Liberals defend Canadian military spending

Trump administration wants allies to draw up plans for boosting defence spending

OTTAWA — The Trudeau government has sent its strongest signals yet that Canada does not plan to bow to U.S. pressure to dramatically increase what it spends on defence.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson warned at his first NATO meeting in Brussels on Friday that the Trump administration wants allies to draw up plans for boosting defence spending to two per cent of GDP by 2024.

“Our goal should be to agree at the May leaders’ meeting that, by the end of the year, all allies will have either met the pledge guidelines or will have developed plans that clearly articulate how,” Tillerson said.

Those plans are to include annual milestones that countries will be expected to meet on their way to attaining the two per cent target, which all NATO members agreed to work towards in 2014.

The Liberal government is currently working on a new defence policy, which is expected to be released before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets Donald Trump and other NATO leaders in Brussels in May.

Officials have said the policy will include a long-term plan for increased funding for the Canadian military, whose $19-billion budget currently accounts for only one per cent of GDP.

But neither Prime Minister Justin Trudeau nor Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland referenced the pending defence policy when asked Friday about the Trump administration’s calls for a spending plan.

Rather, in separate comments, both Trudeau and Freeland repeated the government’s previous argument there are ways other than money to measure Canada’s military contributions.


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