De­fence min­is­ter hints at new money for mil­i­tary af­ter meet­ing U.S. coun­ter­part

Cape Breton Post - - CANADA -

Canada’s de­fence min­is­ter is hint­ing at new money for the mil­i­tary fol­low­ing a much-an­tic­i­pated meet­ing with his U.S. coun­ter­part in Wash­ing­ton this week.

But Har­jit Sa­j­jan says what’s equally im­por­tant is what coun­tries do with their mil­i­tary, a line suc­ces­sive fed­eral gov­ern­ments have used to de­fend Canada’s pal­try de­fence spend­ing.

“It’s about de­fence in­vest­ment,” Sa­j­jan told re­porters on Tues­day.

“But it’s also about na­tions in­vest­ing in new ca­pa­bil­i­ties, but also in what are you ac­tu­ally do­ing with them? It’s about hav­ing im­pact on the world, work­ing in coali­tions, work­ing to­gether at NATO and any other fu­ture chal­lenges that we have.”

The com­ments come one day af­ter Sa­j­jan sat down with U.S. De­fense Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis in Wash­ing­ton, the first meet­ing between a Cana­dian min­is­ter and a mem­ber of the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Trump has re­peat­edly blasted NATO al­lies for not spend­ing enough on their own de­fence, a mes­sage he re­peated Mon­day even as Sa­j­jan was meet­ing Mat­tis.

“We only ask that all of the NATO mem­bers make their full and proper fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tions to the NATO al­liance, which many of them have not been do­ing,” Trump said dur­ing a speech in Florida.

The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment is cur­rently draw­ing up a new de­fence pol­icy that sources say will start inch­ing de­fence spend­ing closer to NATO’s tar­get of two per cent of GDP.

But they also say even with the ad­di­tional fund­ing, Canada will fall far short of that goal.

Canada’s cur­rent de­fence bud­get of $20 bil­lion ac­counts for less than one per cent of GDP, mean­ing the gov­ern­ment would have to dou­ble spend­ing to reach NATO’s tar­get.

Sa­j­jan says he and the U.S. de­fence sec­re­tary also dis­cussed Canada’s plan to send peace­keep­ers to Africa, though he isn’t say­ing whether the gov­ern­ment is closer to de­cid­ing on a spe­cific mis­sion.

“We talked about UN peace op­er­a­tions, but how ev­ery­thing is in­ter­con­nected as well,” Sa­j­jan said. “I was very for­tu­nate to have some of his in­put, and we’re go­ing to be con­tin­u­ing that conversation about many other se­cu­rity chal­lenges.”

The gov­ern­ment an­nounced in Au­gust that Canada would de­ploy up to 600 troops on fu­ture UN peace­keep­ing mis­sions, though it stopped short of say­ing where they would go.

A de­ci­sion was promised by the end of the year, af­ter mil­i­tary of­fi­cials and Cana­dian diplo­mats had a chance to test the waters and get a bet­ter sense of where the troops could make a dif­fer­ence.

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