Asian pivot advocated for RCN

A number of Canadian defence analysts are advocating that the Royal Canadian Navy shift its focus from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean to counter the growing power of China’s naval forces (David Pugliese, “Should The Royal Canadian Navy Transfer Warships From Halifax To Esquimalt To Deal With The ‘Threat’ From The Chinese Military?Ottawa Citizen, 15 August 2013):

The issue of transferring Royal Canadian Navy ships from the east coast to the west coast because of the supposed threat from China has resurfaced.

This issue was talked about in 2006-2007 and then again in 2010. The argument coming from some defence analysts is that since China is pursuing what they call an aggressive military buildup in the Pacific region, then Canada should transfer naval assets from Halifax to CFB Esquimalt to help counter that.

The RCN fleet is currently split “on a 60-40 basis favouring the Atlantic Coast, with seven frigates and two destroyers in Halifax compared to five frigates and one destroyer in Esquimalt.” David McDonough, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia, insists Ottawa “should reverse the emphasis, with at least 60 per cent of the frigates and destroyers in B.C.” (Peter O’Neil, “Defence analysts say navy should shift vessels to West Coast,” Vancouver Sun, 11 August 2013).

However, as Pugliese reports, the logistics of a naval pivot towards the Pacific would be immensely expensive, given that “70-75 per cent” of the Navy’s current infrastructure, support facilities, and personnel are located on the East Coast.

And those costs would be in addition to the expensive new fleet of submarines that McDonough argues for, which he suggests could be paid for by “reducing personnel.”

Retired rear admiral Roger Girouard also suggests that Canada should become a “Pacific power”. Arguing that Canada’s trade interests are only as secure as our military’s ability to operate in the region, Girouard asserts that “Canada should not expect to make windfall profits from the positive outcomes of Asian markets if it is completely unwilling to invest in the security and stability that creates the positive environment for these very markets to flourish.”

Jack Granatstein of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute also argues that Canada has “a real interest in seeing the Pacific remain a peaceful ocean with unhindered trade” (J.L. Granatstein, “Canada needs a navy for the 21st century, Ottawa Citizen, 14 August 2013) and thus that “it makes sense for us to re-balance the RCN’s fleet.”

That Canada has an interest in preserving the Pacific as a peaceful ocean does seem clear. Less clear is why these analysts believe that casting the Canada-China relationship in more explicitly military terms would be a productive way to help achieve that end.

Photo credit: U.S. Navy

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8 Responses to “Asian pivot advocated for RCN”

  1. Terri RobsonSeptember 20, 2013 at 9:35 am #

    The only reason for Chinese buildup is due to American naval buildup in the region, ostensibly to protect thier interests in Japan..This is more like an arms race, yet again..The only people we have to fear are those who in fact still live in the Cold War era and are always hystericaly warning us that the Russians are coming or the Chinese are coming, they will wage war on us if we do not protect our borders…Only one country attacks others for thier commodities and they are directly south of Canada.

  2. ROLF LOTHSeptember 7, 2013 at 10:52 pm #

    What a ridiculous idea ! Canada is no match to the magnitude and technology the Chinese navy incorporates. We are but an insignificant, backward nation in comparison. The best defense for us is to stay neutral and keep the nose out of other nations’ affairs. However, some military presence to guard our borders, especially in the arctic, would assert our sovereignty over our land.

  3. Harold J. SudermanSeptember 7, 2013 at 4:08 pm #

    I am totally against this proposed shift of focus for the RCN from the Atlantic to the Pacific. It is not needed, wasteful of taxpayers’ money and,if implemented, added impetus for regime change in Ottawa.

  4. Dennis ChoptianySeptember 7, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

    For the foreseeable future, the international hotspots will be the Middle East and Africa. The last map that I saw did not have either of those regions even near the Pacific Ocean.

    Also, If there was any military threat from China or Russia, it would not come with a naval thrust.

    Don’t these military experts that are advocating a juggling of our naval fleet have anything better to do than play paper games that make little or no sense?

  5. Alfredo LouroSeptember 7, 2013 at 11:23 am #

    Sounds like a make work project for the navy.

  6. BruceSeptember 7, 2013 at 11:17 am #

    Harper will just love this, another excuse to test sonar kill marine life. Then protect Canada from the Asian Horde. We both need and want peace, building military force is not nthe way to achieve this.

  7. Mark CollinsSeptember 6, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    Not everyone at the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute takes the same view–see:

    “RCN Pacific Pivot?

    I think people should hold their sea horses for a while rather than advocating a naval “re-balance” towards Asia…”

    “RCN Pacific Pivot? Part 2”



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