast much less three. Our essential supply ships beaten and battered, our air defence destroyers rotted out - it takes a Heart of Oak to sail on under the conditions you've created for Canada's navy.
Algonquin is gone, along with the Iroquois. Our two supply ships, Protecteur and Provider, - same story.
Without those supply ships we can't send a fighting formation, a task force, to sea. The best we can do at the moment is hope an ally's replenishment ship can help out.
The worst part is that, with the by now standard incompetence of the Harper government, the replacement ships are years away.
New joint support ships were initially proposed to the Chretien government in 1994, but it wasn't until Paul Martin became prime minister that the vessels were finally ordered.
The Conservatives, however, cancelled and then restarted the program in 2008 when the initial cost estimates exceeded the government's budget envelope. The program has struggled to get back on track ever since.
The parliamentary budget office put out a report last year that said, had the government stuck with the original plan, the navy would already have their ships and they would be cheaper and more capable than what is being proposed now.
So Harper has left Canada essentially defenceless - again. It's a hell of a jam to be in now that we've plunged into Cold War II. We know the Russian navy has plenty of ships and plenty of reach. They showed that by sailing into waters north of Australia during last week's G20 summit. If there's one thing Putin has shown the world it's that, when you push him, he pushes back.
Still, prime minister Thumb-up-his-Ass does have a few options. The US Navy has a number of "like new" replenishment ships in mothballs. They're just ten years old or, in other words, 30-years newer than HMCS Protecteur. We could rent or, if necessary, even buy a couple of those. Likewise we might be able to get the Americans to lend or sell us two or three of their substantial fleet of air defence destroyers - just to plug the holes in the RCN's bottom while we still can.