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Archive for September, 2010

Bring it on, Vander Zalm!

Former Premier and notorious malcontent Bill Vander Zalm is apparently not happy with the referendum that has been promised over the HST, even though the bar is now set substantially lower than it had been previously. For all his talk about letting the people decide, he would rather a vote in the Legislature take place. He has launched a recall campaign based off a TV show that came out a decade ago, and is vowing to take down the government.

All I can say is “Bring it on!”

I believe in the HST. I think that the process by which it was rolled out might have been better, but the economic principles behind the tax shift are still sound. In fact, they are better than sound – they have a proven track record in Atlantic Canada, and will help make sure that the economy continues to grow. It will help the government take in more revenue, and help us balance our budget again. It will lower the cost of alcohol. It will make easier for primary industries to be more viable and competitive, and keep those jobs in the province. It will make it cheaper for small businesses to operate, something which, in Atlantic Canada at least, caused the prices to drop.

These are only a few of the arguments in favour of the HST, and I look forward to making that case to the people of BC in the coming referendum. I don’t know what the big rush is – if a tax is bad now, it will be bad in a year. If it’s good now, but just seems distasteful, people with political ends might take advantage of it in pursuit of those ends. Now, normally I’m fine with people exploiting things for political ends, but not when it comes at the expense of good public policy. Vander Zalm and the NDP are capitalizing on the same anti-tax, anti-incumbent meme that birthed the Tea Party in the US, which is well enough I suppose, but people should be honest with themselves if they actually think the HST is a bad policy, or if it is just a knee jerk reaction against higher different taxes.

That’s why this referendum needs time – we need to have a discussion about whether we want the tax or not, and its real merits and detriments. We cannot make that collective decision while furious. The BC Liberals should also acknowledge that this discussion could have taken place last summer, but they’re going to talk about it now, and want to make clear why they brought this change about. They should also clearly stipulate what would happen if we backed out of the deal – what it would cost provincial government coffers in federal transfers and point-of-sale revenue, and how the PST rollback would work.

I don’t want the government to fall, the HST to be repealed, or Liberal MLAs to be recalled. However, if any or all of those things happen, at least it was for the right reason – fighting for a policy we believe is good and righteous altogether.

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Arctic Bling

There has been some hubbub about the purchase of the F-35 Lockheed stealth fighter jets for the Canadian Forces. The major problem that people have been hooting about is that the contract wasn’t put out to tender, instead choosing Lockheed off the bat without considering the options. From what I can tell, there weren’t really that many other options to consider, the two comparable aircraft appearing to be the Boeing F/A-18 and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Operationally, and not claiming any expertise in the area of my own, it seems that the F-35 is at least as good as the other two jets, if not better. The one characteristic unique to the F-35 that intrigues me is its Vertical Take Off and Landing capabilities (take off VTOL is only trial, not operational), which the others appear not to have. The ability to land on a short runway or landing pad could represent an advantage for a military that does not have aircraft carriers.

Sixteen billion dollars, factoring in maintenance for the lifespan of the fleet, actually doesn’t seem like such a bad deal here. Factor into that the fact that a significant amount of the parts that Lockheed uses to build the fighters will be built in Canada (not that this is something exclusive to the Lockheed deal, mind you), and the program begins to look even better. However, this is not why I support the deal.

I support the deal because we are finally doing something about defending our sovereignty over the arctic archipelago. These planes are a good first step, but still do not go far enough. Considering the arctic is not being defended by much of anything at the moment (not to knock the Arctic Rangers, but they’re not going to hear a submarine), considerably more investment needs to be put into securing our claim to the Northwest Passage and the mineral resources in archipellagic waters.

Step one would be actually buying icebreakers. The ones that the Harper government wanted to buy were only Polar Class 5, which means that while they could patrol the Passage, they wont be able to access the full extent of our waters. This is not necessarily a problem, provided we have some ship or boat that can. It should also be noted that the current icebreaker fleet only has PC-4 vessels, one better, but still not enough. This naturally brings me to submarines. We should get one. Or two. Nuclear submarines are going to cost us a bunch of money, running upwards of $2 billion, plus maintenance over the life of the vessel (if the aircraft are any indication, multiply by three).

Eight billion dollars seems like a lot of money. And it is. But failing to assert our control over the area could lead to the abrogation of our sovereignty in the far north. We are currently building a base at Nanisivik, and from there either a nuclear or other long haul, air independent sub could operate. Let’s start shopping.

It’s been a while, hasn’t it. I’ll try not to be away so long in the future. I also want to disclaim this post by saying that I could fully be wrong about any and all technical details, and invite your corrections. Pat, I’m looking at you here.

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