LILLEY: Despite Trudeau’s words, the Americans are right on defence

Canada doesn’t pull it’s own weight or pay our fair share on defence.

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It hasn’t been a good week for Canada’s military.

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From a change in defence minister to a dressing down of Canada’s efforts in the United States Senate, our lacklustre military performance was under the spotlight.

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Not that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would acknowledge any of that, he claimed things are great, Canada played a key role at the recent NATO summit and Vilnius, Lithuania and that we’re investing “massively” in the armed forces.

I truly do wonder what world he is living in some days.

His comments came in response to remarks made by Dan Sullivan, a Republican senator from Alaska who was participating in a confirmation hearing for the new commander for NORAD. Sullivan was making general comments about Canada’s defence commitments to both NATO and NORAD while questioning United States Air Force Lt.-Gen. Gregory Guillot.

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“Canada’s not even close to its 2% commitment,” Sullivan said. “It was common knowledge that Prime Minister Trudeau was trying to water down the Vilnius commitment to 2% as a floor. All of which is incredibly disappointing.”

At that point, Sullivan asked Guillot to put pressure on his Canadian counterparts at NORAD command.

“Can you commit to us to having those tough conversations with your Canadian counterparts?” Sullivan asked.

“Yes, senator, you can count on me to do that,” Guillot replied.

Senator Sullivan then went a step further, posting a clip of the exchange on social media. He said there is a unique binational responsibility that Canada and the United States have on defending the continent.

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“Unfortunately, Canada doesn’t even come close to pulling its weight on defense spending,” Sullivan said.

Trudeau tried to dispute that on Friday during a visit to a lumber mill in Newfoundland.

“We’ve invested massively in NORAD modernization just earlier this year,” Trudeau said. “We’re continuing to step up our NATO commitments.”

Those words though, aren’t backed up by the facts and Canada is, and has been for a long time, a defence laggard. Or as the Wall Street Journal recently called us, defence free riders.

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It’s an issue that has been raised by every American president over the last several decades from Bill Clinton to George W. Bush, Donald Trump to Joe Biden. Barack Obama even made a call for Canada to spend more on defence when he addressed Canada’s Parliament in 2016.

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“As your ally and as your friend, let me say that we’ll be more secure when every NATO member, including Canada, contributes its full share to our common security,” Obama said. “Because the Canadian Armed Forces are really good and if I can borrow a phrase, the world needs more Canada. NATO needs more Canada. We need you. We need you.”

The Americans have been asking us to do more for years, they’ve called out our poor record on the floor of their legislature and on the floor of our own legislature. Those calls have consistently fallen on deaf ears and the same will happen this time despite Trudeau’s words.

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The same day that Senator Sullivan called out Canada in Washington, Trudeau was shuffling his cabinet in Ottawa. According to David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen, one of the reasons Anita Anand was removed as defence minister and replaced by Bill Blair is that she wanted to spend too much, be too ambitious at defence.

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“A reworking of the Liberal government’s defence policy update is underway after the document proposed by National Defence and Anita Anand was deemed to be unrealistic, according to multiple defence sources,” Pugliese reported.

He added that Trudeau’s office is taking a hand in reworking the policy that was seen as “too costly.”

The PMO disputes those claims, but they also claim we are investing massively in the military when we aren’t.

Canada’s reputation and standing on the world stage continue to suffer and our once proud Canadian Armed Forces is the victim of indifference and neglect in official Ottawa.

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