Canadian Tories refuse to send soldiers to help flood victims because they'd compete with the private sector

The new Tory majority in Canada is redefining "compassionate conservativism": Public Safety Minister Vic Toews initially refused to send more troops to help victims of the flood in Quebec's Richelieu Valley because "the services you are requesting, if they were authorized, would place the Canadian Forces in competition with the private sector at the local and provincial level which could accomplish this type of reintegration work."
The province said more soldiers were needed to help communities deal with water levels that were receding more slowly than expected and also to eventually remove heavy sandbags.

"As you can appreciate the role of the Canadian Forces is mainly centred on defence activities and therefore they must maintain a capacity in this area to deal with other events should they occur in the country or abroad. Moreover the services you are requesting, if they were authorized, would place the Canadian Forces in competition with the private sector at the local and provincial level which could accomplish this type of reintegration work," Mr. Toews stated in a letter dated May 20 in response to his Quebec counterpart Robert Dutil's request for more help.

Ottawa initially refuses request for more troops to aid Quebec flood victims (Thanks, smncameron!)

(Image: Harper Failed Canadians, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from itzafineday's photostream)

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    1. I’d say as soon as Harper got his majority government, but we all know that he’s been acting like an asshole for years now.

      Also – I call bullshit on “the role of the Canadian Forces is mainly centred on defence activities.” Our deployed forces are all (or almost all) on peacekeeping missions. Every year, the army goes to Manitoba to sandbag the Red River. One year, they took giant flame trucks into Toronto to melt the snow.

      Please, someone tell me what “defense” operations are currently underway by infantry?

      1. Please, someone tell me what “defense” operations are currently underway by infantry?

        Apparently they are defending disaster profiteers from the dreaded scourge of neighborly cooperation.

        North America has gone from believing in economic systems that can easily cope with amoral players (well regulated market capitalism) to implementing systems that reward immoral players (Reagan socialism and lazy-fare capitalism). Instead of coping with the reality of greed, we idolize it – and thus we reward anyone who displays a sociopathic obsession with accumulating wealth through the displacement of costs onto profitless victims.

      2. “giant flame trucks” ?

        i’m afraid not. lots of shovels and a few all-terrain ambulances were put to use, but there were no giant flame trucks.

        …would have been cool if there was though…

    2. Come on down south to my country sometime. We seem to have that particular political philosophy down to an art form lately.

  1. It’s because the Quebecers didn’t vote for the conservatives. Harper has always been big on revenge politics. I’m so ashamed of my government and my country right now.

  2. Those recruitment ads shown prior to movies paint a different picture of the armed forces – scenes of rescues from sea or frozen tundra. From their website:

    “At home, Canadian Forces can bring the best available military resources from across Canada to bear on a crisis or threat, wherever it occurs, nation-wide.”

    …although the rest of the text is certainly focused on a defense strategy. Would be interesting to see how that mission statement has evolved over the years. Maybe someone can trawl the internet archive for this.

  3. Is Harper making Quebecers pay for being booted out of Quebec during the last election? Since he got his majority government without the help of Quebec, he knows he owns us (Quebec) nothing.

  4. In other words, he refuses to authorize relief efforts that are a government’s mandate in favor of having the citizens pay for the relief from a private company. So basically, he thinks taxes in Canada are like the allowance a kid gets for not cleaning his room. I wonder if this guy knows how big of an asshole he painted himself to be on the world stage?

  5. So, wait… this has been declared a disaster area, yes? So wouldn’t that mean that the local government would be hiring private contractors to do clean-up, etc etc, meaning that the money (from Federal disaster relief funds) would therefore stay in the community and help keep their economy going, instead of the money going to the military (wages) and out of the community?

    Using the military isn’t always the right answer. It only makes sense when there’s no one locally who can handle the job. In this case there are probably a ton of local contractors who could really use the work – not to mention the legions of unemployed in Quebec who would leap at the chance. The army are basically a portable workforce in these times but they take money out of the local economy instead of bolstering it.

    1. And really, why does Manitoba get troops? They’re farmers – they got Kubotas and shovels and strong arms and a lot of dirt – and they could use the money.

      All you’d need to do in Quebec and Manitoba is form a government committee to oversee the bidding process, the integration of work using various contractors, equipment procurement, training, safety issues, temp worker importation, communications and damage assessment and re-evaluation. Then they could spend a few weeks developing a plan that doles out taxpayer money to the companies that promised to implement the plan at the lowest cost possible.

      That would free up our troops to do the important things, like stand behind Stephen Harper at photo ops.

    2. “So wouldn’t that mean that the local government would be hiring private contractors to do clean-up, etc etc, meaning that the money (from Federal disaster relief funds) would therefore stay in the community ”

      …because we all know that Quebec has a HUGE local disaster recovery industry. That money won’t possibly go out of the community to companies that operate (inter)nationally.

    3. So applying your logic further, we should be hiring mercenaries to fight wars just instead of having soldiers.

  6. So Canada’s actually not the hopelessly backwards Socialist Hell that U.S. media tell me it is?

  7. While it’s absolutely abhorrent that something like this is happening, this is a practice that is becoming increasingly common.

