Canada must do its part to rein in the global arms industry


A new era has been ushered in with the resounding election victory of the Justin Trudeau Liberals. Their official campaign platform includes many commitments for which supporters have fought long and hard, including:

  • Restoring the Canada the world knew before Harper, the Canada committed to constructive multilateralism, to problem solving, to strengthening international law.
  • Ending Canadian participation in the bombing mission against Islamic State.
  • Bringing in 25,000 Syrian refugees by year’s end.
  • Reviewing the role of Canada’s military and scrapping of the F-35 stealth fighter boondoggle.
  • Making Canada a leading participant in international peacekeeping once again.
  • Reforming Bill C-51 including stringent oversight and protection of human rights.
  • Working with the provinces to ensure that Canada has a strong framework for mitigating Climate Change to bring to the Paris Conference in December.
  • Repairing the Harper-inflicted democratic deficit through major electoral reform, strengthening of Parliamentary committees and of the role and independence of the Parliamentary Budget Office.

This ambitious Liberal agenda for change will be challenged at every turn by the cacophony of right wing interests and their megaphones in the media. It will be essential for non-governmental organizations, especially those without the restrictions that come with charitable status, to make sure that we counter this relentless pressure from the right by equally indefatigable pressure on the other side for progressive, innovative, and forward looking policies that work for all Canadians.

Nowhere is our voice more important than with respect to the arms industry, whose well-heeled lobbyists are deeply entrenched in Ottawa. This is why the article in Counterpunch by award-winning Canadian freelance journalist Joyce Nelson is so important and timely: Putin’s Question and the Ambassador’s Answer (Counterpunch, 27 October 2015).

The article begins with a recent fascinating exchange between Russian President Putin and former U.S. Ambassador to the Soviet Union Jack Matlock about the unilateral repudiation by George W. Bush Jr. of the ABM Treaty in 2001. Matlock justifies the American obsession with a “missile shield” – despite its horrendous cost and dubious technical worth – largely on the basis of the jobs that the program creates. The rest of the article goes on to challenge “the persistent myth of massive job creation from military spending.”

The Arms & Security Project’s website currently features a graph showing that military spending is less effective at creating jobs than virtually any other form of government [spending] activity. It shows that $1 billion in spending creates 11,000 military jobs, but that same amount of money would create 17,500 clean energy jobs, or 19,000 health care jobs, or 29,500 educational services jobs – most of them decent-paying jobs of “$64,000 per year or more.”

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An early test of the Trudeau government will be how they react to the $15 billion arms deal promoted and facilitated by the Harper regime, for the sale of heavily armed transport vehicles to the monstrously repressive Saudi Arabia. To read more on this, see the opinion piece co-authored by Cesar Jaramillo of Project Plougshares, Peggy Mason of the Rideau Institute, and Alex Neve of Amnesty International in today’s Huffington Post, entitled We Must Not Downplay Canada’s Arms Deal with Saudi Arabia (Huffington Post, 29 October 2015).

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Tags: ABM Treaty, Alex Neve, Arms industry, Bill C-51, Canadian defence policy, Canadian foreign policy, Canadian military spending,, Conference of Defence Associations, Defence lobby, Defence policy, defence review, Defence spending, Department of National Defence, F-35, Human rights, Joint Strike Fighter, LAVs, Liberal election platform, Liberal government, Military procurement, Peacekeeping, Peggy Mason, Project Ploughshares, Saudi Arabia, UN peacekeeping, United Nations