When I wrote in last week?s MP Report that the crew of the HMCS Chicoutimi deserves better from the federal government, Canadians had not yet learned that Lieut. Chris Saunders had died from smoke inhalation suffered in a fire that broke out on his submarine?s maiden voyage.
While the Chicoutimi?s 57 crewmembers? response in putting out the fire and getting their sub back to dock with the help of the British and U.S. navies was highly commendable, they, and Lieut. Saunders? wife and two sons, aged three months and two years, deserve answers from their government.
The Chicoutimi and its three sister subs were purchased second-hand from the British. The leaky, rusted, mechanically-challenged fleet took years longer than expected to become operational. I was pleased to see that our military quickly launched an investigation into the tragedy. I was not pleased it took senior military brass and the Liberal government a full week to remove the other three subs from active service.
Canadians meanwhile do not seem willing to accept that this was simply an unavoidable accident, all part of the hazards military personnel accept when they ?sign up?. Whether it?s the SeaKings, Iltis jeeps or uniforms, the country has seen too many recent examples of our soldiers being forced by the Liberals to ?make do? with broken-down, antiquated and inappropriate equipment and supplies.
Was the Chicoutimi prematurely rushed into service? Did Canada ignore reports that indicated we were purchasing what the British military knew were four ?lemons?? Was Lieut. Saunders? death avoidable? First, these are all questions I hope the investigation will answer.
Then, we as a nation, must immediately embark upon an honest, thorough debate on the future of our military. An example to avoid: the Conservative Party of Canada proposed during the election the purchase of supply ships to transport our equipment and soldiers on overseas missions to diminish our reliance upon U.S. supply ships and private carriers. While these ships would have been equipped with a helicopter flight deck, their primary role would have been as a cargo and troop carrier.
Instead of engaging in an honest analysis, Liberal political ?spindoctors? transformed the Conservative proposal for supply ships into a quest for ?aircraft carriers? ? an absolute Liberal lie.
The Liberals are bringing about the demise of the Canadian Forces by stealth. The Defence Minister and the Prime Minister make patriotic pronouncements and offer platitudes about restoring our military from the brink, but our soldiers continue to do without and their numbers continue to dwindle.
With soldiers? lives hanging in the balance, Canada must address the big questions that have arisen due to the Chicoutimi tragedy: what kind of military does Canada want? Do we want and/or need a military at all?
The Conservative Party has made very clear its support for a stronger, viable Canadian Forces, capable of protecting our borders and fulfilling our international responsibilities in peacekeeping and humanitarianism. Even the New Democrats have been honest in their desire for less military spending. It?s time for the Liberals to come forth with their true intentions so that Canadians can make a truly informed decision.