You wouldn't believe the arrogant reply I received from Joe Volpe, MP, in response to an e-mail I sent him concerning the helicopter replacement "project".
Basically, he suggested I had not included any "current" information, I was condescending and sarcastic (hmmm ... seems to me he was " ... calling the kettle black" ...).
So, I just thought I'd share this column from the August 25th Globe and Mail (hopefully Joe will accept this as being more current"):
Copter strategy a recipe for disaster
Friday, August 25, 2021
Herb Gray's pre-election political gift to his old friend, Jean Chrétien, may be the procurement deal he has wangled to spare the Prime Minister further embarrassment over military helicopters, even though that odoriferous arrangement puts expediency ahead of both safety and common sense.
The significance of Mr. Gray's finagling was not immediately obvious in the announcement last week that the government had given the Department of National Defence approval to proceed with the acquisition of 28 maritime helicopters to replace the 37-year-old Sea Kings, which have been accurately described as buckets of parts flying together in close formation. That is, when they are able to fly -- more often than not, the 1950s-era relics are not able to take off for mechanical reasons.
The mechanical failures of these aging workhorses are well known. The scandal is how the Chrétien government has procrastinated on replacing them, and how a secret committee led by Mr. Gray has contrived even more delays.
This is more downstream turbulence from two politically successful but financially stupid promises made by Mr. Chrétien during the 1993 election campaign. One related to revoking a multiyear construction and operations contract at Pearson International Airport to some prominent Tories with close connections to prime minister Brian Mulroney.
The second promise was to cancel a deal for search-and-rescue and shipborne helicopters that was concluded during the brief interregnum of prime minister Kim Campbell. Mr. Chrétien said at the time that Canada couldn't afford the Cadillacs of the air the Tories had agreed to buy -- a helicopter called the EH101 developed by a British-Italian consortium.
The Liberals eventually ordered 15 search-and-rescue helicopters, a version of the EH101 known as the Cormorant -- but it was the burns they received in that process that led to Mr. Gray's endeavours. Seven years after the cancellation, with the existing maritime helicopters, the Sea Kings, literally falling out of the air, the Chrétien government is still trying to justify its initial campaign-induced decision.
When he released the Statement of Requirements for the maritime helicopters last week, Defence Minister Art Eggleton was following a script that said the new approach would still save money over the Tories' 1993 agenda -- despite a half-billion dollars in cancellation fees for the first contract, and well in excess of $100-million worth of additional maintenance for the Sea Kings to keep them flying for another five years. Don't bet the mortgage on it.
It took real chutzpah for the Defence Minister to boast that his highest priority was to obtain the new equipment for the navy. Mr. Eggleton has been a eunuch in all of this, with the strategy and decision-making bouncing back and forth between Mr. Gray and the Prime Minister's Office.
Mr. Gray's group has successfully delayed the actual procurement decisions until well after the next election campaign while still appearing to be working on the file. The Statement of Requirements released last week, for instance, was completed by DND on July 14, 1999.
It is just the starting point. For the intervening period, Mr. Gray and senior officials have been busy devising a strategy that will provide maximum political control over both equipment choices and proposed expenditures. Two of the key elements involve a shift from the principle of best value for money to getting the lowest price for minimum standards. The second technique involves splitting the contract. There will be one process for choosing a helicopter platform and a completely separate process for choosing who will design and integrate all of the mission systems. The cabinet will control both.
Most experts say this is a recipe for disaster and delays. The Chrétien government has been extremely lucky there haven't been more fatal crashes as the result of their political expedience. But there is no guarantee that luck will hold, with the result that one or two fatal helicopter crashes could become a much bigger election issue than the legerdemain on contracting.
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