Anyone who follows defence issues in Canada is well aware of the Liberal government’s ongoing plan to sole-source 18 Boeing Super Hornet fighters to augment our current legacy Hornet fleet. This is to be an “interim” measure, with the new planes only flying until a final replacement for the legacy Hornets is complete. The explanation for the new jets is a capacity shortfall, a shortfall that did not exist until the government decided that the Royal Canadian Air Force needed the capacity to meet both NATO and NORAD commitments simultaneously.
It is hard to argue that being able to meet both missions at the same time is a bad idea. In the event of a threat to our European allies, we can reasonably expect that the aggressor will also test North American air defences. If we lack the capacity to do both missions, we will find ourselves pulled out of European defence in order to defend our homeland.
While I can agree with the need to fill both our major alliance commitments concurrently, it is hard to agree with the naked politics of the decision process. There is no reason, none that makes sense, that Canada cannot immediately launch a fighter aircraft competition. We are so very well prepared after all the false starts that we could very nearly start the competition before the end of business.
We are not starting the competition though. In fact, it will not start for some time. A completely avoidable delay brought about by political needs rather than military. This multi-billion dollar strategic political manoeuvre will unnecessarily strain both the RCAF and the defence budget.
Canada needs, as every country does, to maximize the value of our hard-earned defence dollars. That value though needs to be value to the country, not to the ruling party. This is not what we see if we take even a cursory look at the interim Super Hornet program. That program is designed to buy a government time, to push back making a real decision that might represent a broken promise not to purchase the F-35 Lightning II.
There is another, if less obvious, promise at risk here: Peace, Order and Good Government. Every government has a responsibility to maintain those three basic functions of our country. Making defence decisions based on partisan political needs is not Good Government.
A government that breaks an election promise needs to be questioned. One that breaks the commitment to Good Government needs to be censured.
This is not a hard call to make.