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SCOTT TAYLOR: Canada's looming federal election leaves questions

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer arrives to the French televised debate at TVA in Montreal, Quebec, Canada October 2, 2019.
Conservative leader Andrew Scheer arrives to the French televised debate at TVA in Montreal, Quebec, Canada October 2, 2019. - Andrej Ivanov

On Target

We are now past the midway point of this year's 40-day federal election campaign.

If the polls are to be trusted, Trudeau's Liberals are locked in a dead heat with the Andrew Scheer Conservatives. The public furor over Trudeau's black face-brown face shenanigans has seemingly blown over without seriously tipping the voter balance in favour of the Conservatives. That could in part be explained by the fact that most of the electorate still recall that just four short years ago the Conservatives were proposing a snitch line for Canadians to report 'barbaric cultural practices' practiced by their immigrant neighbours.

That racist policy was one of the reasons the Harper government was chased from power in 2015. Yet despite that election defeat, the snitch line legacy is far from history. One of the key architects and proponents of the snitch line, Chris Alexander, is running under the Scheer Conservative banner in an attempt to win back the seat he lost in the Ajax-Pickering riding last time around. This means the individual voter has to choose between Trudeau's youthful racist actions and a Conservative party that preaches racist and divisive policies..

Similarly, there is little difference between the two major parties when it comes to their policies in defence.

In winning in 2015, Trudeau made two promises regarding the military. The first was that as prime minister he would make Canadian peacekeeping great again.

The sum total of action on promise was a single one-year commitment of helicopter support and 250 soldiers to the United Nations mission in Mali. That mission has since concluded and with only a handful of Canadian service members assigned to far flung UN missions, it is safe to say that Canada is out of the peacekeeping game once again. There is no talk about peacekeeping on the campaign trail as it would seem that politicians have realized that Canadians don't really care about our nation's commitment to the UN.

The second thing the 2015 Liberals promised to do if elected was to not buy the controversial F-35 fighters to replace the RCAF's aging fleet of fighter aircraft.

During their four years in power, the Liberals first announced they would sole-source purchase 17 new Super Hornets from Boeing to fill a short term capability gap. That deal was scrubbed when Boeing entered into a trade dispute with Bombardier, leading the Liberal party to denounce Boeing as an untrustworthy partner. Instead of Super Hornets Canada has purchased 18 legacy Hornets - of the same vintage as Canada's aging fighter fleet, to fill in the supposed 'capability gap'.

The problem with this solution is that a recent auditor general's report noted that the RCAF does not have enough pilots and ground crew to operate the planes now in service, yet the braintrust decided the answer to this dilemma was to buy more old used planes.

But I digress. There is now a competition to find a fighter jet replacement, and despite what Trudeau told voters in 2015, the F-35 is considered the front-runner. In fact, Airbus withdrew their Eurofighter from the competition, saying the request for proposals was all but tailored to the F-35 option.

If Conservatives are elected it is expected they will terminate the competition and just buy the F-35. You can also bet Scheer will not be keen to boost our military commitment to the United Nations.

As for Canada's other current international deployments, these were all initiated under the Harper Conservatives and extended and expanded by the Liberals. Regardless of who wins, expect that we will continue to support the forward deployment in Latvia, the training mission in Ukraine and the two separate contingents we have in Iraq.

As for how these two parties match up when it comes to policies on the care and welfare of our veterans, that is the grist for another column.

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