    I’m thinking here of investment disputes, where companies can charge governments with not having the same advantages or access to the market that the govt does. Often the govt ends up having to pay settlements to the private sector.

    The range of public authority is shrinking by the day, and we are letting the government actively build institutions that reinforce the power of the private sector and handicap themselves.

  8. This is the very definition of modern conservatism.

    They want absolutely EVERYTHING to be in the private sector. Schools/hospitals/roads/health care/… This way they can set taxes to nill. Except defense, or course. That is the only acceptable thing to spend taxes on.

    Everything should be for profit. Anything for the greater good is socialist.

    1. Sadly so very true.

      Exactly the same as in the UK and the same viewpoint seems to be infecting the rest of the western world to varying levels. :(

      profit > everything, no exceptions

  9. Interestingly, in Switzerland a similar debate took a totally different turn as many argued that the sending of soldiers for natural disaster relief is just playing into the hands of the pro-army (right wing) politicians who are always looking for reasons why Switzerland should maintain its ridiculously large troups and military industry despite WWII being over. So the point that it competes private sector and unnecessarily creates work for the otherwise not really important army was used by us, the progressive urban folks. The consensus was that it needs a very apocalyptic event before soldiers are needed to assist the private sector. Funny how things can be framed so differently in different historic and cultural settings. Saying this, I don’t take any side here as I don’t really know anything about Canadian politics, I just wanted to provide a different view.

  10. Now that our province is the veritable stronghold of the official opposition party, I think that we can expect a lot more of this kind of punishment from the Harper Government.

    Didn’t vote blue? Sucks to be you!

    1. Canada, maybe, Quebec no. Quebec didn’t cast much of a vote for “The Harper Government” (formerly the government of Canada).

      What is so unique is how well this can be contrasted with Manitoba’s situation right now. And, well, I’m sorry to say that province didn’t vote so overwhelmingly against the status quo.

  11. + to Hamish.

    A flood is the wrong time to push a people solution rather than a government solution. But it does lead to a discussion that should probably happen in quieter times. It’s far too easy to throw up one’s hands and call up a distant and faceless bureaucracy for help instead of turning to the community first. People will often surprise you. Give them a chance sometime.

  12. Conservatives purportedly like the involvement of the private sector because it increases competition, thus bringing down costs. In reality, they don’t like competition, and don’t give two hoots about bringing down costs. They like profits for private firms, and they will put profit before people any chance they get.

  13. “Help! I can’t swim!”

    “Don’t worry, citizen! The free market will come up with a solution!”

  14. FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFF-

    *repeated headdesking*

    Canada, I’m so sorry this asshattery is spreading from us.

  15. ‎’Cuz, y’know, private enterprise can’t *compete* with government flood relief assistance! So government has to *help* it compete. ‘Cuz it can’t compete. On its own. Help it. Compete.

  16. What is ironic is that had Quebec managed to separate from the rest of Canada we surely would have been first to respond with foreign aid to helping our suffering neighbour country.

  17. This is classic Harper. He’s a petty and small man. What can you expect from someone who believes Global Warming is a socialist conspiracy.

  18. Yeah, the Canucks really fucked up this last election. It was mind wobbling that they went full-on wingnut.

    (I realize that the average Canadian Conservative Party MP is somewhere to the left of a US Blue Dog Democrat, but everything’s relative.)

    Take your cold war culture and take a hike. NDP ’15!

    1. We did our best, eh? Our parliamentary system is hosed. Doesn’t matter how many votes you get… as long as you win in the GTA.

  19. Not to defend Harper or his government… but why the hell should we be using trained killers to clean up a flood? Should we be sending doctors to fight forest fires? Maybe a few lawyers could clean up the tarsands… computer programmers can fight the killer bees!

    1. Because they’re also trained in having people on their team not get killed, which is what’s necessary? There is a long history of soldiers doing other things; in Rome, they built the roads, and those were the best of their time. It’s not ridiculous at all to think they could pitch in where needed.

    2. “trained killers”?

      they’re professional soldiers who are physically fit and used to working in demanding circumstances. the army’s logistics are good and the soldiers are, by their very nature, disciplined workers.

      now if only i could get the army to back my coup d’état against harper…

  20. Corporatism at work (which means corporatists continually doing their best to not really have to work for a living and serve the public interest by any means necessary).

  21. You send in the troops when you need a massive influx of manpower in a short period of time to PREVENT loss of life and/or damage to property/infrastructure.

    The CF did respond, and now that water levels are dropping, their job is DONE. Our men and women in uniform are not construction workers. Municipalities should not expect ‘free’ labour for repairing damage after flood water subsides.

    The emergency is over. It is time for the troops to go back to their homes/families.

    Yes, there is recovery work ahead. All three levels of government need to agree on appropriate funding levels, and move on with restoration work.

    1. “Municipalities should not expect labour paid for by their tax dollars for repairing damage after flood water subsides.”

