Staples on Snowbirds spending

The Snowbirds, the Canadian air force’s aerobatics team, are a regular fixture at airshows across the country. Despite wide-ranging cuts to the public service and departmental budgets, the government has decided that spending three quarters of a billion dollars to give the Snowbirds new jets is a priority because of the “recruiting value” that the team provides. Rideau Institute President Steven Staples weighs in (David Pugliese, “Canadian Forces spending $755M to replace Snowbird jets,” National Post, 16 August 2012):

A report produced for then-associate minister of defence Julian Fantino in October 2011 listed the budget for the “Snowbird Aircraft Replacement Project” at $755-million. It did not outline how many planes would be purchased for that amount. The documents were obtained by Postmedia News through the Access to Information law.

The air force is also looking at the purchase of a new trainer for fighter pilots, according to a report in late June in the U.S. publication Flightglobal. No cost was provided for that potential purchase.

Dan Dempsey, a former Snowbirds commanding officer and team leader, said the air force’s decision to start moving on a replacement aircraft was welcome news. “This is a very, very positive development,” said Mr. Dempsey, a retired lieutenant colonel.

He said there are always going to be budget pressures on the Canadian Forces, but he pointed out that a new aircraft will last the team for another 30 or 40 years. “Yes, it’s not a hard-core combat capability, but it is an essential, and in my mind integral, component of the Canadian Forces because recruiting and public relations are always going to be vital.”

But spending $755-million on new aircraft for the Snowbirds is an extravagance, says Steve Staples of the Rideau Institute, the Ottawa research and communications group.

“The Snowbirds, while entertaining, are a luxury at a time when people are losing their jobs, the economy is hurting and the government is in debt,” said Mr. Staples, who argues that too much is being spent on the military. “It’s a huge cost for air show entertainment.” (Emphasis Added)

Photo credit: DND

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