OTTAWA — Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is defending the new Liberal government’s spending plans as budget documents suggest the military’s overall budget is expected to shrink by about $400 million in the coming year.
During the election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to maintain the former Conservative government’s defence spending levels and increase funding in 2017, as laid out in last year’s federal budget.
Preliminary budget estimates for the coming year show the military is expected to end the year with a budget of just over $19 billion, but planned spending in the coming year amounts to $18.64 billion.
Trudeau’s government has been under pressure from allies to increase what it spends on defence, with both the U.S. and Britain pointedly asking Canada to try and meet the NATO benchmark of two per cent of gross domestic product.
National Defence routinely goes back for more funding later in the year, and Sajjan says the government remains committed to budget increases through a mechanism known as the defence escalator.
But documents obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act show those annual increases don’t keep up with inflation and have been more than offset by the previous Harper government’s earlier spending cuts.