Anita Anand faces an uphill battle to boost Canada’s defence spending

Anita Anand faces an uphill battle to boost Canada’s defence spending

By Shachi Kurl, President

Defence Minister Anita Anand says she is planning an “aggressive” increase to defence spending to reach the two per cent of national GDP that Canada, as a NATO member, has pledged to spend. She should prepare for a tough battle.

Put aside for a moment that Canada’s armed forces have a long tradition of not spending the money they are already allocated. The fact is, neither defence spending, promises to our international allies, nor the general state and readiness of our armed forces are so-called “ballot issues” of importance to voters, and the politicians know it.

Instead, the political discourse around defence swings between a narrative that we are not a military country at all, to a more jingoistic version that unabashedly cheers our militarism, but neglects literally to put its money where its mouth is.

The first persistent narrative was repeated earlier this week in what must have been a grossly frustrating moment for Anand when her cabinet colleague, Mélanie Joly, in charge of foreign affairs, told CTV that Canada “is not a military power … We’re a middle-sized power and what we’re good at is convening …”

At this point it probably bears reminding that this dove-like image of ourselves was borne out of former prime minister Lester B. Pearson’s legacy as a Nobel Peace Prize winner for his role in the Suez Crisis and first UN peacekeeping operation.

But here’s another fun fact, about Pearson’s years in the PMO: spending on defence as a percentage of GDP hit a high of 3.62 per cent and was never lower than 2.54 per cent — both significantly higher proportions than we spend today (roughly 1.4 per cent of GDP).

For the rest of this piece, please view it on the Ottawa Citizen’s site where it was initially published.

Image – NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization/Flickr