‘Blog’

Did Baird try to hide a gun lobbyist?

Embassy News
Steven Staples
March 26, 2014

Did Foreign Minister John Baird mislead the United Nations about the presence of a gun lobbyist he put on Canada’s official delegation to important arms control talks?

Documents I have reviewed from 2012, marked up with what appear to be Minister Baird’s own handwritten instructions, suggest strongly that he took a personal interest in removing any reference to the Canadian Shooting Sports Association from official correspondence being sent to the United Nations.

These documents, and others emerging from his department through access requests, are painting an alarming picture of the growing influence of the gun lobby on Canada’s international arms control position, and the government’s desire to conceal that fact from the UN.

Last week, Embassy’s Kristen Shane reported that newly released documents from 2013 show the foreign minister’s office asked bureaucrats to meet with gun groups and industry before heading into the final round of talks toward an international Arms Trade Treaty last March.

The invitation was extended to several arms-producing companies, “three representatives of the National Firearms Association, and one each from the Canadian Shooting Sports Association and gun lobby group Canadian Institute for Legislative Action,” according to Shane.

Non-governmental organizations that have been advocating in favour of the Arms Trade Treaty were not issued invitations to the meeting.

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Steven Staples Op-ed: Despite shifts, Harper still overspending on defence

Embassy News
Steven Staples
February 26, 2014

It was an uncomfortable moment. People cringed when they heard her say it. But, looking back, she was absolutely right.

It happened quite a few years ago now, just as the big defence budget increases started kicking in after the 2005 federal budget—the budget that brought in the largest five-year defence spending increases “in a generation,” as the defence minister of the day described it.

A Canadian senator who was well known for his vocal defence of the Canadian Forces was addressing a seminar at a downtown Ottawa hotel. The event was organized by an advocacy group run by retired military brass, and the ballroom was filled with defence department officials, right-leaning academics, military contractors and lobbyists. It was a friendly crowd.

“Who thinks the military needs more money?” the senator asked, leaning into the podium. Some hands went up, but not as many and certainly not as enthusiastically as he had hoped. Sounding frustrated, he devoted the rest of his speech to urging pro-defence groups to be much more vocal in calling for more money for the military…

The full article is available online through Embassy News – sign up for a free trial.

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  • Blog
  • January 10th, 2014

Michael Byers Op-ed: Canada could have obtained world-class helicopters at bargain prices, but the Conservatives weren’t interested

National Post
Michael Byers
January 8, 2014

Two curious developments occurred in the global helicopter industry last week.

On Wednesday, India cancelled an $800-million order for 12 AgustaWestland 101 helicopters, after allegations that the British-Italian manufacturer paid bribes to secure the contract in 2010.

The AW101 is the latest version of the EH101 — a helicopter that Canada uses for maritime search and rescue. Canada would also be using the EH101 on its destroyers and frigates, had Jean Chrétien not cancelled a $5-billion contract in 1993, incurring $478-million in penalties. The AW101 is currently in service with the British Royal Navy, the Italian Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. Last month, Norway contracted to buy 16 of the helicopters.

The loss of the Indian contract could cost thousands of jobs at the AgustaWestland plant in Somerset, U.K. This poses a problem for Britain’s Conservative government, which has heavily promoted the defence and aerospace industries.

On Friday, late in the afternoon in Ottawa, a news release announced the Harper government’s intent to proceed with the troubled procurement of CH-148 Cyclone maritime helicopters from Sikorsky. The Cyclones are supposed to replace the Sea King helicopters that have operated off Canada’s destroyers and frigates for more than 50 years.

Mechanical failures and service limitations plague the fleet. Seven personnel and 14 Sea Kings have been lost in accidents, and the risk of another fatal accident increases each time one of the aged aircraft flies.

Paul Martin initiated the Cyclone procurement in 2004. Since 2006, the project has been an albatross around Stephen Harper’s neck. Two years ago, in a rare moment of candour, then-defence minister Peter MacKay called the Cyclones the “worst procurement in the history of Canada.” Tellingly, Canada is the only country to have chosen the Cyclone…

The full article is available  from the National Post.

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Royal Canadian Navy at risk unless National Shipbuilding Strategy is revised, report finds

Media Release
For Immediate Release
December 11, 2013

 

Royal Canadian Navy at risk unless National Shipbuilding Strategy is revised, report finds

OTTAWA – A report on the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS) has just been released by the Rideau Institute and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

“Blank Cheque: National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy puts Canadians at Risk” was written by University of British Columbia political science professor Michael Byers and defence analyst Stewart Webb (a visiting research fellow at the Rideau Institute and research associate at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives).

