5.6 Defence policy

The issue of defence policy and procurements has focused on the single biggest proposed purchase – the F-35s. The evidence that the Harper cabinet deliberately misled the Canadian public about the price and benefits of the F-35s was cemented by the 2013 report of the Auditor General. The benefits were over-hyped and the costs low-balled.

The debate about the F-35s, which Canada should not purchase, has distracted Canadians from a full and transparent discussion about necessary procurements that have been inexplicably postponed.

The 2014 budget granted only a brief paragraph to defence policy. The short reference sets out that significant spending has been shifted from the 2013-2014 – 2016-17 period to ‘future years.’

The Fiscal Outlook with Measures chart (p. 266) shows zeroes continuing out to 2018-2019, the last year included. The nature of the future needs is not explained, but the amount of deferred spending is $3.1 billion. The effect of this is to reduce spending in the critical, politically derived target to deliver a balanced budget by 2015.

No further information about this deferred $3.1 billion is available in the Main Estimates. Overall, DND’s spending will go up in 2014-2015, as against last year, even though our costly mission to Afghanistan, in terms of lives and finances, has nearly drawn to a close.

Major capital projects continue to be funded. The Main Estimates tells us these include Land Combat Vehicles, Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships, Light Armoured Vehicle Reconnaissance Surveillance System Upgrade, and Canadian Armed Forces Health Services Centres.

The House should have reviewed the cost-cutting suggestions in the detailed report of retired General Andrew Leslie, pointing out in detail the various ways that spending could be reduced in the Department of National Defence, without compromising the safety, remuneration, pensions, or benefits to members of the nation’s military. That report, released in fall of 2011, is worth careful consideration.

It alerted us to the fact that the use of contractors to DND cost Canadians nearly $3 billion per year. The increased use of contractors and the fact that value for dollar evaluations show that taxpayers lose on ‘contracting out’ is an observation that has been made across the board by the Auditor General. We also know from the excesses of U.S. military contractors that consultants cost more than using in-house resources.

The Green Party supports members of the Canadian military, including their right to be properly equipped while in service and properly cared for as veterans.

We need to pursue a revised vision for Canadian defence policy with a focus on disaster response, search-and-rescue, and peacekeeping. In particular, we need to move ahead in purchase of ice-breakers, fixed-wing search and rescue (SAR) aircraft, and Coast Guard vessels.

Green MPs will:

  • Pursue cost-cutting by reducing by 30% the $2.7 billion spent every year on DND consultants, contractors, and other private sector contracts;

  • Other savings could be achieved by asking Reservists, over 9 000, to choose if they would be ready for part-time positions;

  • Move ahead with necessary procurement of fixed-wing SARs, ice-breakers, and coastal vessels.