Thank you, Mr. Battista and the whole CDA Institute team, for hosting today’s event. It’s a pleasure being here with you today.
I understand the CDAI had a productive exchange with the Chief of Defence Staff, General Jonathan Vance, in February about a range of issues facing the Canadian Armed Forces.
I’m here today to outline where we’re really starting from with Canada’s new defence policy. The Government will be releasing that policy very soon, and the depth of the challenge has come into more stark relief through the course of our analysis.
This analysis consisted of a thorough public consultation. Canadians provided over 20,000 submissions online. Parliamentarians held over 50 town hall discussions. 107 subject area experts participated in roundtables across the country, from Vancouver to Yellowknife, Edmonton to Toronto, in Halifax, Ottawa and Montreal.
I’m going to be very frank, because I believe it’s important to be clear about the hole we are starting in. I’ll say up front that successive governments contributed to the current state of affairs.
This audience is keenly aware of the extent of the challenges facing our military as a result of under-investment.
And yet, the state of affairs is, in some ways, worse than realized by most observers.
I know that you understand that we cannot build the Canadian Armed Forces this nation needs through a series of short-term decisions.
I know you understand that a military is not strengthened by cobbling together pieces from one budget to the next.
By succumbing continually to the pressures of the urgent at the expense of the strategic.
By hoping that 20 years down the line, all of the disjointed ups and downs will somehow result in the military we need.
That is why, in launching a Defence Policy Review, we set out to take the long-term view – to deliver a credible, realistic and funded strategy for our military.
Let me state outright and up front that the Canadian Armed Forces deliver what governments ask of them every time. They perform superbly regardless of the resource constraints they face.
All Canadians can be proud of the fact that our women and men in uniform answer the call of duty whenever and wherever it sounds.
In recent years alone, they have deployed to Iraq to contribute to global efforts to fight DAESH.
They deployed to Nepal in just 48 hours, after a tragic earthquake struck the tiny nation, and…
They deployed with NATO to bolster alliance resolve and deterrence against aggressive Russian actions in Ukraine.
…at home, they have helped residents of Winnipeg and Fort McMurray overcome massive floods and devastating forest fires.
The Canadian Armed Forces is an inspiring institution that makes me proud every day. Responsive, professional and dedicated, they are counted amongst the best militaries in the world.
But militaries cannot perform well forever without proper support.
Governments have a responsibility to uphold their end of the bargain…To care for their militaries, resource them properly, and fund them in a responsible way that meets their needs.
Since being elected a year and a half ago, we have worked hard to address the complex challenges that the Defence Team has faced in recent years.
Doing this properly has been a very large task.
We have spent a lot of time and attention assessing what’s working, what isn’t, and why.
We engaged with defence and security experts in Canada and abroad to increase our understanding of modern security threats.
We met with allies and partners to better understand the best defence role for Canada, and…
We listened to Canadians about their aspirations for the Forces and our country.
At every stage, the take-away has been clear: Governments have not delivered predictable, sustainable, long-term funding for the Canadian Armed Forces.
It has not been a straight line. Let me take a moment to retrace some twists and turns.
In 2004-05, Prime Minister Paul Martin’s government implemented annual budget increases of around $1.5 billion in successive years.
After that, the budget grew incrementally, predominantly to cover the cost of the combat mission in Afghanistan until it ended in 2010-11.
Two deficit reduction programs followed, Strategic Review and the Deficit Reduction Action Plan. By the time these were fully implemented in 2015, each reduced the annual defence budget by $1 billion dollars, for a total of about $2 billion per year.
The defence escalator, which was implemented to protect the DND budget from defence inflation, was increased from 1.5% to 2% in 2011. And beginning this fiscal year, it increased from 2% to 3%. Yet even that will not be sufficient to meet our future requirements.
Click here for the full text of the speech, on the Canadian Government website.