What’s more interesting in the Auditor-General’s latest report on government fiscal atrocity isn’t what it says, which you can already read about at your leisure in any credible mainstream news source, but what it leaves out. Being an Auditor-General is a tough job, especially when you’re continually investigating a government that overtly does not want to be investigated. Still, the job of an independent auditor is to be, well, independent. Excruciatingly so. Sheila Fraser and Kevin Page understood that, and Canadians rewarded them with their trust. I fear the present Auditor-General, Michael Ferguson, is destined for a more muted legacy.
As other political bloggers know, there’s no feeling quite like vindication without attribution. Which I felt this week after parsing the latest data from Public Works and from the Parliamentary Budget Officer on the cost of the Joint Support Ship. A couple months ago, I predicted that the true cost of the ships project — unless it was drastically scaled back, which I think is a strong possibility — would exceed $100 billion.
An update to that estimate is in order, but in broad brush strokes, the upshot is that I was basically right. It’s worth recalling that the Canada
. . . → Read More: The Sixth Estate: New Data Confirms Sixth Estate Estimate: Navy Shipbuilding Plan to Cost $100+ Billion
Like many of my readers, I am old enough to remember the beginning of January 2013, when the press was all abuzz over reports that Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page had completed what promised to be an incendiary sequel to his takedown of the F-35 project, this one involving the Joint Support Ships which the government will soon be building a cost of more than a billion dollars each:
The parliamentary budget officer has been examining the program and is poised to release his findings once MPs return from their Christmas break.
Interesting, that. The MPs have returned from their
. . . → Read More: The Sixth Estate: What is the Government Doing to the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s Report on Military Procurement?
I’m going to be honest: I know virtually nothing about Mali. I could find it on a map and I could find it on Wikipedia, and that’s pretty much it. I don’t think I’m the only person in this situation. Unlike most of the media, though, I’m going to be honest about my own ignorance up front. Make of it what you will. No special knowledge or sources are present in what follows. Any reporter could garner the same facts from a quick trawl of Wikipedia, which is what I did.
All of that said, it’s a rare occasion on
. . . → Read More: The Sixth Estate: Let’s Have a War
A week ago, I predicted that this year’s military procurement scandal would be the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy: the plan to build 29 new ships for the navy and the Coast Guard, most of them advanced warships, at an official cost of $35 billion but a true total cost that will probably exceed $100 billion. At the time, my speculation was spurred by the news that the Auditor-General would be passing judgement on the file next fall.
But it seems that the ball may get rolling sooner than that. Apparently soon-to-be-unemployed Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page will be releasing his findings on two of those new ships, the Joint Support Ships, fairly soon now. I thought it might be useful to go over what people should expect from his report. Like most of defence minister Peter MacKay’s procurement projects, from mere trucks to jet fighters, the new support ships promise . . . → Read More: The Sixth Estate: What to Expect from the Joint Support Ship Review: Another Military Procurement Travesty?
I’ve been putting a great deal of thought recently into the likely true cost of the Harper government’s multi-billion-dollar National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy, aka the plan to shower practically unlimited military construction dollars into Halifax and Vancouver in the hopes that they magically morph into votes for the Conservative Party. The official cost estimates are $25 billion in warship construction, in Halifax, plus $8 billion in other ship construction, in Vancouver. The official estimates are clearly not the whole story.
It’s hard to find more reliable cost estimates online, though. In fact, given the scale of this project, it’s disturbingly hard to find out any substantive information online. This kind of leads me to suspect that defence minister Peter MacKay has applied the same degree of competent and responsible management to the warship construction file as he obviously has to the F-35 file. That doesn’t exactly bode well for taxpayers.
. . . → Read More: The Sixth Estate: True Cost of Harper Government’s Warship Construction Plan: $35 Billion, or $103 Billion?
Once one has been a blogger for even a little while, one learns to develop a pretty thick skin when it comes to blasé incompetence from our paid professional betters. You see, the difference is that blogs are peer-reviewed. Commenters and other bloggers jump on us when we make an egregious mistake, and call us names. That doesn’t happen in the professional media. Instead, they circle the wagons, print a barely noticeable correction notice, and carry on.
Our exhibit for today is an almost unbelievable litany of errors from Postmedia’s Matthew Fisher. Seriously unbelievable, as in, of Wente-ian proportions. Mr. Fisher is “Canada’s most experienced, well-traveled foreign correspondent.” Today he had the following to say about the F-35. We’ll run through all of Mr. Fisher’s claims, because I think it’s important to celebrate a journalist’s successes, not just denounce their failures.
. . . → Read More: The Sixth Estate: Postmedia Goes Fact-Free on F-35 Fighter
In my last post, I estimated that under Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s controversial new plan, the total cost of the F-35 Lightning fighter comes out to around $127,000 per hour. We’re kind of back in medieval territory here, where several lowly peons must labour for an entire year just to get the plane into the air for a single flight. Something’s been bugging me ever since I wrote that: how the hell could things have got so screwy?
