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LILLEY: As global threats grow Trudeau looks to slash defence spending

Almost $1 billion to be taken out of defence as Trudeau Liberals look to shift spending to other areas.

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A file photo of members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
A file photo of members of the Canadian Armed Forces. Photo by Julie Oliver /Postmedia Network

We already have a shortage of troops in the Canadian Armed Forces, and the military is having difficulty recruiting, now comes word of a budget cut of nearly $1 billion.

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It’s all part of the government’s decision to try and find nearly $15 billion in savings after years of ramping up spending, but it hits the military harder than it should.

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While the $15 billion in spending cuts sounds drastic, it actually amounts to just 3.2% of the government’s projected spending for next year. The more than $900 million in cuts to the military budget amounts to a nearly 6% cut for the military though.

“There’s no way that you can take almost a billion dollars out of the defence budget and not have an impact. So, this is something that we’re wrestling with now,” Chief of Defence Staff General Wayne Eyre told the Commons defence committee on Thursday.

Eyre said the cuts are difficult to explain to his staff as they look for ways to save even as the global security situation is deteriorating.

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It’s not like there aren’t savings and cost restructuring to be found in the military, last year DND allowed $2.5 billion of allocated spending to lapse, meaning they just never got around to spending it. The year before it was $1.2 billion of budgeted spending that was allowed to lapse.

There is also the fact that, operationally, the Canadian Armed Forces as a whole are short about 16,000 people, split almost evenly between regular and reserve force. The problem is they can’t recruit and over the last three years they have lost more people than they have signed up.

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A budget cut won’t solve that problem or the problems of underfunding. It won’t even solve the problem the Liberals seem obsessed with which is turning the military into a climate change fighting force.

Twice during the committee meeting Thursday, Liberal MPs asked about the ability of the military to respond to climate change and the growing number of natural disasters. The military is not there to battle forest fires or fill sand bags for overflowing rivers and if the people in charge think it is, that might be one of the problems with the military’s inability to recruit enough people to do the jobs we ask them to do.

Trudeau doesn’t want a traditional military

The military used to be seen as a career of service, a chance for people, especially with few opportunities, to break free, see the world and expand their horizons. Now, it’s a chance to deal with never ending bureaucracy while wearing ugly green uniforms.

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Forget about fighting in battles in the Second World War, standing tall for Canada in the Korean War or walking the line for peace wearing a blue beret as a peacekeeper, those days are over. Trudeau was elected in 2015 on the promise of bringing back Canada’s peacekeeping past but the problem is, those days are in the past and he never wanted to commit to any assignments that might be dangerous.

Now, we are so short staffed that we can’t lead or participate in a security force for Haiti as gang violence overruns the country and undermines the government of one of our neighbours.

It’s in this environment, and an environment where hackers based in India are taking down parts of our defence websites, that we are looking at cutting the military budget.

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The Parliamentary Budget Officer recently released a report showing that just $32 out of every $100 spent on the Canadian Armed Forces goes to frontline issues, the pointing end of the spear you might say. The rest is overhead and indirect costs, which means we are spending more on generals, paper-pushers, bureaucrats, consultants and the like than we are on our soldiers, sailors and aviators.

It’s a sad reality and after this nearly $1 billion cut, it won’t be fixed, the imbalance will still be there, as will Trudeau’s desire to turn the military into a climate change force.

Any wonder no one wants to join.

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