Canada’s leaving F-35 program boosts costs for other nations, eh?

How many schools could we build for $412 million – each?

As the Pentagon prepares for Canada’s withdrawal from the F-35 jet program, lawmakers in Washington are raising concerns that the U.S. too will have to cut its numbers of stealth fighters because of increasing costs.

Prime minister-designate Justin Trudeau has promised to withdraw Canada from the F-35 program, saying it has become too costly. When that will happen is still unclear, as the Liberals won’t unveil the cabinet until Nov. 4.

A Liberal government would hold a competition to replace the current fleet of CF-18s and select a cheaper alternative to the F-35…

The Conservatives committed in 2010 to buy 65 of the aircraft but put that on hold because of the increased costs of the jet and allegations that the procurement process was not properly handled.

Before they were defeated in the election, the Conservatives said no decision on the F-35 had been made. But Bogdan told U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday that Canada was scheduled to buy the planes starting in 2017-18.

Harper caught in another lie.

The one-per-cent increase in the cost of the F-35 because of Canada’s decision to pull out of the program appears to be the least of the concerns for supporters of the aircraft.

The program is currently $200 billion over budget. It will cost an estimated $400 billion for the U.S. to buy the 2,443 aircraft it has determined it needs.

This is followed by threats of withholding orders from Canadian firms scheduled as subcontractors.

Trudeau said holding a competition for a new fighter jet would ensure Canadian firms receive work. Under the F-35 program, there were no guarantees Canadian companies would be entitled to a specific amount of work when Canada purchased the aircraft.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for Congress to have as much economic gumption as Canada. The Beltway hacks have a consistent record of voting for hardware even when the Pentagon declares it worthless crap.

Canada’s right-wing government is falling apart on its own

It’s a good thing for Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper that he’s been out of the country.

Last weekend, in an apparent attempt to distance himself from whatever was about to emerge at the trial of disgraced Senator Mike Duffy, the Conservative leader took off for Iraq and Kuwait.

He ostensibly made the surprise trip to bolster the troops there who are training Kurdish fighters. However, to more cynical political observers, the visit was a blatant attempt to win back military support after last year’s brutal budget cuts to veterans services and benefits. But really? It was all about the photo ops, the stage-managed appearances before the red maple leaf blazing behind fighter jets carefully arranged nose-to-nose just so…

Then there was the case of Omar Khadr, the Canadian-born man captured at age 15 in Afghanistan and imprisoned for nearly half his life at Guantanamo Bay. In 2012, he was finally repatriated to Canada after pleading guilty in 2010 before a US military tribunal to five war crimes. Sentenced to eight years to be served in Canada, he won bail late last month in an Alberta court…

The Harper government, which trots out Khadr as the very scary model of a terrorist, going so far as to bar media access to him, did everything it could to fight his release – as expected. It announced an appeal of the bail decision and then, when it seemed that the proceedings couldn’t be stopped, tried for a stay.

But, on Thursday, Khadr won his freedom on strict conditions and emerged before a horde of reporters. Social media exploded with Canadians’ overwhelmingly favourable reactions to his charisma and humble demeanour, with many remarking on how Khadr’s appearance put the lie to the Harper government myth of the cut-throat, murderous terrorist, the political football they kick around as they play to their base in their terrorists-under-every-bed tactics…

The week grew worse still…Damaging evidence was being produced in the Ottawa courtroom where Senator Mike Duffy, a former Canadian TV star, is facing 31 charges of bribery, breach of trust and fraud related to his living and travel expenses.

Conservative MPs were called to testify that taxpayers were subsidising party fundraising efforts by flying Duffy around the country. Even more detrimental to the PMO were revelations of emails exchanged between Harper’s most trusted senate appointees and his top staffers documenting attempts to alter an audit report and conceal its findings.

Probably the week’s most stinging blow came from Harper’s home province of Alberta where, on Tuesday, in a stunning election upset, the provincial NDP won a majority, toppling a 44-year reign by the Conservatives…

Resource sector shares immediately dropped. Newly elected premier Rachel Notley had promised to terminate government support for the Northern Gateway pipeline to the British Columbia coast, and the Keystone XL pipeline to the Texas Gulf coast, two projects that have been the centrepiece of the Harper government’s economic strategy. She also discussed raising the royalties that resource companies pay to the public treasury, royalties that are reportedly the lowest in the world.

When the prime minister returns from his travels, he may find that the political chickens have come home to roost.

