Time to up Canada’s defence spending

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan answers a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on April 4, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

The Edmonton Sun, 18 April 2017

The world is becoming a more dangerous place. Yet Canada’s defence spending is on the decline, this doesn’t add up and it has to change.

The Senate committee on national security and defence last week released an alarming report revealing our defence spending is lower as a percentage of GDP than it’s ever been. Under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, we’re down to spending 0.88% of GDP.

The number’s been declining ever since the 1960s, when it was 4%. This is a problem because our commitment to NATO is that we’ll spend 2% on military matters.

Coincidentally, the Senate report came out the day after U.S. President Donald Trump walked back his past statements on NATO being obsolete and reiterated his calls for member countries to increase their military spending.

For a brief period, the world enjoyed calm in the post-Cold War era.

As the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union drew to a close, it seemed the days of nuclear proliferation were behind us and liberal democracy would dominate the new world order. That time was short-lived.

A little over a decade later, Osama bin Laden began planning for 9/11 and international terrorism kicked into high gear. Meanwhile, countries like Iran and North Korea developed an appetite for nuclear weapons. A new arms race, involving unstable regimes and even terrorist groups, has emerged.

Former U.S. president Barack Obama created a power vacuum in the geopolitical sphere when he failed in 2013 to enforce the “red line” he drew in Syria over its development and use of chemical weapons. Trump is clearly barreling ahead to correct that mistake. Recently, he dropped dozens of Tomahawk missiles in a targeted strike on a Syrian airfield.

And he dropped a MOAB (Mother of All Bombs), the largest non-nuclear weapon in the U.S. arsenal, on an ISIS fighting position in Afghanistan. America is in fighting form again, ready to beat back the rising forces of evil in the world.

Canada will decide, case by case, which fights we will join the U.S. in prosecuting.

But if our defence spending continues to erode, we won’t be in shape to join any fight.

The time to increase our military spending is now.

4 responses to “Time to up Canada’s defence spending

  1. Having been born and raised in Canada, I can tell you it’s the typical cycle in Canada with military spending. Conservative led governments will spend on the military while Liberal led governments tend to let the military starve to the breaking point before spending on it.

    Canada doesn’t need to worry about which overseas wars it will or won’t join in; what they need to do is get out of their false sense of security and reacquaint themselves with the fact they are the second largest country in the world by land mass with some of the longest coastline to defend, has the world’s largest country by land mass with an unpredictable leader sitting on the other side of the polar circle and is one of NATO’s founding members. There’s a lot of reason in those three facts alone for Canada to have a stronger military than it does and it’s not unfair for Canada’s allies to expect a country of such size and stature to have an appropriately sized and funded military to defend itself in a meaningful and visible way.

    When I see Justin Trudeau waffling on about getting Canada out of the F-35 and finding an “alternative” replacement for Canada’s Hornet fighters, I just shake my head. He talks about the Super Hornet, but doesn’t seem to realise that the time to get on the band wagon for that machine has come and gone and Canada missed it.

    Canada still flies some of the oldest Hornets out there and chose to incrementally upgrade their A and B models rather than trade them in for C and D models instead. It’s embarassing.

    It reminds me of when Jean Cretien’s Liberals took office in late 1993. The very first thing he did was to cancel Canada’s committments to the EH-101 helicopter. He ignored the fact that the ink was dry on the country’s promise to be a manufacturing point for the EH-101 airframes as well as for many of the aircraft’s systems.

    Canada very much needed to replace their geriatric fleets of Labrador SAR helicopters and Sea King ship borne helicopters and the EH-101 was the only machine going at the time that could replace both types to Canadian requirements.

    In one knee jerk reactionary pen stroke to show to the country he was committed to bringing the previous Conservative party’s overspending under control, Cretien made a much needed piece of military hardware a target of convenience.

    The result was that Canada had to pay over $470 million Canadian dollars in contract cancelation fees and fines. The cost became much higher in 1998 when a Labrador helicopter crashed with no survivors while returning from a SAR mission. That incident left Canada eating some serious crow internationally as it sent us buying a stripped down SAR version of the EH-101 from Italian assembly lines. The Labrador could have been well and gone out to pasture by then and built at home had Cretien just left the contract to stand.

    The same Sea Kings Canada bought in 1963 still soldier on, when they can, while the much delayed Sikorsky S-92 based replacement slowly trickles into service.

    That’s just the aviation aspect, to say nothing of the land and sea elements.

    I don’t often agree with what the Edmonton Sun publishes, it’s always tended towards tabloid sensationalism, but in this case I do agree.

    I realise I’ve rambled quite bit here and I hope you don’t mind me taking up so much space, but as a Canadian I feel little pride when my homeland’s military looks like a relative lightweight while the world’s in the state it’s currently in.

    • Thank you so much Kevan for such an in-depth report. You have certainly answered some puzzling questions regarding Canada’s defence expenditure and it’s military global stance.

      • We’ve had some other head scratchers too over the years.

        I remember in 1991 when Canada’s first fleet of Chinooks was retired and left the military without a heavy lift helicopter capacity. We had been using C model Chinooks since 1974 and at the time we retired the C fleet, Boeing was offering C users an upgrade package to bring the aircraft up to a D standard. We retired them anyway, sold most of them to the Dutch who then promptly took up Boeing on the upgrade offer. Fast forward to 2008 and Canada takes on a batch of second hand American D Chinooks and later trades them back for the F models they have today.

        The CF-5 Freedom Fighter fleet was retired in 1995 right after a multi-million dollar avionics upgrade to give them glass cockpits and bring them closer to the F-18 Hornets they were being used as advanced trainers for. Botswana bought a dozen or so of the retired aircraft and needed to have them reverted to the pre upgraded state as they didn’t have the resources to support the modern systems.

        Another poser is the Canadair CT-114 flown by the Snowbirds air demonstration team. It’s a nearly 60 year old design that is only used by the Snowbirds these days. It was retired as a trainer ages ago and most of the retired trainers have been put towards providing spares to keep the team going. I’m sure the only reason they keep flying the Tutor is out of blind patriotism; it’s the only Canadian designed and built aircraft left in Canadian service that is aerobatic enough to use it for the purpose.

      • That’s quite a list. The UK has had some disasters of it’s own. In 1995 eight special operations chinook Mk.3s were ordered, due to various problems such as non-compliance with airworthiness standards and the infra-red computed screens not working at night, the aircraft remained grounded for 13 years and cost the MOD £500 million. Then of course there was the Nimrod MRA4, which simply didn’t work and ended up costing the tax payer £3.4 billion, and then the Nimrod AEW3, which had software that was so complicated that the radar was incapable of collecting any information, this programme cost close to £1 billion, 4 times the original estimate. I guess we could all learn a great deal about past mistakes and efficient procurement, but we never do. Thanks again Kevan.

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