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Defence Spending Cuts – Not According to Bill Blair

Flag of Canada on the military uniform. Canadian soldiers. Army of Canada. Remembrance Day. Poppy day. Canada Day.

At the NATO summit in Lithuania, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau along with Canada’ allies agreed to make two per cent of GDP the minimum spend on defence and pledged that 20 per cent of that money would be spent on equipment. Yet here we are less than 3 months later, and the Liberals are looking to cut almost $1 billion from the Department of National Defence’s annual budget. The defence budget is currently about 1.3 per cent of Canada’s GDP, so how does the government plan to reach the two per cent while making these cuts?

Let’s not forget, it was revealed in April that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told NATO officials privately that Canada will never meet the military alliance’s defence-spending target. This is according to a leaked secret Pentagon assessment that was contained in a Washington Post article by Toronto-based correspondent, Amanda Coletta. The document’s anonymous authors say, “Canada’s widespread military deficiencies are harming ties with security partners and allies.”

The $1 billion target is a direct result of Treasury Board President Anita Anand’s directive to cabinet minister to find $15.4 billion in government spending cuts over the next five years. Possible targets to meet the overall target of $15.4 billion are lapsed or unspent funds, rescheduled spending or deferred capital expenditures. Additionally, attrition and a possible slowdown or freeze on hiring may be a scenario to help meet cuts.

Meanwhile, Chief of Defence Staff, General Wayne Eyre indicated that there is no way that a cut this large can happen without consequences, however job losses are not expected. One of Eyre’s objectives was focused on boosting recruitment and retention. He recently noted that 16,000 positions are currently unfilled and another 10,000 soldiers still require training to partake in operations.

While investments may have to be made over a longer period of time, Blair’s spokesman Daniel Minden stated that claims that Canada is cutting defence spending is inaccurate, and that defence spending will continue to increase. Minister of National Defence, Bill Blair indicated on X (formerly Twitter) that savings would likely come from consulting and travel. He also stated that this may require putting off planned equipment spending, such as the National Shipbuilding Strategy and make do with older equipment for now. Blair acknowledged there is an urgent need for significant new investments in defence, but noted the government has to balance that against other priorities, including housing and affordability measures.

Meanwhile, Canada has committed more than $9 billion to Ukraine since Russia’s February 2022 invasion, including military aid, tanks, air defence missiles, Howitzers and other miscellaneous items such as drone cameras.

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