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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

NDP blast Liberals’ decision to re-consider joining U.S. "Star Wars" System

By: Lee Berthiaume, Ottawa Citizen

OTTAWA — Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan stood by the Liberal government’s plan to re-examine ballistic missile defence following a flurry of NDP references to "Star Wars" — both the movie franchise and Ronald Reagan’s controversial plan to militarize space.

A long-range ground-based interceptor missile is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The U.S. spent about $100 billion over the last decade to develop land- and sea-based systems that would stop a limited ballistic missile attack from a rogue state like North Korea or Iran.
A long-range ground-based interceptor missile is launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The U.S. spent about $100 billion over the last decade to develop land- and sea-based systems that would stop a limited ballistic missile attack from a rogue state like North Korea or Iran.
The issue erupted on the floor of the House of Commons on Monday, after the Ottawa Citizen revealed that the government’s defence review includes questions about whether Canada should join the U.S. in building a shield to protect it from foreign-launched missiles.

Missile defence had been largely off the public and political radar since then-prime minister Paul Martin famously opted not to join the U.S. program following a heated and extremely divisive national debate in 2005. However, the military and others have been pushing for years for Canada to re-consider the decision.

Sajjan insisted last week that the Liberals would not privatize military search and rescue, after it was revealed the idea had been raised during the defence review. But he defended the decision to take a second look at missile defence. The review is expected to culminate in a new defence policy early next year.

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“The government wants to ensure that Canada and North America are well defended from all threats,” he said. “We want to make sure that the defence review is open and wide. By not opening up the discussion on ballistic missile defence, allowing Canadians to have a say in this, it would not be an open defence review.”

But the NDP, which opposed Canadian participation in ballistic missile defence in 2005, immediately attacked the Liberals for re-opening the debate. NDP defence critic Randall Garrison linked missile defence to Reagan’s controversial Star Wars program in the 1980s, before saying he had “a bad feeling about this.”

Fellow NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice also referenced the Star Wars project in French, saying Canadians rejected the proposal 10 years ago, and adding: “Can’t the prime minister just watch the movie, instead of getting us into this useless thing that will cost us billions?”
THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian WyldDefence Minister Harjit Sajjan in the House of Commons on Monday: “The government wants to ensure that Canada and North America are well defended from all threats.”
The U.S. spent about $100 billion over the last decade to develop land- and sea-based systems that would stop a limited ballistic missile attack from a rogue state like North Korea or Iran. (They would not protect against an all-out attack by Russia or China.) The systems have had mixed success.

Supporters of ballistic missile defence have long disputed suggestions the program would militarize space by noting the equipment used to detect and intercept ballistic missiles from foreign states are all based on land or at sea. Critics, however, say it is only a matter of time until weapons are deployed in space.

Garrison told the Ottawa Citizen he remains concerned about ballistic missile defence touching off an arms race with other countries, and that he intends to make sure all viewpoints are heard during the defence review and not just those in favour of Canadian participation.

“I think it will be a very spirited debate if we reverse that policy,” he said.