Are there lessons in Brexit? You bet.
CHRIS MACLEAN
© 2016 FrontLine Defence (Vol 13, No 4)

The most important lesson the Trudeau government should take away from Brexit is... don’t hand-off big, complex decisions to the general public. An informed choice – no matter how difficult to “sell” to an apathetic public – can be justified, whereas “what is Brexit”, being the single most googled question after the vote, shows just how irresponsible the decision to take that question to a referendum really was.

A government that wants its electorate to weigh in on every serious question is abdicating the role it was voted in to do – govern!

The second lesson is not to let critics bully you into making a rash decision. Global politics are full of examples of hasty responses to high profile crises. Banning liquids and lotions (even expensive moisturizers) and nail clippers from carry-on flight bags after 9-11 is always top-of-mind. A few months ago, I watched in disbelief as a mother with three bottles of baby formula and a full bottle of water sticking out of her diaper bag sashayed through security for a 3-hour flight (seriously? No baby can drink that much that fast), while the rest of us dumped our water before getting near the scanner. But I digress.

This government has already shown it won’t be rushed. It has seen first hand what happens when decisions are made without solid policy behind them. That said, we can only hope some progress will soon be made. A decision on FWSAR would be so nice, especially since that program has been pushed aside for more than a decade.

The Defence Policy Review, which kept the Minister busy with numerous town hall meetings, should be a high priority. (I can’t help wondering if this was a simple way to buy more time. Has informed advice been given more weight than well-meaning, but ultimately uninformed commentary?)

Shipbuilding is another big issue that has stalled while the government takes a much deserved pause to evaluate the process. Hiring a retired Rear-Admiral from the British navy to advise on Canada’s struggling shipbuilding program came as a surprise – finding someone that knowledgeable and completely unbiased would be quite a feat.

The fighter replacement program got off to a rocky start when the previous government tried to sole-source a very important program. The new government, in true election blustering, somehow managed to tie itself up with the exact same (only opposite) problem. It has probably realized that political decisions based on emotion do not create good outcomes. Policy and (here’s a thought) a Statement of Requirements should be what decides which aircraft will replace our F-18s.

A solid grasp of what our national interests are, will help to define a requirement as important as any of these. Back-room deals are too easy to hide when there is no SOR to turn to. Let’s give transparency a real try this time, shall we?

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