Erin O’Toole raised a few good points about defence policy in his platform. Specifically he said that a Conservative government would focus on:
- Defending our Arctic sovereignty;
- Modernizing NORAD;
- Being a trusted NATO Partner: Reinforcing the cornerstone of Canada’s defence policy;
- Defending our partners in the Indo-Pacific; and
- Investing in our Armed Forces and our economy
- Work with the United States to modernize NORAD ~ a carbon copy of the Conservative promise;
- Further strengthen Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic ~ another copy of Erin O’Toole’s platform;
- Expand Canada’s long and short-range strategic airlift capability ~ this is a very good specific promise~ I wish I though he might keep it, I don’t;
- Expand cooperation and assistance to partners, allies and international organizations ~ a near copy of the CPC’s platform points 3 and 4;
- Remain a leading contributor to NATO operations ~ a lift from the Conservative’s 3rd point;
- Extend Canada’s support to Ukraine ~ an easy promise to keep doing what we are doing, for a while;
- Work with international partners to establish a NATO Centre of Excellence on Climate and Security in Canada ~ a sop for the climate change folks; and
- Lead international efforts to establish a global coalition to respond to wildfires and other climate emergencies ~ another sop.
My guess is that a Liberal government would keep promise 6, for another year or so, anyway, and will actually send delegations to Brussels and other NATO capitals to discuss, over lavish dinners, points 7 and 8 but nothing but a few photo ops for ministers will come of it.
I want to focus on Mr O’Toole’s 5 points I think they make a bit more sense than do Justin Trudeau’s.
First I want Erin O’Toole to combine points 1 and 2. The best way to guarantee our sovereignty in the Arctic, even against American commercial interests, is by being a good NORAD partner AND by boosting our military presence in and over the Arctic, including in, over and under the Arctic Ocean.
Even if Xi Jinping and the Canadian gang of five (see Getting our aim right) are right and America is in irrevocable decline it will not be a sudden collapse. As Francis Fukuyama said, America “will remain a great power for many years” and it will be the guarantor of Canada’s sovereignty for those many years.
Second, I want Erin O’Toole’s Conservatives to rethink NATO as the cornerstone of Canada’s defence policy. NATO Matters but I think continental defence, including, above all, continental ballistic missile defence, should be the cornerstone of Canada’s security and defence policies. We should aim to defend Canada, first.
The defence of our continent requires, in my opinion, several of the capabilities that I identified almost five years ago:
- Surveillance and warning systems ~ terrestrial dial, underwater airborne and space based ~ to tells us what is going on on, under and above the land we clam as our own, the maritime approaches to it and the airspace over both;
- Military forces (aircraft, ships an d troops, to identify, inter kept and decals wth any forces that enter or approach our territory;
- Military (air, naval and land) to contribute to continental defence and, especially, to the defence of the American strategic deterrent;
- Naval, land a nd air forces to patrol our territory, the maritime approaches to it and the airspace over both; and
- Both the command and control superstructure and logistical base to manage and support it all.
I have five, somewhat controversial ideas for the Defence of North America task:
- First, Canada should join the American ballistic missile defence system, making it a continental endeavour. This is important for two reasons ~
- America, we have been told by a most trusted source, will not, automatically extend coverage to protect Canada. It is likely that Vancouver, Windsor and St Catherines, given their proximity to major American cities, (Seattle, Detroit and Buffalo) will be protected, but Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, Saint John and Halifax? Not so much, and
- The system will work better if Canada’s sensors, including our new ships and fighter aircraft, assuming we choose the best one, are integrated into it;
- Second, we need nuclear powered submarines to patrol under the ice in the waters we claim as our own. Six countries, America, Britain, China, France, India and Russia already have nuclear powered submarines; there is no reason why Canada should not or cannot join the club. We cannot, likely, build a good nuclear powered submarine here, in a Canadian yard, at a reasonable cost but there are reputable companies in allied countries that can build them for us;
- Third, we need to modernize out total commitment to NORAD ~
- New terrestrial radars to augment or replace the North Warning System,
- Space based sensors,
- Airborne Early Warning aircraft,
- A new, 5th generations jet fighter, and
- Command, control and maintenance systems to manage and support them all;
- Fourth, Revitalize the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Marine Division and equip it with ocean going armed vessels ~ I still believe that the Harry DeWolf class arctic and offshore patrol ships are “constabulary” vessels, not. warships, and they should be operated and crewed by members of a constabulary service; and
- Fifth, Canada must build new military bases in the Arctic.
More, in a day or two, about Mr O’Toole’s other priorities.