While some say there's never enough, others say there's too much: in the fall of 2005, a Senate report called for a doubling of the Defence Department's budget from $14 billion and increasing enlistment from 60,000 to 90,000.
In April 2005, the Liberal government of Prime Minister Paul Martin announced a $13 billion increase in defence spending. A policy statement promised to boost Canada's overseas capabilities and defend Arctic sovereignty. There were going to be 5,000 more soldiers, plus 3,000 more reservists, and an upgrade in equipment with new ships, aircraft, and vehicles within five years.
Under the new Conservative government, the armed forces have been promised more money and manpower. The Tory's May 2006 budget promised $5.3 billion in extra defence spending over five years. This is on top of billions pledged by the Liberals. The federal government's figures would boost the defence budget to $16.5 billion in 2007-08 from $14.6 billion in 2005-06, and to about $20 billion by 2010.
There will be a vigorous debate over where the money goes. Defence Chief General Rick Hillier will be fighting for scarce government resources. General Hillier was recently described as "the most visionary, charismatic, and highest profile chief of the Defence Staff in decades." That was Eugene Lang, writing in a Globe and Mail article in March 2006. Mr. Lang knows whereof he speaks. He was Chief of Staff to Liberal defence ministers John McCallum and Bill Graham while General Hillier was Defence Chief. Also, he was a senior economist at Finance Canada when Kevin Lynch, the new Clerk of the Privy Council, was deputy minister of finance. The author described Mr. Lynch as "one of the most skilled public servants of his generation," and in his current post he's in charge of government spending.
Mr. Lang says it's these two strong, capable characters that will be battling over billions of dollars. He thinks General Hillier probably will be expecting more than the $5 billion the Conservatives promised to inject into the Canadian Forces over five years. He says the bare minimum the Forces need is an extra $3 billion a year to transform itself "into a more nimble, deployable, operationally structured force, something General Hillier has been pushing for a year now." And, he calculates it will take another $3 billion a year on top of that for the government to honour its election promises. These include armed ice-breakers, underwater sensor systems in Canada's Arctic waters, strategic airlift planes, and a 23,000-person increase to the military. But, Mr. Lang says Kevin Lynch may have very different ideas that focus instead on a balanced budget, continuing to pay down debt, and cutting taxes. At Finance Canada, he was in charge of Brian Mulroney's Conservative government cuts to the defence budget in the late 1980s and early 1990s. As Deputy Finance Minister in 2000, he saw the Defence Department "as a bloated and inefficient bureaucracy, (viewing) military spending as, at best, a fiscal drag and, at worst, an unproductive allocation of scarce resources."
Meanwhile, some are concerned about what they see as alarming amounts of money going into the military. The Polaris Institute is an Ottawa public interest group. It says in a report that Canada was already the 7th highest military spender (in dollar terms) among NATO's 26 members before the Liberal government's 2005 budget increase. According to the report, that increase boosted Canada's military spending to nearly $20 billion a year, and represented the largest increase in defence spending in the last two decades.
"Sadly, Canada's growth in military spending is contributing to a startling international trend," says the report. "Annual global military spending has surpassed one trillion dollars, approaching the level of spending at the height of the Cold War. Meanwhile, the UN is warning that unless drastic measures are implemented, the world will not meet its targets for reducing poverty and millions will die needlessly during the next decade, many of them before they reach their fifth birthday."
The report says institutional factors such as bureaucratic interests, pressure from the military industry, and local economic development concerns, are only part of the reason behind increased military, spending. Beyond that, it says, the Canadian Forces are focussing more on operating in close cooperation with American forces in U.S.-led military operations around the world. As examples, it cites the 1991 Gulf War, UN operation in Somalia, the NATO involvement in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Kosovo war, the 2002 Afghanistan war, and the ongoing participation in the global war on terror.
"It is far from clear that Canada's national interests (and global interests) are best served by focussing its military capabilities on providing 'niche' contributions to operations for which the necessary and sufficient condition is not humanitarian concerns but U.S. national interests."
The spending cuts have hit the Canadian Forces recruiting program too. It's having a hard time keeping up with retirements, as it draws on a shrinking pool of 18- to 25-year-olds. One report said the Department of National Defence is stretched so thin that it can't spare would-be trainers from active duty to teach new recruits. And, while recruiting is a top priority in the Forces, they're up against prospective recruits who are increasingly reluctant to sign on for combat. Seeing the caskets come home from Afghanistan confirms the life-threatening task of troops. As well, the military has been running into some opposition as a participant at university job fairs. In September 2005, members of the Coalition Against War on the People of Iraq and Internationally at the University of British Columbia garnered hundreds of signatures from students for a petition stating, "Canada out of Afghanistan, recruiters off of our campus."
The following month, angry students at York University in Toronto also protested the presence of Canadian military recruiting officers at a career fair, and ultimately forced them off campus. At the same time, members of the student union at Guelph University drew up a policy to prevent the military and similar groups from recruiting on their campus.
