Trudeau the First's Disastrous Defence Policy Reincarnated
Pierre Eliot Trudeau’s disastrous approach to Defence policy and the Canadian Armed Forces is alive and well more than three decades later.
Yesterday, I was reviewing a history of Prime Minister, Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s, antipathy for the Canadian Armed Forces through books surveying the period including In Retreat, The Disarming of Canada, True North Not Strong and Free. “The apple does not fall far from the tree,” as the old saying goes. Last week the Trudeau Liberals tabled their latest Federal Budget with no new money for the Department of National Defence, no money to support their missing in action Defence Review, no new money for procurement, and no new cash to sustain military operations those on-going and those proposed. Most importantly for Canada-US relations, no new money to boost our NATO funding from our current one percent of Gross Domestic Product to the agreed upon NATO standard of two percent key to the Trump administrations’ heavily signaled interest in NATO.
In the going on two years, the Trudeau government has been in power, and their second Federal budget behind them, their actions on the Defence front have been lackluster to say the least. Defence spending this year will fall by 400 million dollars over last year, and last year saw a reprofiling of cash out several years to the tune of 3.7 billion to 2020 or later. The cash sent for reprofiling was largely monies set aside for capital procurements. It is important to note that under Mr. Trudeau economic growth is projected to fall behind inflation by almost half a point so our buying power is decreasing, and hampered our exchange rate with the US. The Defence Review conducted between April and July of 2016, and due to report soon, is expected to be further delayed as all policy is money driven.
The government seems poised to move away from expeditionary combat capable forces for traditional and almost non-existent peacekeeping type operations. The Trudeau regime has signaled that by withdrawing our CF-18 fighter bomber fleet from fighting the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, while increasing our training and surveillance operations, and talking about a new peacekeeping mission in Africa. The government has also stated an interest in a United Nations Security Council seat despite its dubious value without a Permanent Member veto. We are now reliant on Chile and Spain for afloat fleet logistics and support of our Royal Canadian Navy. Maritime task group air defense is now retired, and the task group concept key to naval expeditionary capability in question. The plan to maintain a frontline Royal Canadian Air Force has taken a direct hit by what appears to be the Liberals running away from the F-35 fighter purchase, in favor of a sneaky, politically motivated, interim, and then full directed-buy of older, less capable, F-18 Super Hornets. The program to replace the surface combat continues to drag as the Royal Canadian Navy retires its air defense destroyers, and its recently upgraded frigates continue to age. The word is out that the money set aside to replace the surface fleet is inadequate, and has been for some time, and to be fair, some of the blame can be placed on the previous government’s shoulders, but not all. The bad news for the Canadian Army and its combat capability is that the air and sea elements of the Canadian Forces were the Liberals election promised-priorities.
If there is a bright spot it is that the Trudeau government has committed Canadian Army forces to the Baltic States, Poland and to training in the Ukraine to deter Russia, and that it increased our ground-based training mission in Iraq. The bad news is that the Iraq mission is due to end this coming month, and that there is no increased incremental spend to fund any of these missions from an already heavily stress operations and maintenance budget.
At the end of the day, the current Trudeau government by its either willful, or blindly benign neglect of our military, pays tribute to the first Prime Minister Trudeau and his disastrous stewardship of our Canadian Armed Forces, and Jean Chretien’s “decade of darkness.”