Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Evergreen Post: Canadian Defence Spending as Good Politics, Bad Policy

From my perch in Mumbia, I see that the new budget does two things related to the Canadian Armed Forces: it kicks down the road a heap of money set aside for major procurement projects and otherwise did not increase the defence budget.

This makes complete sense politically.  Canadians have not been demanding more money for defence.  Canada faces no real military threats unless one counts cyber attacks.  Despite fearful pieces in Macleans, the arctic remains too far away from everybody to be a key line of attack.  The oceans and air spaces are protected by the Americans due to their own interests.  NORAD gives a fig leaf that allows Canada to feel ok about that.  The biggest change to Canada's defence situation is Trump's election, and there is little Canada can do military to offset that earthquake.  So, the Canadian people get it and are not clamoring for more money for defence.

Can the Tories accuse the Liberals of being weak on defence? Sure, but since they cut the CAF's budgets, they have weak ground to stand on.  Will NDP?  Ha.  So, who besides defence scholars and random folks will mind?  Keep in mind that one of the few points of consensus in last summer's defence review is that the CAF could use more money.  So much for that review....

Oh, our allies.  Ooops.  Yes, the one political downside is that the US has been demanding more $ going to defence, and it is unlikely that this budget is going to improve the % of GDP spent on defence.  Most of the rest of the alliance is shifting towards more spending, so Canada is going to stick out more.  Perhaps Trudeau feels that he can keep Trump distracted (not a bad bet).  But it is not good.

This budget, if it is what we think it is, is bad policy.  The CAF is being asked to do quite a bit these days: train in Ukraine, train and assist and surveil and refuel in Iraq, base and exercise and lead in Latvia, eventually do a new peacekeeping mission, and more.  Yet without more money.  Oh, and the other bit of consensus of the defence review is more effort in cyber.  Where will the money for that come from?  Who loses in the CAF?  So, perhaps the defence review will still matter as it might identify some prioritization, but don't bet on it.

So, in short, this budget is predictable and predictably bad.  Same stuff, different year.

1 comment:

Rob said...

Think it is more than a few fearful pieces in Macleans worried about the Arctic. But then if I couldn't convince you in Japan, I guess I never will. Glad you like India.