David Krayden: PM Says Military in ‘Big Trouble,’ But It’s Been That Way for Decades

David Krayden: PM Says Military in ‘Big Trouble,’ But It’s Been That Way for Decades
Members of the Canadian Armed Forces stand to attention during a Remembrance Day ceremony in Montreal on Nov. 11, 2023. (The Canadian Press/Graham Hughes)
David Krayden

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has found another means of keeping the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) on oxygen. He said that because Canada and other NATO countries have shipped so much military aid to Ukraine in their fight against Russia that “everyone is in big trouble” when it comes to defence readiness.

“We have stayed strong at a time where bigger countries and countries that play by different rules have tried really hard to impact us. And we’re continuing to defend ourselves in all the right ways,” Trudeau told Global News.

It’s not clear what the prime minister is actually talking about or what exactly defending ourselves “in all the right ways” can possibly refer to.

But of course Canada has been in big trouble for decades when it comes to national defence.

That doesn’t mean the current federal government hasn’t reached the nadir of defence spending.  Canada has already announced huge cuts to the defence budget over the next three years.

You see, for far too long, Canadian governments have not taken defence seriously. For decades, we sat under the nuclear umbrella of the United States while simultaneously and hypocritically deploring nuclear weapons and spending a pittance on the military that those weapons enabled us to do.

I don’t know how many times over the years that I have written or spoken about how Canada left the Second World War with the third-largest navy in the world and the fourth-largest air force. We had our own beach—Juno—on D-Day and didn’t just send a peacekeeping contingent to France when all the fighting was over.

During the post-war government of Liberal Prime Minister Louis St-Laurent, Canada maintained a sterling military presence not only at home but also in Europe. Although Progressive Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker was seriously out of sync with our defence relationship with the United States and never really trusted the Americans to be our continental allies, defence spending remained high under his administration.

Defence spending also remained a government priority under his successor, Liberal Prime Minister Lester Pearson.

We didn’t really begin to experience what defence analysts at the time referred to as the “rust-out” of Canada’s military until Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau entered office and demonstrated that he had little use for the military except as peacekeepers and event planners who could be counted on to organize a good parade in style.

What is perhaps most deeply ironic about the senior Trudeau’s national defence legacy is that he ultimately approved the acquisition of the CF-18 jet fighters that his son Justin Trudeau finally decided to replace with the F-35 this year. The CF-101 Voodoos that the CF-18 replaced were sometimes held together with duct tape—no lie—and their replacement wasn’t just a sound idea but the solution to a national embarrassment and a defence crisis. Canada could no longer participate as a member of NATO or NORAD with obsolete jets.

Those jets finally arrived in 1982, and over 40 years later we have just begun their replacement process.

You see how defence spending works? It’s almost always too late and the CAF is in constant recovery mode. Sometimes the neglect goes painfully public, as when we learned that military personnel deployed to Latvia had to buy their own helmets and provide their own food.

I’ve often described defence funding and the capital acquisition process of military equipment as a grand shell game that involves starving one section of the CAF of funding while showcasing spending in other areas. This practice has in no way been limited to Liberal governments; Prime Minister Stephen Harper, despite having a personal fondness for the military, would always seize funds from the military when he deemed it politically or economically necessary to do so.

It’s the same spectacle of illusion when defence white papers are unveiled by any federal government or when a federal budget promises to deliver x billions of dollars over 10 years. All of these promises are transitory and can either be overridden by the next fiscal crisis or forgotten by the succeeding government.

But it’s not just the money. The federal government has routinely used the CAF as a laboratory for social experimentation. I could remind you of the repeated outrages over the last two decades that include establishing recruitment quotas that were not just unrealistic but based entirely on the presumptions of identity politics, but there have been enough examples in just this past year.

The latest fad in the LGBTQ lexicon is gender ideology, so menstruation kits have appeared in the men’s bathrooms at military bases.

Then there was the ludicrous controversy over prayer at official military ceremonies. Was Defence Minister Bill Blair telling the chaplains that they couldn’t pray or was he redefining what prayer is?

Should the defence minister care at all? Should he stop imposing woke assumptions that praying to God constitutes a microaggression for someone out there?

The U.S. military is also on a crusade to indoctrinate its members into woke ideology. The obsession has undoubtedly contributed to the recruitment crisis on both sides of the border, just as it inevitably leads to an operational readiness gap, because a military should be focused on preparing to defend their country and not being used as emblems of the latest progressive impulse.

But that is one thing this federal government does take seriously: bending the wills and controlling the minds of Canada’s soldiers, sailors, and airmen. Ultimately, Ottawa doesn’t care about maintaining a strong military when it can give our equipment away and spend the military’s budget on foreign wars that we can’t win.

And that’s a serious problem.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
David Krayden graduated from Carleton University's School of Journalism and served with the Air Force in public affairs before working on Parliament Hill as a legislative assistant and communications advisor. As a journalist he has been a weekly columnist for the Calgary Herald, Ottawa Sun, and iPolitics.
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