The Auditor General, Michael Ferguson's withering report on the horribly botched
Given the opportunity the Canadian military are a pack of liars. There I said it. They're infected with the American military disease of telling their political masters whatever is convenient and then doing pretty much whatever they like.
Hillier did it when he persuaded Paul Martin to authorize the Kandahar combat mission. It was going to be a walk in the park. The Talibs numbered just "a few dozen." Canada could do the job with what turned out to be a laughably miniscule force of just 2,500 soldiers.
They lied to Harper yet again when it came to finagling approval for a fleet of Chinook helicopters. They gave the pols the base price and then went ahead and ordered the top of the line version costing twice as much.
That the military gamed the F-35 the same way should come as no surprise. After getting conned on Afghanistan and outright swindled on the Chinook, MacKay and Harper deliberately looked the other way as the F-35 scam was pulled on them. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Any prime minister, any defence minister, any politician with a shred of competence should have seen this coming. It was Harper's and MacKay's and Fantino's job to ride herd on the Department of National Defence to prevent this very sort of thing from happening - again and again and again. Instead they acted like a pack of schoolboys giggling in the cloakroom.
Two lessons should emerge from this fiasco. Never, ever accept the claims of National Defence at face value. Too often have they shown their dishonesty, their willingness to place their interests ahead of Canada's if given the chance. The last thing you want to let them do is play with house money.
The second lesson, one the American Congress needs to learn as well, is that effective political control of the military is essential to healthy democracy. Their must be a clear divide between political and military authority and the military must always be subordinate. A military that deceives its political masters is insubordinate and that is never to be tolerated.
Harper will certainly try to heap the blame entirely on the shoulders of a few bad apples within DND. What's unclear is whether Harper has the guts to clean up the Defence Department, to purge it of those who supposedly scammed his government. Heads should roll, plenty of them, and it should all take place in the public square. This should be a career-ender that passes, tsunami-like, straight through the mid and upper-ranks, the vaunted "chain of command."
If those heads don't roll then it may be time to worry. If Harper doesn't clean house, ask why not? There will be a reason, one that the country needs to understand. If we don't see a mini-purge of those who perpetrated the F-35 scam it will probably mean that it wasn't a scam on the government at all.
It seems almost unfathomable that an authoritarian control freak like Stephen Harper would allow himself to be totally blindsided on the largest military programme in Canadian history. What did Steve know and when? What did he do when he found out? Why did he not act before the Auditor General forced his hand?
The Auditor General's report goes to the integrity of the Defence Department and the Harper government. Canadians need to get to the bottom of both.