CANSEC 2014: Ottawa's arms bazaar

Canada’s largest defence and security trade show took place in Ottawa this week. CANSEC is the annual trade show organized by the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI).

According to CADSI, 335 companies displayed their products and services to the serving military personnel, government employees, and foreign military and diplomatic staff who attended the show.  CANSEC is closed to the general public (David Pugliese, “A CANSEC 2014 Primer,” Ottawa Citizen, 27 May 2014).

No sales are officially made at the show, but it is considered to be a great marketing opportunity for arms firms looking to showcase their products, both to the Canadian Forces and to foreign delegations. “Companies are hoping to make connections with senior military and government personnel, as well as with other representatives of various firms,” Pugliese reported.

“Fighter aircraft companies will highlight their planes as potential replacements for the RCAF’s CF-18s,” while the “maritime industry will be out in force to promote its capabilities in outfitting new ships the federal government hopes to have built for the Royal Canadian Navy and coast guard.”

Representatives of Dassault Aviation and Eurofighters were on hand to promote the merits of their individual fighter jets (Murray Brewster, “Fighter-plane rivals jockey over F-35,”Canadian Press, 29 May 2014), and “Not to be outdone, the U.S. manufacturer of the F-35, Lockheed Martin, and rival Boeing, the maker of the Super Hornet, set up glitzy high-tech simulators hoping to give participants a taste of what it’s like to fly their fast jets.”

The major difference between this year’s show and those of previous years was the influx of foreign delegations touring the exhibits. Non-Canadian delegations have always been welcome at CANSEC, but this year the numbers were expected to increase, with attendance expected from Argentina, Bahrain, Chile, Denmark, Equatorial Guinea, Israel, Italy, Kuwait, Mexico, New Zealand, Oman, Peru, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Explaining the increase in foreign interest in CANSEC, CADSI president Tim Page said the federal government is working to boost defence exports and align itself more closely with the domestic arms industry. The “Canadian Commercial Corporation and the Department of National Defence are identifying targeted delegations where they think there are real opportunities for Canada to win business,” Page explained.

Just over 50 percent of Canadian defence and security industry revenues are derived from the export market. According to a recent CADSI study, the arms industry generated $12.6 billion in economic activity in 2011, split between $6.2 billion (49%) in domestic recvenues and $6.4 billion (51%) in foreign revenues.

With budget cutbacks and austerity programs at home, the government is looking to boost that foreign revenue through aggressive promotion at events like CANSEC.

Photo credit: Sean Kilpatrick / CP

Tags: Arms industry, CADSI, Canada, Canadian arms exports, Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI), Canadian military spending, CANSEC, CF-18s, Defence lobby, Defence spending, Drones, F-35, Military procurement