May 26, 2014 10:51 pm

Blame it on Bush? Former defence ministers explain why ballistic missile defence was denied

This undated photo released on Thursday, April 19, 2012, by the South Korean Defense Ministry shows debris flying in the air as a new South Korean ballistic missile is launched at an undisclosed location in South Korea.

Defense Ministry via Yonhap/AP Photo

Two former Liberal defence ministers say Canada should take part in ballistic missile defence program with the U.S.

Testifying before the Senate committee on national security and defence, David Pratt and Bill Graham said resistance to ballistic missile defence in the mid 2000s can be attributed to MPs linking ballistic missile defence with U.S. President George W. Bush and his unpopular foreign policy at the time.

“If it had been President Obama asking with his approach, you never know, we might have said yes,” Graham said.

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Graham was defence minister the last time Canada said no to a ballistic missile defence program, back in 2005. Pratt directly preceded him. Both men had recommended joining the program.

READ MORE: Ottawa quietly taking another look at ballistic missile defence

“Some of our political leaders – both Liberal and Conservative – have been all too often inclined to stick their finger into the political winds and make critically important decisions…on the shifting tides of public opinion,” Pratt said, adding, “I believe this was the case for the Martin government in 2005.”

This is the first time since then that Ottawa has re-visited the idea of joining a missile defence program. The Senate committee has been studying the possibility for months and is expected to table a report on its findings.

Critics have testified that current missile defence technology is unproven, that costs could escalate and that Canada could be perceived to be contributing to missile proliferation.

But the former defence ministers argued ballistic missile defence is an important part of North American defence and the missing link in Canadian and U.S. military relations.

“We should be intimately involved in the architecture of national defence, and that does include ballistic missile defence,” said Graham.

Both Graham and Pratt say it has a much better chance of going ahead now, ten years after Ottawa last said no.

“Since then there’s been a huge move within NATO in terms of missile defence for Europe, and so we are the missing link as far as…protecting the Canadian people, ” said Pratt, adding, “I would hope that we would just get off our rear ends and make a decision in support of this.”

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