Peter MacKay’s Afghanistan wishes; Rewriting history one wish at a time

By David Pugliese, Defence Watch

mediaculpaheader.stretched(Apr 11) – Former Defence Minister Peter MacKay was recently speaking to CBC Radio’s The House about the Afghanistan mission, outlining some of his wishes and some of his regrets.

MacKay told CBC he wished, in some ways, that the Canadian government had “provided more equipment, helicopters, mine-clearing equipment in the early days.”

“I don’t think the ferocity of the mission perhaps dawned on even military leaders, let alone political leaders of two different governments,” he said. “In retrospect, we could have perhaps prepared our soldiers better through both equipment and training,” he added.

Also on his list of “wishes” were better services for those who are now suffering from PTSD/mental health issues from overseas operations.

“I wish we could have, perhaps, been able to reach out into our country’s mental health providers to enlist their support that’s needed now,” MacKay said.

How interesting.

This was the same Peter MacKay, who when asked about equipment and training when he was defence minister, continually claimed that the Canadian military’s equipment and training for Afghanistan was among the best in the world.

This is the same Peter MacKay who launched a personal attack on Liberal Senator Colin Kenny, who back in 2007 had the audacity to suggest that Griffon helicopters – while limited in how they could operate – could be of some, any kind of use in Afghanistan. (Griffons were eventually sent as gunships)

This is the same Peter MacKay who, along with fellow Conservative Chris Alexander, has claimed that the Liberal government put troops at risk when it sold off Canada’s fleet of Chinook helicopters in the early 1990s (it was actually the Conservative government which sold off the Chinooks).

This is the same Peter MacKay who continually claimed that despite suggestions to the contrary by the military ombudsman Pierre Daigle, the Canadian Forces’ mental health care system was working just fine.

In fact, as journalist Colin Horgan of iPolitics pointed out in 2012, MacKay went on the offensive to defend the government’s “dedication to veteran’s health”, one week after Daigle questioned the military’s ability to handle a growing number of mental health cases.

“By putting in place a network of support centres on bases across Canada to facilitate and streamline the delivery of services to personnel and their families,” and by “taking steps to ensure that they have access to the same standard of care across the country,” the government is already taking steps to address the issue, MacKay said.

As Horgan noted, Daigle had warned the Harper government several times that the biggest challenge in this area was the Department of National Defence’s “chronic inability” to meet its target of hiring 447 mental health staff – a number set before the war in Afghanistan.

And then there is the article by the Ottawa Citizen’s Chris Cobb in January of this year in which he revealed that Canadian Forces’ mental health facilities across the country are chronically short of skilled professionals and aren’t even close to the staffing levels promised in 2012 by MacKay. MacKay made those promises at one of his high profile press conferences aimed at defusing mounting criticism of his inaction on the issue.

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