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Canada and the World

^ It isn't reasonable. And this policy is emblematic of government failure. They create a policy of opening up to Permanent Residents (a really good idea). But then they don't bother resourcing the office doing security clearances.
 
I read this article in the Ottawa Citizen about military procurement. Interesting read - what do you think of it, @kEiThZ?

Ottawa Citizen: Ottawa’s 1980s system of buying weapons is no match for 21st-century warfare: Canada Undefended

These articles are always great works. But they all completely miss the point: political will.

We're a country that essentially thinks defence is an optional dalliance because of our de facto reliance on the US. This has led to the current process mess with procurement, because the process caters to political whims before defence needs.

If you want to know what defence procurement is like just look at HFR. 8 years. Not a shovel in the ground. If we're lucky and the current plan survives an election, we might optimistically get shovels in the ground in 4-6 years and finish 10-15 years from today. Are Canadians uniquely incompetent at building rail? Nope. We have a political process that rewards risk averse politicians for not committing to building anything, while wasting billions on studies, while existing infrastructure rusts. Every military and procurement officer is intimately familiar with this culture. We've seen some version of this for every single major procurement we've gone through. The exceptions to this were purchases made during wartime.

I don't expect much to change over the next 3-4 years. This government has basically given up on foreign policy and defence. Their promised Defence Policy Review is now well over a year late. They probably don't want to publish it before an election, because I suspect it will make official things that our allies (and Opposition at home) will start openly criticizing. And the Opposition will probably reset everything when they take office and then put up some token tweak eventually.

I am curious to see what happens to Canadian foreign policy in 5-10 years as the US becomes far more transactional and Europe basically starts ignoring Canada.
 
To add to Keith's post, our politicians treat defence spending as spare change in the cupholder because we - the voters - let them. Other than the odd riding where it might be an employment issue, defence spending, the state of the military and foreign policy are never key platform issues, if they get mentioned at all. 'Who would attack us - we're nice!' We have this strange bipolar relationship with the US where we just assume (mostly unconsciously, because most Canadian don't think about it at all) the US will protect us, yet at the same time decry them for their military culture.

In terms of the process, the lengthy and convoluted process to procure new kit *might* work, if it started the day after we finished taking delivery of the current kit. When the government only starts paying attention when it becomes embarrassingly obsolete, after several re-fits and mid-life upgrades, the process is doomed. Our 280-class destroyers and oilers were fine and seaworthy - until they weren't, and I have no inside knowledge, but suspect the CF-18s are being limited to reduce stress on the airframes. Heck, I think they only recently approved, after multiple fits and starts, a new pistol, to replace the WWII-era Brownings. Once matters have deteriorated to the point where you have to replace an entire fleet or platform, of course the cost will be eye-watering.

"Canadianization' not only drives the cost up, it slows the process. We either want some existing product modified to the point of being unrecognized, or insist that it be made here. For that reason alone, I doubt we will ever see new submarines. I simply can't see a government willing to spend that kind of money offshore. For some reason, we think we are unique in the way our military operates. We're not.
 
Canadians have such a weird self-image which contributes substantially to our policy paralysis. On one hand, we love to talk about our glorious past during WWII and the Cold War (which includes peacekeeping) which the majority of the world (especially the Global South) just doesn't care about, but which we expect to receive some kind of recognition and authority for. On the other hand, we routinely argue our actions would be pointless because of our size, especially compared to our much larger neighbour to the South, but also compared to larger European powers. Of course, a lot of this is also very politically convenient and situational. Our small size is apparently less of a barrier when a left leaning government wants to be a global leader on climate policy or for a right leaving that wants to be a "global energy superpower".

I think it's a question of when we'll finally grow up and both understand and accept our place as a middle power in the world. Or may be it never happens and we simply accept that we're growing into our role as a de facto American colony. But if that's the case, it also begs the question why we don't have more honest discussions about this. We could save even more on defence if we formalize American protection more. To be clear, I would love Canada to be the next France in the world. But I'm clearly in the minority.
 
It's always so weird to me that we Canadians think of ourselves as small and inconsequential. Depending on how you measure it, we have around the 10th largest economy in the world!
 
It's always so weird to me that we Canadians think of ourselves as small and inconsequential. Depending on how you measure it, we have around the 10th largest economy in the world!

We're small when it's convenient. Have to pay up? Like say a NATO commitment for left leaning parties or cutting emissions for the right leaning parties? "We're too small to count." International forum where we get respect, like the G8 or G20? "Y'all should respect us. We're one of the largest economies in the world." We're one of the flakiest hypocrites around, and we don't even realize it.
 
