Sajjan Lays Out Defence Policy

By: Laura Steiner

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has unveiled the Liberal government’s new defence policy.  It proposes an increase in budget to $32.7 billion or 70% over the next decade.

According to the CBC, it’s a mixture of new, and previously committed money.  The police will increases to regular, and reserve forces, as well as ‘special forces’.   “The Canadian Armed Forces are an indispensable instrument of Canada’s foreign policy,” Sajjan said in a speech introducing the policy.

The policy is called: “Strong, Secure, Engaged.”  It promises to look out for the troops from the moment soldiers join the forces to the moment they retire.  It pledges better invest in their care, equipment, and well-being.

The former Conservative government promised steady funding for the defence forces in 2008.  As time wore on, they ended up cutting $2.8 billion/year from the defence portion of the federal government.

Sajjan was asked by the CBC how the Liberals could guarantee their plan.  “We as a government and future governments owe it to the Canadian Armed Forces that we fully fund the Canadian Armed Forces on a long-term footing.

Conservative Defence critic James Bezan accused the Liberals of pushing the defence funding down the road.  “Today’s defence policy clearly demonstrates that the Liberals are punting the hard decisions down the road: More delays, more dithering, more disappointment.”

NDP Defence Critic Randall Garrison said it lacked substance.  “To do that we would need to both increase our defence spending and at the same time, dollar for dollar, increase our aid spending,” he said.

Freeland Unveils New Foreign Policy

Sajjan’s announcement follows Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland’s speech in the House of Commons unveiling a new foreign policy.  It focused on a world where America had a smaller role.

“Many of the voters in last year’s presidential election cast their ballots, animated in part by a desire to shrug off the burden of world leadership. To say this is not controversial: it is simply a fact,” she said. 

Freeland referred to the America first approach favoured by the Trump Administration.  In recent speeches, President Donald Trump has questioned NATO’s principle of collective defence, as well as pulling his country out of the Paris climate change agreement.

Freeland set out a vision for Canada as a “hard power”.  ” For Canada, that course must be the renewal, indeed the strengthening, of the postwar multilateral order,” she said in her speech.   Conservative Party Foreign Affairs Critic Peter Kent said he hoped her promise of hard power would foreshadow a promise of more money from Sajjan.  The NDP Foreign Affairs critic called it nothing more than a public relations stunt.

The Liberals face a deficit this year of $28.5 billion.  There was no new money for defence promised in the 2017 budget.