The media is starting to fill up with articles exhorting us to boycott US made products and telling us how to do that. It’s likely to be harder than it looks for most Canadian consumers, but there are a couple of things the Government of Canada can do, quite legally and properly, to “stick it to the man” by using defence procurement to make a statement to the President, Donald J Trump, and to the people of the USA. Since President Trump says that Canada is a threat to US national security instead of being one of America’s oldest and most reliable allies, maybe, we shouldn’t be quite as tightly integrated into the US military industrial complex as we now are. After all Americans shouldn’t want a ‘threat’ to its precious national security as a strategic partner, right?
There are programmes underway, right now, to buy new warships and new combat aircraft; all the competing warship designs are European, but the government could tell the bidders that more favourable consideration will be given to designs that use, for example, European, rather than US radars and control systems and European, rather than American missiles ~ the Europeans make first rate systems but that will still bother some admirals and commodores who favour closer and closer integration with the US Navy, but it would be a legitimate and proper thing for ministers to say and do. Defence procurement is, has been for hundreds of years, an inherently politicized process because it is the people’s money be used to pay for the people’s defences and the attacks against which we are, right now, defending can and do come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many Canadian generals want the American F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter, but the government can, very legitimately say, publicly, that for its own good and valid strategic and national security reasons it will not allow a major government purchase from a US aerospace company so long as the USA engages in economic warfare against its oldest and best friend.
Canada should, also, open public exploratory discussions with European and Asian firms for the eventual procurement of, say, eight AIP (air independent propulsion) submarines, which can operate under the Arctic ice pack, and ten to 15 new, corvette class warships (at, say, 2,500 tons, much smaller and less expensive, but also less capable, than the new major surface combatants which may be called called frigates but are nearly the size that light cruisers were a generation ago). That will require the Trudeau government to give defence procurement a shot in the arm that will go hard against its political grain, but it may be a small price to pay to, as I said above, “stick it to the man,” and even those who don’t want to spend anything on the military may think it’s worth it.
Beyond the current trade and tariff contretemps, Canada should, always, be looking beyond just the USA and, indeed, beyond NATO for defence procurement partners. We need to recognize that countries like Israel, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and (non-NATO) Sweden have advanced defence industrial bases that can meet some, many, probably most of our military needs.
The Department of National Defence can be used to defend Canada against Donald Trump’s protectionist attacks on Canada’s economy. Being less militarily integrated with or tied to the USA will please some of the Laurentian Elites and other constituencies upon which the Liberals depend.