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FEDERAL ELECTION 2006: PARTY DEFENCE PLATFORMS
January 2006

Author's Commentary

The Canadian public will be casting their ballots in a federal election on Monday, 23 January. An issue of increasing importance to Canadians over the year-and-a-half reign of the last Liberal government was national defence. This raised profile for our nation's military resulted in promises in the last budget for up to $13-billion in new equipment, and an eventual budget, by 2010, of ~$20-billion.

Of course, the Forces saw barely any of that money as the Liberal government had budgeted just a couple hundred-million dollars to the military this year out of their massive influx. As is the way with politics, the Liberal government planned its dispersal of money to the military based on the public re-electing them so that the major influx would happen in the years to come (such is the way with all governmental five year plans, regardless of party stripe).

As we head into this January election, the Liberals are clinging to their budgetary promises, which are quite substantial compared to the promises of Martin's predecessor (Jean Chretien). However, for a political party that claims to be investing in national defence, they have been oddly silent to date on their defence platform. In fact, the only political party which has released a comprehensive defence platform to date, targeting three different national defence issues, has been the Conservative Party (as one would expect as they are the most pro-military party sitting in Parliament). The defence platform of the New Democrats is as detailed as the Liberal platform, which means that there are less than 300 words in content.

This author has been encouraged by the Liberal budgetary promises in 2005 for our national defence. Yet it is important to look at things in perspective: those promises only came due to a minority government, as the Liberal government had to appease 'everyone' to stay in power. The military commitment kept the Conservatives from voting against the budget and threatening the future of Paul Martin's government. Furthermore, due to the minority government, no major cash influx into the Forces resulted, as we have seen, due to the defeat of the government.

I hope that whichever party forms the next government, there will be a majority situation to allow promises for our military to be realized. This author personally hopes that such a government would be Conservative in nature given their thorough and seemingly genuine interest in rebuilding Canada's military from the brink; and that brink was the work of Paul Martin as Finance Minister, a record that haunts him to this day as his personal belief on the military. Mind you, I do not personally agree with some of the Conservative platform, but that has to be expected. Luckily, we had that minority government to get the Liberals to promise to help the military - though it will be up to us, the public, to ensure that, in the event of a new Liberal government, they are held to that commitment.

As I try to do with each election, CdnMilitary.ca will provide a synopsis of each of the three federal political party's platforms (I do not consider the Bloc Quebecois a federal party despite their presence in Parliament). The material that follows is straight from each party's website, albeit in a more conducive form for quick learning.

Whatever stripe you vote for on 23 January, remember to vote for the party which you think will provide the most progressive, yet conservative, plan for Canada (i.e. they'll move Canada forward without screwing our national sovereignty, well-being, and economic stability in the process!).
 

- Scott Noseworthy
 

Conservative Party of Canada

The Conservative Party platform on national defence has been divided into three major sections: "Defending Sovereignty," "Strengthening Canada’s Pacific Forces," and "Strengthening Canada’s Arctic Forces." The latter of which seems to be one of the more popular military issues of this election given concerns of when the Northwest Passage will indeed open up, as well as the recent territorial dispute between Canada and Denmark over Hans Island.

Defending Sovereignty

The Conservative's are operating on a "Canada First" plan, in which they would secure Canada's sovereignty at home first, instead of focusing on international missions at the expense of our home defences. A Conservative government would:

  1. - Increase the military budget by $1.8-billion by 2010-11 over currently planned levels (those levels being the ones in the 2005 budget)
  2. - Focus defence-spending priorities on home defences, including the expansion of the military to 80,000 regular personnel and the construction of new and expanded military bases within Canada.
  3. - Provide a new strategic (global airlift operations) fleet and replace the current tactical (in-theatre airlift operations) Hercules fleet.
  4. - Create a new airborne regiment based out of CFB Trenton to provide for rapid global response to emergencies.
  5. - Double the capabilities of the Disaster Assistance Relief Team (DART).

