President Donald Trump’s repeated attacks on members in the NATO military alliance who are not paying their “fair share” appears to have finally spooked Canada into putting more money into its defense budget.
But it remains to be seen whether it will be enough.
Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan released his government’s long-awaited defense policy on Wednesday, which featured a slew of new spending announcements designed to update and upgrade Canada’s aging military assets and lean fighting force.
Overall, it commits nearly $13 billion CAD in new spending over ten years, bringing Canada’s total defense budget to $33 billion CAD by 2027. That’s a 70 percent jump. That, Ottawa says, would mean its defense spending, as portion of its GDP, would sit at just below 1.4 percent.
Canada has long been one of the worst laggards in NATO, with its defense spending coming in just shy of 1 percent. NATO encourages all member nations to spend 2 percent of GDP on defense. Getting to 1.4 percent would be a big leap for the middle power.
By comparison, the U.S. spends 3.6 percent of its GDP on defense, the U.K. spends 2.1 percent, while Germany spends just 1.2 percent.
But there might be some funny math involved in Canada’s new number.
Since Trump has taken aim at Canada’s meagre investments, the Trudeau government has quietly started to do the arithmetic on its actual defense spending, taking into account spending on veterans’ services, peacekeeping, and defense technology investments — numbers, Canada says, NATO isn’t calculating and ought to be.
To that end, the policy review contends that, currently, it is not spending 0.97 percent of GDP on defense, but rather 1.19 percent. The difference may seem small, but it nevertheless puts it in the middle of the pack, not at the very back.
Without the new math, Canada’s actual spending would be shy of 1.2 percent.
NATO officials have previously balked at the idea that it has the math wrong on Canada’s spending, but when asked about the figures on Wednesday, Sajjan was confident that they would be “credible.” One senior defense added that the numbers had been drawn up in conjunction with NATO.
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, NATO welcomed the new spending and called it “real leadership.”
Cover: Gunner Dawson Maranduik of 2nd Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery fires the M777 Howitzer gun during Exercise Double Dragon held in Alberta's Wainwright garrison. Photo by Cpl Andrew Wesley, Directorate of Army Public Affairs