‘Significant’ Military Investments Being Discussed, Defence Minister Says

‘Significant’ Military Investments Being Discussed, Defence Minister Says
Minister of National Defence Bill Blair prepares to appear before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs on a question of privilege related to an intimidation campaign against the Member for Wellington-Halton Hills and other members, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on Oct. 24, 2023. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)
Noé Chartier

Defence Minister Bill Blair says his government is discussing major potential investments in the Canadian military, but the country’s fiscal situation will have an impact on the issue.

“We have brought forward a plan that’s very much in discussion right now, within our government, about making significant new investments,” Mr. Blair told Global News in Dec. 2 interview.

The minister was responding to the interviewer stating that Canada currently invests 1.23 percent of its GDP in defence, below the two percent target established by NATO.

Mr. Blair said his government believes new resources are required because of a “changing” world, noting the “increasingly aggressive” posture taken by Russia and China and Canada’s obligations in the Indo-Pacific, the Arctic, and in NATO.

“I hope I’ve made it very clear publicly that we recognize we must do more, we’re going to do more,” said Mr. Blair. “But there’s also some context in the doing that more because there is a fiscal situation in Canada that I have to be realistic about.”

National Defence has been identified by the Treasury Board as one of the departments needing to make cuts, as it looks to find savings of $15 billion. DND has been asked to reduce expenses by about $1 billion in the fields of professional services, consultants, and travel.

Mr. Blair told the House of Commons defence committee Nov. 23 he was “absolutely committed” the cuts would not impact serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre expressed concerns about the cuts in September.
“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,” he told the House defence committee.

‘Unacceptable Amount of Time’

Mr. Blair also addressed $2 billion from the defence budget that lapsed in the previous fiscal year, saying the inability of the department to spend is linked to inefficient procurement processes.

“It takes sometimes an inordinate amount of time and an unacceptable amount of time” to acquire equipment, said the minister during the Global News interview.

The latest procurement announcement was made last week with Ottawa awarding a sole-source contract to Boeing for the acquisition of up to 16 P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircrafts to replace the aging CP-140 Auroras.
Mr. Blair was also asked by Global News to address a recent video posted online by Vice-Admiral Angus Topshee.

The commander of the Royal Canadian Navy said his force is in a “critical state” and faces challenges which “could mean we fail to meet our force posture and readiness commitments in 2024 and beyond.”

The minister responded that he works very closely with the heads of the various military services.

Mr. Blair said it is important to have “with each other, but also with Canadians, candid, stark, and frank conversations about what is required...to complete the mission of keeping Canada safe and also to living up to our very significant international commitments.”