Best quote? Opposition leader Tom Mulcair of the New Democratic Party charged, “This is pure Richard Nixon”.

Canada prepares to replace democracy with NSA-approved world view

Widespread protest and souring public opinion has failed to prevent Canada’s ruling Conservative Party from pushing forward with sweeping anti-terror legislation which a battery of legal scholars, civil liberties groups, opposition politicians and pundits of every persuasion say will replace the country’s healthy democracy with a creeping police state.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is looking forward to an easy victory…when the House of Commons votes in its final debate on the bill, known as C-51. But lingering public anger over the legislation suggests that his success in dividing his parliamentary opposition may well work against him when Canadians go to the polls for a national election this fall.

No legislation in memory has united such a diverse array of prominent opponents as the proposed legislation, which the Globe and Mail newspaper denounced as a a plan to create a “secret police force”.

The campaign to stop Bill C-51 grew to include virtually every civil-rights group, law professor, retired judge, author, editorialist and public intellectual in Canada…

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and Justice Minister Peter MacKay have described the bill as a “reasonable and proportionate” response to the threat of “jihadi terrorism.” – blah, blah, blah.

Hundreds of thousands of ordinary Canadians signed petitions urging the bill be scrapped and took to the streets in a national day of protest last month.

Critics of the legislation say the imminent law gives Canadian spies sweeping new powers to investigate and disrupt broadly defined threats to public safety, with language that makes no distinction between terrorist plots and legitimate political protests and demonstrations. At the same time, it neglects to provide any increased oversight of the country’s vastly empowered chief spy agency, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service.

Harper like so many other supposedly independent – but always obedient – leaders of the world’s industrial nations can be counted on to toe the party line established by the White House. Whether that rarely honorable structure houses a Republican or Democrat.

When the topic is homeland security – as defined by Wall Street savants and corporate lobbyists – there is only one source for standards or the lack thereof. That is Uncle Sugar. And if you want to keep your place in the gallery of loyalist ideologues, you had better fall in line.

Canada trusts Oil Patch Boys to clean up their messes – NOT!

Companies operating major crude oil pipelines in Canada will be required to have C$1 billion available to fund clean ups from any spills, the Canadian government said on Wednesday.

Joe Oliver, Canada’s minister of natural resources, also announced new fines that will soon come into force for companies and individuals that violate environmental laws. The fines will range from C$25,000 to a maximum of C$100,000.

Oliver was speaking in British Columbia, where the provincial government is insisting on world-class oil-spill and clean-up systems as one of the conditions for approving the construction of Enbridge Inc’s contentious C$6 billion Northern Gate way pipeline project.

“British Columbia’s government is conducting its own review of pipeline safety, and we are working with them,” said Oliver. “These federal measures being announced today are a major contribution to the combined efforts of both levels of government on this issue.”

Other measures unveiled on Wednesday included steps to ensure that the emergency and environmental plans of companies are publicly available and enshrining in law the “polluter pays” principal, which is currently only implicit…

Earlier in June it raised the liability for oil spill clean ups off the country’s east and Arctic coasts to C$1 billion from C$30 million and the liability for nuclear-plant operators to C$1 billion from C$75 million.

Stephen Harper and his conservative government may be ideological lowlifes; but, they’re not entirely clueless about trusting fossil fuel conglomerates. They want funds escrowed to cover the environmental disasters oil barons are capable of dropping into a country.

Canada approves the CNOOC-Nexen and Petronas-Progress deals

The shape of ships to load in BC – before they’re likely to load in the GOUSA

Canada will no longer allow state-owned companies to takeover businesses in the nation’s oil sands and will toughen requirements in other industries…after Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper approved CNOOC’s $15.1 billion takeover of Nexen and Petroliam Nasional $5.2 billion takeover of Progress Energy Resources.

The deal by Beijing-based CNOOC is the largest ever takeover by a Chinese company, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It gives the state-owned company a stake in Canada’s largest oil-sands project and the biggest position in the Buzzard oil field in the U.K. North Sea…

“These were difficult decisions” that reflect “the broad views of Canadians,” Harper told reporters. Canada relies on exports for one-third of economic output and counts on energy products for almost one-quarter of those shipments…

The Cnooc-Nexen transaction is the biggest in Canada since Calgary-based Suncor Energy bought Petro-Canada in August 2009 for about $18 billion…

“We’re obviously quite pleased with the decision,” said Michael Culbert, chief executive officer of Calgary-based Progress, by phone. “We know that this has been a difficult decision to make and we don’t take that lightly…”

The acquisition of Progress by Petronas gives the Malaysian state-owned company gas reserves to build a liquefied natural gas export facility along the British Columbia coast at a cost of C$9 billion to C$11 billion, the companies said this week.

