The Parliamentary Budget Officer released a report
on the navy’s next-generation warship program on Wednesday … and you’ve all stopped reading already, haven’t you? Hello?
– Matt Gurney, National Post
Of all the boring topics in government, and there are many, procurement must surely be near the top: The most boring, I mean.
No one would blame you if you had [stopped reading].
Because you’ve read how many stories like this before?
Under how many governments, going back how many years?
I spent 30 years selling technical services to government clients and even I can’t get too interested in it.
Do you even need the details? You know how this goes.
What are the ships going to cost? More.
When are we going to get them? Later.
Will the ships we currently have last that long? Maybe.
Is the entire program now in doubt
and possibly facing cancellation
so we can reboot and try again?
No one has said as much, but it’s a very real possibility.
Let’s not get distracted by partisanship. It goes well beyond the current government, as Matt Gurney can attest. Poor baby, he’s enjoyed about as much writing about government procurement as he can stand.
I’ve spent years writing about this stuff.
I’ve written more about this stuff
than anything else in my career.
And I have to confess
that I’m nearly out of fresh wisdom to offer.
Canada. Cannot. Procure.
That’s it. That’s the column.
Well, if that’s really it, that’s not OK. It’s not OK that Canada’s government cannot procure the equipment they themselves have decided is necessary to national defence.
The world is evolving in dangerous ways
that our abysmal military procurement system
simply can’t keep up with.
And it goes beyond procurement, as this long article argues. My version? Our governments struggle to operate a health care system they prevent anyone else from operating. To build a pipeline they bought. To reconcile with Indigenous Canadians suffering under a legal framework maintained by . . . the government. To close an international border they and they alone control (and have it be, you know, closed).
And it goes beyond (not) getting things done to (not) thinking things through. This week the federal cabinet sent one of their number to the House of Commons “to abstain on their behalf” — a constitutional rudeness/absurdity/impossibility — from a vote declaring that China’s undisputed abuse of the Uyghurs rises to the level of genocide. Reasonable people might coherently argue different positions on that determination, but the cabinet’s action seems incoherent.
If Trudeau’s goal was to display a commitment to the principles of international law, the sight of the entire cabinet refusing to even show up to vote was a colossal embarrassment.
And if he wanted to satisfy China and the business interests that push to keep the trade flowing despite the concentration camps, or to secure the release of the two Canadian hostages in Chinese prison, then an unwhipped 266-0 result in the House was hardly the way to get there.
Notwithstanding the empty front bench, the Chinese are already fuming at Canada. It’s hard to decipher the strategy here, or to determine if there was one at all.
– Kaveh Shahrooz, Macdonald-Larier Institute
In this environment, it might seem silly to cavil at a little thing like a failed procurement, even if that afflicts the whole system. But it is all of a piece.
If we don’t take it seriously when and wherever our governments fail, then we don’t take government seriously. In a dangerous world, that would be a mistake.