One of Chris Alexander’s friends has a few things to say

As a follow-up on yesterday’s discussion—see here, here and here—of the F-35, what the Harper government once said about its procurement, Chris Alexander’s understanding of the public’s “misunderstanding” and what the Harper government now says about the procurement, here is more of the exchange between Chris Alexander and one of his Facebook friends that occurred yesterday.

Friend. It seems to me that Wherry is addressing the history of the F35 procurement process and communications strategy, not its current iteration as represented by the seven point policy. In this sense, the quotes ARE relevant if we are to properly evaluate your claim that the public somehow “misunderstood” the government’s intentions before April and the AG’s report. Based on the public record of high-level officials, it’s simply incorrect to suggest that the public misunderstood the government’s stated intentions before the release of the Auditor General’s report. Whether the public clearly understands the government’s intentions TODAY, and whether or not the government is communicating them with comparable levels of clarity and directness is another story entirely. In this case, I don’t think it’s fair to malign Macleans and Wherry for providing empirical context to a controversial claim about historical process.

Alexander. No, he’s not: he citing very selective quotes from 2010 and 2011 to imply that we have, in fact, signed, sealed and delivered a contract for new planes. This is entirely false. It is hardly fair to claim you are reporting on government policy (about which I was apparently “confused”) without anywhere citing the principal and most recent statement of that policy.

Friend. Thanks for engaging me thoughtfully on this issue. I understand that no contract has been signed, but I would respectfully argue that this isn’t the question at hand. The quote by you to which Wherry responds directly addresses the public’s historical perception of the process, not the contemporary one. Doesn’t it seem fair to question the reliability of current policy statements by contrasting them with those of the recent past? Should we have simply doubted the statements of the Prime Minister, Mr. Fantino, Mr. MacKay, as well as the official Press Releases when they were being made throughout 2010 and 2011? If they weren’t accurate then, how are we to judge the reliability of similar statements today? Surely you can see how this is problematic. Consistency is a requirement of credibility. Surely there must be accountability where consistency is absent? Is a 7-point policy plan so totalizing as to erase the recent past, rendering it irrelevant and beyond scrutiny?

Of course there is also a relationship between historical perception, and contemporary perception, and the statements on which they are based. It is precisely for this reason that Wherry contests your assertion that the public was “misunderstood” during 2010-2011. In fact, the government made itself perfectly clear. I understand the reason that the government now wishes to take control of the narrative by re-writing this history as one of “misunderstanding.” Such a revision will eliminate the contradiction between historical statements and contemporary policy, and shield the government from the embarrassment of having called an election to avoid disclosing cost estimates, only to have their hand forced by the AG after the fact. However, again with all due respect, such a revision is simply inaccurate.

John Geddes provides more context here.

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