Feds Cutting Almost $1 Billion from Defence Budget Amid Reprioritization

The federal government has cut nearly $1 billion from the defence budget amid other priorities, including the creation of a diverse and inclusive workforce.
Feds Cutting Almost $1 Billion from Defence Budget Amid Reprioritization
A Leopard 2A4 tank from Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) travels on the Black Route of the 3rd Canadian Division Support Base Garrison Wainwright Training Centre in preparation for Exercise Maple Resolve 21, on April 30, 2021. (Canadian Armed Forces photo via Flickr/Sailor First Class Camden Scott)
Noé Chartier

The Department of National Defence has been asked to cut back spending by almost $1 billion as part of a broader initiative affecting other areas of the federal government.

The cuts, totalling $15 billion, were announced in Budget 2023 and Treasury Board President Anita Anand informed her colleagues in August they would need to come up with a plan by Oct. 2.

Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Wayne Eyre told the House of Commons defence committee on Sept. 28 that the Department of National Defence (DND) needs to find almost $1 billion in savings.

“There's no way that you can take almost a billion dollars out of the defence budget and not have an impact, so this is something that we're wrestling with now,” Gen. Eyre told MPs.

The CDS provided this answer during a committee meeting where everything from personnel shortages to insufficient production of ammunition, and the dire housing situation for military members was mentioned.

The general was answering a question from Conservative MP Shelby Kramp-Neuman who raised those issues and asked how the cuts would affect the ability of the Canadian Armed Forces to serve and protect.

“I had a very difficult session this afternoon with the commanders of the various services as we attempt to explain this to our people,” said Gen. Eyre. “Our people see the degrading declining security situation around the world, and so trying to explain this to them is very difficult.”

These cuts come a few weeks after Canada pledged to meet NATO’s military budget target of 2 percent of gross domestic product from the current 1.3 percent.
The CDS and the Deputy Minister of Defence Bill Matthews wrote a message to soldiers and civilians under the DND on Sept. 6, explaining the “hard decisions” that need to be taken within the department to reduce government spending.

The message says Ottawa seeks to roll back spending to a “pre-pandemic path,” as outlined in Budget 2023. “Early efforts are now underway across the Defence Team to address our part in this initiative by developing spending reduction options.”

Top officials said the reductions in operating expenditures would be done over three years and are not expected to cause job losses. There would be reductions related to the hiring of professional services and cut-backs on travel, they said.

“This is not about doing more with less, or arbitrary cost-cutting. It is about ensuring the defence budget is directed toward top defence and government priorities."

Conservative MP and defence critic James Bezan mentioned budget lapses of previous years and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) falling behind on training.

“What's going to give here on a billion dollars, this year? And how are we going to deal with the threat environment that we're in if we're going to continue to cut rather than invest in our Canadian Armed Forces?” he said.

Mr. Matthews said that “minimizing impact on military readiness has to be a driving force behind the decision.”

Minister of Defence Bill Blair also testified before the committee and said the current fiscal environment “requires that when we are spending Canadian taxpayers dollars, that we do it carefully and thoughtfully.”

He also mentioned cutting back on services offered by private firms—an issue that received scrutiny earlier this year across the government—with the cost of outsourcing ballooning.

Mr. Blair told MPs of his “unwavering commitment” to make sure the CAF is supported appropriately, but he didn’t shy away from recognizing the multiple challenges facing the institution.

“I have become really struck by some of the challenges we're facing as I visited some of the bases and wings,” he said.

However, the minister said his top priority was not the purchase of new equipment, but rather culture change, and the creation of a diverse and inclusive workforce.

“All the investments in boats and planes and equipment are important, but none of them will help us achieve what we need to achieve if we don't create the right environment for the men and women who serve in the Forces, and so it has to be our first priority,” he said.