On June 7th, following a year-long policy review, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced a staggering, not to mention completely unrealistic, $62 billion increase to military spending over the next twenty years.
Though this is a clear capitulation to President Donald Trump’s demands for increased military spending by NATO members, the federal government has shrewdly framed the issue as Canada forging a new, sovereign path in light of a turbulent international political climate.
But one can look in vain throughout the new Canada defence policy for any actual evidence of Canadian leadership and independence. On the contrary, the goal of greater “interoperability” with the USA and allied military operations is repeated no less than 23 times.
In the one area where Canada could exercise real military leadership and independence from the USA – UN peacekeeping – the new defence policy simply repeats Canada’s aspiration to “lead and/or contribute” but offers no actual commitments to do so, despite more than a year of promises. And while $313 million is allocated for defence research and $102 million for university and private sector outreach, there is not one penny for a new international peacekeeping training centre. And this lack of training support is despite the clear acknowledgement in the new policy of the complex challenges of modern UN peacekeeping.
“The majority of UN missions are being deployed into complex political and security environments…. Indeed two-thirds of peacekeepers now operate in active conflict zones.”
Despite Defence Minister Sajjan’s assertion that the so-called “Strong, Secure, Engaged” defence plan is “the most rigorously costed, fully and transparently funded defence policy ever produced in Canada,” enormous questions remain about exactly that — namely, where the government plans on getting this money from, and where, exactly, it is actually going. In addition, by the Minister’s own admission, the hugely expensive commitment to NORAD modernization and the cost of future major operations are not included in the $62 billion figure.
“Rather than making hard choices and delivering a credible new defence policy with an equally credible funding envelope, the Liberal government has, on the one hand, promised the moon at an astronomical cost to taxpayers, and on the other hand, devised a funding timeline where the really big dollars only begin after the next election. — Peggy Mason, RI President.”
To add insult to injury, the new “feminist foreign aid policy” announced by Minister Bibeau on June 9 is being widely slammed for offering no new funding, despite urgent global needs.
Closer to home, consider the 60% of First Nations children on reserves who still live in poverty.
For an example of equipment choices for a defence policy that is both credible and affordable, see: Smart Defence: A Plan for Rebuilding Canada’s Military (Michael Byers, Rideau Institute and CCPA editors, June 2015).
For key policy considerations to underpin Canada’s global leadership on peace and security, see A-Shift-to-Sustainable-Peace and Common Security, (Submission to the Defence Policy Review by 11 Leading Civil Society Organizations, July 2016).
Photo credit: Government of Canada.