It seems pretty clear that Defence Minister Sajjan has been muzzled. A week or so ago his department mused, publicly, about acquiring unmanned aerial vehicles for Canada; his Chief of the Defence Staff, General Jonathan Vance, backed him up, explaining how useful they can be in a variety of roles, not just against Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS. But, of course, the Canadian media, which is famously ill-informed about anything military and most things technological, simply played up the fear angle (US “control,” civilian casualties, etc) … because most Canadian journalists are not qualified* to write about anything else. But, just days after reports suggested that Canada was in the market for the unmanned aircraft the CRC reports that “Canada’s defence minister says it’s too early to say whether the Canadian Forces should be equipped with armed drones.“
In fact, as David Akin reports in his (always informative) “On The Hill” blog, says, “During a 90-minute grilling by Tuesday morning MPs, including Liberals, on the House of Commons defence committee, Sajjan hemmed, hawwed, and stumbled through his testimony, declining to provide any details on the CF-18 replacement process; the use of armed drones, Canada’s cyberwarfare abilities; how Canada help defend North America against Russian aggression or any other topics he was asked about … Sajjan’s excuse? Canada’s defence policy is under review, a review that will not be complete until the end of the year.“
In other words, I think it’s safe to say that Minister Sajjan has been muzzled by the PMO. Either that or, considering all the “hums” and “haws” in the video on Mr Akin’s blog, one might suggest that he came to the Commons Defence Committee without any idea at all about his portfolio. But I don’t think that’s true … I think he’s just been told to say nothing, except, now and again, to dampen any expectations that anything good might happen to the Department of National Defence.
The firm Liberal promise to maintain defence spending has already been, quietly, broken … and I don’t expect to see too much more in the media about that.
Further, rumours are already circulating the the Liberal defence policy review will not bother with such petty distractions as public consultations … it seems pretty clear that the “fix” is already in and it is only the scale of the cuts to defence that need to be announced.
The rumour mill also suggests that Canada will “take over” the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Haiti ~ “Canada is planning to take over command of the UN stabilization mission in Haiti and replace the bulk of troops on the ground from Brazil with its own,” is what a report from Agence France-Presse says. There are over 2,000 Brazilian soldiers in Haiti. Given that Prime Minister Trudeau mused aloud about a “need” for more French speaking soldiers for peacekeeping (although people who have “kept the peace” in Haiti say that the local language is Haitian Creole, which is based, loosely, on 18th century French, so interpreters are necessary, even for French Canadians) that should pretty much use up le 5e Groupe-brigade mécanisé du Canada from ValCartier, which is Canada’s main French language army formation and which represents about ⅓ of the Canadian Army’s combat power. But that is, very much, in the line of the common “promise made, promise kept” mantra (which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau learned from a master of very selective
promise keeping) and, presumably it will “offset” the broken promises about deficit amounts and maintaining the defence budget. A renewed, big commitment, like peacekeeping in Haiti will, also give Prime Minister Trudeau an excuse to decline any “invitations” to engage in operations against groups that really threaten the peace and Canada’s security. That’s another lesson that Prime Minister Chrétien taught Liberals, back when he sent the Canadian Forces to Afghanistan for the second time, in order to avoid being “invited” to help out in Iraq.
We shouldn’t be surprised.
But it would be nice, even honest if Prime Minister Trudeau would just come out at say, “Look, folks, my main aim, for the next few years, is to undo everything that evil monster Stephen Harper did to our beloved country (well to the country that is loved by 28% of us, anyway) and that includes getting our military out of US led “combat” missions and back into safe, comfortable, UN baby-blue beret type peacekeeping missions … even if they are most often useless and too often corrupt. Our, Liberal priorities are different from his and we need to spend your money on different things.” That would be honest and it would save a wee, tiny bit of “face” for his poor, hamstrung Minister of National Defence. So, c’mon Prime Minister, put us, the military community, out of our misery, make the cuts, you know you want to: just get it over with.
* Not all journalists are “unqualified,” I hasten to add; I have, in the past, singled out e.g. David Akin and Mercedes Stephenson as journalists who can fight their way past the “huff and puff” and the “fluff” put our by governments, the military and defence contractors, too, and get at the “meat” of a story. But they are the exceptions that prove the rule. It’s not media bias, it’s just lack of depth.