Thursday, March 26, 2009

CDS retirement ceremony: Internal war at the Globe and Mail

The disconnect between the paper's news staff and editorial board can be quite striking. The stinking agenda displayed yesterday by the former is effectively denounced today by the latter:
False economy

Complaints about the money spent on the change-of-command ceremony last July that saw off General Rick Hillier and ushered in his replacement, Walter Natynczyk, as chief of the defence staff, overlook a salient point. There are certain, normal costs associated with having a country.

For example, it costs $1.24 per Canadian a year to have a governor-general. It also costs $1.43 per Canadian a year to have a National Gallery. Taxpayers also shell out money to house the prime minister and opposition leader in official residences.

A change-of-command ceremony for the armed forces is another of the things that countries do. Ceremonial occasions are vital to the military. Was the nearly $270,000 spent on the change-of-command ceremony excessive? Not if it's important to instill pride and a sense of tradition, and recognize past sacrifice – which the ceremony did. Nor if it's important to attract new recruits, as the ceremony was broadcast live nationally and served as a showcase for the armed forces.

Canada is very stingy in its spending on pomp and circumstance. The country, for example, has not hosted its head of state, the Queen, for seven years, and has not asked the monarch to open the Vancouver Olympic Games despite a request from the Vancouver Organizing Committee. This is certainly one way to elude ceremony and save money. Money could also be saved by telling the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader to pay for their own lodging. There are plenty of condos on the market in Ottawa.

Similarly, Gen. Natynczyk could have simply stood on the front steps of National Defence Headquarters and waved goodbye as Gen. Hillier jumped into a taxi, while a few aides wiped tears from their eyes, or struggled to conceal smiles, as the case may be. But that's not how countries usually behave, nor should they be expected to.
To repeat what I wrote at the first link above:
These internal battles would be amusing if the spin of the news reporting was not so pernicious.


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