Parliamentary consensus in Canada sets stage for billions more in military spending

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: Canadian air force ground crew arms a CF-18 fighter jet while deployed in Iraq.

“The dominant security discourse associated with the militarization of societies is a setback.” – Peace Brigades International

Canada could see a massive spike in military spending when the federal budget is tabled in the House of Commons, likely in the first week of April.

Last week, Defence Minister Anita Anand said: “I personally am bringing forward aggressive options which would see [Canada], potentially, exceeding the two per cent level, hitting the two per cent level, and below the two per cent level.”

Two per cent is the threshold in military spending first set at the North American Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in 2014.

In 2017, the Liberal government promised to increase spending by 70 per cent over a 10 year period. That would mean spending increases from $18.9 billion in 2016/17 to $32.7 billion by 2026/27. In 2020-21, Canada spent about $23.3 billion.

Based on Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020, two per cent of GDP would bring that budget to about $41.6 billion a year.

That could mean a budget increase of about $18.3 billion.

This morning, The Globe and Mail reported: “The New Democrats say they won’t stand in the way of higher military spending to confront the Russian threat as long as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approves billions of dollars in new social programs as part of a deal to prop up the minority Liberal government until June, 2025.”

That article adds: “[NDP leader Jagmeet] Singh said his party would not block purchases of new equipment for the Canadian Armed Forces in the upcoming federal budget, provided it does not come at the expense of the billions in new social spending in areas such as health and dental care that are promised in Tuesday’s deal.”

While the deal agreed to by the Liberal Party and NDP on Tuesday March 22 does not specify numbers, it has been previously estimated that a fully-implemented pharmacare and dental care program could cost about $16.5 billion.

The Globe and Mail article further notes: “The Bloc Québécois has said it won’t oppose defence spending, and the Conservatives are on record favouring a military buildup in the face of Russia’s actions in Ukraine.”

While we have not heard much from the Bloc on the issue of military spending, the party has previously supported the purchase of F-35 fighter jets and in 2010 voted with the Conservatives against a Liberal motion calling for the cancellation of the purchase.

As such, there appears to be a parliamentary consensus that does not challenge militarism despite the nearly $2 trillion a year spent on militaries, disastrous wars or the soaring profits being made by transnational weapons manufacturers.

There is also little parliamentary opposition to Canada spending $76.8 billion on new warplanes and $5 billion on armed drones.

Notably, Canada has spent average of $1.9 billion a year (from 2013-18) on the militarization of its borders while spending $149 million a year over the same period on climate financing to mitigate the impacts of climate change that drive forced migration.

The Breach recently reported that there are hundreds of arms lobbyists in Ottawa and commented: “Lobbyists don’t stop at lobbying for military contracts; rather, they seek to shape the policy priorities to fit the wildly expensive equipment they are hawking.”

In this recent statement, Peace Brigades International has cautioned: “The dominant security discourse associated with the militarization of societies is a setback. Billions more spent on weapons will not make the world safer.”

Stay tuned for more information on an upcoming PBI-Canada webinar on the eve of the CANSEC arms fair in Ottawa that will discuss Canadian arms exports to Colombia and Mexico and the militarization of Dene territory in northern Alberta.

Photo: Canada exported 40 of these military helicopters to Colombia between 1998 and 2000.

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