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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Defence Minister to announce Public Consultations on new Defence Policy

Written by David Pugliese, The National Post 

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan will announce Wednesday the beginning of public consultations on the country’s new defence policy.

Sajjan says he wants to have the policy completed by the end of the year.

The review would include details on the future size of the Canadian Forces, its roles and alliances and the type of missions it can expect to take on in the future.

Government sources told Postmedia Tuesday that they expect the public consultations to be finished by the end of July.

Department of National Defence sources say they expect to be flooded with presentations from defence analysts, groups and lobbyists pushing for more funding for the Canadian Forces as well as a plea to resist cutting back on the current size of the military.

But it is expected the Liberal government will follow the path it has already outlined during the federal election and move ahead in developing an “agile and lean” Canadian Forces.

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Retired general Rick Hillier, the former chief of the defence staff, has advocated cutting the size of the military. He has argued that would ensure the organization remains stable and effective; Hillier pointed out that the size of the Canadian Forces could be reduced from the current size of around 66,000 to 50,000.

The Liberals are also committed to a continuation of the current military roles in defence of Canada and North America, working with the U.S. military on alliances such as NORAD and maintaining key alliances such as NATO.

In addition, the Liberals want to return to contributing militarily to United Nations missions, both in peacekeeping and disaster relief, defence sources tell Postmedia.

Canada’s role on UN operations was significantly scaled back under the Conservative government’s tenure.

Military equipment programs will not be looked at specifically but instead defence procurement would be address more broadly, Sajjan has noted

Sajjan has also said the review will examine how the military looks after its personnel as well as Canada’s capabilities to fend off cyber attacks.

Military equipment programs will not be looked at specifically but instead defence procurement would be address more broadly, Sajjan has noted.

The Liberal government has also stated it would renew focus on surveillance and control of Canadian territory and approaches, particularly in the Arctic regions. It would also follow the Conservative government’s earlier approach and increase the size of the Canadian Rangers, which provide the eyes and ears for the military in the far North.

During the election the Liberals also promised they would “launch enhanced icebreakers.”

But Postmedia has confirmed with government sources that the term “enhanced icebreakers” is a reference to what was already promised under the Conservative government’s national shipbuilding strategy. The Liberals do not intend to purchase additional icebreakers.

The review is also expected to look at funding and whether Canada can afford the equipment the military wants. The Senate defence committee was recently told that the gap between what the Canadian Forces says it needs for the future, and the amount of funding that had been proposed for the future, is in the tens of billions of dollars.

This story has been updated with a response from Defence officials.