Monday, April 13, 2009

Holes Appear

Oh, for a return to the heady days of 2007, when the Harper dreadnought cut effortlessly through the calm waters of a weak and fractured opposition. It's hard sailing, now. The choppy waters of a strong opposition and the dangerous shoals of poor Quebec and Ontario polling numbers, not to mention the widening split in the hull of the HMS Conservative, must have Cap'n Stephen dreaming nostalgically of better times.

But don't let the deluge of naval metaphors distract you from the fact that we're dealing with a tragically incompetent government, here.

You'll recall that last summer, Dave at TGB reported on how Harper's plan to rebuild the navy was scuttled when all the bids received were higher than the government expected. You might also recall that everyone -- the bidders and the navy included -- knew from the start that the budget for this project was just too damn small.

So what's the result? A significantly weakened navy for the country with more coastline than any other in the world.

Delaying efforts to replace Canada's 40-year-old navy supply ships will damage the service's frigate, according to documents obtained by CBC News.

Extending the wait for new ships will create a problem called "rust-out," said navy Commodore Kelly Williams in a 2009-2010 Maritime Staff Capability Plan, copies of which were obtained by CBC News. ...

The navy decided to refit the two ships for the time being. But that is an expensive alternative, according to Williams, who prepared the report when he was assistant chief of Maritime staff.

"Maintaining the obsolescent tankers is costly and will put further pressure on the already constrained [repair budget] and further delays in the mid-life refit for Halifax class [frigates] which will lead to rust-out," he wrote in the 2009-2010 report.

"Rust-out" is caused by repeatedly sanding warships, which leads to hulls becoming "progressively thinner and more fragile," said Eric Lerhe, a retired commodore living in Dartmouth. "So holes appear."

So a failed naval project, followed by a more expensive and less effective patchwork response to the problem, leading to a more expensive and less effective navy in the long run.

And I'm no naval expert, but "holes appear" isn't the kind of phrase I'm comfortable with associating with seagoing vessels. Though it's a phrase that seems to pop up all over the place when it comes to government strategy, these days.

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