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Don't waste money on submarines.

Canada does not need and should not purchase the four used Upholder-class submarines that Britain is still trying to sell.

Canada does not need the Upholders. Conventional submarines can perform a wide variety of functions, but the real contribution that they bring to a naval force is their capability as war-fighting weapons. The Department of National Defence (DND) believes that Canada must remain prepared to participate in a major naval war despite the low likelihood of such a war. But even from this perspective the purchase of the Upholders is not justified. There is no prospect of Canadian involvement in a naval war except as part of a much larger alliance or ad hoc coalition, and there is no reason why Canada should try to supply all types of naval forces if we do decide to participate in such a conflict (we have never participated in a war in which we tried to supply all types of forces). Canada already maintains naval forces that are capable of high-intensity combat and, more importantly, also serve our day-to-day, real-world requirements such as coastal patrol and monitoring UN embargoes. Canada should designate these forces (e.g., frigates, maritime patrol aircraft) as the contribution that we would make to any multinational operation that we chose to participate in. We should not maintain forces that have comparatively little utility in non-war-fighting roles.

At an estimated cost of more than $800 million (not including additional hundreds of millions of dollars for modifications, upgrades, construction of shore facilities, etc, and many hundreds of millions more if the subs are retrofitted to operate in the arctic, as DND hopes), Canada cannot afford the Upholders. The DND budget is still 11% higher than it was in 1980, but the department is currently considering additional cuts to personnel, significantly reducing Canada's ability to contribute to peacekeeping, in order to purchase these subs and other equipment. Ploughshares estimates that a budget of $7.5-8 billion would be sufficient to meet Canada's real military requirements, but only if it is not wasted on unnecessary purchases. If there is money to spare in the DND budget, it should be spent where it will make a real difference - by increasing Canada's contribution to the non-military, preventive aspects of security, which will contribute to building a more stable and durable peace, help prevent conflicts from developing, and prevent others from becoming militarized. Such efforts will not prevent all future conflicts, but an increase in Canada's contribution in this area would do far more for our collective security than the purchase of the Upholders would do.

Taking Action

Write letters to Prime Minister Jean Chretien and your own Member of Parliament (House of Commons, Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6; no postage required) calling on the government to:

* reject DND's request to purchase the Upholder submarines; and

* reduce Canadian military spending in order to increase Canada's non-military contributions to global security.
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Publication:Ploughshares Monitor
Date:Dec 1, 1997
Words:483
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