Today's discussion:

Just how bad is Canada’s defence spending problem? Downright disastrous—with little hope in sight

Out of 30 NATO members, Canada ranks fourth lowest in terms of defence spending relative its economy. In a world of evolving geopolitical tensions and new and emerging threats, Canada’s underinvestment in national defence represents a major vulnerability. 

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Alison Malis

When you have at least 39 billion going to less than 5 percent of the population in some kind of orgy of guilt (what else could it be) and resulting in a budget line item bigger than that of national defence you got a big problem. Someone needs to have the cojones to put the breaks on this guilt-fest self-flagellation.

29th April 2024 at 7:15 am
Gary Oxenforth

Along with the orgy of guilt you have over 20 billion going to foriegn auto makers to produce ev batteries for cars no one wants.

29th April 2024 at 10:00 am
Alison Malis

Nuts. Put the brakes on. It’s 4 am.

29th April 2024 at 7:15 am
Gordon Divitt

Canada has been free riding on the USA for many years and with current developments in the world it is time for us to contribute in a meaningful way

My first suggestion is to give up on the myth that we could ever be a significant part of NATO and focus all our spending on NORAD and coastal defence. That would be of value to many nations as the Arctic becomes increasingly ice free and Russia and China built capabilities which would let them roam freely through these waters, which will become ever more important trade routes – especially now that Panama and Suez canals are compromised

If we can also give up on the myth that our aircraft and ship building industries are up to the task and source equipment from allied competent countries. For example built ice strengthened hulls in a Nordic country and complete the outfitting domestically.

Lastly make defence spending decisions based on competence and not as some gift bag to be doled out in exchange for votes.

29th April 2024 at 11:17 am
Neil Beesley

Why are any of these goals “myths”?

Canada was a nation of roughly 14 million during WW II; from a standing start, we went on to create the third or fourth largest navy in the World (in terms of ship numbers) and to secure the North Atlantic passage of goods and materials to the UK, and eventually to liberated Europe.

From a standing start of virtually no existing infrastructure, we created and supported the Commonwealth Air Training Program, which trained virtually every Commonwealth air crew member outside of Great Britain. I still amuse myself while transiting Canadian airports by spotting the Isosceles Triangle pattern of runways, within the broader modern pattern, that they utilized back then because there wasn’t sufficient meteorological data on prevailing wind directions (so, at least one leg of the triangle must have been close enough). We built “instant” p, complete air training bases from scratch, in well under two years!!! My own late Uncle George trained Commonwealth air crew in Greenwood, Nova Scotia – so don’t bloody well try to deny it!!!

Three nation’s armies went ashore in Normandy on D Day, June 6th, 1944: America, Britain and Canada; I rest my case!!!

29th April 2024 at 4:21 pm
Gordon Divitt

Neil you are totally right in all your points but that was then and this is now.

The makeup of Canadians now is not predominantly British expats who leapt to defend the Commonwealth and we had wartime governments who could mobilize industry and ‘rally the troops’ in a way that no peacetime government can. By letting the Armed Forces be de-emphasized for decades both parties have proved to potential recruits that the role of the military is not important and why would anyone want to spend their working life doing jobs which rightfully belong to a civilian teams. ( a Canadian Peace Corps anyone) rather than training for the role we pretend we have at NATO.

29th April 2024 at 4:42 pm
Neil Beesley

Oh yeah, I forgot one: Who the hell do you think broke the deadly WW I trench warfare, killing fields stalemate at Vimy Ridge in 1917??? Canadian troops, under the command of Canadian general officers, for the first time; that’s bloody well who!!!

When I was a young lad, I knew a man who had served at Vimy Ridge and was wounded there; so, back off with your bloody “myths”, Jack – because that’s precisely what you know about it: “jack all”!!!

29th April 2024 at 4:37 pm
Gordon Divitt

Not that it matters if but before I became a latte sipper I was a deck officer in the British Merchant Navy and the Canadian Coast Guard where I sailed with many people who had served in the RN and RCN so I am intimately familiar with what Canada’s military was and what it now is

29th April 2024 at 9:34 pm
Neil Beesley

Oh boy, your latté sipping, pillow reclining, smug dismissiveness has really got me wound up now!!! I have also known plenty of honourable Canadian peace keepers in my time; it’s not just about 2% of this or that – it’s about showing up when it counts and putting it all on the line!!!

29th April 2024 at 4:45 pm

So, if the cons win next October, are they going to back up the defense plan, or cancel orders like Harper did?

