How the defence lobby operates

Even wonder how the defence lobby is able to get so many articles in the newspapers? Well let me show you…

Here is a copy of an email sent out to newspapers, journalists, and others from a conservative, pro-military think tank run out of the University of Calgary called the Canadian Council for Security in the Twenty-First century. It’s headed by historian Jack Granatstein.

The email is distributing an article by Jack Granatstein. He attacks a report that Bill Robinson and I wrote for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) called “More than the Cold War: Canada’s military spending 2007-2008.”

Granatstein couldn’t even spell my name right, but nonetheless, his article was published by the Montreal Gazette, the Edmonton Journal, and the Guelph Mercury News. – Steve

—— Forwarded Message
From: “Dr. R. Sarty” <>
Date: Wed, 24 Oct 2007 16:27:53 -0600
To: <>
Subject: Council for Canadian Security in the 21st Century – Article Series

Please find attached the next in a series of articles by the Council for Canadian Security in the 21st Century entitled “Does Canada Overspend on its Military?.” This article may be published ‘gratis’ if the contact addresses below are printed as well. CCS21 would be grateful if a copy could be sent to the mail address or to <> .
Roger Sarty
Chair, CCS21
Box 66013
University of Calgary RPO
2500 University Drive NW
Calgary, AB  T2N 4T7

Website: <>

Does Canada Overspend on its Military?

J.L. Granatstein

Does Canada spend enough on the Canadian Forces? Military leaders and pro-defence lobby groups, along with academics and some parliamentarians, for years have said that Canadian governments have shortchanged defence. They point to the numbers: only 63,000 regulars, down from 120,000 at the peak of the Cold War, and a defence budget that is only 1.2 percent of Gross Domestic Product compared to the 2.2 percent that  is the NATO average. Even with the defence budget increases pledged by the Martin Liberals and endorsed and expanded by the present Conservative government, Canada has a long way to go to have a well-manned, well-equipped military.

Or does it? On October 22, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives released a report, More than the Cold War: Canada’s Military Spending 2007-08. Written by Stephen Staples, a critic of the Canadian Forces for years, and Bill Robinson, the report argues that Canada is now spending more on defence in inflation-adjusted dollars than it has done at any time since the peak of the Cold War. The only time Canada spent more, the authors say, was during the Second World War. And Staples and Robinson go on,  spending as a percentage of GDP is a poor indicator. Using GDP percentage, Robinson points out, Turkey would be near the top of NATO spenders, but “No one really thinks that Turkey is making one of the greatest contributions to NATO. What really counts in defence spending is the amount of dollars actually being spent and in that area Canada is up there,” standing sixth in NATO.

This argument is nonsense. During the height of the Cold War, Canada spent more than seven percent of Gross Domestic Product on defence. The armed forces were tripled in size in a few years, vast quantities of equipment-ships, aircraft, tanks–were purchased, and Canada deployed troops to fight in the Korean War and to take up defensive positions against a feared Soviet attack in Western Europe.

The sense of urgency to rearm was real, and the best indicator of that was the money spent-and the fact that the government was prepared to devote such a high percentage of GDP to the task. Dollars mattered, of course, but the GDP percentage was the key indicator of urgency.

It still is today. The nation is in the early stages of re-building the Canadian Forces. Expensive equipment is being ordered, and large sums are being allocated to fight the Afghan War. But these dollar figures, however large they are when compared to those from the 1950s, are coming from a much bigger government budget in a much richer nation. Using percentage of Gross Domestic Product in fact is the best measure of assessing the seriousness of Canadian efforts. GDP has the virtue of calculating the productivity of a nation and it is a useful comparative device. The Americans spend an estimated 3.8 percent of their huge GDP on defence, and that $500+ billion dollars is an indication of their priorities-and wealth.

Another indicator is defence spending per capita. The Yanks pay $1756 each for defence, Britons $990, Germans $447, Italians $514-and Canadians only $414. The Australians, for example, each pay 50 percent more than we do.

The Turks, sneered at by Robinson and Staples, spend very close to the Canadian per capita sum, but that amounts to 3 percent of their GDP, a high figure in NATO terms. Why do the Turks have nearly a million men, regulars and reserves, in their military? Why do they spend as much as they do? Bill Robinson ventures no judgments, perhaps because that might oblige him to look at Turkey’s strategic situation on the edge of the Middle East and at the Kurdish terrorist incursions that cross their border with Iraq. That nations might have interests to protect, that they might have rational reasons for spending money on their militaries, never seems to cross the minds of Robinson and Staples.

Canada too has national interests and it needs military resources to protect and advance them. To me, if not to Robinson and Staples, the Afghan War serves our national interests by helping to create a government there that will not support and shelter terrorists who can strike at us. To me, Canada needs a military that can protect our people and our territory, the basic national interest of any nation-state. We need a military that can do our fair share in defending our continent and our hemisphere, something that we have not been doing for decades. We rely on the United States to defend us, and the Americans will-because it is in their national interests not to have a defence vacuum to their north. But as a nationalist, I would much prefer that Canada did more to fill that vacuum, thus ensuring its sovereignty with its own resources. Those are the reasons we have a military; those are the reasons we spend what we do. And those are the reasons, in our own interests, that we must have a Canadian Forces that can do the job of protecting and advancing the nation’s interests.

Studies such as More than the Cold War, produced by New Democratic Party-front organizations, do nothing to advance the necessary debate on defence, nothing at all. Canada needs to examine its national interests calmly and rationally and then set about providing the military resources it needs to protect and advance them. Spurious comparisons that neglect the realities do nothing to this end.

(J.L. Granatstein writes on behalf of the Council for Canadian Security in the 21st Century ( Free use may be made of this column providing full credit is given to CCS21.)

Tags: Defence lobby