The Canadian government plans to raise military spending by $8-billion over the next half-decade to help fund a revamp of North American defences, bolster protection from cyberattacks and send $500-million in additional weapons and gear to Ukraine.
What amounts to an extra $1-billion or $2-billion in each of the next four years – rising to more than $3-billion in the fifth year – falls far short of Canada’s NATO commitment to spend 2 per cent of annual economic output on defence. Canada would have to spend an additional $16-billion or $17-billion each and every year on defence to reach its NATO target.
The 2022 budget unveiled Thursday failed to deliver details on much of the extra military spending it did allocate, particularly on a promised package by Defence Minister Anita Anand to modernize continental defences under NORAD – a refurbishment the United States has been seeking for years.
It said the government still has to make decisions about “improved capabilities to deter and defeat threats.”
The portion of new money directed to direct Canadian military spending is $6.1-billion spread out over five years with the rest being for items such as cybersecurity – a category of expenditure that NATO counts as defence dollars.
The $500-million in weapons and other military aid for Ukraine will be spent this fiscal year, the government said.
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland also announced the Liberal government would undertake a “swift defence policy review” to determine what additional military gear is needed “to equip Canada for a world that has become more dangerous.”
There was no promise this review would deliver additional dollars.
Asked why the increase in spending was so modest, Ms. Freeland said: “To tell the truth we are spending more on defence than was planned before the invasion of Ukraine by Russia.”
Thursday’s budget would boost annual military spending by about 3 per cent this year, rising to as much as 8 per cent by 2026-27, but makes little headway on helping Canada meet its NATO commitment. Several allies have boosted military spending in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the biggest global security crisis in decades – in particular Germany.
“These are very modest increases in defence spending,” David Perry, president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said of the 2022 budget. He said it’s best described as “another down payment.”
Mr. Perry said it’s far less impressive than what Ms. Anand had suggested in mid-March when she told CBC TV she was bringing forward “aggressive options” for cabinet, some of which could push spending over 2 per cent of GDP.
“This would be on the low end of what a lot of people thought she was hinting at.”
Ms. Anand in February had pledged to soon bring forward a “robust package to modernize NORAD,” one expected to help replace the aging North Warning System, a joint United States and Canadian radar system that includes dozens of sites from Yukon to Labrador that is incapable of addressing new threats such as hypersonic missiles from Russia and China.
By the end of the five years projected in the 2022 budget, Canada’s defence spending would rise to 1.5 per cent of GDP, the government said Thursday. Calculations by NATO released last week say Canada currently spends about 1.36 per cent of GDP on defence.
Canada first promised to spend 2 per cent on defence in 2014 at a NATO summit in Wales but has never reached this goal.
Conservative defence critic Kerry-Lynne Findlay described the new defence spending as “woefully inadequate” for the equipment demands and international obligations Canada faces. “There’s just enough to top up some things they are already doing.”
The new money includes $875.2-million, spread out over five years, to strengthen Canada’s ability to defend against and deter cyberattacks as well as a permanent increase of $238.2-million annually.
The extra budget money is also funding an extension and expansion of Canada’s commitment to NATO operations designed to counter Russian aggression on the Western alliance’s eastern flank. Canada has extended its leadership of a NATO battle group in Latvia until 2025 – where more than 500 Canadian soldiers are posted and 120 gunners deployed as part of an artillery battery. Canada has also dispatched a second frigate and a surveillance aircraft to help.
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