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Time is running out

Rumour Mongering and the Requirement to Lead

The rumour mills are grinding again. The source this time is a series of CANWEST newspaper articles, penned by the Ottawa Citizen's David Pugliese, referring to a purported new “Canada First” military policy.

Key to these rumours is the speculated doubling of the defence budget over the next 18 years. The defence budget underpins all of the subsequent rumours on acquisitions, policies, and the creation and elimination of various bases, units and equipment. On the face of it, merely stating "defence budget to double," should be cause for unbridled mirth within the military, and apoplexy amongst the opinion-making left. But let's take a more reasoned look at such a budget pronouncement.
Doubling the defence budget over nearly 20 years is a recipe for disarmament by stealth. To double defence spending to something in the $30 Billion range by 2025 means that spending grows by about 3%, year after year. That barely beats inflation. Since the inflation rate for military expenditures is historically higher than the general rate of inflation, doubling defence really represents a decrease in the purchasing power of the defence budget.1 Why is this important?

It bears repeating that Canada is a G8 country with repeated aspirations to a global leadership position. Canada needs to match deeds with such words. Ruxted recently expressed reservations about the currently inadequate defence budget.2 To reiterate the key points: the costs to build and maintain a military commensurate with global leadership would be: 10±% real growth, every year, for the first half of the 18 year period, with 5±% real growth thereafter. That would mean spending $50+ Billion in 2025 – most likely only about 2% of GDP in that year. Ruxted believes this would be enough to provide a small (85,000± Regular force/35,000± Reserve) but capable force. Such a properly equipped, trained, and led force would be combat capable across the full spectrum of operations demanded in this new security environment.

Announcing, even via rumour, a doubled defence budget is therefore mere sleight of hand. Until this lynchpin rumour is addressed, all the others are increasingly meaningless. Strategic planning surrounding a country's armed force requires a periodic review of long-term defence requirements and the making of equally long-term spending plans (always recognizing that each parliament is sovereign and might not honour its predecessors’ plans and commitments). If a non-partisan, long-term defence review argues for the creation of new units, or the laying up of specific classes of ship, so be it; to do so based on public reaction to snippets of leaked policy sound bites is irresponsible.

As it is, Ruxted is certain that the need for the military will come faster, dangerously faster, than the means to rebuild our armed forces. This leads directly into the key aspect of Canada's present defence dilemma: leadership.

The Requirement for Leadership

Canada's incredible shrinking military can be laid unequivocally at the feet of successive Liberal and Conservative governments, whether attributable to making short-sighted political gains at the military's expense, or simple neglect. This is the result of failing to conduct honest, non-partisan defence reviews; as such, now it is time for politicians to feel the heat for the effects, if any heat arises at all. If Canadians and their elected politicians do not care, when the time comes and the military is needed, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

Canadians should not have to rely upon rumours in order to consider their own national defences. Politics by trial balloon leaks is plainly immoral when our troops are fighting a war.

The Bloc Québécois has promised a parliamentary debate and a confidence motion on Afghanistan. Ruxted encourages Canadians to demand that their elected parliamentarians, of all parties, debate the issue of our nation’s long term defence plans and insist that this government, and future governments too, make adequate provisions for the defence of our country and of its vital interests around the world.

There is a real enemy out there - killing Canadians. Canada is fighting a war against a committed and ruthless foe. It is a war about values – ours vs. theirs. Although Canadians have fallen victim to terrorist attacks from New York to Bali, the war is being most visibly fought in Afghanistan. If we lose there, it is not hyperbole to state that we increase the likelihood of fighting this enemy elsewhere – maybe, if he believes we are ‘soft’ enough, in Canada.

Some Canadians oppose this war because they are confused regarding its aims and methods; others oppose it because they have been lulled into a foreign/defence policy stupor by a generation of politicians, teachers and ‘opinion makers’ who have no particular knowledge of global affairs but a Pavlovian willingness to spend taxpayers’ money on social programmes. Still more Canadians oppose this war because of either long held, almost ‘cultural’ isolationist views or because of equally traditional knee-jerk anti-Americanism.

It is the duty of the Prime Minister to explain to Canadians why he is sending soldiers to fight and die. If he cannot or will not do that, then he is unfit for the office he holds; ditto for his ministers. The government-of-the-day has a duty to shake Canadians into reality; to tell them that their 18th century isolationism has been overtaken and overwhelmed by 21st century globalization. Canada is no longer a little band of habitants huddled on the frozen banks of the St Lawrence; Canada is ‘in’ the world and the world is ‘in’ Canada, too.

Ruxted challenges the media and academe: be honest and examine your words; tell Canadians the truth, for a change. Tell them that neither the UN nor the USA will protect us from a harsh, brutal world in which our secular, liberal, law-abiding and democratic values are under attack. It is time that the opinion makers acknowledge the real serious harm they have done to the nation’s strength by preaching a childlike gospel of baby-blue-beret peacekeeping long after its (always limited) utility was at an end; we can no longer afford the delusional comfort of the Canadian peacekeeper myth. Also, unthinking anti-Americanism might be comfortable for the effete latte sippers in trendy Toronto cafés but it is a poor, indeed dangerously naive, base for foreign policy.

If we want our values to prevail -- if we want to maintain a liberal democratic Canada -- then we have to do a full, fair and independent share of the heavy lifting. The chattering masses should tell us why Canada should abandon its own doctrine of "Responsibility to Protect," just because protecting requires the force of arms against extremists which have hijacked the world's second-largest religion. To assume a leadership mantle in such a world means that the CF must be capable of fighting; when they do, they must be capable of winning.

Ruxted finally challenges the politicians: be honest, clear, and brave, like the sailors, soldiers and aviators you send into battle. Tell Canadians the truth, for a change, and tell them you are acting on it – to protect their vital interests and their very lives. Cherished social programmes will be worthless if the fight is brought home because politicians were more intent on scoring cheap political points. The first duty of Canada’s citizens is to defend Canada. A few, thankfully a tough, dedicated few, do that in uniform, at sea, in the front lines and in the air. They must have the support of the many on the home front. Such support will not be forthcoming if lost in infantile Parliamentary squabbles, or when priority is given to special-interest pork-barrel projects.

Opinion-shaping pundits, academics, and politicians are all claiming the leadership right to speak for the common man; Canadians are waiting for real leadership – there has been too little of it for the past half century.

Time is running out.

1. For another take on this budget, see
2. Ruxted, "A budget boost now, please, Prime Minister Harper.",-please,-Prime-Minister-Harper.html, 19 January 2007.


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E.R. Campbell on :

See a supportive article by Sen. Colin Kenny at: and see my comments on at:,57116.msg523300.html#msg523300

If, Big IF the "Canada First" paper details which were leaked are correct then this government is, indeed, hell bent on disarming Canada by stealth and Stephen Harper is Pierre Trudeau - without the panache.

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