With the Canadian military already staring down millions of dollars in cuts, Defence Minister Bill Blair says Canada still needs to spend more on key areas to boost military readiness and capacity.
In an interview on Rosemary Barton Live airing Sunday, Blair said the federal government would focus any budget cuts away from areas like ammunition and equipment, weapons platforms and training.
“We need to spend more on the right things,” Blair told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton.
Canadians will receive an updated look at Canada’s finances — and the government’s plan on how to spend tax dollars — during a fall economic statement to be tabled this week. But a federal spending review released earlier this month already showed the government plans to cut about $210 million from the Department of National Defence’s budget.
Blair said the government would continue to support the military with investments needed to meet its commitments, such as to NATO and NORAD.
“At the same time, we’re spending public dollars, so it’s incumbent on us to make sure that our processes our efficient. So we’re looking at money spent on consulting, money spent on professional services — some of which are essential but not all of which are — and even on such things as executive travel,” he said.
The defence minister spoke to Barton from the sidelines of the Halifax International Security Forum, where representatives from around the world have gathered to talk about the most pressing defence and security threats. Blair also took the opportunity to announce a new $188-million training facility for CFB Halifax.
“With the changing threat environment … it is obvious that we need to do more,” Blair said, citing new threats such as cybersecurity and space defence.
Military faces major readiness concerns
Canada’s top soldier, Gen. Wayne Eyre, has frequently expressed his concerns about the country’s level of military preparedness, and he has advocated for additional resources.
“We see the challenges that are out there, we see them coming, we have to be ready. We have to ensure that we can respond to this very uncertain and insecure world,” he told CBC News on Remembrance Day.
Eyre also said that much of Canada’s military history could be seen as a “study in unpreparedness.”
In a Department of National Defence report on the state of the military, the department said it was currently unable to conduct multiple operations at one time.
Conservative defence critic James Bezan has demanded assurances that the spending cuts won’t have an effect on military capabilities.
“We are really challenged in meeting some of those defence requirements in this country. One of the challenges is that the regular forces are short 9,000 people. The reserves are significantly short of personnel as well,” he said, adding that many of the ships and planes operated by the military are reaching the end of their lifespans.
“We may not be able to go as fast as we might have hoped, but we do have to continue to go forward,” Bezan said.
Blair said a future defence policy update would need to reflect the fiscal challenges Canada faces.