Petronas has the world’s largest LNG-producing site in Sarawak, Malaysia, according to its website, and also operates the world’s largest LNG carrier fleet.

All the parties with a stake in either enterprise have signed off – excepting of course the United States.

The Monday morning quarterbacks in Congress who waste endless time and space whining about the failure of Asian firms to invest in US corporations – will call press conferences to put their stamp of disapproval on the deal. The reasoning will run the whole gamut of Cold War crackpot concoctions. Hypocrisy will run rampant. Not so incidentally, that will probably include the White House.

The controversies about exploitation of the Alberta oil sands will be settled by Canadians, sooner or later. That’s the reason for complaints by American enviro groups that Congress doesn’t listen to, anyway.

I find the Petronas purchase and plans more interesting. This takes away the last bit of reliance Canadians had on American pipelines for transmission of their NatGas for eventual export. They’ll end up with a significant chunk of national income while American politicians sit around worrying about electoral politics vs utilizing a product cleaner and cheaper than coal to run our power plants, vs utilizing a product cleaner and cheaper than oil to run over-the-road trucking and maybe even something more than six NatGas Hondas in San Francisco – someday.

Harper gets pompous about getting Canadian oil to China

I’ll build the tubes myself – it can’t be harder than Legos

As the United States continues to play political Ping-Pong with the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline, Canadian officials and companies are desperately seeking alternatives to get the country’s nearly 200 billion barrels in oil reserves — almost equal to that of Saudi Arabia — to market from landlocked Alberta…

To hasten development of new export routes, the Conservative government is streamlining permit processes by accelerating scheduled hearings and limiting public comment. The government has also threatened to revoke the charitable status of environmental groups that are challenging the projects. And Public Safety Canada, the equivalent of the United States Department of Homeland Security, has classified environmentalists as a potential source of domestic terrorism, adding them to a list that includes white supremacists.

Canadian Conservatives have learned their lessons well from the Bush/Rove/Cheney cabal.

After President Obama refused to grant a permit for Keystone XL in January, Stephen Harper, Canada’s prime minister…said Canada would redirect oil that had been destined for Gulf Coast refineries to other countries, particularly China…

Which is where the US owners of the Gulf Coast refineries intended to sell the oil, anyway.

Three new pipeline network proposals — two that call for heading west and the other east — have been put forward…The new westward pipelines would carry more oil than Keystone XL would. But even with aggressive government backing, creating new pipelines may prove as difficult in Canada as it has been in the United States, though for different reasons.

Indigenous groups must be consulted if new pipelines cross their land. To gain coastal access, pipeline companies must also navigate the politics of some of the most environmentally conscious Canadian provinces, British Columbia and Quebec, where public opinion tends to be against both pipelines and further fossil fuel development…

In Canada, environmental groups and opposition politicians say Mr. Harper’s government is trampling on civil liberties and due process in its rush to get bitumen to market….Under Canadian law, aboriginal groups must be consulted about pipeline projects that cross their lands. Enbridge has offered many tribes a 10 percent stake in its westward pipeline project; Graham White, an Enbridge spokesman, said about half have accepted…

None of these proposals, Canadian or American, provide for more than new jobs building the pipelines. Which end when construction is complete.

Looks like Canadians might try to build a refinery to get the goo to useful consistency and composition – to export to China. Especially since China is also invested in the oil sands. The Oil Patch Boys in America want to get the sauce down to the Gulf Coast to refineries which will do the same – including shipping it to China after processing.

At the moment, we’re already producing more oil domestically than any time in the last 12 years – sufficient to put us swapping forth-and-back with Russia every month as the world’s largest exporter of petroleum products. So, please, don’t kid yourself into thinking any of this will make a difference in gasoline prices at your neighborhood filling station.

Eight years on, Harper tries to end gay marriage in Canada

Harper spends a lot of time in the dark
Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

The government is abruptly arguing that the same-sex marriages of many foreigners who wed in Canada are not valid, a move that stunned the gay community and could affect thousands of couples.

In 2005, Canada became one of the first nations in the world to formally legalize gay marriage. Same-sex couples have been marrying in their thousands in Canada, and lenient rules on residency requirements for those seeking a marriage license mean many of them are from abroad.

