Today's discussion:

The Liberals are not going to fix Canada’s real defence spending problem

If Bill Blair is failing to find the traction he needs within his own government to fix Canada's abysmal defence spending, then it may be up to the next to offer a clean start. The Conservatives should be eager to champion this cause.

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Ian Gray

First class article on the difficulty we face in properly funding and caring for the defence of the country. Similar problems exist in terms of our internal security situation and inadequate resources to address them, as has been much in the news of late.

That said, this is the first article I have seen that even mentions and suggests that Defence Policy and Foreign Policy go hand in hand, with the first being anchored on and serving the second. A coherent, well understood and up to date Foreign Policy is a must to guide a credible and acceptable Defence Policy. I have seen little to anything in recent years about such a Foreign Policy other than a major problem we have is we do not have one – the last full review being in 2005 – and that this Government in particular generally does little more than conduct our foreign relations in an ad hoc fashion, based on domestic and partisan politics.

We need to start any discussion about a useful and credible Defence Policy with the question, ‘Do we even have and up to date, coherent Foreign Policy, one designed on the real challenges of this rapidly changing world and how we need manage our interests within it?’ If we do not, it becomes near impossible to begin selling the merits of a Defence Policy developed in isolation.

That those we elect today are dreadfully, and some might say blissfully, unaware of international events and Canada’s relations and needs in response to those challenges is not the least bit surprising.

3rd May 2024 at 8:14 am
David Chapman

Very well said.

4th May 2024 at 11:33 am
Kim Morton

The liberals are not about to fix any of the problems they have created.

3rd May 2024 at 9:18 am
Paul Attics

Canadians live under the protective umbrella of US military and geographical isolation of North America. As such, there is almost no perceived risk of another nation coming across our borders and it is not a priority for most. In short, we take it for granted. Therefore, not a political priority.

‘Defense spending’ is a losing term. Proponents should be talking about ‘risks and missions’. What are the geopolitical risks and international commitments and what capabilities do we need to mitigate them?…and spend accordingly.
Examples (for illustration purposes only):
– Assert Artic sovereignty / have at least one Canadian vessel in the Artic at any given time. Ability to intercept any air threat within 30 minutes anywhere in our Artic.
– International Response / 5000 (or whatever number) CAF force can be deployed on-the-ground internationally within 30 days.
– Domestic Response / 1000 (or whatever number) CAF force can be deployed domestically within 7 days for disaster response (even if international response has happened).
– International shipping protection/enforcement – CAF should be able to deploy and independent sustain a small ship group (2-5) anywhere in the world’s oceans.

3rd May 2024 at 7:32 am

Domestic disaster response was an issue that Chiefs of Defense Staff and Army Commanders have continually raised, arguing against the growing use of combat forces for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR). That’s not what their purpose or role should be, yet requests for these resources as an expensive form of manual labor (former Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman’s request for the deployment of troops to his city for, of all things, clearing snow from sidewalks downtown stands out as the most egregious example) appear to be the primary consideration of provinces when disasters strike, not a last resort. Rather than always releasing troops when HADR requests from the provinces are received, Ottawa must to put a fence around our troops, establishing tighter protocols for their deployment or use.

Talk of capability, including the 2% GDP spending target we agreed to as part of our NATO treaty obligations, is laudable. A foundational approach, though, of responsible spending and the timely acquisition of military equipment and hardware should come first. Tackling the longstanding Gordian Knot of Ottawa’s procurement processes should be their priority, that and ending the influence of ruling political parties in awarding contracts to manufacturers and suppliers for purely partisan purposes. The focus must be on the effective and efficient use of tax dollars to adequately meet the needs of our forces, not the manipulation of these processes to bolster party electoral support in key areas. Maintaining the status quo means we will always pay more, while our military will always receive less of what they actually need.

3rd May 2024 at 9:09 am
Kim Morton

That’s not what their purpose or role should be, yet requests for these resources as an expensive form of manual labor

The same could be said for many other organizations. Firefighters spend more time doing medical calls than fighting fires. They also spend a lot of time doing traffic control at accident scenes because the various government bodies that are responsible for these operations are not capable of responding in a timely manner. From a taxpayer’s perspective, it doesn’t matter what their shoulder patch says, the money comes out of the same pocket.

3rd May 2024 at 9:25 am

With respect, the use of municipal police and firefighters is a separate issue. Far different it is to rapidly deploy resources based in your back yard, as opposed to calling on Ottawa to send in soldiers from other parts of the country. The cost of getting them there, along with housing and feeding them while they’re deployed is often overlooked. It is the logistics and planning that leaders fail to grasp for the sake of convenience; there is a price to be paid for both.

Speaking of back yard, the last two Premiers of my province have rightly told Ottawa to stay out of ours and to swim in their own lane. That argument goes both ways. There are times when provinces that fail to plan for emergencies and natural disasters should be admonished when they pick up the phone and call on the Prime Minister to bail them out. That’s hardly what I would call responsible governance.

That said, my province has demonstrated its ability to effectively manage emergency events with provincial resources – the Coutts border blockade is one example – all without asking for Ottawa’s help. (I’d add too that they rightly told the Trudeau Government that there was no national emergency justifying the invocation of the Emergencies Act as a result of protests in both Coutts and Ottawa.)

3rd May 2024 at 10:16 am

A strong CAF is not just about Canada. The CAF needs to be strong in order to contribute to the defence of democracy worldwide. Canada needs a strong navy to defend freedom of the seas, a strong air force to defend against any artic incursion and a strong army to assist our allies working in hotspots around the world.

3rd May 2024 at 8:47 am
Mark S

As a parent who had all 3 of his children serve in various capacities with the Canadian Armed Forces I remain cynical of the latest pronouncements of the government. Budget 2022 promised 8 billion over 5 years for defence of which only 6.1 billion would go to the Department of National Defence with the actual increase in year 1 for DOD being 100 million. In 2023 the government announced a 1 billion dollar cut to defence and the actual defence budget for 2023-24 was 26.5 billion which was less than 1% of GDP. In fact even the 26.5 billion is an overstatement as defence since 2015 has consistently spent less than it’s budget on procurement based on an inability to obtain approval. The amounts involved are usually in the range of 2 billion a year. Another promise of 8 billion over 5 years with the majority of the funds being promised in the last years and after the current government’s mandate is simply not credible. The military is currently reducing the training the troops receive who are being sent to Latvia. The military is 16000 personnel short and the plan is to correct this by 2032. In short they are planning 8 years to correct a recruitment problem. I agree with the comments of Paul Attics that defence cannot be properly looked at without reviewing Canada’s role in the world. However It is not unreasonable to expect our soldiers to have first rate training and equipment to handle whatever tasks they are assigned. Ultimately these members of our armed forces are our children.

3rd May 2024 at 12:48 pm

NATO does not seem to have a firm definition of what is considered attributable to the 2% calculation, each country, seems to count differently. The author seems to have forgotten that the world of 2011 does not resemble that of today’s. Technology and world turmoil have changed everything. It appears to be such a quickly moving target, how can one define it in the terms of the moment?

3rd May 2024 at 1:21 pm
David Chapman

A very well written and thoughtful article. Sadly the author is right. There is a reason that Finland and Sweden recently joined Nato and we in Canada should be concerned now that the Arctic is melting that rogue countries like Russia and China may decide to ‘test’ us and frankly we would fail abysmally. Military members are demoralized and depressed right now. I am old enough to remember the high regard that the military had after world war 2, and now not. The F35 boondoggle is appalling. We need a new Prime Minister, however I am concerned that Poilievre is way too partisan and negative to be effective.

4th May 2024 at 11:32 am