Election 2015: Devising new defence platforms (Part 2)

Steve Saideman imagines a new platform for the New Democratic Party: ‘We can and should cut the size of the Canadian Forces.’

By: /
18 September, 2015
Canadian soldiers from Charles Company of 1st battalion of Royal Canadian Regiment prepare to support Reed water operation lead by Afghan National Army in Panjwai district some 29 kilometers south-west of Kandahar City early May 20, 2010. REUTERS/Nikola Solic
Stephen Saideman
By: Stephen Saideman

Paterson Chair in International Affairs, Norman Paterson School of International Affairs

Part 1, Steve Saideman’s Liberal platform, can be read here.

Last week I proposed a Liberal Defence Party Platform since the Liberal Defence Critic had posted one that was pretty thin.  I promised to write platforms for the other two major parties (even I would not want to inflict my French on the Bloc Quebecois and the Greens can just shut down DND and the CAF, I suppose), so today I am self-tasted to write an NDP defence platform.

The good news for me and the bad news for the electorate is that there is no defence section on the NDP website and Jack Harris, the NDP Defence Critic, posted a platform that is also quite vague on most matters, focusing mostly on the quality of life of those in the Canadian Forces and not so much what they are supposed to be doing and with what.  Which means I have something to write!

Again, my take on this is driven by my view of the party’s values and constraints as determined by past decisions.  In practice, that means not undoing the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy ESPECIALLY in the case of the NDP, given that it is likely to win seats in the areas where the ships are to be built.

The (imagined) New Democratic defence platform:

The NDP has consistently criticized the failures of the Conservatives as they have mismanaged the defence file, bungling every important procurement decision.  The Canadian Forces have aging equipment.  Worse, they are put into harm’s way without clear ideas of what they are supposed to accomplish.  The unrealized Canada Defence First Strategy identifies the priorities correctly, and the NDP would focus on those defence programs that best secure Canada and then contribute to humanitarian efforts.

The NDP has consistently opposed many of Canada’s missions, including Afghanistan and now Iraq/Syria.  These campaigns have been very costly and not achieved lasting solutions.  We would end the training mission in Iraq and the air campaign over Syria and Iraq.  Our party believes that the use of force should be the very last option.  Consequently, we would deploy the Canadian Forces far less often and respond to NATO requests selectively. We would support the reassurance efforts aimed at supporting our NATO allies and would continue to assist Ukraine but with real defensive assistance and not overheated rhetoric.  We would support Responsibility to Protect Efforts as we did when the Libyan mission was about protecting Libyans.

Because we would not be deploying the Canadian Forces as often as previous Liberal and Conservative governments, we can and should cut the size of the Canadian Forces.  The army should focus on supporting peacekeeping operations and not on participating in counter-insurgency campaigns. Thus, we would reduce the size of the Army significantly and put those savings into improving the ability to take care of Canadians via search and rescue capabilities.

Given our focus on balancing the budget, we do not promise to spend much more on the Canadian Forces but to spend more wisely.  We will clean up the procurement processes by having more competition.  This means that we will make a decision on how to replace the CF-18s after a fair competition.  In developing the requirements for this plane, we would focus on Canadian needs more and interoperability less as we expect to participate in fewer NATO bombing campaigns.

In order to economize, we have to build upon what works and eliminate programs that do not help Canada today and unlikely to be helpful tomorrow.  This means that we need to cut the submarine program.  The savings here could then be used to improve the readiness of the remaining navy programs.

The National Shipbuilding program will continue, but we will make the focus of the effort aimed at defending Canadian waters and less on participating in multilateral operations although we will retain some capacity to engage in humanitarian relief efforts.

We will put much emphasis on improving the conditions of those who serve in the Canadian Forces by supporting its members and their families, by confronting the mental health challenges via implementation of the recommendations already made to the government, and by eradicating sexual harassment and assault.

H/T again to J-C Boucher and other defence friends.

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