Tories redraw defence spending plans

The Harper government is redrafting its extensive, multi-billion shopping list of equipment for the Canadian military in an exercise many observers believe will set more sober expectations in a time of austerity.

OTTAWA — The Harper government is redrafting its extensive, multi-billion shopping list of equipment for the Canadian military in an exercise many observers believe will set more sober expectations in a time of austerity.

The revision to the Canada First Defence Strategy is slated to be complete and ready for public consumption by fall, multiple sources have told The Canadian Press.

Although Defence Minister Peter MacKay describes the hallmark plan as a “living document,” the reset comes at a time when the government has been hammered politically over the F-35 stealth fighter, an issue that tarnished the fiscally responsible image that the Conservatives try to project.

Defence sources say there is a baseline expectation that the promises made in the original 2008 document will be mostly kept, but whether the government will be buying in the quantities outlined at the height of the Afghan war when the federal treasury was flush, is another matter.

“We have to do this reset and it would have happened regardless of the recession, regardless of the fiscal realities,” MacKay insisted during an interview with The Canadian Press.

But the political thinking, according to some defence insiders, is that a redrafted wish list will take some of the bite out of opposition attacks and restore public confidence rattled by the F-35.

When it was announced with much fanfare, the $490 billion, 20-year defence policy was hailed as the prescription for a Canadian military which the Conservatives say was starved for cash.

But delivering on that long laundry list of ships, tanks and planes has turned into an excruciating experience, which found a voice last week in Public Works Minister Rona Ambrose’s declaration that she was “tired of being told why something can t be done.

But defence experts, such Phillipe Lagasse at the University of Ottawa, who studies procurement, said he hopes the procedural frustration and the storm over the F-35 doesn’t lend itself to some quick, politically palatable decisions.

“They weren’t able to achieve everything they hoped they could achieve under Canada First, (and) it didn’t happen as smoothly as they hoped,” said Lagasse, who noted the procurement system wasn’t structured to deal with such an ambitious list.

Aside from the politically-charged stealth fighter program, which has been harshly criticized by the auditor general, there are a host of planes and ships that have yet to leave the drawing board, including fixed-wing search aircraft and navy supply tankers.

Sources said the various drafts circulating around National Defence acknowledge that there is some equipment that must “be replaced right away,” but there are other more complicated issues, such as the F-35 and the glitch-plagued Victoria Class submarines.

The navy is currently studying whether the four British-built boats can have their life extended until 2029, but it’s clear that thought is already being given to replacing them.

Sources said the next generation of submarines has already been the subject of high-level briefings within the military and it is expected the redrawn strategy will highlight such a plan.

Lagasse said the challenge for the government will be to temper the military’s expectations.

Already signs are emerging that Conservatives are looking for long-term economical defence solutions, while those in uniform tend to believe the budget restraint is just temporary.

“Unfortunately, until they’re honest with each other, and I hope that is what this document will do, we’ll be engaged in a dialogue of the deaf,” said Lagasse.

The mistake the Conservatives made with the first version of their strategy was to raise expectations by being very specific about what they were going to buy, he added.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

If you're heading out to the West Country have a plan in case things go wrong, says Clearwater Regional Fire Rescue Services fire chief Steve Debienne.
(Photo from CRFRS Facebook)
West Country visitors should have an emergency plan: regional fire chief

Cellphones can’t be relied on in many back country areas

Rode
Sarcevic leads an impressive list of additions to RDC Kings soccer

In 2019 the RDC Kings soccer program took a major step forward… Continue reading

The Red Deer PCN Women's Fun Run will take on a different look this weekend with rising COVID-19 numbers.
Women’s Fun Run goes ahead this weekend in Red Deer

With new public health measures in place because of rising COVID-19 case… Continue reading

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw asked Albertans to limit travel throughout the province as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer nears 900 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports additional 2,211 COVID-19 cases

David Eggen, the NDP’s advanced education critic, said the UCP government has been focused on cutting funding to post-secondary institutions across Alberta. (Contributed photo)
NDP worry new status for Red Deer College doesn’t mean more funding

This week the province announced that RDC will become a polytechnic institute

Alberta Health Services locked the Whistle Stop Cafe in Mirror on Wednesday morning after owner Christopher Scott refused to comply with health orders. (Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff)
UPDATED: AHS shuts down Whistle Stop Cafe for defying health orders

Justice minister promises to get tough with those ignoring public health orders

Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion Carla Qualtrough holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals pressed to ease access to EI parental leave to help unemployed moms

Liberals pressed to ease access to EI parental leave to help unemployed moms

Katie Telford, Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, appears as a witness via videoconference during a House of Commons finance committee in Ottawa, Thursday, July 30, 2020. The Canadian Press has learned that Katie Telford has written members of the defence committee inquiry into allegations of sexual misconduct against Canada's former top military commander, offering to testify at their meeting Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
PM’s chief of staff offers to testify on Vance sexual misconduct allegations

PM’s chief of staff offers to testify on Vance sexual misconduct allegations

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Family looking for answers: Woman with vaccine side-effects died of blood clot

Family looking for answers: Woman with vaccine side-effects died of blood clot

‘Uniquely reprehensible’: No parole for 35 years for Calgary man in triple murder

‘Uniquely reprehensible’: No parole for 35 years for Calgary man in triple murder

A sign is seen at a walk-in COVID-19 in Montreal on Wednesday, April 21, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
NACI chair says advice not meant to give AstraZeneca recipients vaccine remorse

NACI chair says advice not meant to give AstraZeneca recipients vaccine remorse

People in Peel region line up outside the University of Toronto Mississauga campus for the COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Mississauga, Ont., on Thursday, May 6, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin
Promising pandemic signs in Ontario, Quebec as urgency shifts to N.S., Alberta

Promising pandemic signs in Ontario, Quebec as urgency shifts to N.S., Alberta

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken waves upon departure from Boryspil International airport outside Kyiv, Ukraine, Thursday, May 6, 2021. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has met with top Ukrainian officials in Kyiv and reaffirmed Washington's support for the country in the wake of heightened tensions with Russia. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, Pool)
US says fate of nuclear pact up to Iran as talks resume

US says fate of nuclear pact up to Iran as talks resume

People embrace after a school shooting at Rigby Middle School in Rigby, Idaho on Thursday, May 6, 2021. Authorities say a shooting at the eastern Idaho middle school has injured two students and a custodian, and a male student has been taken into custody. (John Roark /The Idaho Post-Register via AP)
Sheriff: Girl shoots 3 at Idaho school; teacher disarms her

Sheriff: Girl shoots 3 at Idaho school; teacher disarms her

Most Read