Nevertheless, in a speech to a business group in Toronto in April 2006, General Rick Hillier, Canada's chief of defence staff, said the military surpassed its goal of signing up more than 5,600 new recruits in the previous year. The government plans to continue to increase the number recruited by 1,000 every year so that by 2011, about 12,000 new regular force and reservists will join the forces annually.
1. A February 2006 article carried by the Canadian Pugwash Group (www. pugwashgroup.ca) suggests that Prime Minister Stephen Harper's military plans will please the U.S. administration more than Canadians. Authors Barbara Bedont and Erika Simpson criticize Mr. Hater's appointment of Gordon O'Connor, a retired brigadier-general, as his Minister of Defence.
Mr. O'Connor was a lobbyist for the military industry who, according to the article, represented 21 defence contractors selling goods or services to the Department of Defence between 1996 and 2004. The authors suggest the Conservative government is going overboard on promises to increase military spending. Discuss the ethics of an ex-military lobbyist being in charge of defence and whether or no you think it's in Canada's interest to increase military spending.
2. The following statement appeared in an article in The Canadian Defence Review in February 2005: "Whenever the Canadian government underwrites any expensive military operation, it's looking for two kinds of political pay--off international and domestic. The policians who control the purse strings want the Canadian Forces to be 'seen' in the trouble spots of the world." Discuss why this matters.
In 2001, the Canadian Forces introduced a $15.2 million recruitment campaign with a new slogan "Strong, Proud: The Canadian Forces" in an effort to attract 10,000 new young Canadians.
The Department of National Defence plans to spend $14.68 billion in 2005-06.
For every dollar Canada devotes to global poverty alleviation and international development, it spends $4 dollars on defence.
Canada sent about 650,000 military to fight in the First World War.
Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute--http:// www.cdfai.org/
Polaris Institute--http:// www.polarisinstitute.org/ Ceasefire--http://www. ceasefire.ca
Project Ploughshares (2003 report on Canadian military spending)--http://www.ploushares.ca/ libraries/WorkingPapers / wp031.pdf
RELATED ARTICLE: Military needs versus political wants.
In December 2004, the Swedish parliament voted in favour of drastically reducing its armed forces. The government proposed closing bases and cutting about half a billion Canadian dollars from its military budget. It said the Swedish military should shift away from its obsession with a possible invasion from the old Soviet bloc toward the new threat of global terrorism and focus on international military cooperation.
Many in Canada also question the need for vast amounts of spending on equipment. Toronto Star columnist James Travers recently wrote that if Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his new defence minister have their way "Canadians will spend billions on ships, aircraft, and expanded response teams that aren't strictly needed." And that, he says, is because war machinery is "an extreme form of public relations." He says even defence experts admit that it's sometimes more cost- and operationally effective to rent such machinery as troop-carrying aircraft. But, rented craft don't display the Canadian flag. Mr. Travers says Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor wants to show off expensive equipment, such as the Boeing C-17 heavy-lift aircraft, which Chief of Defence Staff, Rick Hillier "can easily live without." Ditto for the $2 billion icebreakers and deepwater docking facilities the Defence Minister wants in the Arctic.
Globe and Mail writer Jeffrey Simpson says cabinet ministers are more interested in the politics of military spending than they are in defence requirements. "... if a purchase absolutely must be made, (they) focus on where the assembly will be done, the parts made, the jobs created, the press releases issued ... when defence procurement arises at the cabinet table, the discussion isn't about what's best for defence but where the political pork will be distributed." And, he says, the contractors tailor their proposals accordingly.
RELATED ARTICLE: It's all relative.
A 2003 Project Ploughshares report on Canadian military spending explains: The real determinants of military spending are such factors as historical levels of military spending; the spending level of allies (and the degree of pressure they apply on Canada with respect to Canada's military spending); institutional (departmental and military industry) pressures; regional economic policy and industrial policy considerations; competition with funding priorities in other policy areas; and, changes in the level of perceived military threat to Canada, its allies, and the global community. If is commonly believed that the current level of Canadian military spending is much lower than it has been in the past, that Canada has fallen behind its allies in providing funding for its military, and that the Canadian military no longer has the funds to respond adequately to the threats facing Canadian security."
But, the report shows that, during the post-World War II period (1946-2001), excluding Vietnam War expenses, Canada's military spending related closely to U.S. spending. And, while Canada's spending has declined since 1952 as a percentage of gross domestic product, the drop reflects the country's growth in GDP rather than lower military spending.
|Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback|
|Publication:||Canada and the World Backgrounder|
|Date:||May 1, 2006|
|Previous Article:||Government default: in 1996, Canada's then-top military leader, General Jean Boyle, said the country's army was unfit to fight in a serious war and...|
|Next Article:||Is peacekeeping a relic? Once known as peacekeepers, Canada's military has changed quite dramatically into a more robust force capable of fighting....|