The Canadian Forces are heading toward another decade of darkness. Former Chief of the Defence Staff Rick Hillier expressed its concerns over the years of budget cuts under the Chrétien Liberals in the 1990s.
More than fifteen years later, the Canadian Forces are still suffering from the deep cuts Chrétien made. Modernization of military equipment was stalled and has been aging ever since. Our fighter aircraft are still flying by swapping spare parts with ‘replacement’ aircraft, our submarines are leaking, our Navy is in a desperate need of new ships and our army barely have ammunition to train.
Meanwhile, the Trudeau Liberals have decided to review the whole Canadian defence policy and postpone more than $3.7 billion in military spending over the next five years. According to them, delaying military spending enables the Canadian Forces and the Department of National Defence to overview the current needs and spend the money for them.
Although I wholeheartedly disagree with delaying military spending, mostly because our soldiers are desperately in needs of new equipment, I can understand this attitude. As a matter of fact, Canada’s role on the international scheme is constantly evolving and so does our defence spending. That said, saying the $3.7 billion will be available when needed is not true. So, basically, the Liberals have slashed $3.7 billion in military spending, not delaying it.
“(The government) said it’ll come back later,” Hillier said. “I never believed that as chief of defence staff. If it’s not in the fiscal framework, it’s not there. So that’s a $4-billion cut that occurred. That came mostly out of the acquisition capital funding, where we desperately need to spend even more.”
Canada needs Armed Forces that can defend its territory and fulfill its commitment to NATO. Adding to that, the Liberals wants to redeploy soldiers on peacekeeping missions with the United Nations. To do so, you need equipment capable of withstanding a long period of deployment and enough replacement in case of destruction or breakdown. By delaying the military spending, I don’t believe Canada will have the ability to deploy more troops abroad.
We already have deployed soldiers around the world and replacement vehicle such as the LAV 6s have been constantly delayed. The LAV 6 is the workhorse of the Canadian ground troops. It is replacing the LAV III, a vehicle that got a serious beating in Afghanistan. However, the timeline has not been respected once again and it leaves our ground soldiers vulnerable.
The campaign in Afghanistan clearly depleted our equipment, and the Canadian Forces are struggling to receive replacements. So while I agree with a defence policy review, the Liberals are denying the Canadian Forces with reinforcements.
“Every time we run operations now we’re strained and we’re stretched and we’re scraping from other places,” Hillier said. “I use fragility in that way. The funding issue makes everything fragile. You can’t hire enough people, you can’t get the equipment.”
That said, Canada’s main priority is to replace our CF-188 Hornets and start building ships to slowly replace the Halifax-class frigates. The defence policy review will definitely address those two priorities.
However, going through a policy review takes time and means the Canadian soldiers, airmen and sailors will have to be patient once again. With our current equipment state, I believe Canada is once again moving toward another decade of darkness. It is almost impossible for the Liberals, especially with the defence policy review and the defence budget cuts, to put back the Canadian military back on track on a short notice.
By the time the review is done, it will be time to undergo the procurement period. This means another few years before the Canadian Forces gets much-needed modern equipment. So yes, I believe the next decade will be really bad for the Canadian Forces.
The Liberals promised a “leaner, more agile” military, raising concerns over the size of its Armed Forces. With our commitment and the promised renewal of UN peacekeeping missions, Canadian soldiers will not be able to sustain such a high operational tempo, let alone if we slash our military numbers. The same applies for the equipment and vehicles.
“Right now we’re trying to do too much with too few people,” Hillier said. “Because of our unwillingness as a nation to fund the Canadian Armed Forces with more resources, we are asking the people in uniform to carry more than their fair share of the burden.”
A Leaner Canadian Forces Will Hurt the Defence Industry
It is also a major concern to the Canadian defence industry that employs more than 109,000 workers. By reducing our military—already very small—the Canadian government is putting a lot of jobs at risk and cuts billions in revenue. A smaller military also means a smaller amount of equipment.
Many will argue that the revenue is lower than the defence budget, but don’t forget that part of this budget is to pay Canadian soldiers. The same soldiers spend money in many local businesses.
Unless the Liberals reinstate the ‘delayed’ military spending, the Canadian Forces will definitely go through another decade of darkness. If that’s the case, I believe Trudeau can forget Canada’s bid to get a seat at the United Nations Security Council in 2021.