Canada’s defence chief says he doesn’t yet know where the money is coming from for $4.9 billion in promised upgrades to NORAD radar and surveillance systems.
In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Gen. Wayne Eyre was asked about growing questions facing the government to detail their spending plan on NORAD upgrades.
Sources have told Global News the military is uncertain about where the funds are coming from, and that there are meetings happening at the department trying to determine how much of the money is new. Those sources say there are significant concerns that the money may not be new, and may need to be re-capitalized from within the existing defence budget.
“I haven’t completely figured out myself the source of funds for this,” Eyre said.
“So I can’t say definitively where it’s coming from. I will say, though, the announcement was welcome.”
Eyre was also asked whether the military is planning any departmental cuts in order to be able to allocate $4.9 billion to the NORAD upgrades.
“We haven’t looked at cutting. But as always, we have to look at rebalancing,” he said.
“The force that we have today is not the force that we need to support tomorrow. So we need to look at force structure. Do we have it in the right place? Do we need to look at rerolling of units so that they undertake roles that are more relevant for the future security environment? That is all important.”
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Global News has asked for clarity on the question to Defence Minister Anita Anand’s office.
No answer has yet been received.
The Canadian Forces are in the midst of a major reckoning about sexual misconduct and at the same time, facing foundational questions about how the military can and should adapt to protect Canadians from emerging threats in a more dangerous world.
Anand called the world “darker” and more “chaotic” than at any point in recent memory earlier this year, and last week said the government will be spending some $40 billion over the next 20 years to modernize North American aerospace defence through the NORAD pact.
As part of that, she announced $4.9 billion in what she initially said was new spending to upgrade northern and continental early radar and surveillance systems.
But she later corrected that, saying the $4.9 billion was not new and was instead funding previously allocated under the $8-billion spending boost promised in the last federal budget.
Eyre said in the interview that the world is, indeed, standing at a “turning point” between authoritarianism and democracy that will play out over the rest of most Canadians’ lives.
“I think history is going to look upon this period as perhaps a turning point in the in the global order, because the rules-based international order under which we have thrived for generations is as fragile is as it has ever been,” he said.
“And I think for the rest of our lives, we’re going to see an order that is characterized by confrontation.”
That confrontation, Eyre said, will be between authoritarian states and democracies of the world.
He added it is one that is causing his counterparts in European and Asian countries growing concern.
“That threat is real,” he said. “They are all very concerned. The threat of global conflict — of great power conflict — is as great as it has been in decades. So we need to be worried.“
The significant spending announcement comes as the stakes are becoming sharper for countries that fail to prioritize their own defence and security.
Uncertainty has become the word du jour over recent years marked by the global economic calamity of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing supply chain struggles, coupled with societal unrest.
Then there’s the ongoing crisis of climate change and natural disasters, as well as geostrategic threats they pose to countries like Canada. Melting Arctic sea ice makes inhospitable regions more easily navigable, including for actors like China and Russia, who seem to make a habit of disregarding international laws.
As well, Russia’s unprovoked and horrific invasion of Ukraine has amplified many of the existing global economic pressures on supply chains while posing what Canadian officials have repeatedly described as an existential threat to the rules-based international order established after the Second World War.
On the future of the Royal Military Colleges
Whether the Canadian Forces is going to be able to recruit the members needed to face a more volatile world is one that continues to dog the military.
A recent report warned earlier this year that systemic racism, discrimination and sexual misconduct are “repulsing” potential new recruits, and clearly linked the military’s ability to fix its culture and attract a new generation of Canadians directly with the national security challenges facing the country.
The federal Liberals launched an independent review into how best to fix the military culture last year in the wake of multiple exclusive reports from Global News into allegations of sexual misconduct against senior leaders.
Former Supreme Court of Canada justice Louise Arbour led that review and at the end of May, issued a blistering report that deemed the leadership of the military “incapable” of fixing the system and the existing cultural problems of the military a “liability” to the country.
Among her recommendations was the need to reform the Royal Military College Kingston and the Royal Military College St-Jean — the universities that train future leaders in the Canadian Forces.
Arbour called them “institutions from a different era.”
“There are legitimate reasons to question the wisdom of maintaining the existence of these military colleges, as they currently exist,” Arbour wrote.
“There is a real risk that the perpetuation of a discriminatory culture at the colleges will slow the momentum for culture change the CAF has embarked upon. There is enough evidence that military colleges are not delivering on their mandate that I believe alternatives must be explored with an open mind.”
Eyre said the military must “embrace” Arbour’s recommendations.
“We have to have a dispassionate look at, is the institution fit for purpose for the 21st century and producing what is needed?” he said.
“Many are proud of the post-secondary institution that they came from. But we have to have an open mind as we go forward and and have that look without emotion as to what is the best for Canada, what is best for our forces to produce the leaders we need for the future.”