Ottawa Citizen

Sajjan readies start of policy consultati­ons

Move toward ‘agile and lean’ Forces expected


Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan will announce Wednesday the beginning of public consultati­ons on the country’s new defence policy.

Sajjan says he wants to have the policy review completed by year-end.

The review would include details on the future size of the Canadian Forces, its roles and alliances and the type of missions it can expect to take on.

Government sources told Postmedia Tuesday that they expect the public consultati­ons to be finished by the end of July.

Department of National Defence sources say they expect to be flooded with presentati­ons from defence analysts, groups and lobbyists pushing for more funding for the Canadian Forces as well as a plea to resist cutting the current size of the military.

But it is expected the government will follow the path the Liberals outlined during the federal election and move ahead in developing an “agile and lean” Canadian Forces.

Retired general Rick Hillier, former chief of the defence staff, has advocated cutting the size of the military. He has argued that would ensure the organizati­on remains stable and effective. Hillier pointed out that the size of the Canadian Forces could be reduced to 50,000 from today’s approximat­e 66,000.

The Liberals are also committed to a continuati­on of the current military roles in defence of Canada and North America, working with the U.S. military on such alliances as NORAD and NATO.

In addition, the Liberals want to return to contributi­ng militarily to United Nations missions, both in peacekeepi­ng and disaster relief, defence sources told Postmedia.

Canada’s role on UN operations was significan­tly scaled back under the Conservati­ve government.

Sajjan has also said the review will examine how the military looks after its personnel, as well as Canada’s capabiliti­es to fend off cyberattac­ks.

The Liberal government has also stated it would renew focus on surveillan­ce and control of Canadian territory and approaches, particular­ly in Arctic regions. It would also follow the Conservati­ve government’s earlier approach and increase the size of the Canadian Rangers, which provide the eyes and ears for the military in the far North.

During the election the Liberals also promised they would “launch enhanced icebreaker­s.”

But Postmedia has confirmed with government sources that the term “enhanced icebreaker­s” is a reference to what was already promised under the Conservati­ve government’s national shipbuildi­ng strategy. The Liberals do not intend to purchase additional icebreaker­s.

The review is also expected to look at funding and whether Canada can afford the equipment the military wants. The Senate defence committee was recently told that the gap between what the Canadian Forces says it needs and proposed funding for that future is in the tens of billions of dollars.

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