The downplaying of our population is largely a consequence of us being next to the US and the resulting national inferiority complex. But we're closer to the European powers than people tend to think. We have the same population as Poland (with a lot more money) and close to 2/3 the population of France. We just don't act like it.
 
State of Canadian Armed Forces' combat readiness growing worse, government report warns


Are you surprised Keith?

Honestly, our forces are underpaid and underequipped to do more than shovel snow or fight fires.

In my opinion, this started in the mid 90s when the government was looking at second hand submarines rather than buying new. Then you had the sea king debacle which only made things worse.

One thing I hate is when the Federal Government commits aid money abroad without first solving our own domestic issues. It's nice that they want to help Ukraine or fight diseases in Africa but we need to better equip our military and show we can play with the big boys.

This is one good thing about Trump potentially reoccupying the White House in November. He is likely to tell Canada to go fly a kite if we do not increase our military spending and rightfully so.

Until the US says, sorry but we are unwilling to help you unless you can help yourselves nothing will be done here.

Canada has been reliant on other people for far too long and unfortunately nothing will change until we are completely pushed aside on the global stage.

EDIT: I also would not put it past Trump to rip up NORAD, CUSMA and possible leave NATO. We need to prepare ourselves for that contingency.
 
State of Canadian Armed Forces' combat readiness growing worse, government report warns


I would be interested in your assessment of what an acceptable level of readiness is?

Let me lift this from the link above:

1709819423582.png


I think, most people would agree that is unreasonably low

One needn't be particularly attuned to all things military in such an assessment, as I don't think any hospital or power company or business would think 58% ready to accomplish our goals or meet our needs would be reasonable.

That said, virtually no organization runs at 100% optimal capacity at any given time.

What would be a fair number here? It is 85%? 90%? etc.

I would then be interested to hear what you think would be needed to achieve that number.

****

On the broader subject of funding, I think the Federal government needs to pair an increase in military spending with some expenditures that both desirable and sell-able to those less enthused about such spending.

Example (I'm not stuck on the particulars here); but agree that Federal Disability Benefit (as top up to provincial ones) that lifted the seriously disabled out of poverty would be an important objective, as would a national infrastructure plan renewal for civil works that achieved a set list of major projects, and tie that to the additional military funding.

That would be funded partially by some shift in priorities, and tightening the belt elsewhere, but I don't see how it can't involve new federal tax revenue when we're already in deficit. This is why I think the tied program idea matters as one wants buy-in and cover for raising tax. I think the VAT (HST) is the most likely way to go. Each one point increase will raise about 8B. I think people would have limited tolerance beyond 2-point increase.

That's probably not enough money in total, but with some efficiency and reallocation, maybe we're close'ish.
 
Honestly, our forces are underpaid and underequipped to do more than shovel snow or fight fires.
There are a number of ways to assess income, including leveling it in USD, adjusting it for cost-of-living, etc, but by pretty much any measure, CAF personnel are not underpaid in comparison to their peers around the world. There are a number of reasons they have a recruiting and retention problem.

Underequipped, absolutely.


as would a national infrastructure plan renewal for civil works that achieved a set list of major projects, and tie that to the additional military funding
You could easily gobble up several billion, but employ a lot of local trades, simply but replacing on-base housing and a lot of local armouries. Most of the housing dates from the 1950s and many of the armouries, while perhaps fine historic buildings, are no longer suitable for their tenants.
 
You could easily gobble up several billion, but employ a lot of local trades, simply but replacing on-base housing and a lot of local armouries. Most of the housing dates from the 1950s and many of the armouries, while perhaps fine historic buildings, are no longer suitable for their tenants.
Are the trades not booked and blessed right now? Would imagine they'd need to do something about the number of new tradespeople in conjunction to make it work. Maybe make part of military training one of the trades?
 
I think, most people would agree that is unreasonably low

One needn't be particularly attuned to all things military in such an assessment, as I don't think any hospital or power company or business would think 58% ready to accomplish our goals or meet our needs would be reasonable.

That said, virtually no organization runs at 100% optimal capacity at any given time.

What would be a fair number here? It is 85%? 90%? etc.

These are commitments we make to our allies. NATO is counting on us meeting 100% of our commitments. Any less and deterrence for the alliance as a whole suffers. This is akin to saying what level of readiness is acceptable from the local fire department. Are you okay with responding to 90%, 80%, 70% of calls? Normally, we'd have a military that is large enough and properly funded enough to meet 100% of our commitments, with spare capacity. But we don't have that. So either our obligations change or our willingness to meet the commitments we made changes, or some combination of those.