      Fixed yer post.

      It sounds like the time for massive intervention and assistance is past in this case, and maybe the military is no longer called for but geez that politician couldn’t have made himself sound more like an ass. He should have just said ‘the worst is over, it’s time for the community to rebuild’, then quietly taken his kickbacks behind the scenes. That’s the way American politicians do it anyway.

    2. Our men and women in uniform are not construction workers.

      Except, of course, the Canadian Military Engineers who, just like the US Army Corps of Engineers, are in fact constructor workers (among other things).

    3. Our men and women in uniform are not construction workers.

      Hell no! They’re for killin’ things!

  22. Maudit Harper à marde!!!!

    He’s all ears for Manitoba’s fires and don’t care for Québec.
    It’s gonna be a VERY long mandate.

    I somehow wish that Quebec gets ABSOULUTELY NOTHING from Harper (nor the opposition), so that people will mobilise and bring back the glory of the Bloc Québécois.

  23. Translation: “The soldiers whose salaries you pay and whose equipment, clothing, and food you paid for, cannot help you because that would threaten the profits of the companies whose lobbyists buy us things.” Congratulations, Canadian government, you have turned the sin of corporate whoring into a fine art.

  24. Anything, including going to war, is something that could be done by the private sector, therefore using the Canadian Forces to do anything places them in competition with the private sector.

    Where does Harper draw the line I wonder?

  25. People, people. It would be far more efficient, read LESS COSTLY, to use the military. We already paid for the military at whatever level it currently is in our taxes. So why should we pay out of the same pocket AGAIN for more expensive private contractors? Because with the Tories, government is in the back pocket of private industry. This benefits the 5 people who own the cleanup companies, but NOT the 95 people who paid their taxes! Less accountability, for the LESSER GOOD. Vote Tory you say?!

  26. With a majority in Parliament (no thanks to Quebec voters, who voted overwhelmingly for the socialist NDP) and the separatist Bloc Quebecois almost gone, Harper doesn’t need to pretend to care about Quebec anymore.

  27. Not what the army is for? Not according to the commercials they play before my movies.
    FIGHT CHAOS
    FIGHT DISTRESS

  28. …now if we can only privatize the Canadian Government. Get Bombardier or Inco or Sunice to take over…

  29. If I recall the report I heard correctly, the situation is that soldiers are being used for emergency reponse, but not for general cleanup duties (which is not, after all, their proper role). Note the first part of the statement:

    ==
    As you can appreciate the role of the Canadian Forces is mainly centred on defence activities and therefore they must maintain a capacity in this area to deal with other events should they occur in the country or abroad.
    ==

    In other words, don’t tie down soldiers (generally the single most expensive class of individuals) doing work that anyone with a shovel can do. It’s not their purpose, and renders them unable to respond if something else happens.

    You seem to be focusing on:

    ==
    Moreover the services you are requesting, if they were authorized, would place the Canadian Forces in competition with the private sector at the local and provincial level which could accomplish this type of reintegration work
    ==

    Which is essentially an aftertthought (note the moreover) and states the plain truth that it isn’t the army’s proper role to be doing the job of city and provincial contractors.

    Poorly worded? Yes. Outrageous? Not really, no.

  30. Was kind of disappointed with this article(especially the comment section) being a soldier and the husband of one  I just watched many of my friends leave and return from the floods what you don’t see is 1.we have other jobs- training to do just imagine dropping what your doing and leaving your job and family in a matter of hours for 3 weeks to come back to an increased work load ( gotta catch up) 2.people want to abuse us we don’t mind helping but were not there to do everybody’s else’s job you wouldn’t believe how many people say look the army’s here I can sit down have a beer and let them do the work next well be cutting peoples grass 

  31. Pretty much the same deal happened yesterday here in western Montana. The county commissioners in Teabaggger Heaven Ravalli County had a standing policy of not providing sand and sandbags to homeowners because it would cut into the business of local contractors.
    Well, it was interesting to watch as the local populace of Ayn Rand fanatics turned into Marxists in a matter of hours as the water quickly rose and started threatening their homes.
    County road crews were helping out by the end of the day.

  32. I respectfully dissent. Wouldn’t it be slightly more constructive to organize volunteers to help resolve the situation? The web is full of people ready to respond to calls for aid. Turning to politicians and the military as a first resort, then grandstanding about their lack of response needlessly puts a natural disaster into the political arena. As far as I know, Mr. Harper isn’t blocking private citizens from taking action.

  33. dno1967b: No, it would not be more constructive, and it would not be enough.

    Government and the military are the citizenry deciding to organize to get some necessary things done. It’s just that they’re organized to do them on an ongoing basis, and the work is supported via taxes the body politic levies on itself. If Harper thinks the government is an organization that’s separate from the rest of Canadian society — an assumption that’s implicit in his notion that it might “compete” with private firms — he’s already gone profoundly wrong.

    By the way, by pure chance I was there in Saint Jean-sur-Richelieu when it was flooding. That was a nontrivial amount of water. If the locals need more help, they should get it.

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