Canada’s military upgrade to include procurement review

The future of Canada’s military includes billions of dollars in new spending on new capabilities, but the long-awaited defence policy update released April 8 does not include a plan to reach NATO’s spending target.

The federal government says the plan, which includes new submarines, long-range missiles and early-warning aircraft, will boost military spending to 1.76 per cent of GDP by 2030.

That includes setting aside another $8.1 billion over the next five years and spending $73 billion by 2044.

That still leaves Canada shy of the minimum 2 per cent the NATO allies agreed to spend last July. NATO’s latest figures show Canada is spending 1.33 per cent of GDP on defence, lagging behind a growing number of countries.

The Liberals first promised an updated defence policy more than two years ago, in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was flanked by Defence Minister Bill Blair, Veterans Affairs Minister Ginette Petitpas-Taylor and Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland as he announced the new policy Monday at Canadian Forces Base Trenton.

“Climate change is rapidly reshaping Canada and reshaping our North,” Trudeau said.

“The Northwest Passage could become the most efficient shipping route between Europe and Asia by 2050.”

The government is planning to buy new vehicles adapted to the frozen conditions in the North, along with building an Arctic satellite ground station and setting up Northern operations hubs.

“This is about protecting our values, our sovereignty and our North,” Trudeau said.

He added that “too often” the country’s efforts to secure the North have been made without the input of Indigenous people, something he is vowing to end.

Spending included in the “Our North, Strong and Free” policy is above and beyond the $32-billion Norad modernization project announced in 2022.

Defence officials also say they’re reviewing defence procurement, a long-standing issue, with the aim of streamlining it. The policy notes that during consultations, the defence industry said it needed to reset its relationship with government.

“Industry and experts also called for faster and more flexible defence procurement, secure supply chains, and investments to modernize defence infrastructure,” the document said.

The policy aims to tackle recruitment and retention problems that have plunged the Armed Forces into a personnel crisis, with more than 16,000 positions unfilled.

The policy pinpoints some of the problems that are keeping Canadians from donning a military uniform: “the burden of frequent postings, a lack of spousal employment opportunities, limited access to health and childcare, an oversaturated housing market, and high costs associated with relocation.”

The government plans to launch a Canadian Armed Forces housing strategy and improve access to child care for military members.