Budget 2021 reaffirms $553 billion for the Canadian military, while $18 billion in annual fossil fuel subsidies remain unlisted
The founding statement of Peace Brigades International from September 1981 says: “We appeal in particular to all those who seek to fulfill the high principles and purposes expressed in the Charter of the United Nations.”
The Charter includes the vision of “the least diversion for armaments of the world’s human and economic resources.”
It is through that lens that we evaluate Budget 2021 tabled by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland in the House of Commons on April 19.
Chapter 9 of the budget includes the line: “Canada’s 2017 defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, set out a vision for a long-term, fully-funded plan to renew and re-equip the Canadian military, built around people.”
The budget text doesn’t give a figure for Strong, Secure, Engage, so one has to go to that document to find that it is $553 billion on a cash basis over 20 years.
It further specifies: “To meet Canada’s defence needs at home and abroad, the Government will grow annual defence spending over the next 10 years from $17.1 billion in 2016-17 to $24.6 billion in 2026-27 on an accrual basis. This translates to a rise in annual defence spending on a cash basis from $18.9 billion in 2016-17 to $32.7 billion in 2026-27.”
And along with new expenditures for the NATO and NORAD military alliances, “Budget 2021 proposes to provide $541.2 million over five years, starting in 2021-22, to the Department of National Defence to maintain an additional six fighter aircraft and a frigate as part of the NATO Readiness Initiative.”
The Canadian government has already committed $15-19 billion to buying 88 new fighter aircraft that this analysis says will cost $76.8 billion over 20 years.
Excessive militarization and climate change
Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, has warned that the climate crisis is greatest ever threat to human rights.
Izumi Nakamitsu, the United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, has also commented: “We must consider alternatives to excessive militarization and seek options that address the real challenges of our time, including climate change, epidemics and pandemics, mass refugee flows and extreme poverty.”
On the point of climate change, Chapter 5 of the budget notes: “Budget 2021 proposes to provide $17.6 billion towards a green recovery to create jobs, build a clean economy, and fight and protect against climate change.”
However, Budget 2021 still does not tabulate the amount that the federal government provides in fossil fuel subsidies.
CBC has reported: “In 2019, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote in his mandate letter to then-finance minister Bill Morneau that he was expected to finalize a report listing Canada’s fossil fuel financial supports. That report remains a work in progress, according to what MPs on the natural resources parliamentary committee were told in March.”
That said, the Canadian advocacy organization Environmental Defence recently released this report that documented: “In 2020, the federal government either announced or provided a minimum of nearly $18 billion to the oil and gas sector.”
Within the tabulation of costs, Environmental Defence noted: “A particularly egregious form of fossil fuel subsidy are investments made into policing Indigenous land defenders opposing fossil fuel infrastructure.”
They then highlight: “For example, over $13 million was spent last year on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to ‘protect’ the Coastal GasLink pipeline – which took the form of harassing Wet’suwet’en Nation community members who oppose the pipeline.”
The first of four days of debate on the budget began on Tuesday April 20. The fourth day of debate is expected next week and there will eventually be a vote on a budget implementation bill in the coming weeks.
PBI-Canada continues to promote expenditures that build peace and genuine security, promote human rights, and address the underlying issues of militarism.