A good question

David Krayden, who is a former Royal Canadian Air Force public affairs officer and legislative assistant on Parliament Hill, and who is, currently, the Ottawa bureau chief for The Daily Caller, a Washington-based media outlet, writing in the National Post, about the most recent Liberal budget reminds us that we “might recall the fanfare when Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan released the Liberals’ defence policy review in 2017: “Strong, Secure, Engaged.” It was already more than six months overdue and there was a feeling among defence analysts and most journalists that the Liberals had to deliver a document that suggested serious resolve … [and] … Sajjan promised a whopping 70-per-cent increase in defence spending, pledging to drive funding up to $32.7 billion from $18.9 billion. Naval ships, combat-support vehicles and 88 fighter jets would be replaced through “an open and transparent competition” .. [but, he adds] … there was one large disclaimer. All of this would happen over the next decade, assuming the realities of 2017 would remain constant during that period .. [and that begs the very good question] … How well would any government have done predicting the military needs of 1942 based on the geopolitics of 1932?

In 1932, during the Great Depression, trans continental air trips were still dream … by 1942 Canada was a major allied military power, building the giant, four engined Lancaster bombers in Toronto and flying them across the Atlantic and then on raids over Germany.

Mt Krayden says that, referring to Budget 2019, “we’ve yet to see any indication that the Liberals were serious about the plan. They cut defence spending in 2018 and have ignored it in 2019 … [and, he asks] … Was there an alternative motive to the 2017 defence review? Canada was still in the midst of NAFTA negotiations with an American president who was increasingly critical of our defence contribution, especially as it pertained to NATO. Donald Trump had repeatedly cited Canada as one of the deadbeat members of NATO that refuses to fund its military at two per cent of its GDP — despite having promised to do so and notwithstanding that we have done so in the past. With Budget 2019, Canada is no closer to meeting that pledge, spending 1.23 per cent of its GDP on national defence.

I said, back in 2017, that “Strong, Secure, Engaged‘ is a step in the right direction ~ but only a very tentative step and one that needs to lead to a “journey of a thousand miles … and Canada needs to take many, many more steps before the words “strong,” “secure’ and ‘engaged” have any real meaning again.” It seems pretty clear that Team Trudeau has no intention of taking anything but that first, small step; they gave us some words but putting any sort of flesh on those bare bones will require a new, serious, grown-up government.

David Krayden says, and I agree, 100%, that “The last prime minister who consistently funded the Canadian military was Louis St-Laurent. All successive administrations — Liberal and Conservative — have to varying degrees played the shell game with defence spending. While lauding a capital acquisition project here, they will starve another project over there to pay for it. While promising consistent funding, they will squeeze the military at the first opportunity when a fiscal need emerges elsewhere.

As I have pointed out, almost two years ago (9th paragraph, near the bottom) when, back in 2012, “I think that Stephen Harper actually wanted to arrest the decline and rebuild the nation’s defences but he insisted, first, that the Minister of National 502ea4b746e2b5b645339a77bf4d_GalleryDefence had to cut the fat that the prime minister could see, quite clearly, existed in the military’s command and control (C²) superstructure and he told his MND of the day, Peter MacKay to do that ~ just as a fat man must change his habits and shed dead-weight before he can add muscle, Prime Minister Harper told Minister MacKay to cut the fat from DND and the CF.  But the admirals and generals disagreed and Peter MacKay made a cardinal error: he listened to the “hired help” instead of to the “boss,” and the “boss” decided to turn his attentions elsewhere and DND and the CF, once again, languished in the background … doing less with less.

My Krayden concludes, and, again, I agree, by saying that “With defence procurement being so hamstrung by petty politics and policy inertia, no amount of government funding can guarantee a combat-capable military if those dollars are not efficiently and effectively spent. As Hillier said, “Our acquisition process in Canada, in particular for the Department of National Defence, is abhorrent. It is pointless to give the Department of National Defence increased spending if you then tie them in a Gordian knot where they can’t actually spend the money” … [but] … Sadly, that’s exactly what we’re doing.

