25 July 2011

The Politics of Perpetual Panic

Danny Williams’ legacy in Newfoundland and Labrador will be one thing:  the politics of panic. The old drama queen was always in a panic over something or other that was the gravest threat to something or other since the time of the last great upset to end all tirades.

Just like their role-model who seemed to spend almost every second of his seven years in office pissed-off, ticked-off or just plain old angry, the gaggle of politicians who came to office around him can’t function without something bunching their undies in the cracks of their arses.

His chosen successor, Kathy Dunderdale, is due the title of Chief Knicker Knotter.  Evidently running the Telly 10 caused the spandex to ride up Premier Kathy Dunderdale.  She could not wait to catch her breath after the race to let the world know that privatizing search and rescue service is just “not on.”

As the Telegram reported, Dunderdale told reporters that:

“As soon as I heard the speculation Ottawa might be considering that, we contacted the Prime Minister’s Office immediately and said again to them the health and safety is the number one priority in this province. It’s an issue to which we’re highly sensitive, we’re still very, very upset over the Marine Sub-Centre, and we’re not letting that go. So please do not exacerbate this any further.  And, before you have any consideration at all about changing the way you do this business, you come to Newfoundland and Labrador and you talk to the government of Newfoundland and Labrador and you talk to the people involved in this industry before you take any moves whatsoever.”

Leaping is not confined to one particular political stripe.

Liberal member of parliament Scott Simms spent a bunch of time late last week telling any reporter who would listen that any move to privatize search and rescue would mean the death of gander and the squadron there.

Not to be outdone, Bloc NDP defence critic Jack Harris said that search and rescue is a core defence function.  He would defend the virtue of the sainted men and women of the Canadian Forces.  Too bad that Harris spent time after the Cougar 491 tragedy trying to pin responsibility for the deaths on 103 Squadron in Gander.  “Off-station” they were, according to Harris even though that – even at the time – completely false. 

And when most people caught onto his initial bullshite, Harris shifted to another bunch of foolishness about response times.

By now, savvy readers picked up the key word in Dunderdale’s warning. 

Go back and read it again if you need to.

Right there at the beginning.




You see, this all started from a story about the federal government’s ongoing struggle to find a replacement for the 40 year old Buffalo aircraft that fly in western Canada long after they should have been retired. In that context, National Defence wants to discuss all options, including contracting out instead of purchasing and operating the aircraft themselves:

The Conservative plan to purchase new fixed-wing search-and-rescue planes has been stalled for years. The government is now trying to kick-start the program, which is estimated to cost $3 billion.

On Wednesday, the government informed companies that it would hold consultations on the project.

The session will include discussion on potential procurement approaches for a fixed-wing search-and-rescue project, including Alternate Service Delivery options, the government noted in its message to companies.

All we have is speculation.



There’s nothing concrete.

And yes politicians from Kathy Dunderdale to Jack Harris are attacking the speculation with everything they’ve got.

Only morons react to speculation.  That used to be one of the first things they taught you in politician school. 

After all, if people like Jack Harris knew anything about search and rescue themselves (Hint:  he knows jack], they would at least consider the possibility that contracting out for fixed wing search and rescue support could actually improve search and rescue service in the country.

Maybe contracted fixed-wing SAR flights coupled with military SAR helicopters would give better coverage at the same overall cost. Maybe, contracting out a bit of the work would let the federal government expand the number of fixed wing SAR aircraft such that the east coast would get dedicated SAR aircraft.  Right now, Hercules based on Greenwood do SAR in addition to doing transport duties.  That’s far from ideal.

Incidentally, your humble e-scribbler discussed some ideas for improving SAR in 2009 when the ghouls and panic puppies were working themselves into a lather about this on another occasion.

But notice that in that sentence about considering, your humble e-scribbler used the “could”.  Conditional language.  That’s because without knowing for sure what the cost and other implications might be,  there’s no way of knowing whether contracting out search and rescue would be good or bad.

And maybe, as the Ottawa Citizen story notes, the air force folks will raise enough of a stink themselves that this idea will die quietly. The again , they might go along with it.

After all a whole bunch of people got their knickers in a bunch almost 30 years ago when the Canadian Forces retired the old Tracker aircraft.  The federal fisheries department contracted out the surveillance flights and got better coverage with a new aircraft.  Meanwhile, the Canadian Forces continued to patrol offshore.  The two work quite well together with the military concentrating on Canada’s military security needs while fisheries looks after the civilian things.

SAR is a lot like that, actually.  It’s a civilian thing that should be handled, at the very least,  by the coast guard not the military. Farming it out to the private sector might not be a bad idea, if it improves the service  - shorter launch  times there Jack Harris? - without increasing costs.

Might even be better if the service came from a company based in Newfoundland and Labrador.  Maybe Jack Harris should check with the folks at Provincial Aerospace.  After all, they operate from his own riding.

Of course, folks like defence critic Jack Harris should know that.

He and his ilk don’t care about those sorts of issues because, like other politicians of the Danny Williams era, it is more important to be in a perpetual panic than to know what is actually going on.

- srbp -