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Blair ‘confident’ Canada will meet NATO targets with push for more spending

Click to play video: 'Trudeau government updates Canada’s defence policy, raises spending by $8 billion'
Trudeau government updates Canada’s defence policy, raises spending by $8 billion
WATCH: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Defence Minister Bill Blair announced Monday that they are updating the nation's defence policy. The update will include raising spending on the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) by $7.9 billion over the next five years. The long-promised news will not, however, meet Canada's target under NATO – Apr 8, 2024

Defence Minister Bill Blair says that he is pushing for more military spending to meet Canada’s NATO commitments, but he still needs to do more work on the “business case” to secure the extra funding.

“One of the great challenges of being a defence minister is securing funding, and the second one is actually spending it,” Blair said during a discussion at Canadian embassy in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Atlantic Council.

“I still have some work to do to articulate the business case for the new capability requirements that Canada is going to need, but I am very confident and I can ensure our allies Canada still has more to do and we’re going to do more.”

As outlined in the recent defence policy update, Canada is on track to reach about 1.76 per cent of GDP spending on defence by 2029. The NATO agreement, of which Canada is a signatory, is for two per cent of GDP being focused on defence.

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Last week, U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron suggested the NATO target should be increased to 2.5 per cent of GDP going to defence.

“[It’s] the Trump effect,” former British military colonel and NATO planner Philip Ingram told Mercedes Stephenson in an interview on The West Block.
Trump has warned “any country that’s not paying its way, the United States wouldn’t come and help defend,” Ingram said. “‘Paying its way’ meant [the] two per cent contribution to NATO,.”
Click to play video: 'The West Block: May 12, 2024 | Lessons for Canada from U.K.’s plan to boost defence spending to 2.5% of GDP'
The West Block: May 12, 2024 | Lessons for Canada from U.K.’s plan to boost defence spending to 2.5% of GDP

Blair added that all the spending outlined in the defence policy update, an additional $8 billion with a focus on the Arctic and cybersecurity over the next five years, involves money that is committed to the various projects.

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This Atlantic Council discussion follows Blair’s Monday morning meeting for U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Blair says they discussed the war in Ukraine entering its third year, the Israel-Hamas conflict, broader tensions in the Middle East and China’s increasing military posturing.

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To work toward these goals, Blair said key areas he is looking at include underwater surveillance and replacement tanks.

“We are going to need a new underwater surveillance capability — i.e., submarines. We’re also going to have to make some other very significant investments to replace our tank fleet, to build out the air and missile defence system that is required in North America,” Blair said at a press conference following his discussion.

Blair says that once details of these purchase plans are finalized, he will bring them to the federal government for approval.

The defence minister stressed the need for increasing Canada’s submarine capabilities due to melting polar ice opening up northern waterways, which are seeing more Russian and Chinese vessels.

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