Comments by Steven Staples to CANSEC arms show protest

June 1, 2011.

Thank you Diane and Jason for inviting me to join you today. And thank you all for making Canadians aware that arms shows like CANSEC happen right here in Ottawa.

Military spending is out of control in this country. While our social programs are inadequate, we still have joblessness, homelessness, and an appalling lack of justice for aboriginal communities, this government pumps billions into arms.

It’s hard to walk down Ottawa’s Sparks Street these days without tripping over some lobbyist or public relations consultant for the arms industry. Strategically located only a block from Parliament Hill, the street is a beachhead for firms vying for a larger piece of the military budget.

Year after year defence spending has been rising. Increases brought in by the Paul Martin Liberals, and later boosted by the Stephen Harper Conservatives, have created a lucrative market for Canadian and international (especially U.S.) defence contractors.

Military spending will reach $22.3 billion in 2010-2011, according to a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives authored by Rideau Institute senior advisor Bill Robinson – 54% higher than before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

As the total budget increases, so does the amount spent on equipment. Last year DND told NATO that it intended to devote 17.5% of its spending to equipment expenditures in 2010, a 38% increase from the previous year.

This is good news for firms such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and General Dynamics, who are inside CANSEC right now. These US-based firms have been selling fleets of aircraft, helicopters, and vehicles to the Canadian Forces, and hope to sell a lot more. But how much longer can the party last?

Military-funded lobby groups, such as the Conference of Defence Associations, have lobbied for increases to military spending by arguing we are a relatively small spender and are shirking our responsibility to NATO.

But they are ignoring the fact that NATO and other international authorities rank Canada as the 13th largest military spender in the world in real dollars, and the 6th largest within the 28-member NATO alliance.

Canada’s military spending is sure to come under increased attention as the financial deficit increases. Demands for more spending on social programs on the one hand, or tax cuts on the other, will compete with the military’s bulging line item on Finance Department spreadsheets.

The reality is Canadians are turning their attention toward issues at home, such as jobs and social programs.

A Leger Marketing poll this month found that almost 60% of those questioned believe that “Canada should take a peace dividend and cut back on military spending to focus on other more pressing social issues at home” – an increase of 10 points over a similar poll taken a year ago.

Did you know that it was fifty years ago, on January 17, 1961, that Americans gathered around their TV sets to watch President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell speech from the White House? He chose his words carefully, and warned the American people about the growth in economic power and political influence of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry.

Eisenhower’s warning about the military-industrial complex’s “total influence – economic, political, even spiritual” is certainly evident in the modern debate over whether Canada should purchase a fleet of F-35 stealth fighters for the air force.

Canadians are being asked to spend between $16 and $21 billion of public dollars, according to Department of National Defence estimates, on these U.S.-built fighter-bombers, without a clear explanation of why they are needed for our protection. The Parliamentary Budget Officer says it could be $30 billion, and others have said that even this estimate is too low. The truth is: nobody knows for sure.

As President Eisenhower might have predicted, the forces allied in favour of the F-35 program are defence firms and the military. In fact, it is sometimes hard to tell them apart. The former second in command of the Canadian Air Force, Major-General Richard Bastien, is now vice-president of the U.S.-owned aerospace company L-3 MAS, based in Montreal. Predictably, he told Members of Parliament in October that “the Government must do its utmost to ensure that the F-35 is not only a military success, but also a success for industry in Canada.”

Likewise the plane’s U.S. builder, Lockheed Martin, has hired one of Ottawa’s most successful defence industry lobby firms, CFN Consultants, which is composed almost entirely of retired officers from the senior ranks of the military.

These are the forces that gather together at arms show like CANSEC, and the civil servants and military men and women are bussed in to hear their sales pitch. But it’s not security equipment that these firms are selling – what they are selling is FEAR.

Fear of distant governments, fear of other people, and even fear of our own neighbours. It is fear that creates the vast markets for the arms industry, and a frightened population will allow untold sums of public dollars to be spent on the weapons of war. Arms industries and shows like CANSEC thrive on fear.

And what you are doing today is sending a message. A message that says, “We are not afraid.” And that is what the arms industry, fears the most.

Thank you for calling it like it is. And for sharing with Canadians a vision of a better future, and a better Canada.

As President Eisenhower said fifty years ago, “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defence with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” Some things never change.

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3 Responses to “Comments by Steven Staples to CANSEC arms show protest”

  1. G. W. MarkleJune 2, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

    The Right Wing Movement:

    I have a problem with the right wing movement, in that; they seem to possess a distorted sense of entitlement. They’ve set themselves apart, and seem to think that their faith gives them the right to view the world from a platitude of conceit, through condescending eyes, and with a false sense of superiority. They actually believe themselves to be superior beings, with a manifest destiny and some strange notion that God is on their side. A people with a desire to conquer, under the false guise of Christianity, seeking to dominate in the name of Christ, their view of humanity being reduced to nothing more than a matter of “us” and “them”.

    What they fail to realize is; if the Christ you believe in leads you to view other humans as lesser beings, then you are a follower of the anti-Christ. The plain truth is; God doesn’t have a religion and God doesn’t discriminate. Any religion that professes to be the only true religion, or that they‘re special in the eyes of God preaches false doctrine. If the Spirit of God is truly with you, it will only be known by acts of “unconditional” love and charity. No religion can claim exclusive rights to God. He belongs to all that He has created, and to foster a belief in “us” and “them” is to divide humanity, not unite it.

    And so it will be in The End, that those who have set themselves apart from their fellow man will find that they have set themselves apart from God. The worth of a soul will only be measured by how much it has loved, nothing more, nothing less.

    Woe to those who have taken the widow’s mite and built castles and empires in His name. They have incurred a great accountability. Their suffering will be unending.

  2. Alvin LeeJune 2, 2011 at 11:13 am #

    Steve

    Thank you for doing this piece. I hope it gets a wide readership. I am alarmed that so few Canadians, and almost no one in the main media, gives a though to the rapidly growing integration of Canada (its military expenditures, its economy, its rightwing politics in government) into the military-industrial complex which has become a massive fact of contemporary history. When I queried our local MP, a Conservative, about the expenditure on the proposed stealth fighters he justified them as creating jobs for Canadians. There, exactly, is the kind of thinking that has gotten the US into such deep trouble. You cannot keep such an economy going without wars and the fears of wars (real or imagined).

    Keep at it, Steve

  3. Larry CarneyJune 2, 2011 at 7:20 am #

    The religious establishment has to get integrated with the peace and anti-war establishment. The fear that Steven speaks of here that leads to so much mistrust and even hatred and bigotry is the same thing that goes against Jesus’ call to love our neighbor. For this reason He tells us not to fear because he is with us and he has overcome the world. And John says that God is love, and whoeveer abides in love abides in God and God in him.