In 2010, the Harper government committed itself to reinvigorating Canada’s shipbuilding industry. The NSPS, estimated to cost $35 billion, aims to procure new ships for the Royal Canadian Navy and for the Canadian Coast Guard. The Auditor General recently estimated the full life-cycle cost of the NSPS at $105 billion, though his report did not re-examine the government’s estimate on acquisition costs.

In their report, Professor Byers and Mr. Webb examine the structure of the NSPS – and find that it is seriously flawed.

The Harper government made a serious mistake by confining the only truly competitive portion of the NSPS to the choice of shipyards, both of which are now, effectively, also in the position of “prime contractor.” The two shipyards are therefore free to select and contract the “system integrators” which coordinate various aspects of the procurement, including the selection and acquisition of sensor, weapon, communication, and propulsion systems – without any competitive process that involves the government or ensures a fair price, or Canadian jobs.

This approach to shipbuilding is unusual. In most NATO countries, a naval procurement begins with the definition of requirements, followed by the setting of a budget, and only then by the competitive selection of a prime contractor. As a result of that approach not being followed, and the largely uncompetitive and unsupervised process of sub-contracting by the shipyards, the NSPS is already showing signs of mismanagement and overspending. This may well lead to lower-quality, less capable, and perhaps fewer vessels. It might even lead to the outright cancellation of the NSPS.

The authors make the following recommendations:

(1) The Canadian government should initiate a competitive process to select prime contractors for the shipbuilding projects. The powers allocated under the umbrella agreement with Irving Shipbuilding enable this change.

(2) The Canadian government should engage the prime contractors for the shipbuilding projects on a fixed-price basis, with detailed statements of requirements for the ships and their systems spelled out in advance.

(3) The Canadian government should build stringent penalties for delays or substandard work into the contracts.

“The Canadian government and the shipbuilding industry have not had a major procurement strategy like this since the Second World War,” said Stewart Webb. “We are not calling for the government to reverse course on the procurement strategy. But we are calling for it to alter course – and introduce much more competition and accountability – before another procurement disaster unfolds.”

-30-

 

For more information contact:

Professor Michael Byers, University of British Columbia
c. 1-250-526-3001 e. michael.byers@ubc.ca (Note: Dr. Byers is in Ottawa today – December 11)

Stewart Webb, Visiting Research Fellow, Rideau Institute
o. 613-565-9449 ext 26 c. 613-914-1534 e. stewart.tristan.webb@gmail.com

 

 

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  • Blog
  • November 20th, 2013

Kathleen Ruff presented with award from Collegium Ramazzini for asbestos advocacy

Kathleen Ruff, Rideau Institute Board Member and long-time human rights activist, was awarded the inaugural “activist” award by the Collegium Ramazzini and the Town of Carpi, Italy. The special award was given at the annual meeting on October 25 in Italy to honour “her steadfast and effective advocacy in the international effort to ban the ongoing use of asbestos and for promoting better occupational and environmental health protections throughout the world.” Kathleen Ruff’s public work on asbestos began in 2007, when she organized a social movement to close the asbestos mines in Canada. Her report, Exporting Harm: How Canada markets asbestos to the developing world, focused on the damage done by Canada’s export of asbestos, mostly to developing countries. Kathleen Ruff’s hard work, in conjunction with activists in Canada, led the government to eventually change the asbestos policy. Kathleen led the fight against the attempt to reopen the Quebec asbestos mines in 2012.

Kathleen also founded the Rotterdam Convention Alliance, a group aimed at promoting the full implementation of the Rotterdam Convention and working against the nations attempting to block the addition of asbestos to the Convention. She’s worked with a number of associates of the Collegium Ramazzini to have asbestos banned globally.  Collegium Ramazzini is honouring her activism and dedication to the anti-abestos campaign, and the lives she has saved in doing so:

Kathleen Ruff’s efforts on asbestos have been recognized by the Canadian Public Health Association in presenting her with their National Public Health Hero Award in 2011. The Collegium Ramazzini is proud to present this special award to someone who has partnered with us and has done so much to ban the further use of this deadly material. In bringing the perspective of human rights to the global asbestos struggle, her advocacy efforts have already helped to save countless lives and exemplify the mission of the Collegium to be a bridge between scientific work and the social and political efforts to protect public health.

The Collegium Ramazzini is an independent, international acadamy working towards solutions of occupational and environmental health problems.

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