TORONTO – I want to thank the NATO Association of Canada for inviting me here today. And for everything they do educate and engage Canadians about NATO and ensure that we have informed citizens who are able to contribute to our discussions on Canada’s defence and security and our role on the world stage! And thank you to the NATO Association of Canada interns – who I know were instrumental in organizing this incredible event. And thank you – to all of you here on this beautiful summer evening who have taken the time to discuss Canada’s security and our NATO alliance.
As a former Air Force Officer and now serving on Canada’s Parliamentary Standing Committee on National Defence and Chair of Canada’s delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly the state of the Alliance and Canada’s contribution to it is a key priority for me. And after being in Brussels last week for the NATO Summit I have some thoughts I wanted to share with you.
Last year when I spoke to you at this event my message was that we find ourselves in a time of unprecedented global instability where we might see major fundamental shifts in our economic and financial frameworks, – our trade relationships, – our defence and security structures, and maybe even our concept of nation states and our current international agreements and laws.
And my ask to you then – was to recognize that “we” in this room are the so called “converted” – those who understand and value the most critical and fundamental political, economic and military alliance in history – NATO. I challenged you to have the courage to speak with those who are not in our circles of the importance of preserving these foundational elements that underpin our society.
In the last year – I feel as though the unprecedented global instability and change – and even time itself – has accelerated.
Our single greatest ally, the United States has characterized Canada as being unfair in our trade relationship under NAFTA, deemed us a national security threat justifying tariffs on steel and aluminum, claimed that we are enjoying a free ride in defence and security and has even gone as far as to infer that we and our other NATO allies might be “foes” rather than friends.
In response we have heard from many that there is no cause for concern – this is just “negotiating” – it is just politics as usual but in a much more dramatic “reality tv” type fashion – but as a graduate of Royal Military College – I was taught to “hope for the best” BUT “plan for the worst”….
What if its not the intelligence that is wrong but rather our reluctance to allow the intelligence to frame a new paradigm of our changing world. For a moment allow me a what if…..
Russia is a threat? – What if Russian military spending is significantly more than we know? What if they have more capable and modernized equipment that we think? What if they continue to gain territory in their illegal occupation of Georgia? What if it is true that the passenger aircraft MH17 was downed by a Russian missile? or that it was the Russian State responsible for the poisoning of British citizens on British soil? And interference in the UK Brexit vote and the US Presidential election? And denial of critical infrastructure like communication and electrical grids and other cyber threats in a number of countries? And what if these are not each ends in themselves but rather tactical elements in a larger more comprehensive strategic plan?
What if Canada is no longer immune from direct defence concerns – What if we no longer enjoy the luxury of our geography protecting us from conflicts that only apply to the other side of the Atlantic. What if Russia and China are interested in our Arctic? Not only for our wealth of our natural resources but also the access to the much faster circumnavigation route – the northwest passage? What if Canada’s nation-state competitors look to steal our wealth, intellectual property, or influence changes in our political structure, or gain economic advantage through denying critical infrastructure through cyber attacks?
What if Trade relationships and defence and security relationships are inextricably linked? What if the US changes the terms of how it comes to our defence of North America? – through our North American Aerospace Defence – NORAD agreements? What if the US cancels NAFTA? Or decides to “go it alone” and distances itself from NATO or even withdraws?
If any of these “what if” scenarios are even remote possibilities then Canada does not have the luxury of Time to pivot and change course. If we are to “prepare for the worst” then we must at the very least deliver on the defence spending we have committed to, refuse to accept 10-20 year procurement timelines for much needed equipment replacement – leverage our other trade partners through CETA, CPTPP as examples to diversify our trade portfolio as quickly as possibly, re-double our efforts and re-inforce our commitments to our NATO allies to further strengthen the alliance that underpins Canada’s defence and security posture.
And if we are to achieve any of this we must have a Canadian public that is aware and informed… and one that ensures that their elected officials and community leaders are as well….. and a nation that makes defence and security a priority. I implore each of you to join me in this campaign.
In 1949 – 12 nations – Canada included – founded NATO through the Washington Treaty and made this solemn commitment…
The Parties to this Treaty….are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law. They seek to promote stability and well being in the North Atlantic area. They are resolved to unite their efforts for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security and they therefore agree to this North Atlantic Treaty.
Now in 2018 – stability and the preservation of peace and security appears increasingly more fragile.
The time for strength and unity as an alliance has not passed – each of our 29 nations needs it now more than ever.
NATO is not an organization that we simply belong to – it is a system of shared values and ideals – of safeguarding freedom, individual liberty and the rule of law – it is the core of who we are as Canadians ….NATO is each of us ….and
WE ARE NATO.
Thank you for everything you do in support of this incredible alliance and the great nation we call home – Canada.