I apologize lately if this blog has taken on a certain military feel, though I do think that it is worth trumpeting some of what is not happening as we pursue the mission in Afghanistan. I still am not totally sure what I think of the commitment, but I do think that the government needs to be willing to explain some of the operational sacrifices that suffer from an ongoing overseas focus.
One of these, apparently, is replacing our Search and Rescue planes. Here is the key parts, for those that don’t want to read it all:
The $1.3-billion program to purchase a fleet of new fixed-wing search-and-rescue aircraft was named as the No. 1 equipment priority in 2003 for the Canadian Forces.
But the project has since been derailed by the urgent purchases of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of gear for Afghanistan, the $650-million order for Leopard tanks and the multibillion-dollar purchases of C-17 and C-130J transport aircraft and Chinook helicopters.
The purchase of the 15 search-and-rescue planes was supposed to replace the 40-year-old Buffalo aircraft on the west coast as well as the aging Hercules transport planes also being used for such missions.
Mr. Price said it is becoming increasingly difficult to find parts for the aging Buffalo since suppliers have gone out of business over the decades. In some cases, military personnel have had to build new parts for the planes. When he was wing commander at CFB Comox in 2004 his staff had to rush out to purchase brake pads for the aircraft since the original supplier was shutting down.
Mr. Price said he believes it will take several incidents in which the military can’t respond to a major search-and-rescue call before the government is forced to proceed with the program.
Bolding is, as always, mine. In fairness, I haven’t included the parts of the article where the military maintains that no project has been hurt by the war in Afghanistan.
But, here’s the rub: Search and Rescue is one of those essential services that the Canadian Military provides, and cutting back on it necessarily hurts the safety of those in trouble in Canada. It is an abrogation of the government’s duty to let these sorts of things suffer, and I have a hard time believing that this government is unable to find a billion dollars to protect Canadians, especially as they are buying tanks which will not be delivered until after we may be out of Afghanistan.
But here’s the bigger rub: What do you think a Conservative opposition would say if Canadian service people, and those that they are supposed to be helping, were restricted with equipment older than most of the operators? Here’s a hint: Lexis-Nexis “Sea King” and “Labrador“. I suspect that the Government’s response will be to blame the Liberals for not buying new ones in 13 years of government, which will ring a little hollow when a tender was on the books, and now seems to be stalling 16 months into the tenure of Steve.