The Conservatives & Liberals Need To Make A Deal On Defense Spending

With Jagmeet Singh choosing to oppose Canada meeting our NATO spending obligation, the two largest parties need to come to an understanding that builds up Canada’s defenses.

Spend more money.

That’s Jagmeet Singh’s answer to everything.

He’s talked about how balanced budgets aren’t important.

He constantly talks about how government repeatedly needs to step in (AKA spend more money) to fix every supposed problem.

Since he’s not a fan of balanced budgets, Singh shows no concern with the government borrowing more and more money.

So, spend more, borrow more, and leave the consequences to the future.

Well, at least Singh has a coherent ideology, right?

Except, there’s one very odd exception to his ‘always spend more’ mindset:

Canada meeting our NATO commitments.

Singh called the 2% of GDP number (a number that Canada and our allies agreed to meet), ‘arbitrary.

“NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh says his caucus would be against the federal government moving to increase its defence spending to hit NATO’s target of two per cent of GDP, calling the request from the international military alliance “arbitrary.”

“The pressure that’s being applied right now is to get to two per cent. We think that that’s an arbitrary number, and we don’t support that number,” said Singh in an interview on CTV’s Question Period.”

Naïve & irresponsible

If the world was peaceful, it would still be naïve to think that Canada could continue down the road of such limited military capability.

But in today’s world, with Russia invading Ukraine and China rapidly strengthening their armed forces, it is the height of irresponsibility for Canada’s military to remain so underfunded.

It is quite concerning that despite everything happening in the world, Jagmeet Singh and the NDP still oppose Canada meeting our 2% GDP target.

Abandoning our allies

One of the ironic things about Singh’s opposition to the 2% target is that the NDP often presents itself as a supporter of the United Nations and our alliances with democratic countries. Yet, the ideals of the United Nations live on most in NATO, rather than the UN itself. The UN often seems to be a parody of itself, with the human rights council dominated by the biggest human rights abusers, and the ideals of individual freedom and democracy which the UN Charter claims to uphold being regularly trampled by countries like Russia and China.

By contrast, those ideals are upheld to a far greater degree in the countries that comprise NATO, and if the UN can sometime in the future live up to its true potential, it will be by becoming more like the NATO nations and the NATO alliance.

With that in mind, why would Jagmeet Singh and the NDP refuse to have Canada play our part in NATO and live up to our promised contribution?

This must be emphasized: The 2% target isn’t just a nice suggestion, it’s a commitment our country made.

We agreed to hit that target.

Yet, for too long we have fallen far short, with the Liberal government even ‘reimagining’ how they calculated military spending to include things that aren’t usually included, a ‘readjustment’ that still only brought us to 1.39% of GDP.

Simply put, if Jagmeet Singh and the NDP choose to embrace higher spending everywhere except the military, it means that he and his party can’t be taken seriously when it comes to a discussion of Canada’s national defense.

So what then?

Conservative-Liberal deal

In the past two elections, the Conservatives have won the popular vote.

In both those campaigns, they talked about strengthening Canada’s military.

The Trudeau Liberals have also claimed they were increasing military spending, though their ‘commitments’ always kept getting pushed back.

Now, with Russia’s attack on Ukraine, there has been a rising awareness among Canadians that we can’t take our national security for granted any longer, and that we must do more to support our allies and fellow democracies.

In moments like this, the most logical move would for the Conservatives & Liberals to reach an agreement on a massive increase in Canada’s military spending.

Given the years of neglect, and given the urgency of the situation, Canada needs large-scale up-front investment, and then long-term heightened investment in our military.

That is often a politically difficult move to make, and given the NDP-Liberal de facto coalition it is quite possible the Liberals would struggle to find the votes for it.

However, the combined votes of the Liberals & Conservatives could easily pass a massive military expansion, and the Conservatives give every indication of being willing to do so.

A one-time agreement by the Conservatives & Liberals to cooperate on a budget that massively expands the military would be in the best interests of the country.

Setting aside our ego

Such a deal would require both sides to accept things they don’t want to do.

To start, the Liberals would be wise to remove possible poison-pills (like anti-free speech legislation) that they would be tempted to throw in.

Also, the Conservatives would have to accept voting for a budget that likely includes far more spending than they prefer.

And yet, it is essential to realize that national security, and the defense of our nation and our unity with our democratic allies is the most important thing facing our nation, because nothing else matters if a country is unable to defend itself.

Canadians are clearly seeking national unity at this time, and are tired of all the divisiveness. The Liberal-NDP deal was cast as a response to that divisiveness, yet it excludes the views of the most popular political party in the country.

A one-time Conservative-Liberal deal to pass a military-focused budget would be a rare moment of unity, and a rare moment of our leaders working together to do something that is truly in the interest of our nation.

Then, after that is passed, the parties can go back to the necessary debates and ideological disputes that are essential to democracy, secure in the knowledge that they have ensured the rejuvenation of our military and the heightened defense of our nation.

Spencer Fernando

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