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Foreign Policy and Defence

Author: Dr Bryan Brulotte KCJ CD is a former military officer. He is a business executive based in Ottawa.

As Center Ice Conservatives, we believe that the Foreign policy and defence of Canada is one of the primary responsibilities of the Federal Government. The government is bound by its moral obligation to defend the country and to measure up to its treaties and alliances.

Canada has committed to spending 2% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on defence. In the recent budget speech, the Liberals told Canadians that we are at 1.4% and rising. But in fact, we are at 1.27% and defence spending has not been increasing. Regrettably, political spin has applied creative defence math to include veterans’ and former bureaucrats’ pension payments, thrown in capacity-building overseas, and labelled them as “defence spending.”[1] This is deceptive and wrong.

The recent war in Ukraine demonstrates that Canada needs a non-partisan, national-interests based defence policy designed to advance Canada’s interests, not merely to attract votes on behalf of a political party. We should work instead through academe, think tanks, and the Parliamentary defence standing committees to develop a non-partisan consensus around defence.

Likewise, politicians must stop using defence to posture on the world stage to signal to susceptible Canadian voters how virtuous Canada is. Too much defence rhetoric takes place in a figurative dreamland made possible by the overwhelming defence umbrella provided by the United States.[2] We believe that Canada needs its own comprehensive national defence strategy to determine how Canadians can better defend our sovereignty on three coasts and abroad.

NATO’s relevance, cohesion, and effectiveness must be renewed, given that a confrontation persists today in a modified form. There still needs to be a balance of power – and effective deterrence – in Europe as in Asia. By invading Ukraine, Russia now poses the same threat as it did in the Soviet era. NATO must stand firm. It’s containment and counter-intelligence roles are similar in the era of cyber, unconventional warfare, and disinformation. Canada must bear its share of the North Atlantic defence burden.

In the Asia-Pacific, we should enlarge the previous parliamentary committee study of China and the Canadians held captive,[3] Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, into a wider study of the manifold security threats posed by China to Canada. Given China’s cruel imprisonment of one million Uighur Muslims in a gulag system; its brutal failure to uphold “one country two systems” in Hong Kong; its continuing cultural genocide in Tibet and persecution of Falung Gong and other religious minorities, its aggressive posture in the international waters of the South China Sea, and its espionage, bribery, and harassment targeting Canadians and Canadian federal and provincial public figures – we should immediately revisit Ottawa’s China policy, replacing it with a China Strategy confronting an ambitious and hostile power. Canadians already get it: 66% of Canadians have an “unfavourable” view of China; only 22% want closer ties.[4] It is governments that need to catch up with reality.

In addition, a new national strategy must assess realistically the need to protect our critical infrastructure, the “processes, systems, facilities, technologies, networks, assets and services essential to the health, safety, security or economic well-being of Canadians and the effective functioning of government.”[5] Canada loses $3.12 billion to cyber-crime per year. Not only must government departments develop resilience, but businesses need help with their digital literacy and cyber defence.[6]

The Canadian Armed Forces

The equipment and organizational profile of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) must be elevated. As Center Ice Conservatives, we believe the Canadian Army should maintain its existing three regular brigade structure and its ten reserve brigade structure. Each of the three general-purpose regular brigades would be prepared to engage in the Arctic, NATO, or Asia-Pacific theatres. All brigades would be increased to full establishment and equipment levels. The Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) is a key player in our nation’s ability to project power and maintain a constant presence on all three coasts. A Conservative government would support an increase in both the size and capability of the RCN. The necessary assets would include two amphibious-troop ships, fifteen frigates, twenty coastal patrol ships, twelve arctic patrol ships, and eight submarines. This is the minimum necessary to secure Canadian sovereignty and meet international commitments. The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) currently has insufficient aircraft to engage fully on all three coasts and around the world. In the aggregate, this would lead to the doubling of its transportation, maritime helicopter, and fighter fleets. Moreover, it would be necessary to expand its embryonic Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) fleet. The RCAF must have the assets and tools to deliver and sustain a brigade group in the Far North, Atlantic, or Asia-Pacific theatres.

An overhaul and re-investment in the procurement system will enable the DND-CAF to replace and upgrade ageing equipment such as ships, and aircraft, as well as ensuring that our special operations forces, regular, and reserve forces have everything they need to complete their tasks. This would be closely tied to a national industrial strategy. A Conservative government should radically improve procurement and supply operations. With a Conservative government, a Defence Procurement Agency (DPA) would be established and functioning within eighteen months of receiving a mandate from voters. It would be formed by simplifying the currently fractured and dysfunctional procurement bureaucracy. It would be initially led by a highly competent and empowered Canadian executive who would be drawn from the private sector. This leader would have the responsibility to make it work and get it right.

Finally, the Canadian Rangers provide an extremely valuable presence in Canada’s North and play a community support role that is often overlooked. They are a highly valued group in many isolated and remote communities. The Rangers should receive the optimal funding level they need to perform their supporting role in establishing Canadian Sovereignty.

[1] [2] Roy Rempel, Dreamland: Canada’s Pretend Foreign Policy (2006). [3] [4] [5] Public Safety Canada definition. [6] Canadian Chamber of Commerce, “Canada’s Top 10 Barriers to Competitiveness in 2016,” February 2016 report.

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