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From the Media: Notes and Matters Arising

In an article entitled ‘Canada’s high-tech defence disaster’ (Globe and Mail, September 24, 1991), Marcus Davies heavily criticises the Oerlikon Low Level Air Defence (LLAD) programme as ‘a disaster almost from the beginning’. He notes that

A U.S. government report released in May this year is nothing short of scathing in its review of the Oerlikon product’s performance … translated from the defence vernacular, the report means, simply, that the product is a dog. Yet, here in Canada, the Mulroney government seems handcuffed to the program. Unwilling to admit it was the mistake of a government new to office, the spending continues, even though the early promises of widespread job creation have not even remotely been kept. Apparently, the project has been overspent ($261 million) in Quebec, but massively underspent in other provinces.

It is the overspending in Quebec that may be the … government’s dilemma, especially now that Marcel Masse is defence minister. The prospect of saving $500 million (out of a project $1.2 billion) may … be attractive, but in political terms, the thought of cutting loose more than 700 jobs in Quebec is daunting.

Davies ends: ‘One wonders when the whole charade will end. Probably not until the whole $1.2 billion intended for the project is gone!’

If this is not a classic case for the economic conversionists to practice their skills on, one would be hard pressed to find a better one.

On October 6 and 7, The Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail gave accounts of Mikhail Gorbachev’s response to George Bush’s announcement of ‘cuts in the U.S. nuclear arsenal’ announced ten days before. It was noted that Gorbachev’s proposals far surpassed Bush’s in magnitude. Bush’s promises had already been criticized in several quarters as essentially tokenism, or even a deceit, since they indicated phase-outs of obsolescent weapon systems which would have been unavoidable in any case as new state-of-the-art weapon systems came on stream. On the face of it, Gorbachev may have outperformed Bush in terms of significance of the cuts proposed, but overall the impression is of a game in which neither player has divested himself of particularly significant cards as yet. When can we expect an aura of genuineness and real progressiveness to permeate arms negotiations? Not at all until we can phase out the military industrial complex.

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