F-35 per-hour costs were never low. I’ve also inflated them somewhat: various American estimates say the actual operating costs per hour are around $30,000 to $50,000. That’s for the pilot, the fuel, the maintenance, etc. Then you tack on all the other costs and average them out over the life of the plane to get my number. But here’s the problem. The flight cost per hour is far higher than it used . . . → Read More: The Sixth Estate: DND Quietly Increases Sustainment and Operating Costs by $330 Million/Year in New F-35 Report
I have to say, it’s pretty depressing that not one of the many, many professional journalists in Canada is literate enough to read a government report. To their credit, some are trying. But they also had a whole press briefing slash lock-up slash sleazy play-time with the people they’re supposed to be holding accountable. It doesn’t seem to have helped them anyway.
Here’s the thing I tried to make clear in my long meander through the report, I tried to make clear that the real story here was that DND appeared to be fudging the usage numbers and life cycle expectations for the F-35. Somehow the media appears to have blissfully blown right by this fact. (I do hope readers can point me to an exception; they’ll get a gold star.)
Some did notice that the headline figure “$45 billion over 42 years” didn’t quite square with the fact that . . . → Read More: The Sixth Estate: Media Still Missing Real Story: Thanks to Peter MacKay’s Fudged Numbers, “Official” Cost of F-35s Now Exceeds $127,000 Per Flight-Hour
I was almost tempted to let the matter rest, but then DND said this:
In 2010, the Department calculated that… the estimated cost for acquiring, sustaining and operating the [F-35] fleet… was $25.1 billion.
Ha! Here’s what their website says DND’s original public estimate was:
the total estimated cost and sustainment of Canada’s 65 F-35 Joint Strike Fighters is $14.7 billion.
They’re not lying, exactly. It’s just that the $25 billion figure was an internal one shared with the minister and Cabinet. $14.7 billion was the number which the Minister of National Defence, Peter MacKay, decided
. . . → Read More: The Sixth Estate: New F-35 Numbers Based on 40% Cut in F-35 Flight Hours, Still Hiding Billions of Dollars
You read it here first, on Sixth Estate: the F-35 jet fighter will cost $48.7 billion. Well, almost, anyways. The government spent a great deal more than Sixth Estate earns from this blog (presently zilch) getting a world-class accounting firm to estimate the cost for them. It turns out that the cost will be $45.8 billion. The difference is probably something to do with estimating the costs of weapons and upgrades.
Basically, we can buy the F-35, or we can put a colony on the Moon. Obviously the first is more important.
I know I shouldn’t let her bait me like this, but I can’t help myself. The two-facedness of it is among the worst I’ve yet seen in the Canadian press. Last weekend, Canada’s favourite plagiarist, Globe & Mail columnist Margaret Wente, published an extraordinary broadside against young women, complaining that they weren’t charging enough for [...] . . . → Read More: The Sixth Estate: Wente: Promiscuous College Women Bad. Promiscuous Bureaucrats Good.
If only there was a way for the news media to search through this country’s voluminous laws before writing a story. Oh wait, there is.
This week Conservative MP David Tilson’s private members’ bill gets to third reading. You can read about it in a local paper and, better yet, over at CBC, which says the following:
Bill C-217, tabled by David Tilson, sets up harsh punishments for vandalizing war memorials.
This is yet another in a long string of ways in which the Harper regime is trying to play up its great love of the military, despite the
. . . → Read More: The Sixth Estate: New Conservative Bill Seeks New Criminal Penalties for “Mischief,” Not Just Vandalism, Near War Memorials
Even by the steadily declining standards of the Globe & Mail, Canada’s “paper of record” hit an unusual low in its angry and Orwellian response to the announcement that the European Union was being given this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. It’s definitely a bit of a head-scratcher, although notably less so than, say, the fact that Barack Obama was once given the Peace Prize for the singular distinction of being an American President who wasn’t George W. Bush. Now that Obama has been repeatedly implicated in war crimes, I wonder if the committee members regret their decision. Probably not. Obama
. . . → Read More: The Sixth Estate: Globe & Mail Pans EU Peace Prize: “War is Peace”
Several days ago I posted an analysis of the latest procurement travesty at the Department of National Defence: the replacement of the army’s medium-weight transport trucks under the Medium Support Vehicle Systems project. I pointed out that there appeared to be a minor financial boondoggle in the making: although the publicly estimated cost of the project was $1.1 billion, so far the estimates of just three of its four individual components were $1.3 billion. Something didn’t add up, I said.
And it seems that I was right, or rather that the situation was worse than I had
. . . → Read More: The Sixth Estate: Defence Minister Again Attempting to Defraud Taxpayers?
In my head, I’m writing the press releases already.
As I pointed out in a recent post on the botched purchase of new medium-weight trucks for the military, the supposedly militarist Harper government is long on praise for the Canadian Forces, but very decidedly short on getting the military the equipment they need to do their jobs (rightly or wrongly). Mark Collins, whose blog makes for highly recommended reading on this subject, makes the point much more directly:
This government has been in office for well over six years, longer than Canada’s participation in World War II. It did purchase
. . . → Read More: The Sixth Estate: Military Procurement Stars May Align for Conservatives in 2015
Today’s MLVW, ©Tyler Benoit Creative Commons
The Harper regime is developing a wonderful ability for horrendous timing. A few days ago, corrupt President of the Treasury Board Tony Clement went on a Twitter-fuelled rampage against Canadian aid workers in Cuba because they were “choosing to live in a communist country.” Then, this week, he opened a new national historic site museum (in his own riding) dedicated to Canadian communist doctor Norman Bethune, who chose to live in China and practice his art for the good of the communist revolutionaries. Absurdly, Clement said that the exhibit celebrates Bethune’s “entrepreneurship.”
