05 August 2013

Canadian Defence "Reforms" Coming?

As reported by The Economist, policy in Canada is being more greatly constrained by budget reality and taking its toll on future readiness.

The Conservatives set out to reverse what they claimed was neglect of the armed forces, pouring money into troops and equipment. Defence spending had already started to rise again in the last few years of Liberal government; but in the first two years of a Conservative one it shot up to C$19.2 billion ($17.1 billion) in 2008-09 from C$15.7 billion in 2006-07. To existing orders for support vehicles, search-and-rescue helicopters and howitzers, the Conservatives added plans to buy F-35 fighter jets for the air force, support ships and Arctic patrol vessels for the navy, plus a polar icebreaker for the Coast Guard, and some transport helicopters. The opposition parties called the 2008 “Canada First” defence strategy more of a shopping list than a policy document.

The Conservatives have also worked to change the image of the Canadian armed forces from peacekeepers (a Liberal idea) to fighters. They celebrated military milestones. The government spent C$28m to mark the bicentenary of the War of 1812 between what was then a group of British colonies and the United States. Red Fridays, when Canadians wear red to support the troops, won political support. The image makeover was helped by the fact that Canadian forces were fighting in Afghanistan and were led by a charismatic and outspoken chief of the defence staff, General Rick Hillier.

Circumstances have changed. General Hillier has retired. Canada is no longer fighting in Afghanistan, although 950 trainers will remain until next year as part of the international effort to create an Afghan army. Money is tight. The federal budget slipped back into deficit in 2008-09 and the government’s determination to return to surplus before the next election in 2015 means even a favoured department like defence is not being spared. It lost just over C$2 billion in the first two rounds of government-wide spending cuts and looks likely to lose as much again as the 2015 deadline looms. The “Canada First” strategy is unaffordable and there are mutterings about a new decade of darkness.

By: Brant

1 comment:

Brian said...

Thanks, haven't seen a canadian story here for a while but the Economist hits the right spots. The Canadian military is way over-officered and has been for over 40 years. It's also more or less owned and operated by the Air Force, the most expensive and elaborately over-officered arm of the service (do you think we'd still be talking about the F-35 if that weren't so?).

Budget usually wins out over Policy, and while peacekeeping wasn't cheap, trying to compete with the US as "co-warriors" is worse. Canada is a country with 1/10th the population of the USA and an even smaller economy - even the Conservatives have to recognize these realities.

I posted elsewhere on the meaninglessness of the pips-and-crowns issue (http://ltmurnau.livejournal.com/250381.html), another place they are trying to cut costs is nickel-and-diming wounded veterans. Like so many other countries, the government's there and cheering for the troops, but once they get damaged....