Steve Harper knows how to weasel out of commitments. Remember how we were in Afghanistan "to stay" until we had the Taliban crushed and the country safe for democracy? Harper wrung every drop of political gravy he could squeeze out of that one and then walked way. Then he upped and walked out on the Kyoto climate change pact, making Canada the first and only signatory to bail.
Yet he still claims to be firmly behind the proposed purchase of the Lockheed Martin F-35. Italy has just announced it will be paring its order, if and when that comes, by 30%. Then again, Italy claimed it was going to get 131 F-35s for 15 billion Euros. That was wishful thinking. Britain has cut its intended buy and has said it will hold its decision on a go ahead until 2015. Australia is holding. Even America, which was to have ordered 2,400 of the damned things has postponed an initial order of 175 aircraft to allow "more time for testing."
Each delay, each cancellation bumps the price of F-35s that are ordered, eventually, sometime, maybe. Lockheed has told Canada that the US postponement of its initial order will increase our price by an unspecified "single digit." Single digit indeed.
Now, in a sane world, the supplier who delays delivery gets dinged for the costs of not performing. The buyer doesn't pay for that. He's pissed off enough already because he hasn't got his stuff. But, when it comes to the F-35, Lockheed somehow gets to add its screw ups to the customer's tab?
Just last week the Pentagon's purchasing agent, Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, Frank Kendall, lambasted the F-35 programme as "acquisition malpractice." He said America will pay a bloated price for ordering the F-35 into production years before its first test flight. And they'll be passing along that bloated price for their malpractice to other nations still willing to buy the F-35, nations such as Canada.
Question. If the American military-industrial complex screwed up, why should it get to lay part of the costs of that onto its allies? Why should we be asked to clean up the Pentagon's mess? Isn't that sort of like asking the patient to help pay for the doctor's malpractice?
Bear in mind that bloated costs are just one problem for the F-35 buyers. Anytime you're paying a big premium for the "latest and greatest" technology, you're buying a thoroughbred race horse. It only has a limited number of years when it can possibly be a winner and, after that, it has to be put out to pasture (or worse). The F-35 is already getting long in the tooth for a technology that was supposed to be delivered and in service years ago. It's still years off, possibly many years distant. That gives its potential adversaries all the time in the world to prepare for the day it does pose them any threat.
But time is not on Harper's or the F-35's side. We're already hearing faint rumblings about maybe cutting Canada's order. Fewer jets for the same money. That sounds like a bargain doesn't it? That makes a joke out of Harper's claim that the 65-aircraft were just enough to do the job. Hell, if the Arctic does heat up as expected, 265 probably won't be enough. This is as farcical as trying to control Kandahar province with just 1,000 fighting soldiers and we all know how well that turned out.
The big question now is what country is going to run cover for Harper? He hasn't got the guts to do this himself, notwithstanding Kyoto. No, this means messing with the Americanos, the same bunch he's been beating over the head with threats to divert Athabasca bitumen to China. Leading a F-35 walkout would make Harper look like the most anti-American Canadian prime minister of all time.