Ottawa must ‘recapitalize’ the Canadian Armed Forces, Anand says ahead of budget

Click to play video: 'Feds pledge $1.4B to revitalize special forces base'
Feds pledge $1.4B to revitalize special forces base
WATCH: Feds pledge $1.4B to revitalize special forces base – Mar 21, 2023

The federal government must “recapitalize” the Canadian Armed Forces amid “this changing world,” National Defence Minister Anita Anand says.

Her comments Tuesday came after she announced $1.4-billion in funding to upgrade the Dwyer Hill Training Centre in Ottawa, a military base used by Canada’s special operations forces unit, Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2).

This 10-year construction project, which will begin in May, will provide more than 100,000 square metres of space for JTF2 training and high-readiness operational needs. The work will include replacing more than 89 aging structures with 23 new facilities, renovating seven buildings and upgrading the site’s utilities.

The Canadian government has been under pressure from its allies to increase its defence spending, and Anand said that Tuesday’s announcement is evidence that “there is an upward trajectory in our defence spending.”

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“We see the increasing need to make investments of this sort and we see the need to continue to recapitalize the Canadian Armed Forces,” she said.

“We are moving forward on a number of fronts, including enhancing infrastructure here at home for JTF2, but also in international theatres, be it Latvia, be it the Indo-Pacific. We need to continue to do whatever is necessary in this changing world.”

Click to play video: 'JTF 2: Canada’s elite special forces unit gets a $1.4 B upgrade to their training centre'
JTF 2: Canada’s elite special forces unit gets a $1.4 B upgrade to their training centre

Anand’s comments also come ahead of the government budget for 2023, which will be tabled on March 28. Last year, the Liberals boosted the budget for the Canadian military by roughly $8 billion, on top of billions in already scheduled increases.

But even with that increase, Canada was not expected to hit the two per cent NATO spending target. The military alliance’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, called upon member nations again Tuesday to commit more dollars to defence spending, and said he expects them to commit to doing so at a NATO meeting in July.

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On Sunday, Canada’s ambassador to the United States said she’s seen a change of tone in how Washington views its northern ally’s commitment to defence thanks to a slew of new spending — reducing a potential thorny point of discussion ahead of this week’s presidential visit to Ottawa.

Click to play video: 'Canadian defence investments ‘changed the tone’ of U.S. relations: ambassador'
Canadian defence investments ‘changed the tone’ of U.S. relations: ambassador

U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday will make his first trip to Canada since being sworn into office more than two years ago, sitting down with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to discuss a range of issues before addressing Parliament.

North American defence is sure to be a top priority for the summit after the recent flight of a Chinese spy balloon over the continent last month and incursions by China and Russia in the Arctic, along with Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.

Click to play video: 'Federal Budget 2022: $8B in new defence spending over 5 years'
Federal Budget 2022: $8B in new defence spending over 5 years

But after years of calls from Washington for Canada to meet its defence spending obligations and modernize its military, Ambassador Kirsten Hillman said she’s beginning to see a shift.

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“There is no doubt that the U.S. will always be looking to Canada and other allies to do as much as they can,” she told Mercedes Stephenson on The West Block Sunday.

The federal government has committed nearly $40 billion in funding over the next 20 years to modernize NORAD, something Canada’s military brass and Anand pointed to as crucial in the wake of the Chinese spy balloon and the subsequent detection and shootdown of three other unidentified objects over North American airspace in February.

However, it remains unclear how much of that spending is actually new money.

— with files from Sean Boynton

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