New Canadian defence policy neither credible nor affordable

Trudeau, Freeland and TrumpOn June 7th, following a year-long policy review, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced a staggering, not to mention completely unrealistic, $62 billion increase to military spending over the next twenty years.

Though this is a clear capitulation to President Donald Trump’s demands for increased military spending by NATO members, the federal government has shrewdly framed the issue as Canada forging a new, sovereign path in light of a turbulent international political climate.

But one can look in vain throughout the new Canada defence policy for any actual evidence of Canadian leadership and independence. On the contrary, the goal of greater “interoperability” with the USA and allied military operations is repeated no less than 23 times.

In the one area where Canada could exercise real military leadership and independence from the USA – UN peacekeeping – the new defence policy simply repeats Canada’s aspiration to “lead and/or contribute” but offers no actual commitments to do so, despite more than a year of promises. And while $313 million is allocated for defence research and $102 million for university and private sector outreach, there is not one penny for a new international peacekeeping training centre. And this lack of training support is despite the clear acknowledgement in the new policy of the complex challenges of modern UN peacekeeping.

The majority of UN missions are being deployed into complex political and security environments…. Indeed two-thirds of peacekeepers now operate in active conflict zones.

Despite Defence Minister Sajjan’s assertion that the so-called “Strong, Secure, Engaged” defence plan is “the most rigorously costed, fully and transparently funded defence policy ever produced in Canada,” enormous questions remain about exactly that — namely, where the government plans on getting this money from, and where, exactly, it is actually going. In addition, by the Minister’s own admission, the hugely expensive commitment to NORAD modernization and the cost of future major operations are not included in the $62 billion figure.

Rather than making hard choices and delivering a credible new defence policy with an equally credible funding envelope, the Liberal government has, on the one hand, promised the moon at an astronomical cost to taxpayers, and on the other hand, devised a funding timeline where the really big dollars only begin after the next election. — Peggy Mason, RI President.

To add insult to injury, the new “feminist foreign aid policy” announced by Minister Bibeau on June 9 is being widely slammed for offering no new funding, despite urgent global needs.

Closer to home, consider the 60% of First Nations children on reserves who still live in poverty.

For an example of equipment choices for a defence policy that is both credible and affordable, see: Smart Defence: A Plan for Rebuilding Canada’s Military (Michael Byers, Rideau Institute and CCPA editors, June 2015).

For key policy considerations to underpin Canada’s global leadership on peace and security, see A-Shift-to-Sustainable-Peace and Common Security, (Submission to the Defence Policy Review by 11 Leading Civil Society Organizations, July 2016).

Photo credit: Government of Canada.



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13 Responses to “New Canadian defence policy neither credible nor affordable”

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  4. Barbara BambigerJune 10, 2017 at 12:34 pm #

    Yes, if we diverted money away from the military & towards social programs we could have better health care. (Also prison reform, far better services for the most vulnerable amongst us, schools that encourage critical thinking, genuine aboriginal reconciliation, independent
    scientists, drastic environmental improvements, better protection of our civil liberties & much more.)

    But is money the key issue here? The purpose of all that military might is to kill. We rationalize by saying its for defence, but we’re in serious denial if we pretend our military has not participated in inexcusable aggression against weak nations who have never threatened us. Think Afghanistan just for starts. How many civilians were maimed & killed there for the purpose of ???????????????????????? We further rationalize by saying we want to be peacekeepers. But would a nation truly
    committed to peace sell billions of dollars in weapons to Saudi Arabia?

    We keep hearing about “Canadian values”. There are some very fundamental ethical issues that must be addressed thoroughly & honestly.

  5. Guy St HilaireJune 10, 2017 at 9:36 am #

    I voted for the Liberals to my now utter disappointment . Broken promise of last government first pass the post , among many others.Now they want to increase warfare armaments which we certainly do not need . Just who do we need protection from ?
    We should be seeking rapprochement with peace seeking nations not warring countries like the US /Neo Nazis from Ukraine etc. and the NATO countries ,of which we also belong to .NATO is useless now that the USSR is no more . Are we at the point where the war industry is the only thing keeping economies alive ?

  6. Anne StreeterJune 10, 2017 at 7:41 am #

    Why is Chrystia Freeland in the photo sitting next to Trudeau? Shouldn’t it be the Minister of Defence? This woman worries me – far to ambitious – with far too much power. Unlike many other countries, the Minister has us siding with the very troubled Ukaine as opposed to Russia. It seems her personal history is getting in the way of making smart decisions.

  7. Judith WappJune 9, 2017 at 9:12 pm #

    “Canada should be a refuge from Militarism.” Pierre Elliot Trudeau
    Listen to your father, Justin, not that idiot Trump!

  8. J.G. MathesonJune 9, 2017 at 8:04 pm #

    The only way Canada can pay for this extravaganza of military excessiveness, is to cut back on social programs, and say it’s for defensive security. The liberal rulers are out to join the Americans for world dominance.

  9. JanetJune 9, 2017 at 6:35 pm #

    I am appalled that our government feels it must capitulate to Trump’s destructive agenda of divide and conquer.

  10. Carol PickupJune 9, 2017 at 6:33 pm #

    Disgusting!! This is NOT the change the Trudeau Liberals promised.

  11. Gayle McIntyreJune 9, 2017 at 5:36 pm #

    Larry Kazdan. Our Bank of Canada is not used to finance anything as far as I know since 1977 or so when this was given to the international private banking system in order to create unsustainable debt through interest payments.

  12. Gayle McIntyreJune 9, 2017 at 5:22 pm #

    Looks like the typical weapons manufacturing lobby group “Conflict of Interest” corp/gov criminal maneuver abusing our tax dollars for nefarious purposes.

  13. Larry KazdanJune 9, 2017 at 5:19 pm #

    I agree with your analysis except for the issue of affordability. A government like ours with a central bank and sovereign currency can afford whatever it wants, provided the real resources are available. It is merely a question of government priorities, which unfortunately the military-industrial complex is setting:

    William Mitchell is Professor in Economics and Director of the Centre of Full Employment and Equity (CofFEE), University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia

    “When we ask whether the nation can afford a policy initiative, we should ignore the $x and consider what real resources are available and the potential benefits. The available real resources constitute the fiscal space. The fiscal space should then always be related to the purposes to which we aspire, and the destination we wish to reach.


    The national government is never revenue constrained because it is the monopoly issuer of the currency. So it can buy whatever real resources that are for sale in the currency it issues.

    Which means that if the nation determines through the political process to drop bombs and leave sick people sick then it can financially accomplish that goal without issue.

    But it also means that if the political force is to have a first-class health system and the real resources are available to accomplish that task then the government can always make that happen.”