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Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Liberal Majority: What to Expect for the CAF


Justin Trudeau

It is the morning after - and we now have another Majority government - no election until October 2020 (unless the fixed date election law changes)

So with a Liberal Majority will we see a return to the "Decade of Darkness" for the Canadian Armed Forces as was seen under the leadership of Jean Chretien? It is highly unlikely, as the world has changed a lot since the 2000, and the CAF is just as involved internationally now as we were then, albeit less involved in UN led missions. So what should we expect for the CAF under a Liberal government for the next 5 years?

The Liberals and Justin Trudeau pledge to boost Canada's support for International Peace and Security. The policy calls for a renewed commitment by Canada to Peacekeeping Operations. (I personally do not believe Peacekeeping exists, but Peace Enforcing, or Peace Making, but that is another rant all together)

The Liberals have said they will support Civilian Police Training Operations, particularly in French-Speaking nations where our highly Professional Military Police, RCMP and Civilian Police agencies can help developing nations maintain law and order.

They will lead an international effort to improve and expand the training of military and civilian personnel deployed on peace operations, and will insist that any peacekeepers involved in misconduct be held accountable by their own country and the United Nations.

They will recommit to supporting international peace operations with the United Nations, and will make the specialized capabilities – from mobile medical teams to engineering support to aircraft that can carry supplies and personnel  of the CAF available on a case-by-case basis.

For military spending, the Liberals will not let Canada’s Armed Forces be shortchanged, and we will not lapse military spending from year to year. They will also reinvest in building a leaner, more agile, better-equipped military, including adequate support systems for military personnel and their families. So perhaps no new money, but no new cuts, and current planned increases will take place. 

The Liberal Party will not by the F-35 Stealth Joint Strike Fighter. They will immediately launch an open and transparent competition to replace the CF-18 fighter aircraft. The primary mission of our fighter aircraft should remain the defence of North America, not stealth first-strike capability. (My vote would be for the Dassault Rafael, which Dassault has offered to build in Canada = JOBS; it is also faster, cheaper, and dual engines) The Liberals will reduce the procurement budget for replacing the CF-18s, and will instead purchase one of the many, lower-priced options that better match Canada’s defence needs.

The money saved from the F-35 purchase will be invested in the Royal Canadian Navy - which despite the ship building contracts awarded by the Conservatives has seen a "Decade of Darkness" under Harper. Many will claim that is because the Navy was not highly active in the War in Afghanistan (2001-2014); but I contest that they were deployed in the Arabian Peninsula almost entirely throughout the War.  The Liberals say they will have the funds that we need to build promised icebreakers, supply ships, arctic and offshore patrol ships, surface combatants, and other resources required by the Navy. These investments will ensure that the Royal Canadian Navy is able to operate as a true blue-water maritime force, while also growing the economy and creating jobs.

They will immediately begin an open and transparent review process of existing defence capabilities, with the goal of delivering a more effective, better-equipped military. The Canada First Defence Strategy, launched by Stephen Harper in 2008, is underfunded and out of date. The Liberals will review current programs and capabilities, and lay out a realistic plan to strengthen the CAF.

The Liberals plan to develop the CAF into an agile, responsive, and well-equipped military force that can effectively defend Canada and North America; provide support during natural disasters, humanitarian support missions, and peace operations; and offer international deterrence and combat capability. (The CAF already does much of this, but we can look forward to more domestic operations)

The Liberals plan to  continue to work with the United States to defend North America under NORAD, and contribute to regional security within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

They will do this by ensuring that equipment  is acquired faster, and with vigorous Parliamentary oversight; and  put a renewed focus on surveillance and control of Canadian territory and approaches, particularly our Arctic regions, and will increase the size of the Canadian Rangers.

The Liberals remain fully supportive of OPERATION REASSURANCE and OPERATION UNIFIER. However, they will make changes to OPERATION IMPACT. The RCAF involvement in the air campaign against ISIS will come to an end, but the Liberals plan to increase the number of trainers in Iraq (no specifics given yet) and will increase Canada's commitment to helping 25,000 Syrian refugees. Although no specif role for the CAF in the Syrian refugee crisis has been announced yet - the CAF can and will most likely play a role. 

The Liberals will restore funding for Canada’s four heavy urban search and rescue teams. Being able to respond swiftly and effectively to emergencies like ice storms, floods, wildfires, and building collapses is in our national interest. In the past, Canada’s four heavy urban search and rescue teams have proven invaluable in keeping Canadians and communities safe.To protect Canadians, our oceans, and our coastal economies, they will also re-open the Maritime Rescue Sub-centre in St. John’s, and the Kitsilano Coast Guard Base in Vancouver. No specifics yet on a new FWSAR for the RCAF.

The Liberals also plan to be much better to Veterans, who also seem to have been in a "Decade of Darkness" under the Conservatives, and invest in new career opportunities in a new Veterans Education Benefit program, at a  cost of $80 million per year. 

There is a lot here - so now we can sit back and watch for the next 5 years and see how things go. The CAF should be in good hands.

Feel Free to let me know what you think? Comment here or on Twitter, @Avro_ArrowRL201