Ottawa now says many, if not all, the unions involving foreign residents are invalid. It made the argument in a case where two women, one from England and the other from Florida, sought a divorce after their 2005 Canadian marriage…

“(This) is about to, if it hasn’t already, make us look like fools on the international stage,” said Martha McCarthy, a lawyer for the couple at the center of the furor…

“We’re the leaders of gay marriage … and the federal government is saying ‘Oh, yes, sorry, we forgot to mention that for the last nine years we’ve been marrying people that we didn’t think those were valid’,” she told Reuters on Thursday.

Critics blamed the right-of-center Conservative government, which they say wants to roll back social rights such as gay marriage and abortion…

Activists estimate that around 7,500 same-sex couples have married in Canada since 2003, when some provinces first allowed gay marriages. About 2,500 involved were foreigners, many from countries and U.S. states that do not recognize gay unions…

McCarthy said her clients’ message was: “We can’t get divorced in our own jurisdictions because they don’t recognize the validity of our marriage. You guys here in Canada married us so please give us a divorce because no one else will.”

RTFA to keep up on the latest folderol introduced by one more conservative who tries to back out of civil rights because his so-called morals can’t deal with them.

Unless you think Harper and his peers are only worried about convenient divorce.

Warning on oil sands and climate hidden by the Harper government

Internal government documents show that Canada’s scientific and environmental bureaucracy does not share the Conservative government’s view that oil sands projects in Alberta have relatively little negative impact on the environment.

Postmedia News, a publisher that owns several major Canadian newspapers including The National Post in Toronto, obtained the previously confidential material through Canada’s access-to-information laws.

Continue reading

The Canadian military is “Royal” again – Huzzah!

Daylife/Reuters Pictures used by permission

There was likely some semblance of good sense in homogenizing the Canadian army, navy and air force 43 years ago, creating a single home team — with its relatively new national flag — to represent our nation in hot spots around the world…

The change made it clear Canada was not a colony of Britain. We were a grown-up country with our own armed forces, no longer beholden to the Queen…

Stephen Harper’s government made everything old new again with its announcement that the old names of the air and maritime divisions of the Canadian Forces will be restored, with the “royal” intact. Welcome back Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Canadian Air Force and Canadian Army. Never mind that the changes will not affect the military’s command structures.

The name changes come after five years of intense lobbying by veterans groups and military personnel, as well as recommendations of the Senate Committee on National Defence. In announcing the changes, federal Defence Minister Peter MacKay said it was important to correct a historic mistake made during unification. Restoring the historic identities, he said, is a way to reconnect today’s military men and women with the history and traditions of our armed forces…

But does the “royal” moniker make much difference to the young men and women starting their military careers? They are, after all, the future of our armed forces.

It seems a retrograde move to hearken back to colonial times, despite the fact that royal themes are ingrained elements in the fabric of our parliamentary democracy. It would be more appropriate for our military to look forward, not back, to define itself based on the present and the future, rather than the past.

Not that Harper and his Tory fan club are especially strong at forward-looking. I don’t know what my Progressive Conservative kinfolk on PEI think of the change – but, cyberfriends I know through one or another part of the blogosphere are embarrassed as all get-out. It should only cost about $25 million to get Harper a few new votes!

Yes – they must be teased. That rather advanced social and political structure up there in the GWN has proven capable of marching to the rear of backwards as easily as any Kool Aid Party birther. 🙂

Harper spends money like water. Buys water!

Security barriers begin to go up – don’t fall in the water!

Canada’s government has been criticised for spending huge sums to host G8 and G20 summits at the end of June, including two million dollars on a fake lake inside the media centre.

The artificial lake will reportedly include canoes, trees, lounge chairs and a fake dock.

It is being built in downtown Toronto to showcase the site of the June 25-26 G8 summit in Huntsville, 140 miles north of Toronto, which is to be accessible to only a small pool of journalists…

Liberal and New Democrat MPs ridiculed the Conservative government in the House for spending lavishly on the lake, as well as earmarking nearly one billion dollars for summit security.

“We have a government here that has to create an artificial lake when Canada has more lakes than just about any other country in the world,” said NDP leader Jack Layton…

Liberal MP Mark Holland said: “Did anyone in government not think that two million dollars (on a) fake lake to host a 72-hour meeting on fiscal restraint was a bad idea?”

Government flunkies say they need an appropriate backdrop for the media of the world. I’d suggest the nearest politician’s hospitality suite.