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New Brunswick's New Business

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Issue: 39 Section: Accounts Geography: Atlantic New Brunswick Topics: arms industry

October 10, 2006

New Brunswick's New Business

An afternoon at an arms convention with some nice folks

by Chris Arsenault

David Innis stands by the NBAD display at a military trade show in Halifax. photo: Chris Arsenault
David Innis doesn't seem like a bad guy.

He's got a warm red face, a half-decent tie and wants to bring investment and jobs to New Brunswick.

But, as chairman of the New Brunswick Aerospace Defence Association (NBADA), Innis is essentially an arms dealer.

His job is to lure more military -- excuse me-- 'aerospace and defence' investment to the province.

"New Brunswick has a pretty well-established defence industry," Innis said while working the NBADA booth at a military trade show in Halifax in September.

The New Brunswick Aerospace Defence Association, including some 60 companies, "was born five years ago to give the businesses and the companies themselves a forum or an opportunity to engage in this industry in a more co-operative manner and engage the world that exists out there," Innis said.

And what a world it is. Inside the convention centre, government functionaries with receding hairlines and businessmen in grey suits brush shoulders with soldiers in military fatigues. Several hundred people interested in the business of war have gathered for this spectacle.

On the convention's second floor sits the main presentation room, where major arms makers like Boeing explain how smaller firms can win subcontracts on their projects. Boeing's rep reads from prepared notes, bragging how his firm produces one-third of all satellites currently in orbit and generated $54.8 billion in revenue from 145 countries in 2005. The PowerPoint presentation on the screen behind the rep shows white missiles blasting into blue sky, with a superimposed American flag in the background.

Boeing's PowerPoint presentation plays like a bad Nickelback video, complete with a hard-rock song entitled 'Anywhere, Anytime' that seems to have been written especially for the weapons firm.

With clients in 145 countries, the company is certainly ready to get paid by 'anyone at anytime,' selling weapons to both sides in various wars.

"As everything is becoming more global, we really have to step forward and look at the industry in a larger context than we have in the past. It involves an awful lot more networking," Innis said. The New Brunswick table is fairly small and not too impressive compared to major players like General Dynamics Canada, Raytheon and Boeing.

Many companies at the arms fair offer bowls of Werther's Originals or Campino hard candy on their displays. Buying missiles, armoured personnel carriers and aircraft components should, after all, be a sweet affair.

Many New Brunswick weapons firms are small subcontractors making component parts for large war machines. One of the province's defence "success stories," according to a government press release, is DEW Engineering, who operate a 100,000 square-foot facility in Miramichi.

This firm produces, among other things, "add-on armour for the world market". Vehicles like Army Stryker, involved in the occupation of Iraq, use this sort of add-on armour.

"New Brunswick has everything that it needs to fully participate in this industry," Innis said.

When people who sell weapons talk about their industry, concepts like war, kill, maimed kids, vanquished infrastructure and greed rarely fall into the lexicon. It's a 'defence industry' not a 'weapons that kill people' industry.

In his 1961 farewell address, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the American people, and by extension the rest of us, a serious warning.

"We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex," said Eisenhower.

Today, the influence of the military industrial complex is beyond unwarranted; it is all encompassing.

In 2005, the United States spent $455 billion on its military; more than the combined total of the 32 next most powerful nations, notes a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

In 2005, Canada was already the seventh largest military spender of the 26 countries in NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

"For the price of one military helicopter, the government could build 1,000 homes to shelter Canada's homeless," notes a report from the Polaris Institute, a left-leaning think tank based in Ottawa.

During the last week of June 2006, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced $15 billion in new spending on military vehicles, including transport planes, heavy-lift helicopters, troop carrier ships and trucks, to be spent over the next number of years.

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