“Canada and our allies have imposed the toughest sanctions ever imposed on a major economy. … But the mutilated people of Bucha, shot with their hands tied behind their backs, have shown us that this is not enough,” Freeland said in his speech to the House of Commons.
“They are fighting our fight – a fight for democracy – it is in our urgent national interest to make sure they have the missiles and the money they need to win,” she said.
For many, however, the actual budget money didn’t match Freeland’s powerful words.
The funding — part of Canada’s response to international security concerns sparked by Russia’s war on Ukraine — will be spread over the next five years. Government estimates say the country spent a total of C$24.3 billion on defense last year, and a military budget expert said the new funds represent year-over-year increases. other between 1 and 5%.
Taken together, the new investments will increase Canada’s defense spending, as a percentage of GDP, to 1.5% after five years, a senior government official said. NATO estimated last week that Canada spent 1.36% of its GDP last year on the military.
The 1.5% figure is not written in ink on the budget pages, however, raising questions about whether the spending vow is sound.
Either way, the number falls short of the alliance’s goal for its members to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defence.
The Russian onslaught of recent weeks has quickly prompted NATO members to invest more in their armed forces, Germany pull off stunning pivot in February with a wish to bring spending to the 2% mark. Other countries have also strengthened their defense commitments.
“We’re good at rhetoric, but I don’t see any substance,” Robert Huebert, a defense expert at the University of Calgary, told POLITICO. “With inflation taken into consideration, I doubt we’ve moved a number on our [1.36 percent]. … We’re talking about the conversation, but I don’t see much action.
Freeland’s budget promised a defense policy review, which leaves the door open for Canada to spend more money on the military in the future.
But the budget landed after weeks of speculation that Canada would go big.
Or at least bigger.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, Trudeau, Defense Minister Anita Anand and Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly had each signaled — at home and abroad — to watch the budget for more. military spending.
Last month, Joly hinted that an increase in military money in the budget could be significant.
“Everything changed on February 24,” Joly said when asked on March 23 if Russia’s war on Ukraine could have a big impact on the budget.
Last month, Anand told CBC’s Power & Politics that she was personally offer “aggressive options” for additional expenses. She said they included a scenario in which Canada would exceed NATO’s 2% target.
David Perry, president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said the Trudeau government had set “pretty high expectations” for defense spending ahead of the budget.
“Given where we are with Ukraine, with language like that of the finance minister, it falls flat,” Perry said.
“I certainly don’t think anything in today’s budget can address the concerns of Canadian allies or people who think we haven’t engaged enough. Because C$8 billion in its entirety is relatively small potatoes,” Perry said.
The new envelope includes C$6.1 billion over five years for “priorities” such as continental defence, commitments to allies and capacity building of the Canadian Armed Forces.
The budget also includes C$500 million to provide additional military aid to Ukraine and C$875 million to address cyber threats facing Canada.
But more money could be on the way, eventually.
Given the changing global context, the government says the next revision will update the 2017 defense policy. Changes to the military plan could include the size and capabilities of the armed forces, depending on the budget.
No timeline was given for the review, but Perry said in the past it has taken two or three years for such exercises to have an impact on government plans.
One explanation for the government’s reluctance to further open its wallet to the military could be the intense global uncertainty.
Freeland’s modest budget was drafted amid deep economic concerns over the rise of China, the spread of protectionism and Russia’s assault on Ukraine, the senior government official said during the briefing with journalists.
The official argued that this is a “fairly significant” increase in defense spending that has been determined by the constant pre-budget effort to balance “needs and affordability”.
“Is that enough? We will wait to see what comes out of the defense review before making any further decisions on this,” the official said.