29th April 2024 at 9:42 am
A. Chezzi

There are many complaints from different corners about the lack of defense spending and many complaints about the over spending on social programs. If the basic needs of citizens are not seen to, it is senseless to spend on the military. It will take more than money to end the housing crisis. It will take ingenuity and the combined efforts of politicians, business and labour, social scientists, and religious leaders. “According to the most-recent OECD figures, Canada’s social spending was only 17.3% of the national GDP. As previously noted, that puts Canada’s investments in social programs “near the bottom of the industrialized world.”Mar 16, 2019. So, where is the money going?

29th April 2024 at 9:24 am
Michael B

A major aspect of “defence” is protection from foreign cyber attacks. Also woefully underfunded.

29th April 2024 at 1:28 pm

Canada has not taken defense seriously for at least 30 years. We need to re-evaluate whether our existing commitments make sense, whether new priorities need to be addressed and what kind of capabilities are most effective as complementary to the USA.

My own prejudices suggest that we should withdraw from NATO, and focus mainly on cyber, maritime and arctic arenas. We do not need extensive ground capabilities, or deep water naval capabilities. Hopefully we can take advantage of our under investment in these areas to pivot to one more based on satellite, missile and drone technology.

29th April 2024 at 3:54 pm
Ian Gray

A key problem with Canada’s defence policy reviews and resulting policy is they are not anchored on and subordinate to comprehensive and up to date foreign policy. A defence policy – along with trade and other policy elements – is a means to attain specific foreign policy ends. I believe the last comprehensive foreign policy review was done about two decades ago. This is a major problem for the country.

Without this anchoring it is difficult for Government departments, branches and politicians to see, coordinate and execute a cohesive and logical national undertaking.

Our approach for years has been trying to design and buy a carr without knowing what the horse is supposed to do and where it is going. It is reflective of poor/inexperienced political leadership and Government senior bureaucracy unable to guide the politicians in the proper structuring of whole of government policy.

29th April 2024 at 1:22 pm
Ian Gray

A quick note on your manning figures, I believe you have given figures for Regular Force manning levels only, which is fine, if clarified. Related, I believe the manning shortfall you cite is near correct but it’s the shortage of combined Regular and Reserve force personnel.

29th April 2024 at 10:52 am
Neil Beesley

One of the most memorable extracts from Parliamentary ‘Hansard’ for me has always been: “Some Honourable Members: You can’t suck and blow at the same time!!!”.

Words to live by, ‘Hub’; words to live by!!!

Your feeble references to past failings in defence spending by the likes of the Stephen Harper Conservative Government, in a weak attempt by you at displaying neutrality, do absolutely nothing to conceal that this is an endemic problem with all Canadian governments, predating WW I!!!

The simple fact of the matter is that Canada and Canadians have historically ignored national defence issues and spending, until we have our noses rubbed in bitter reality – and then we step up and pull our weight far beyond the obvious requirements. In wartime, this country has absolutely kicked ass, and stepped up and beyond; in times of relative peace, we prefer to smell the daisies!!!

29th April 2024 at 10:22 am
Jean Hemelspeck

However; I wonder how many Canadians would be willing to defend Canada now.

My “parents” and “grandparents” and theirs before were the last generations to participate in or experience the devastations of war first hand. Baby Boomers never experienced a world war but grew up learning of it from those who did.

None of the past few generations know anything about war and have systematically attempted to erase its history and the consequences. Will they fight something know nothing about and don’t believe can exist?

29th April 2024 at 3:57 pm
Xiaoming Guo

DeepDives is a bi-weekly essay series exploring key issues related to the economy. The goal of the series is to provide Hub readers with an original analysis of the economic trends and ideas that are shaping this high stakes moment for Canadian productivity, prosperity, and economic wellbeing. So DeepDrives should investigate not how much our military spending is but how the military spending helps or damages our economy. One of the recent military expenditures is the operations in the occupation of Afghanistan. What is the result of the military expenses? It got us many refugees from Afghanistan. Is creating refugees in the world for our economy? Even if creating refugees in the world helps our economy, it is morally wrong. The next largest expending is sending our navy to the South China Sea and Taiwan Strait, in the name of enforcing UN sanctions on North Korea. Does this spending help or damage our economy? This spending is to make China our enemy, jumping on the bandwagon of the US new Cold War. The new Cold War kills our economy and is the root cause of present economic problems such as inflation, housing affordability, and reduced productivity due to our paranoia of decoupling from China’s market. Our only military accomplishment is shooting down a balloon that drifted from Alaska into Yuken.

29th April 2024 at 9:50 am
Kim Morton

The government could easily meet the 2% target. The real question is would we see any value for the spending? Having once worked for DND, I doubt it.

29th April 2024 at 9:35 am