Feds fail to keep Canadians safe

OTTAWA—In 2018, Canada faces clear and persistent dangers. From our electoral systems to our military presence in the Arctic, Canada is repeatedly under threat from external actors. But as we face a dangerous and shifting global security climate, our own government is failing to keep Canadians safe.

Under Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, Canada is floundering on the international stage and failing our NATO allies. From coming up close to $2.5-billion short on defence spending to delaying procurement projects to purchasing used Australian scrap metal instead of modern-day fighter jets, Trudeau is failing our military. The Liberals promised to be strong on defence, but three years into their mandate all we have seen is compromised domestic security and eroded Canadian credibility in our crucial international alliances.

These alliances, like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), are fundamental to preserving the security structure established at the end of the Second World War. Under the NATO umbrella, Western democracies are more effective at deterring a “Third World War” than we would be as individual parts of a loose coalition.

Canada’s active participation in NATO not only represents our country’s legitimacy and reliability on the international stage, but it provides essential protection in case of threat. Canada spends money on defence not only for our own protection, but also to ensure that our allies can help us secure collective defence if we are ever in trouble, and vice versa. We need our allies, and it is profoundly reckless of the Trudeau Liberals to disregard these long-standing friendships with under-funding and callous commitments.

Trudeau has joined our allies and pledged to increase the percentage of Canada’s GDP that is spent on defence. But with each passing month, the Liberals fail to move closer to that benchmark. Canada’s willingness to help is profound, but by underspending on defence, the Liberals are seriously jeopardizing our ability to be an effective partner.

Global security and conflicts are no longer “cold”—the threats to our safety are tangible and manifold. From terrorist attacks in our cities to conflicts between European nations, these threats are real, and they’re growing. Not since the Second World War have we seen the violent annexation of one sovereign European country by another, but that is exactly what is happening today in Ukraine.

Our former Conservative government immediately recognized the foreign policy implications of this invasion, which go beyond Ukraine itself, and took a firm stance against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s aggressive posture in eastern Europe.

Following the Russian invasion of the Crimea and Donbas regions of Ukraine in 2014, former prime minister Stephen Harper dispatched our Canadian Armed Forces under Operation Unifier to help Ukraine defend itself from Russian aggression.

Unfortunately, the current Liberal government has failed to follow through with tangible commitments or action to help our long-time allies, like Ukraine. The Liberal defence policy—Strong, Secure, Engaged—promised to increase defence spending by billions of dollars, but once again Trudeau’s government is falling short on its commitments to our troops and to the NATO alliance itself. In his most recent appearance at the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence, Minister Sajjan asked for $4.1-billion for capital equipment spending—that’s $2.5-billion less than their previous commitment of $6.6-billion.

By underfunding our military, this Liberal government is risking our support for NATO at a time when the alliance has never been more fragile or necessary. Canada needs to step up and commit to doing more to help our allies, but Trudeau is failing to do so. A Conservative government led by Andrew Scheer will support our allies, strengthen our national defence, and show our partners that we understand NATO is a necessity, not a choice.

James Bezan is the Conservative national defence critic and the Member of Parliament for Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman, Man., and Leona Alleslev is the Conservative critic for global security and the MP for Aurora-Oak Ridges-Richmond Hill, Ont.

*Op-ed published in The Hill Times November 21, 2018.