. . . → Read More: The Sixth Estate: Airshow MacKay Has Another Military Procurement Travesty
The recent kerfuffle over the Canadian government’s decision to wire for sound the Ottawa Airport, and begin recording travellers’ private conversations, has touched a nerve — the same nerve which was tweaked earlier this year by the government’s proposal to commence en masse surveillance of people’s Internet browsers, email, and cell phones. Canadians, it seems, are uncomfortable with the idea of the government engaging in massive surveillance, police state-style.
And I agree with them on this. But we also need to get serious about something else. On one point I agree with the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world: traditional ideas
. . . → Read More: The Sixth Estate: Technology, Progress, and the Inevitability of the Surveillance State, Part 1
There’s been no official announcement, but I can only assume it’s happened, and a while ago too, given that former diplomat turned Conservative MP Chris Alexander apparently has trouble spelling basic four-letter words in his press releases:
Parliamentary Secretary Chris Alexander Starts 8 Wing’s New Fire Hal
I wish I hadn’t shut down my Flack Awards for government press releases. Or perhaps the Conservatives are just building a murderous artificial intelligence for the military in preparation for a manned flight to Jupiter.
It has to be asked.
The opposition and the prattling classes are unhappy that Defence Minister Peter MacKay attempted to conceal a $105 million conversion of 13 new Leopard 2 armoured engineering vehicles (AEVs) by German arms dealer FFG under the heading “Vehicular Power Transmission Components, Quantity: 1.” And so they should be. MacKay’s accounting hasn’t exactly been what it should be lately, between the Close Combat Vehicle contrat problems, the lies to Parliament over the F-35, and his recent attempt to retroactively alter a deliberately falsified report to Parliament on the flimsy pretext of “typographical errors.
. . . → Read More: The Sixth Estate: In What World is a Military Bulldozer Contract a National Scandal?
Last summer I reported that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) had removed most of its previous annual reports from its public website. Aside from the increasing penchant for secrecy on the part of the Minister of Public Safety, chronic adulterer and convicted election finance crook Vic Toews, there does not appear to be any reason for censoring these reports. They’re already carefully sanitized, giving away very little information beyond basic accountability issues like staff levels, overall budget amounts, and summaries of the most urgent threats to Canadian security (terrorism always places high on the list).
So I’m at a
. . . → Read More: The Sixth Estate: CSIS Disappears More Public Reports
This is how the government officially responds to the Parliamentary Budgetary Officer’s accusation that they kept “two sets of books” on the true cost the F-35 jet fighter:
Fonberg told MPs on the public accounts committee that “there was one book,” but he acknowledged there were two estimates.
Ah, that makes complete sense now. Since there’s a great deal of bafflegab and incompetence on this file, I thought it would be helpful to establish a timeline for Canadian involvement with the F-35, highlighting the various points at which the accounting and policy looks a little bit bonkers to my untrained
. . . → Read More: The Sixth Estate: Timeline of Government Dishonesty on the F-35 Jet Fighter
So, as you may have heard by now, the new line from the Harper regime is that we can’t trust the NDP because they voted against World War II. Even though they didn’t exist in 1939. And even though the left-wing party that did exist at the time voted for the war. Facts? Facts? Eww! We have no need of those in Canada!
Since we’re talking about absurd historical fictions here, it’s worth pointing out that the Conservative Party of Canada didn’t vote in favour of fighting Hitler either, and much the same reason: they didn’t exist then. Social Credit
. . . → Read More: The Sixth Estate: Let’s Do the Time Warp Again
Something needs to be said about this business of the government “hiding” $10 billion in costs on the F-35, suggesting the cost was only $15 billion when it was “really” $25 billion. Well, it’s true that they lied about the cost being $15 billion. It’s true that they’re lying now about this just being a misunderstanding about accounting — if that was true, why wouldn’t they have said so when the Parliamentary Budget Officer came out with his $30 billion figure, rather than accusing him of simply making it up?
But it’s also true that the $25 billion figure is
. . . → Read More: The Sixth Estate: The True Cost of the F-35: $48.7 Billion
By which I mean, in reference to my yesterday’s post, that Auditor-General Michael Ferguson pulled every punch he could in coming out with a report basically accusing the military of conspiring against the government and deceiving them into thinking that the price of the F-35 jet fighter was artificially low. Which the ministers then loyally told to Parliament.
Which is exactly what the government needs the Auditor-General to say. If he came out and said that Peter MacKay knew the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s $30 billion estimate for the cost of the fighters was pretty much dead-on, then that would
. . . → Read More: The Sixth Estate: Auditor-General Picks Door No. 2