It’s All About the Defence

By: Laura Steiner

The Trudeau government spent last week being thoroughly Canadian.  Tuesday was a speech by Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland where she presented a vision for Canada in a world where America was turning inward, pulling back on its responsibilities to the world.

“Canadian diplomacy, and development sometimes require hard power,” she stated. “Force is of course a last resort.  But, the principled use of force, together with our allies and governed by international law, is part of our history and must be part of our future.”

Hard power refers to the use of our military.  Freeland pledged the continued support of multilateral organizations such as the United Nations (U.N.) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (N.A.T.O.).   Her speech continued hinting at what would be done with the defence forces.

This brings us to Wednesday.  Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan unveiled a defence policy.  It contained an increase to the budget of approximately $32.7 billion increase over the next decade, and an expansion to both regular forces, and the reserves.  The money would be spread out over 70 years.

Fast forward again to Friday.  Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau unveils Canada’s “Feminist International Assistance policy.”  The CBC describes it as  an investment of $150 million throughout the next five years to help organizations in developing countries that are working to promote women’s rights.”  The cash for this comes from the existing budget. It’s an ambitious image makeover taking the country from a role high on the scale of so-called soft power, and turning it into one possessing the military will, to back that up.  If it works, Canada could have the power to take up the slack from the Americans.

It all hangs on defence spending.  Canada announced last October it was looking at Super Hornet aircraft to supplement the CF-18’s until the replacements arrived.  There was no new money in  the 2017 federal budget for the purchase, or even to begin the process.

The question of defence is taking on an increased importance in the wake of NAFTA renegotiations.   Boeing alleges Bombardier is unfairly taking subsidies which, allow them to sell their “C Series” under market value.  Boeing wants duties assessed on Bombardier, arguing the subsidies help them in the international market.  Canada has yet to respond, but Foreign Minister Freeland has promised consequences.  How this will impact the quest for new jets is unknown.

The Trudeau government has set out a bold plan for Canada’s status in the world.  However, without defence spending, it’s all talk.