Speaking this past month at CANSEC, Canada’s largest annual defence trade show, Minister of Defence Peter MacKay reassured his audience that despite the country’s current economic situation defence contracts are secure. In a recent article about the trade show by Mike Blanchfield of the Canwest News Service MacKay is quoted as saying “The funding will be there, I assure you. It’s locked in”. The Conservative government’s ambitious new defence spending plan aims to procure new ships, planes and armoured vehicles–$60 in new equipment and a projected rise of 50% in the overall defence budget over the next two decades. All totalled, close to $490 billion on defense spending by 2027. This of course comes just days after the anouncement that this year’s federal budget deficit, once projected to be $34 billion, will now likely top $50 billion, as well as the news that this past quarter witnessed the largest drop in Canada’s GDP in eighteen years.
Rather than shying away from the issue MacKay instead touted that such a plan would be a great benefit to the country’s economy, further iterating that Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty was entirely onside. According to MacKay, “Canadians and their communities will benefit from the high-value employment opportunities that [the defence] industry generates. The Canadian economy as a whole will be buoyed by the sustainable economic benefits that accrue through domestic and global opportunities in and beyond defence and security.” And although there may be some truth to this as, in line with the government’s Industrial Regional Benefits program, for every dollar spent on foreign defence contracts a dollar will be spent domestically, one might wonder about the long-term wisdom of tying economic stability to military growth.
Also relating to Canada’s defence industry, in light of the expanded war against the Taliban there is a warming of relations between Canada and Pakistan and a renewal of military ties that have been strained since Pakistan’s 1998 nuclear test. Since that time there has been a freeze on the sale of military technology to Pakistan but, as reported in a recent column in The Globe and Mail, there was a plan is in place to sell surveillance equipment to Pakistan as well as assist in implementing an officers training program. Due to public backlash and the concern that this technology could find its way into the hands of the Taliban it now seems as though the equipment sale will not proceed. However, these examples illustrate the continuing entanglement of geo-politcs and business interests in Canada’s foreign policy in Central Asia.