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Duct tape and bailing wire.

SOME CARS SHOULDN'T be on the road. Once proud modes of transport, they're the barely-held-together fleets of the cash-strapped and the frugal. I talk of course of the junkyard jalopies you see puttering down our nation's highways and byways, held together with little more than duct tape and bailing wire--exhaust pipes dragging on the ground, mismatched body panels forever waiting for a coat of paint, bald tires, cracked windows, and a case of oil in the trunk to feed their leaky engines on those long trips beyond the corner store. Perversely, they often show little signs of delusional love and attention: flashy rims or a set of fuzzy dice hanging from the rear-view mirror. But ultimately, they're dangerous, embarrassing, and a fiscal sinkhole for the short-sighted.

With that we consider the state of Canada's military, for there is a difference of opinion as to what our armed forces are metaphorically driving these days. If the Harper GovernmentTm is to be believed, they don't so much have a Ferrari to steer yet (that's on order) but a reliable family sedan; safe, dependable, with some horsepower to thrill--a more than adequate stopgap until the dollars are back and those exotic ponies can be bought and set free on the world. Rather exhilarating when you think about it that way, no?

Certainly, to hear the designated mouthpieces talk, the armed forces are ticking over like a well-maintained Subaru.

When questions arose as to whether all was running well under the military's hood, be it the mechanicals or the human fuel that runs things, Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino opined that "our government has consistently ensured that our men and women serving have all the resources and the equipment and the training necessary for them to fulfil the missions in which Canada engages."

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson went further saying. the government will continue to place priority emphasis on meeting operational requirements, training within Canada, supporting the part-time reserves, undertaking national sovereignty missions and caring for ill and injured soldiers."

In short, we're ready. we're able, so pack up the kids and let's hit the road, and don't you worry about that lapsed CAA membership. Stephen Harper has got your back.

However, reality isn't quite lining up with that rosy picture. For where Canada's military-supporting, flag-waving government wants Canadians to see a slightly used but sturdy 4x4 ready to tackle all before it, most see an ageing K-car with one-wheel drive in sorry need of replacement.

In the last month alone, Canadians have heard disturbing and occasionally tragic news -contrary to Harper's scripted ideal. Despite warning upon warning that Canada's search-and-rescue fleet is being kept in the air by little more than ingenuity and spare parts scrounged from the world's junkyards, aircraft serving a vital "no-fail mission" spend much of their time idle on the ground. Thousands of military trucks are to be parked and stripped for parts while awaiting replacements, whose tender process has just been restarted. Operational and maintenance budgets have reportedly been cut by more than 60 per cent. Our cadets have been relegated to recycling their uniforms and forgoing winter coats and gym wear (despite a recent and well-advertised push to increase their ranks by almost 20 thousand). And nary a Cyclone helicopter or new fighter jet is remotely in sight, despite billions wasted looking for them.

That's the disturbing news. The tragic news is another matter. Suicides continue apace. A retired corporal purposefully drove her car into a transport truck on Christmas Day, and an acting corporal and Afghanistan war veteran took his own life some two weeks later--both statistics and a source of a regrettable need to feign public remorse on the part of the Defence and Veterans Affairs ministers. Calls for better medical and mental health support have not been met with action but merely lip service some 16 months after OND and CAF Ombudsman Pierre Daigle officially pointed out the obvious problems.

To add insult to injury, we are hearing stories of a soldier busking to make rent and another PTSD sufferer being denied a place for her service dog on a flight because the government doesn't recognize such dogs as service animals. Veterans have had to set up their own suicide hotline to help fill a vacuum Rob Nicholson would likely argue isn't there. Support for our troops indeed.

So why is this so? Stupidity and mismanagement come to mind, but perhaps it's just a penchant for style over substance. fuzzy dice over a Ferrari. and not knowing the difference.

Michael Nickerson is a freelance writer and satirist based in Toronto.
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Title Annotation:poor state of the Canadian military resources
Author:Nickerson, Michael
Publication:Esprit de Corps
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Feb 1, 2014
Words:766
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