Wayne's World ~ Mistakes PDF Print
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Written by Wayne Litke   
Monday, 09 April 2012 21:58

It is not unusual to become frustrated when working on a news story, and events last week brought back memories of a couple of aggravating situations. In my opinion, the main cause of journalistic anger is delays in receiving important information, incomplete facts and misleading information.
Several years ago, frustration (due to the reasons listed above) caused me to make a statement to a media relations officer that I later regretted. When my patience turned to aggravation I asked the communication officer to quit treating me like a dung beetle. Needless to say, I did not score any points and the flow of information didn’t readily improve. It was not until much later that I learned the media officer was new to the job and had little knowledge or experience dealing with such matters. I would like to think that I would have taken a friendlier approach if someone had simply explained the situation to me at the time, but that never happened.
I have long wondered why many public officials, civil servants and politicians feel it is a disgrace to share any information that is less than totally positive. Instead, information that they perceive as being less-than 100 per cent favourable is often glossed over, ignored, withheld or candy-coated. This is a totally wrong approach since no person or department is perfect, and to portray otherwise is inaccurate. There are times when reporters and columnists also make mistakes. Maple Creek’s mayor reminded me of that last week in his letter to the editor. I am like everyone else and don’t like to admit error, but mistakes are a part of life. If we don’t make mistakes, we are leading a sedentary life and failing to take action when it is needed. However, equally important is the ability to admit error and apologize. Therefore, I accept Mayor Barry Rudd’s statement that I got it wrong regarding the town’s snow removal efforts after the last snowstorm. I apologize to the town and it’s snow-removal crew.
An apology  is something I have not heard Defence Minister Peter MacKay make in regard to the highly inflated price of F-35 fighter jets the Canadian government plans to purchase. Sixty-five jets are expected to cost at least $25 billion, which is $10 billion more than the figure that was originally announced. Ten billion dollars equates to 1,000 piles of cash each containing one million dollars, and that is only the projected cost overrun.
The situation blew up in the government’s face last week after Auditor General Michael Ferguson said the defence department had misled Members of Parliament and taxpayers about the cost of the F-35 fighters. He said the full life-cycle cost of the new jets was likely underestimated by defence staff, and the government did not use opportunities that arose to clarify the costs of the fighter-jet program.
The Opposition has also been highly critical of the government for favouring the purchase of U.S.-built aircraft and not following its established procurement process.
In response to the release of the auditor general’s report last week, the federal government froze the budget for the purchase of the jets (which are almost undetectable by radar) and removed the procurement process from the hands of the defence department.
The defence minister insists there was no attempt to mislead anyone. He said the $10-billion difference in the budget is an accounting difference. He said the cost overrun difference is money the defence department pays for associated products and services such as fuel, salaries and repairs of its existing fleet of F-18 fighters. Most recently he said the proposed purchase of F-35 fighters is complicated and different from the procurement processes that were previously used. He also acknowledged there is an obvious need to improve reporting methods to the public and Parliament.
I would totally agree there is a definite need to improve communication at the federal level, especially in light of the new Conservative budget (complete with cutbacks) that did not include the cost of the new fighter-jet program. Perhaps it was merely an oversight, but it was apparently a $25 billion oversight in the eyes of the auditor.
Furthermore, it’s for the purchase of aircraft that Canada does not require for self defence. We need reliable helicopters for sea and land use and a fleet of modest, yet robust jets, for self-defence purposes. We need cabinet ministers who tell the truth and locally we require a hospital that has its own laundry facility. Trucking laundry four hours (one-way) for cleaning will work, but I doubt it is economical in the long run. I would like to see the cost-comparison figures.

 
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