The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence (Sen Daniel Lang (Conservative) YK, Chair and Senator Mobina Jaffer (Liberal) BC, Deputy Chair) has released a report entitled “Military Underfunded: The Walk Must Match the Talk,” which is available on the Senate web site. The committee says that “Successive governments have failed to provide the military with the support and clear priorities it needs to defend Canada and fulfil its international commitments. Today, Canada is spending 0.88% of GDP on the military. This is clearly insufficient.“
It proposes, amongst other measures, that “The federal government should increase military spending to 2% of Canada’s gross domestic product to prevent the continued erosion of our existing military capabilities and to fulfil our obligations to Canadians and our allies … [and] … The committee recommends the government present a plan to Parliament within 180 days to increase defence spending to 1.5% of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) by 2023 and to 2% by 2028.“
The facts are pretty bleak:
Readers will not be surprised to learn that I share the honourable senators views, even if I suspect that their proposed solution will be wholly unacceptable to the Trudeau regime:
I part company, partially, with the committee on two issues:
- While I agree that 2% of GDP is about right for a G7 nation to spend on security and defence I really doubt that DND could, starting now, manage much in the realm of real spending increases. I think the Department is capable but the military is, in my opinion, badly organized. A thorough reform of the military’s bloated command and control (C²) superstructure is needed before the military can, usefully, spend more money; and
- I really think that a stand alone, civilian, defence (plus) procurement agency is needed, not just another branch of DND.
The key is the senator’s second point: a national consensus. It is something that I am 99.99% sure Prime Minister Trudeau will never seek ~ he just wants the Canadian Armed Forces to be a small, silent, cheap part of his green, feminist and “sunny ways” agenda. CPC leadership candidate Erin O’Toole has promised to spend 2% of GDP on defence but I am sure that his first step will have to be to “sell” the idea to millions of Canadians.
This report is full of many good points and better ideas … they will, I am sure, all be ignored by the Trudeau government unless President Trump decides to link defence and NAFTA … which is still a real possibility, according to the senators who wrote the report.
Prime Minister Trudeau has a potentially excellent “point-man” on defence issues, including how to organize our forces so that they can, efficiently and effectively, spend more money, in Andrew Leslie. The question is: will he, Trudeau, ever develop the sense of responsibility and the will to do something? Conrad Black, writing in the National Post, says that “Canada has no influence whatever in the world. It is unique in this condition among G7 countries, because it has a monstrously inadequate defence capability and takes no serious initiatives in the Western alliance or in international organizations … [and] … Canadians seem to imagine that influence can be had in distant corners of the world just by being virtuous and altruistic and disinterested. That is not how international relations work. The powers that have the money and the applicable military strength have the influence … [because] … Since the Mulroney era, we have just been freeloaders. If we want to be taken seriously, we have to make a difference in the Western alliance, which the Trump administration has set out to revitalize. As I have written here before, a defence build-up: high-tech, increased numbers, and adult education, is a win-double, an added cubit to our national stature influence (and pride), and the best possible form of public-sector economic stimulus. It is frustrating that successive governments of both major parties have not seen these obvious truths. Strength, not amiable piety, creates national influence.” Actually, it is since the Pierre Trudeau era that we have been serious “freeloaders” but everything else Mr Black says is correct. We are a rich country, we can be important … we choose to be weak and ineffectual. It is bad policy but, apparently, good politics.