DND: There really is a free lunch!

freelunchIn an unusual move, Canada’s top soldier and the Defence Department’s Deputy Minister have given DND staff permission to accept free meals from contractors at this year’s CANSEC arms trade show (David Pugliese, “Changes to DND hospitality rules at military trade show raising eyebrows,” Ottawa Citizen, 11 May 2010).

The new rules do not breach hospitality guidelines, said Industry Canada spokesperson Michel Cimpaye: “All Treasury Board guidelines in the Treasury Board Hospitality Policy will be followed in this regard.”

But opposition MP Paul Dewar feels that the new rules are cause for concern: “Some people might say what’s the big deal but the problem is the perception this creates.  Why bother having a policy if you’re simply going to suspend the rules?”

Dewar’s sentiments were echoed by Steven Staples of the Rideau Institute: “This kind of big party going on for military leaders and arms industry CEOs is inappropriate.”

Chief of the Defence Staff Walt Natynczyk and Deputy Minister Robert Fonberg insisted in a later letter to the editor that there is a “clear benefit to our personnel to see the various new defence technologies on display, network with defence stakeholders, and hear keynote speakers at breakfast and luncheon events.”  They did not explain why such events must be free to DND employees and military personnel, however.

The rule changes would appear to conflict with standing DND policy, which is meant to ensure that the acceptance of gifts does not “bring suspicion on the objectivity and impartiality of DND employees and CF members.”

Photo by williamhartz

Tags: Arms industry, CANSEC, Defence lobby, Defence policy, Gen. Walter Natynczyk, Paul Dewar, Robert Fonberg, Steven Staples