I would then be interested to hear what you think would be needed to achieve that number.

To begin with there's no easy fix. For example, the air force number is low because we have old fighters. And there's no point investing in the fighter fleet when we're only a few years away from starting a complete replacement of the fleet. So these have to be complex multi-year solutions where various kit gets replaced. I think getting to somewhere around 80% of readiness while not substantially growing the military, would probably require us to consistently spend around 1.6% of GDP. That would be about $4B per year at today's GDP. That wouldn't meet that topline NATO commitment. But it would prevent the kind of rust out and skill fade that we're seeing.

One thing I hate is when the Federal Government commits aid money abroad without first solving our own domestic issues. It's nice that they want to help Ukraine or fight diseases in Africa but we need to better equip our military and show we can play with the big boys.

You do realize that Ukraine aid counts towards meeting NATO spending obligations right? Also, you do realize that suggesting that we're missing out by sending aid to Ukraine is literally a Russian propaganda talking point.

Next, aid is a tool. It's one we use to buy influence. For example, CIDA will show up and do some development work that then helps a big Canadian mining company or engineering company win a large project competition there. Trudeau has been a bit of a boy scout with developmental aid. I expect the next government to kinda return to a more transactional approach. To that end, we could also return to basically spending more of the aid budget in Canada. So maybe AECON gets a contract to build railway in Senegal. They get a railway. We get basing rights in a French speaking country. Etc.

This is one good thing about Trump potentially reoccupying the White House in November. He is likely to tell Canada to go fly a kite if we do not increase our military spending and rightfully so.

I will never understand the strange idea that Trump is some genius seeking a rebalance of the deal for Americans. He literally took out a full page ad in the New York Times in the 80s complaining about the US providing security to Japan and Saudi Arabia. He does not understand history or geopolitics. It's entirely about him. And as an isolationist with nothing to stop him this around, he's going to be going all out on isolationism. Really doesn't matter which country is on the receiving end. Maybe he will relish it more with Canada, since he detests Trudeau.

All that said, Canadians vastly overestimate how much Americans think about us. I learned this during my time on exchange. They do not think about Canada. At all. So they most certainly aren't sitting there scheming about how to get us to spend more on defence. To the extent that some care about how much we (along with Europe spend), it's at least motivated by a desire to have more of that spending in the US (where the defence industry is a major employer). And this is where we are bound to have some major challenges. Not only do we spend less. But a lot of what we spend is either negotiated with substantial offsets (company winning the contract pledges to spend equivalent value in Canada) or we spend the money at home (see shipbuilding). It may not just be enough to spend more. We may have to actually start spending more in the US. And that will be an interesting new problem, if it happens. It may be the only way to keep Congress in favour, while Trump keeps pushing isolationist policies that may hurt us.

original-12123-1436563121-15.png

EDIT: I also would not put it past Trump to rip up NORAD, CUSMA and possible leave NATO. We need to prepare ourselves for that contingency.

Canadians are a rather ridiculously spoiled lot. And most don't have any clue how much we are dependent on the US and how much we take that relationship for granted. Even COVID doesn't really seem to have given enough of a cautionary education. I think we really should start talking about how we would deal with an isolationist US. Or even possibly an aggressive US. For example, what if they decided they are going to simply sail icebreakers through the Northwest passage. What if they start simply ignoring treaties like the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. Them ripping up NORAD and leaving NATO are actually not the most pessimistic scenarios I can imagine.

What I do find interesting from the article I posted is that Canadians do seem to have some awareness that we may to carry more of our fair share:
That same survey found support for Canada meeting NATO's military spending benchmark for member countries — two per cent of the gross domestic product — stands at 53 per cent. Support for hitting the two per cent goal jumps to 65 per cent when poll respondents are asked about the prospect of a second Donald Trump presidency in the U.S.

I do fear that this will come way too late to make Trump change his mind about Canada. I suspect this is why the government has held off publishing the Defence Strategy. They might want to wait to see who wins in November. If Trump, it will be necessary to buy billions in new kit from the US and start targeting Congressmen and Senators in places that kit is made to have them push Canada's case. Anand did a tour of Congress and several American states after they announced the F-35 and P-8 purchases.

Sadly, I feel like a Biden win might lul Canadians into a sense of complacency, not recognizing that Trump is not the end of this trend. Americans are clearly souring on globalism and feel like they are being taken advantage of. Regardless of who is in the White House, in the long term we should expect policy to reflect this. Ignoring this broader trend would be a mistake.
 
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