A few weeks ago, discussing how much we spend (and don’t spend) on defence, I suggested that US Secretary of Defence “James Mattis’ remarks were aimed at Canada, too, in spades, and with regard to both NATO and NORAD” … [and, I asked] … How can Prime Minister Justin Trudeau juggle his big spending, domestic and global green, feminist and sunny ways agenda along with this new pressure to double the defence budget ~ which is already at nearly $20 billion per year but which accounts for less than 1% of GDP?“
Now, in an article in the National Post, John Ivision says that the Trudeau cabinet has decided on two matters that I have discussed in order to boost defence spending to 1.2% of GDP because “The new Trump administration has made clear its intolerance toward what it sees as “free riders” on defence:”
- First they will, as most NATO countries, including the USA, already do, “shovel existing spending such as the $1 billion or so spent on the Canadian Coast-Guard into the defence envelope, as well as some costs associated with the Canada Border Services Agency.” I discussed this in point 2 in a post about the Defence budget dilemma; and
- “The second move,” John Ivison says “is likely to cause indigestion for many progressive Liberals. Sources suggest that a proposal to sign on to the U.S. ballistic missile defence program was sent to Cabinet last week.” I discussed this about ten months ago.
“The move to join BMD,” according to Mr Ivison, “would be a significant policy reversal for a Liberal government. Paul Martin’s foreign minister, Pierre Pettigrew, announced that Canada would not be joining President George W. Bush’s BMD program 12 years ago.”
Both moves would be smart moves.
As I mentioned, most countries count at least parts of their coast guards and border security forces and other things as part of a broad “security and defence” spending envelope (France, as I noted, counts the Paris Fire Department as a “defence” expense!). And most countries “see” security and defence as more than just a military and spy agency issue, they see threats and countermeasures more broadly than, in my experience, anyway, do most Canadian officials. Perhaps making officials count up the “share” of the coast guard and border services budget that can, properly, be counted as “defence” will also make them think about what the other agencies can and should do to help in a broader security and defence area. Perhaps some new thinking will produce new ideas.
Ballistic Missile Defence is contentious in Canada, but, in my opinion, it is a “no brainer,” and a government had to, eventually, screw up its courage and join the programme … if only because of the occasional maniacal fruitcake out there. Perhaps this government, feeling the winds of the “Trump effect,” will be the one to do it.
John Ivision says that “Regardless of his reservations privately, the Prime Minister has made it his mission to accommodate President Donald Trump and in their first meeting in Washington last month, they dropped hints that BMD might be part the deal … [and] … The joint statement from the two leaders said both countries want to “modernize and broaden our NORAD partnership”, as well as relations in cyber and space.” He goes on to report that “As the Senate defence committee found in its report on BMD two years ago, the decision not to participate has harmed Canada’s position in the continental defence organization, NORAD. The decision on when, where and whether to intercept an incoming missile is not made under the NORAD structure but, rather, by the U.S. alone under its domestic defence body, United States Northern Command. If a missile is heading towards Calgary, the Canadian military representative at NORAD has to leave the room while those decisions are made .. [and] … As the committee said in its unanimous recommendation to partner with the U.S. on BMD: “Canada cannot simply assume that all its territory will be protected by default under the existing U.S. BMD system” … [further] … Expert testimony from Lt. Gen. Alain Parent said the threat from North Korea, Iran and others is real. The committee concluded it’s time Canada join 27 other nations, including NATO partners, Australia, Japan and South Korea in BMD, allowing Canadian officials to be at the table when decisions are made.” AsI said, a “no brainer,” even for sunny ways Trudeau.
In any event, President Trump may have pushed Canada in the right directions.