Anyhow, a few things came up this morning in Canadian politics that I wanted to touch on briefly:
- For Canada, the NAC FM is a NAC DM suddenly. That is, twice a year, the Foreign Ministers of NATO countries meet to discuss a variety of alliance issues, such as Afghanistan, Libya, enlargement, missile defense, etc. This is called the NAC FM for North Atlantic Council with Foreign Ministers as the representatives. The NAC DM is a similar event for Defense Ministers. The fun story of the day is that Peter MacKay is running off to be Canada's rep at the NAC FM even though he is Canada's Minister of National Defence. Why? Because he
liedis confused about using a search and rescue helicopter for his own convenience while on vacation. Yes, this is a misuse of public resources, but this is also the kind of stuff that gets media attention, more so than some of the difficult problems that face Canada's defence community.
- Canada cannot afford a modern air force, army and navy, so it really needs to pick only one or two services or address the reality that jack of all trades here definitely means master of none.
- The submarine disaster will continue to plague Canada for a while to come despite various denials. The reality is that the subs Canada bought from the British don't work. Talk about sunk cost.
- What happened to transformation? That is, will DND really cut headquarters costs, even if not as LTG (ret.) Leslie advocated?
- Most importantly, what the hell is going on with the position of Minister of National Defence when it seems likely that MacKay was not consulted (nor was the military) when the Prime Minister planned to send trainers to Afghanistan in the aftermath of pulling out the combat forces out of Kandahar? That is, no experts were consulted, and the guy who is responsible for the military was not in the room. So, what does that mean for the quality of defence decision-making? And yes, I keep going back and forth between defense and defence (holy conflicted identity, Batman!).
- The Parti Quebecois Language Critic (the representative in charge of the party's stances on language) said that he would not be answering questions at press conferences in English. He felt that there is only one official language in Quebec, and he should not give standing to any other. Well, since his party is unlikely to get significant votes from Anglophones, he is not sacrificing any votes. Still, he is as presumptious as all get-out, as he says that France's leaders speak French when they go abroad, why not the leaders of a French state, such as Quebec? Ah, but Quebec is still part of Canada, for the time being anyway. It is not the equivalent of France (although we do wish that Quebec's health care was as good as France's....).
- His party's leader, Pauline Marois, said she will still answer questions in English. Of course, she has been failing so miserably (her party just lost a by-election in an historically Liberal but largely Francophone district despite her spending a great amount of effort at a time where the Liberals are quite unpopular across the province).
- This reminds of the time I got stopped for speeding, and asked the police officer if we could do the transaction in English since I didn't want to make any mistakes in this kind of high stakes situation. He said "I don't have to" and then proceeded to speak to me in English.
- One last language note: when I lectured in French on Tuesday, the students immediately broke into applause. I guess they appreciated the effort. Either that or they knew it would be quite entertaining, as in slapstick comedy....
- Construction mess continued. One of the main stretches of the Turcot interchange (from the city to the bridges across the island) has such significant problems that much money will be wasted with cops being posted to make sure that trucks bypass this area. Of course, this also means that their detours will mess up traffic patterns throughout key parts of the city. Driving in this city was never fun, but is becoming increasingly awful. Indeed, now employers on the West Island are advertising the traffic problems as a reason for folks to take lower wages to work in the suburbs.