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