Canada Unveils New Defence Strategy

AF-2, Major Eskil “Taz” Amdal, Ferry From Eielson, Alaska To Edwards AFB, Ca., 8 March 2018

While much of the country was focussed on the total solar eclipse sweeping across central and eastern Canada last Monday (Apr. 8), Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, accompanied by Defence Minister Bill Blair and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, announced an updated defence strategy, the previous one having been issued in 2017. The press conference took place at Ontario’s CFB Trenton.

With a focus on Canada’s North (the strategy document is titled “Our North, Strong and Free”), there were many mentions of what many Canadians perceive, and believe, to be threats to this country. In fact, the 45-page briefing document mentions Russia 24 times and China or Chinese 20 times, while the Middle East (or countries within it) garnered only five mentions, despite it being the location of Canada’s most recent war.

Faced with much criticism of its lacklustre defence spending (current defence spending of only 1.33 percent of GDP vs Canada’s declared commitment to NATO of 2 percent), the new policy aims to spend $8.1 billion over the next five years and a total of $73 billion over the next 20 years. If those expenditures were actually made, total defence spending would still only reach 1.76 percent of GDP by 2029/30. Another of NATO’s targets is that 20 percent of the defence expenditures should be on new equipment, and the announced expenditures would meet that target.

“So even as we project we’re heading up to 1.76 percent of GDP in the coming years, we know there is more to come over the coming years, as Canada continues to step up in a more uncertain and, quite frankly, more dangerous world,” Trudeau said at the news conference.

Much of the announced expenditures would be on aircraft for the RCAF. Included in the policy announcement are cost projections for:

  • 88 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II fighter jets (likely to be named CF-35 once in Canadian service)
  • 9 new and used Airbus CC-330 Husky transport/strategic tanker aircraft
  • Up to 16 new Boeing P-8A Poseidon multi-service/maritime patrol aircraft
  • 16 new or upgraded AgustaWestland CH-149 Cormorant helicopters
  • 11 General Atomics MQ-9B SkyGuardian RPAS (drones)

Improvements to infrastructure in the North to accommodate an expanded aviation presence are also included in the policy statement.

Appended below is a PDF of the complete policy document.

Our North, Strong and Free