Strengthening our Arctic Forces

If there is one major weak spot in Canadian sovereignty right now, it is that of the Arctic, where the military lacks the necessities to operate; for example, our navy vessels are not strong enough to cut through anything more than light pack ice in the Arctic. A Conservative government would:

  1. - Station three new armed naval heavy icebreakers our of Iqaluit as well as 500 crew and support personnel for these vessels. This would also include the construction of a new deep-water docking facility for these icebreakers.
  2. - Establish a new "Arctic National Sensor System" to monitor Canada's Arctic waters against unauthorized incursions by foreign military and civilian vessels.
  3. - Construct a new army training centre in the area of Cambridge Bay which would provide training to army units on operating in the Arctic.
  4. - Station new fixed-wing aircraft in Yellowknife for search-and-rescue operations (see CdnMilitary.ca's article on the C-27J Spartan for the favoured aircraft of the Canadian Forces for this role).
  5. - CFB Goose Bay and CFB Comox would each be equipped with new unmanned aerial vehicle squadrons for increased air surveillance of the Arctic.
  6. - Increase the size of the Canadian Rangers, which are currently our first line of Arctic defence.
  7. - The airborne battalion based at CFB Trenton would provide emergency rapid response capability throughout the entire Arctic.

Strengthening Canada's Pacific Forces

A few years ago, the Pacific Fleet of Canada's Navy lost one of its two destroyers due to operating issues (primarily lack of crew in the fleet). The region has also been the scene of human-smuggling and narcotic-related crimes in recent years. A Conservative government would:

  1. - Increase Pacific navy personnel levels by 500 to combat crew shortages in the fleet, as well as work to bring other units at CFB Esquimalt up to full strength.
  2. - Improve the Pacific fleet by providing it a new replenishment ship, a new transport ship, and frigate and submarine upgrades. A new frigate/destroyer replacement project would be initiated.
  3. - British Columbia would be the home of a new regular army rapid response formation, similar to that in capabilities of the proposed CFB Trenton unit.
  4. - Various Pacific/Western air force squadrons would be improved through upgrades of the CF-18 fighter jet and the deployment of new search-and-rescue and tactical lift aircraft to the region.
  5. - New territorial defence battalions, consisting of 100 regular and 400 reserve personnel each, will be stationed in various Pacific/Western citizens for emergency response (Vancouver, Calgary, Regina, and Winnipeg).
  6. - Increase military personnel throughout the region to bring units up to full strength.

Liberal Party of Canada

As with any incumbent government, the Liberal platform rests largely on what they have done to date for the Canadian military, as well as what they would do if re-elected. In their website platform, the Liberals note several of their accomplishments to date in the area of national defence, including:

  1. - The Liberal government made the "difficult decision" of refusing Canada's participation in the ballistic missile defence system for North America.
  2. - They have committed, through Budget 2005, nearly $13 billion in new money for national defence, including funding for ~8,000 new personnel, operational sustainability, and the purchase of new equipment, such as helicopters, ships, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

The bulk of their platform promises for this election include (and none of them are new by any means from their governmental decisions):

  1. - The creation of a Special Operations Group, which would enhance Joint Task Force 2 (Canada's Special Forces battalion), and a Standing Contingency Task Force to confront crises as home and abroad.
  2. - Improve the pay and benefits for Canada's soldiers (which, to date, has included exempting soldiers from paying income tax while deployed overseas on high-risk missions).
  3. - The newly created "Canada Corps" would nurture democracy and the rule of law in fragile states.

New Democratic Party of Canada

The New Democrats, in this election, continue to focus on the issue of peacekeeping as a major priority of Canada's military. The New Democrats' defence policy for this election is not even a policy it seems - their webpage on peacekeeping and national defence as an election issue just attacks the Liberal record over the past 12 years in government. I did manage to find what appears to be their platform nestled in between the mud slinging. A New Democrat government would:

  1. - Reinvigorate Canada's international image as a peacekeeper through improving our military accordingly.
  2. - Ensure that Canada's military has the capability to attend to emergencies at home, from forest fires to hurricanes.
  3. - Provide Canadian Forces personnel fair salaries, decent housing, and safe equipment.

Further Reading

Here are the links to each federal party's website. The information I have outlined can be found in more detail under each party's "issues" link.

Conservative Party of Canada

Liberal Party of Canada

New Democratic Party of Canada

 

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