Canadians are receiving mixed messages from the government on the F-35s and the media’s misleading reporting is not helping to clear things up.
A recent Canadian Press article quoted George MacDonald regarding concerns about the impact of the Libya campaign on Canada’s current fleet of F18s, referring to MacDonald simply as a “retired lieutenant-general” and “former vice-chief of defence staff”. (Murray Brewster, “RCAF fretted over Libya bombing campaign’s wear and tear on F18s,” Canadian Press, 9 September 2012). MacDonald had said:
“There’s no doubt the replacement fighter (program) needs to get going in the fairly near future if it’s going to replace the CF-18 in a reasonable length of time…”
Crucially, the journalist who wrote the article, Murray Brewster, failed to mention MacDonald’s new post-retirement role as a defence lobbyist. This was highlighted in a letter to the editor written by Rideau Institute President Steven Staples. Although every newspaper that ran the Canadian Press story received the letter, only the Montreal Gazette printed it:
It is not surprising that retired lieutenant-general George MacDonald thinks that the government should move quickly to replace Canada’s fleet of CF-18s. According to the Canadian government’s Lobbyist Registry, he works for CFN Consultants, the firm that represents Lockheed Martin, which wants to sell Canada a fleet of F-35 stealth fighters for billions of dollars.
But it is surprising that his client, Lockheed Martin, wasn’t mentioned in the article.
You wouldn’t print a story letting a tobacco salesman comment on the health effects of smoking, so why leave out the fact that an arms lobbyist is telling us which fighter jet is good for us?
Most other reports, including this 2011 article by Postmedia reporter, Lee Berthiaume, have mentioned the MacDonald-Lockheed Martin link. Even Sun Media reporters haven’t left it out.
Some might say it’s not surprising that the respected journalist who wrote the article would neglect to mention the link, given that he accepted a $2,500 media award from the Canadian Conference of Defence Associations, an organization that counts MacDonald as a member of their Board of Directors.
Photo credit: U.S. Marine Corps