Canada is in urgent need of a progressive, innovative, and effective defence and security policy for the 21st Century. That is why we at Ceasefire.ca have been calling, since early in 2015, for a full-fledged review of defence policy with broad public participation.
In a dramatic change from the Harper government’s antipathy towards the United Nations, the new Liberal government has promised to re-engage in UN peacekeeping and to develop a new defence strategy for Canada. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has also confirmed that Canadians will be asked to participate in the review process.
But the problems go far beyond an outdated defence strategy.
The annual defence budget is roughly $20 billion per year and automatic yearly increases already programmed into the fiscal framework will shortly hit 3 per cent. Yet, astoundingly, even a defence budget of this size falls far short of what is necessary to fund proposed investments under the existing Harper strategy.
As Canada’s economy falters, it is clear that hard choices must be made. Some defence analysts are even urging the government to significantly shrink plans for the next generation of military hardware in order to meet budget constraints and to consider cutting the size of the Armed Forces to free up more money for capital acquisitions.
Jim Cooperman, columnist at the Ottawa Citizen, goes further in his advice to the new Trudeau government:
With the Canada we always knew existed now back, citizens need to push the federal government to put its financial focus on efforts to improve our society, rather than acquire jets and warships to participate in distant military conflicts….
Imagine how much better off Canada would be if instead of spending billions of dollars on expensive war machines, it used the money to improve the lives of its citizens.
Canada should also look at changing the role of the military, Cooperman says:
We face an increasingly unstable world due to the impacts of climate change, with more frequent and violent storms. Soldiers will need more training to provide emergency response as we experience more wildfires, more floods and more damaging weather events. Fortunately, redirecting the use of the military to respond to environmental disasters was part of the Liberals’ platform.
According to Ernie Regehr, co-founder of the peace research group Project Ploughshares, based in Waterloo, Canada focuses way too much attention on military responses to conflict, devouring resources that could be much better spent in underfunded areas like development and diplomacy. In his book Disarming Conflict: Why Peace Cannot Be Won on the Battlefield, Regehr wrote that in 2014-15, Canada spent $20 billion on defence, almost five times the amount spent on development and diplomacy.
Jim Cooperman has launched an online petition urging the new Trudeau government to cancel Stephen Harper’s plans to purchase over $50-billion worth of warships and warplanes and instead invest the money to improve the lives of Canadians.
If you want to help “replace bombs with diplomacy”, click here to sign the petition.