That’s not all Justin Trudeau’s fault … most of the really serious screw-ups in defence policy and procurement go back to his father, Pierre Trudeau’s, time in power. Equally none of the prime ministers between the Trudeaus, père et fils, made any serious attempt 2015torontointernationalfilmfestivalhyena3dcbzhr6vdplat cleaning out the many and varied messes in DND and the Canadian Forces, but Justin Trudeau has had three years, and, in the person of retired Lieutenant General Andrew Leslie, someone who actually understands the disease and (some of) the cures ~ in fact Justin Trudeau promised, in 2015 that “We will implement the recommendations made in the Canadian Forces’ Report on Transformation” which Andrew Leslie wrote ~ but he has done nothing because, I suspect, he simply doesn’t care. Harjit Sajjan is both a political token and a caretaker … so it’s not really his fault, either ~ he’s a poor duffer who is seven or eight steps above his actual level of competence.

So the question ~ how long can we continue doing nothing about our national defence? ~ is a good one. The Trudeau answer seems to be that we will do nothing as long as he in prime minister.


Published by Ted Campbell

Old, retired Canadian soldier, Conservative ~ socially moderate, but a fiscal hawk. A husband, father and grandfather. Published material is posted under the "Fair Dealing" provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act for the purposes of research, private study and education.

2 thoughts on “A good question

  1. You’ve captured it Ted. Seriously, after St. Laurent’s solid leadership was eclipsed by Dief, then Pearson (who gave us Peacekeeping which was legitimate at the time) the Cdn Forces started its long and agonizing decline…. The coup de grace was delivered by Pierre Trudeau who cut the Cdn Forces in Europe by half and removed it from its key role in BAOR down to a “Reserve” role for the US and German forces to be delivered from its new home – the former French Air Force base in Lahr. Successive Canadian governments have followed suite and failed to meet even minimum standards for the NATO alliance. It is truly shameful that a nation that spans the continent and has the world’s longest coastline and three oceans is so inept in providing even a mere shadow of participation in its own defense or meeting its responsibilities for collective defense in partnership with other NATO nations. I’m afraid it will never change. Great professional military members, well trained and highly motoivated, but woefully unsupported by the nation. Individual Canadian military personnel and some small units provide great service abroad but their numbers overall relegate the CF to a certain insignificance. In my many years associated with the US Forces I had a US Army 4-Star tell me one time how much he admired the professionalism of Canadian troops, but added “..there just aren’t enough of them…”. Sad, but true – and I suspect it will never change….

  2. ….and another thought….during the time the Canadian Airborne Regiment (of which I was an original member) existed is the ONLY time Canada was capable of operating at any place in the country. Operations in the High Arctic were delivered by a capable 3-Commando All Arms force supported by a parachute-delivery capable RCAF transport force. The Cdn AB Regt was served by an excellent Airborne Engineer Squadron who could build an airstrip anywhere – usually on a frozen lake – to recover the deployed force when the task was completed. Canada had never fielded such a complete airborne package before. Prior to the formation in ‘68 of the Cdn AB Regt parachute operations were confined to three parachute companies (down from three battalions) scattered throughout three infantry regiments and supported by small elements of Signals troops for command and controlled. Well demonstrated in the excellent Signal Corps museum in Kingston I might add. These forces were dubbed “Mobile Striking Force” and later, “Defense of Canada Force”. But, just like the later CAST Bde Gp (of which I was the Ops Officer) it was an illusion. Extremely capable units without the means to deploy it to the operational area in North Norway. Crazy. We were on the ground conducting detailed defensive plans for seven different deployment areas and would have been the first NATO troops to meet the onslaught of Soviets coming out of the Leningrad Military District through the Finnish Wedge to seize NATO airfields along the Norwegian Coast thereby facilitating the move of the Russian Northern Fleet over the ice-free top of Norway, down through the Greenland-Iceland-UK Gap and out into the open Atlantic. But, in spite of the high professionalism of the CAST (Canadian Air-Sea Transportable) Bde Group the Cdn Govt was incapable of deploying the force by sea and it was far too big to get their by air except for selected early-deploying elements. More “front-window” posturing by the GOC…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: