However, some areas of additional support for the Canadian Forces, such as boosting recruitment and improving search-and-rescue times are warranted, he told The West Block‘s guest host Eric Sorenson.
“I put that very clearly towards the prime minister that we should not meet that two per cent,” he said.
“But we have long believed in a position of making sure workers have the right conditions to do their work,” Singh added.
“Our Armed Forces are asked to do tasks and work that they don’t have the equipment for.”
The question of NDP support for increased military spending comes after the New Democrats and Liberals struck a confidence and supply deal that includes NDP backing of the next four federal budgets in exchange for implementing a number of shared priorities.
Such a deal is not the same as a formal coalition government, which involves members from more than one party holding positions in cabinet. A confidence and supply deal establishes one party’s agreement to support another in confidence votes for a certain period of time, typically in exchange for progress on specific files.
Budgets are always confidence votes, but confidence votes also include other financial votes as well as anything the prime minister declares as a test of confidence.
Under the deal, NDP support is expected to last until June 2025.
Speculation is mounting that the federal government could present a budget in either the first or last week of April, but no date has yet been confirmed.
The upcoming budget could include a response to the pressure Canada is facing to increase military spending above the boosts already promised under a 2017 defence policy review known as Strong, Secure, Engaged.
NATO allies including Germany and Denmark have similarly lagged in meeting the two-per-cent spending target. They recently vowed to increase their defence budgets to hit the target amid concern that Russia’s violent and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine could have broader implications for Europe.
Singh said it’s clear with the increased demands on the Canadian military, additional support is needed.
“We believe that there should be, of course, increased support for the tools that they need, as well as staffing. We’ve seen a drop in personnel and we ask our military to do lots of things like going in to help during the pandemic in seniors’ homes,” he said.
“So we know that they need help and support, and we’re okay with that. We think that’s the right thing to do, but we do not support the two per cent of NATO.“
The NDP-Liberal deal was billed by both Trudeau and Singh last week as an attempt to offer some stability and certainty to Canadians in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, the soaring cost of living and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The latter has roiled global markets, adding to supply chain struggles that have been a hallmark of the past two years as the pandemic shut down factories.
Food prices continue to rise. Inflation hit 5.7 per cent in Canada last month — a level not seen in roughly three decades. At the same time, home prices are holding at record highs.
Singh said Canadians are making it clear they are struggling to keep up.
“People went through a tough two years. Canadians have been telling us, ‘Get us help.’ We need to get them that help.”