By Michael Nickerson
Some would blame Don Meredith. That would be former Senator Don Meredith, the ethics- and scripture-challenged Pentecostal minister appointed by Stephen Harper, who managed to miss the memo when it came to age of consent. Or perhaps it was current Senator Mike Duffy, another Stephen Harper appointee who missed the memo on geography. Or Senator Pamela Wallin, yet another gift from good old Steve, missing the one on expense accounting. We won’t bother with Senator Patrick Brazeau, who likely never saw any memos at all.
Regardless of whom you’d like to blame, the fact remains that Canada’s senators are very busy looking very busy for the simple reason that they have a severe public relations problem. One suspects that they’d like nothing better than to have the spotlight turned off the upper chamber so they could all take a breather, and in many ways you can feel for them on that score. Watching a bunch of moths bashing into a porch light can get rather depressing after a while.
Of course, we aren’t talking about moths. No sir, the upper chamber is populated by owls. Wise owls mind you, at least if one of the new Senate make-work projects is to be believed. As part of a campaign to re-instill confidence (or perhaps just instill), the Senate has published a new children’s book! Yes, The Wise Owls, a cracking tale of sober second thought and Canadian democracy to help children across the land understand that, indeed, senators matter. Sure to be plentiful at a discount bin near you, age of consent not required. And seriously, the Senate really did publish this thing.
But have no fear, for when it comes to spinning fiction for the entertainment of adults, the Red Chamber has things covered. They’ve also recently penned Reinvesting in the Canadian Armed Forces: A Plan For The Future … admittedly not the pithiest of titles. Yet it stands as a testament to creativity, hubris, hilarity, and likely the biggest acid trip put to print since the 1960s. Thirty recommendations in all that will have you convinced that senators are indeed busy and possibly even wise, though most definitely in an alternate universe.
Mind you, it’s a damned inspiring and entertaining one, a place where money is no object, and Canada will have the relative military might of Genghis Khan with little more than a swish of the legislative pen. The shopping list is breathtaking: 120 jet fighters, 21 heavy-lift helicopters, 24 attack helicopters, an unspecified number of refuelling aircraft, 60 upgraded LAV IIIs, 18 new frigates, an unspecified number of minesweepers and destroyers, and 12 new diesel electric submarines to complement our current and oh-so-effective fleet of four. If you’d like a moment to take a hit of oxygen, please do.
There was no mention of actual costs, such as those for training the people who will use all that equipment, or the associated legacy costs involving those who may die or be injured using the equipment, much less the investments required just to get what Canada already has back to battle fitness. But hey man, it’s cool. We’re like busy, right?
Back on planet Earth, or the part called Canada at any rate, things aren’t quite so excitingly psychedelic. You have a cash-strapped government balancing multiple agendas and committing money to as few as possible. One of those agendas is how to balance trade issues with foreign and defence policy commitments, most notably with our closest neighbour. If anyone doubted trade is the priority, consider that the ministers for both Global Affairs and National Defence recently paid a trip to Washington D.C., and gave the current U.S. administration a sneak peak of our planned polices before anyone else, be it NATO or the people Harjit Sajjan promised would see it first, Canadians.
Given that these policies have been in flux while Team Justin™ chases the whims of a man-child made president, it should be obvious that those policies will need to be held to account. They will need to be in line with the wishes of Canadians. And that will require oversight and, yes, wisdom. Whether that comes from sober and realistic Canadian senators or a bunch of stoned nocturnal birds of prey is at best even money.