POLITICS

Diane Finley Trumpets Tories' Record Of Military Purchases

05/28/2015 02:34 EDT | Updated 05/28/2016 05:59 EDT
CP
OTTAWA - Public Works Minister Diane Finley used a speech to defence industry insiders Thursday to tout the Conservative government's recent record of military purchases in the months before an expected fall federal election.

Finley told a large military industry trade show that the navy will take possession of its first ship-borne Cyclone helicopter next month.

It will mark the beginning of the end of the Sea King helicopter replacement, a politically charged and long-running military procurement saga that has spanned decades and several changes of governments dating back to the 1990s.

But Finley's message was clearly aimed at the general public in an attempt to position the Conservatives as the party that can deliver equipment for the military and jobs for Canadian firms.

Finley trotted out the "decade of darkness" phrase, first used by former defence chief Rick Hillier to describe a lack of Liberal defence spending prior to the Conservatives winning power in 2006.

"Folks, after a decade of darkness under the previous Liberal government, our Conservative government made the decision to make the single largest investment in our armed forces in a century," she told the gathering of several hundred defence industry players — a group anxious to hear how the government plans to fix its dysfunctional military procurement system.

She said the awarding of an armoured truck contract for the army would also take place this summer, along with the first phase of the integrated soldier project — high-tech enhancements designed to improve a soldier's situational awareness on the battlefield.

In addition, Finley said, shipbuilding would begin on the first Arctic offshore patrol ship in Halifax and a Fisheries and Oceans department research vessel in Vancouver.

Finley also said the fall would be a busy time for future announcements — a timeline that would coincide with the campaign leading to a federal election that's currently scheduled for Oct. 19.

After her speech, the minister demurred when asked whether she had used the event to do some advance politicking before the fall vote.

"It's good news for everyone, including our men and women in uniform, that we are delivering on our commitments to make sure the men and women in uniform get the equipment they need at a price that's reasonable to taxpayers," she said.

Finley spoke to the gathering one day after Defence Minister Jason Kenney delivered his keynote address.

But while Finley trumpeted military spending projects, it was left to Kenney to explain how the government planned to fix the troubled military procurement system, which has been beset by delays, cancellations and cost overruns.

Those problems led to the Public Works department getting the lead role in procurement over National Defence.

The government introduced more reporting requirements, including a new Public Works secretariat to oversee the large purchases.

"You know, military procurement is a touchy business, and I'm not going to pretend — to pardon the expression — that it's all smooth sailing," Finley said.

"The bottom line is, though: our government is delivering."