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The boss has gone crazy! He's giving away new uniforms! At $4.5 million, they're practically free!

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Paul Hellyer

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After checking the date to make sure it wasn’t still April 1, many Canadians must have wondered if the Harper Government had completely taken leave of its senses when they learned last week we taxpayers are about to fork over $4.5 million so Canadian Forces officers can have British-style crowns and pips on their epaulettes again, and naval officers big loopy gold braids on their sleeves.

Well, that will scare the hell of Vladimir Putin, now, won't it?

Not that $4.5 million for regimental fripperies seems like very much to a government that has added a couple of hundred billion free-floating Canadian Credionias to the national debt since taking over from the Liberals, who had quietly been paying it down.

But that's what it costs to finance a Thatcherite revolution by slashing taxes for billionaires, which remains Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Main Project.

Still, to anyone who's not been really paying attention, Harper's decision to spend even a few million dollars on new brass and gold braid for the Canadian Forces -- which had appeared quite content with Canadian maple leaves on their shoulders for almost all of the last half century -- must seem bizarre.

Indeed, it is bizarre, but that doesn’t mean it's inexplicable.

So, why would Mr. Harper want to do such a thing? Let me try to explain….

For starters, it's because our PM's got a crazy hate on for the Liberals, and it was the Liberals, of course, who unified the armed forces back between 1966 and 1968.

This was mainly about accounting, and if they'd just left the uniforms alone, everybody probably would have been OK.

And yes, back then the Navy just hated it, although with the benefit of hindsight I'm not sure why. I mean, really, OK, they had to wear army uniforms for a couple of decades after that, but the army's had to salute like a bunch of anchor crankers ever since! So who's got the bigger whinge now, huh?

I'm not saying it's crazy to hate the Liberals, just that it's crazy to hate them crazy, if you know what I mean.

If Harper were not being driven right around the bend by the possibility that people might just vote Justin Trudeau back into 24 Sussex Drive -- his old family home, as it were -- he would have known there were better ways to exploit "Unification," as it was known back in those pre-Moonie days, than changing the uniforms back again the way they were before, nyaaa-nyaaa-da-boo-boo. I mean, like, seriously, who cares any more? I'm telling you, not even the Navy!

No, if Harper, who was seven when the Liberals brought in Unification, had been quite his diabolically sneaky old self, the master of wedge issues of yore, he would have reminded voters just who cooked up the most significant armed forces policy since General Sir Arthur Currie, late of the Gay Gordons (I'm not making that up), took command of the Canadian Corps in 1917.

And by that I don't just mean the Liberals. No, Unification was managed by Paul Hellyer, Lester Pearson’s minister of national defence, who was not only a Tory turncoat, but has just spent the last decade warning us all about the danger of inter-galactic war with fleets of flying saucers. (Really! I'm not making that up, either!)

Seriously, people, if that factoid doesn't persuade Canadians the Grits are flakier than Auntie Dot's pastry, well, the Conservatives are simply doomed! We might as well all just get used to it.

Well, enough helping Harper with his strategical difficulties. The government's excuse is that not letting soldiers and sailors wear the distinctive Canadian maple leaf brought in by Person will… oh, wait, that's it, isn't it?

Not only was Unification a Liberal idea, so was the stylized 11-point maple leaf on our flag!

And, anyway, let's face it, Harper really doesn’t like Canada.

Oh, I know, he sounds as patriotic as the next neocon nut from south of the Medicine Line most days, but, remember, this is the guy who called our country "a Northern European welfare state in the worst sense of the term" and accused Canadians of bragging about it "to mask its second-rate status."

C'mon, do you seriously believe he's really changed his mind? Of course he wants to deep-six the most successful symbol of our modern expression of national pride!

And given that the cost of the pips, crowns and brassy squiggles was only $4.6-million, we could hardly expect his government to phase in the change to save money. I mean, if soldiers didn't all dress exactly the same, it wouldn't be a uniform, would it?

As a dear old quartermaster sergeant once said to me on some press tour of one fake battlefield or another during the war with the Union of Fantasian Socialist Republics (UFSR), "When we all dress the same, it looks... it looks... NICE!"

I'm not knocking the army for that, by the way. They let me drink beer in the Sergeants' Mess and drive an armoured personnel carrier over a small tree.

But what's Harper gonna do next? Restore wiggly brass to the naval reserve … hellllooo Wavy Navy! Bring back the Red Ensign? Make us all sing God Save the Queen?

These are serious questions!

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, Alberta Diary.

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