Defence minister says plan in talks for ‘significant’ military investments

Click to play video: 'Defence minister says plan for ‘significant’ military investments in talks'
Defence minister says plan for ‘significant’ military investments in talks
WATCH: The federal government is facing heat for its sole-sourced contract with Boeing to replace Canada’s aging Aurora aircraft patrol fleet. This comes as the Royal Canadian Navy’s top commander released a video saying their was a naval recruitment shortfall. ‘The West Block’ host Mercedes Stephenson speaks to Defence Minister Bill Blair about military procurement, ammunition shortages, defence spending, and more – Dec 3, 2023

Defence Minister Bill Blair says he is committed to pushing for increased investment in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) after two top commanders sounded the alarm recently on operational readiness.

“Colleagues and shipmates, the [Royal Canadian Navy] (RCN) faces some very serious challenges right now that could mean we fail to meet our force posture readiness commitments in 2024 and beyond,” Vice-Adm. Angus Topshee, commander of the navy, said in a YouTube video posted earlier this week.

Last week, Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre said military resources are strained amid increased calls for assistance in natural disasters and recruiting challenges.

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On The West Block, Blair told host Mercedes Stephenson that how the government addresses these challenges is part of an ongoing discussion.

“We have brought forward a plan that’s very much in discussion right now within our government about making significant new investments,” Blair said.

“We’re going to do more. But there’s also some context in the doing that more because there is a fiscal situation in Canada that I have to be realistic about.”

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At the House of Commons defence committee last week, Blair said that the long-promised defence policy update is tied in with broader budgetary conversations happening with the Prime Minister’s Office.

Click to play video: 'Canada reaches $5.9B USD deal to replace aging Aurora military fleet with Boeing aircraft: Blair'
Canada reaches $5.9B USD deal to replace aging Aurora military fleet with Boeing aircraft: Blair

Blair said part of his job is focused on helping clear up issues in military procurement — a longstanding challenge when it comes to sourcing much-needed equipment.

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Earlier this week, he along with Innovation Minister Francois-Phillipe Champagne and Procurement Minister Jean-Yves Duclos announced Canada has selected Boeing for a sole-source $8-billion deal on new surveillance aircraft to replace the Auroras.

“I don’t want to sort of relitigate the past, but I think for a very long time, we did not make the necessary investments in the platforms,” Blair said.

“What’s also become apparent is that the world is becoming an increasingly dangerous place. Our responsibilities are well known to us and significant.”

Stephenson pressed Blair on Canada’s military readiness, pointing out that sources say Canada now has a three-day ammunition supply and not 30 days as mandated by NATO commitments.

Click to play video: 'More than half of Canadians view its military as “old and antiquated,” poll finds'
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“We’ve been working on what have been challenges in acquiring the ammunition. And some of it is resources, but an awful lot of it is this process. So, making that process work more effectively is a critical part of what we have to do,” Blair said.

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As part of broader budgetary deliberations, Blair has been tasked with shaving $1 billion off defence expenditures. Blair previously said they are looking for efficiencies in areas like consulting and administration, but he says issues with procurement are more process than budget-related.

“Last year, the Canadian Armed Forces was unable to spend over $2 billion of their budget. And it’s because the processes of procurement are not as efficient as they need to be,” Blair said.

“It’s a matter of making sure that those processes work for them so that they’re able to do that maintenance, they’re able to acquire that ammunition, they’re able to make the investments that they need to make.”

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