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Do Canadians even care anymore?


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Fri, October 8, 2004

Grits' sad record of underfunding

Liberal governments dating back to Pierre Trudeau have sold our armed forces short, says Bob MacDonald

By BOB MACDONALD -- For the Toronto Sun

A man appearing to be in his early thirties glanced at the front page of my Sun yesterday as he walked past me in an east-end Toronto coffee shop.

He read the headline aloud to a friend walking behind him: "HE GAVE HIS LIFE SERVING HIS COUNTRY."

"Oh, it's just a guy on that submarine -- I thought it was someone important," he said to the other as they walked away.

Ah yes, just the guy on the submarine.

His words stuck with me all day as I thought of the death from smoke inhalation of 32-year-old Canadian submariner Lieutenant Chris Saunders. His lungs had been lethally damaged helping to fight a fire that raged through his newly-acquired, second-hand submarine -- HMCS Chicoutimi. Six other injured crewmen remain aboard.

A 14-year naval veteran, New Brunswick-born Saunders, father of two, was described by colleagues as a young officer destined for top leadership roles in Canada's armed forces.

"He was a shining example of everything that is good and right about the military," his sister-in-law said.

I mention the callous comment by that young man in the coffee shop because it reflects what has become too often the view of some Canadians about our armed forces. And one of the worse culprits has been the Liberals -- the ever-governing party that's built a sorry record of weakening our military and saddling them with dangerously obsolete equipment.

'Bargain price'

The four used British subs acquired by the Liberal government for the "bargain price" of $750 million is just the lastest chapter in that nasty story. Especially when the government has stuck with the deal despite a never-ending litany of rusted hulls, rotting electrical wiring, leaking pipes and torpedo tubes, etc. And now lethal, crippling fires while at sea.

In fact, that sorry record of mistreating Canada's armed forces goes back to the reign of Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Soon after grabbing power in 1968, the left-leaning Grit PM tried to pull Canada out of the NATO and NORAD mutual defence pacts. That was at the height of the Cold War and would have suited the Soviet Union just dandy.

However, with our allies and most Canadians objecting, he was forced to pull back from that move. So, he did the next best thing: cutting Canada's troop strength and dragging his feet on replacing Canada's aging, obsolescent equipment.

For instance, I remember in the mid-1970s covering Canadian Forces operations in NATO's annual fall manoeuvres in Europe. The Canadians were stuck with 30-year-old Centurion tanks that required three days to replace an engine in the field. Time for modern U.S. tanks: three hours.

Under pressure from NATO allies and the opposition Conservatives, the Trudeauites finally bought German-made Leopard tanks. However, they were the old Mark I type that would soon become obsolete -- instead of the latest, much more formidable Mark II model.

Allan MacKinnon, then the Conservatives' defence critic, told me at the time that the Tories had to be low-key in their criticism because they feared Trudeau would simply cancel buying the new tanks entirely "if he becomes miffed."

Down through the years, this thinking continues. Liberal PM Jean Chretien's cancellation in 1993 of the contract to buy badly-needed Cormorant helicopters cost taxpayers $500 million in penalties. It was a political decision that left the forces with increasingly dangerous 40-year-old Sea King choppers. Today, the Liberals have finally awarded a contract to replace the choppers to a rival firm for what some critics say is an inferior helicopter.

On and on

And so it goes. Chopped budgets, obsolete tanks, rusting, used submarines, plus sending troops off to Afghanistan with bright green camouflage battle dress. And stuck with 40-year-old Hercules transport planes and aging CF-18 fighter jets.

Will it change? Based on the sorry record, no way. And that's why Conservative leader Stephen Harper must demand that there be a full inquiry into the submarine mess -- and the continuing mistreatment of Canada's armed forces.

Submariner Saunders should not have died in vain.


The bold highlight is mine   :crybaby:

Maybe it's just the fact that it's downtown Toronto.... but I can't help the feeling that we're losing the battle for public support. After all, people are well aware of the problems faced by the CF now - underfunding, overextension, lack of equipment, quality of equipment. These stories certainly get wide play in the media... Just in the last two years, press has covered - in great deal and with great rhetorical rage - lack of desert-pattern CADPAT, the unsuitability of the Iltis, the Sea King crash on a CPF....

At least the deaths in Afghanistan this past year could be attributed to enemy action. This can't.

It just is a heavy blow that now, when a soldier/sailor/airman dies, people are so used to the problem that it doesn't matter anymore. After all, although the problem hasn't been fixed, the sky hasn't fallen on the average Canadian. Buddy in the article probably went his merry way without thinking about the CF's problems again, because it didn't deny him the Starbucks coffee he bought immediately thereafter or interfere with the satellite TV show he's watching as I write this.

Our cry of frustration used to be, "Is someone going to have to die before these problems are fixed?" It saddens me that, well, now they are, and yet some people don't care enough to read about it in the paper. I fear that this guy is typical.

What IS it going to take to not only get Canadians' attention, but to motivate them to change things? Ground Zero in Toronto and 20,000 deaths? I wonder what this guy would say then....

Maybe if a Sea King crashed on HIM, and widowed HIS wife and orphaned HIS kids, he'd care. But it would be too late.

Just like it was for Mrs. Saunders and family....

Rant ends. Let me have it, guys..............  :crybaby:

Someone please reassure me...
I would have punched that fucker right in the mouth.
Service members are the most visible and most active branch of the government internationally and therefore should be getting the same kinda of funding as the Gov. General as she is suppossed to be the gov't rep oversea's.
SomeONE isn't going to have to die.  A battle group or ship is going to have to take serious loses before anyone remotley wakes up.
Was Mulroney any better/worse/on par with military spending vs the gov'ts before and after him?
I don't think Mulroney was light years ahead of the Libs, but the 1987 Defence White paper came out under his government and it was this white paper that stated we should have Nuke subs among other things. Mind you, the end of the Cold War certainly put a damper on that white paper.  Unfortunately, I feel the world is a worse place now.  There's no clearly defined enemy anymore and I don't think anyone in power really knows what direction we should be heading let alone how to get there. It was Mulroney's government that made the deal for the 50 EH101s that was promptly cancelled by Chretien.

So I don't think he was that much better, it was just different times and circumstances.

CFL, I don't even think a military disaster would hit home as much as a plane flying into a building in downtown TO. I sure hope for the sake of Canadians it doesn't happen but I think it's the only way people will realize the world we live in.

Just my $0.02

I have a sinking feeling that you're right about that.  :(
Back to the jackass with the big mouth.

The good news, I guess, is that his comment was considered outrageous enough for the reporter to write a column on it. If this beatnik represented most Canadians, we wouldn't be reading about his idiotic remark, we would be hearing it ourselves everywhere we went.
We need to stop buying crap. I Think it's time the liberals take a seat on the bench next election.
venero said:
We need to stop buying crap. I Think it's time the liberals take a seat on the bench next election.

If they didn't get voted out in this last election after 11 years of military cuts plus scandals and wasted money, what could possibly happen that would finally make the average Canadian voter who only cares about healthcare, wake up and realise that these guys are no good? ???
We need more people like this fellow Mr. McDonald who are in a position to inform the public of these injustices.

It is truely a sad day when a man (or many) has to die for the public to become aware of the gross negligence on the part of the Liberal Government.

Unfortunatley, there are also people out there who will take the oposite stance, saying  "it's the military's fault for endangering the people serving, let's cut their funding even more"
Why don't we wait for the investigation into the accident before we beat the Liberal drum.
This thread is not about the tragedy off the coast of Ireland, it about the apathy of the Canadian public as described by the article.

There will be lots of time to disect the tragedy, so in the mean time, let's get back on topic.

Does anyone have anything to add re: the article or the attitude of the public towards the CF?
I think you guys are being too pessimistic. I get a much different reaction when I'm off to parade nights in my CadPats: my local corner store owner's face lit up when I dropped by to buy a Coke. The guy pumped my hand non-stop.
For every jerk like the one described by MacDonald there are a lot more people who appreciate the people in the CF and aren't afraid to show it. See the Rex Murphy monologue reproduced on another thread for instance: Rex has a good feel for the pulse of the nation. Or look at Don Cherry, who's always been a big CF supporter.
There's a reason why stories about the Canadian Forces have been so prominent in the media the past year or two: it's because people are interested. They may not know a lot about the CF, but they think highly of the guys and gals in uniform (for the most part) and they're learning. Ten years ago, would the death of a sailor in a shipboard fire, however tragic, be front-page, top of the newscast news? A lot of the recent talk about the Victoria-class subs is nonsense, but at least people are talking about it.
The government is behind the media in this regard, but they're starting to pick up on the fact that Canadians are paying attention to what happens to their military. Say what you will about the Liberals, but they can read an opinion poll. And they didn't include a promise of 5,000 more troops during the last election campaign out of the kindness of their alleged hearts ...
So chin up boys: there will always be the occasional jerk, but things are looking up for the CF today in a way they haven't for 10 years.
I just did the poll

this was the result:
Has Ottawa failed to properly support the Canadian Forces?
100.00 %
0.00 %
Not Guilty
seems as though many people feel the same way we do.

I think we've flogged this issue a few times before on other threads. I'm totally with GG Boy. As well as recognizing the generally good levels of media coverage and public support (as compared to ten years ago) that we get, we should sit up and remember that embarassing pressure from the media has helped to speed up a number of procurements (such as desert CADPAT that we now have over here, including body armour and tacvests in desert CADPAT that most US don't even have yet...), the Iltis replacement, (arguments go on, but the G-Wagen is new and the Iltis was old...) etc. Even the Govt's Throne speech is a clear indication that they can smell the wind-the Liberals are nothing if not astute poll-watchers. I say let's take GGBoy's attitude-be proud, keep ourselves in the public eye, and make sure we tell our story every chance we get. That will get us alot further than moaning to each other over beers in the mess or bitching here. Cheers.
The only way to fix the problems we are facing is to educate the public about them.  If the general public actualy understood why we need more support we would get it.
J. Gayson said:
The only way to fix the problems we are facing is to educate the public about them. If the general public actualy understood why we need more support we would get it.

In a way a forum like this on the Internet is doing just that.  It may be slower than you may like, but the curious will be here and spread the word...