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Canadians like to think of ourselves as living in a sovereign nation, to the extent that we are in control of our own destiny and make our own decisions.
However, that has become increasingly doubtful.
An important aspect—probably the MOST important aspect—of being a sovereign country is having the ability to defend your own nation.
If you don’t have that, nothing else really matters.
For a country like Canada, having a strongly-equipped armed forces wouldn’t really be much of a challenge, considering our high relative wealth and high level of technology.
And yet, our armed forces are in a state of disrepair.
We have pilot shortages, we have recruitment problems, our air force is flying 40-year-old leftover planes other countries don’t want, our navy is miniscule, and the strategically valuable north is practically undefended.
In short, Canada lacks the ability to defend ourselves, placing the burden of defending our own citizens on our ally, the United States.
The issue is that it’s both unfair to the United States, and unfair to Canadian Citizens for our government to outsource our national defence.
It’s unfair to the U.S. because we should be pulling our own weight in our alliance with them, not putting it all on their shoulders.
And it’s unfair to Canadian Citizens because our own country is put at risk by being reliant on others to do the job we should be doing ourselves.
Unfortunately, Canada’s political establishment is unwilling to take any of this seriously.
In a dangerous world, Canada’s politicians continue to ignore the defence of our nation, just hoping that things will magically “work out” and we will never be faced with any real danger.
Of course, the world doesn’t work like that. The world is becoming increasingly dangerous, with China and Russia building up their arctic forces, and China’s military expanding at an alarming rate.
In that threatening environment, hoping for the best could lead to total disaster for Canada.
That’s why we need to start seeing this as the crisis it really is. The weakness of our armed forces is becoming a bigger and bigger threat to the future of Canada, and that threat must be addressed now.
For that reason, building up our military must take precedence over balancing the budget.
It’s a simple political reality that any party that proposed making big cuts to social spending in order to build up the military would be destroyed in an election campaign. There simply isn’t any appetite for that trade-off. So, that leaves deficit spending as the only politically-feasible path to building up our armed forces.
Considering that the budget deficit is at about $20 billion, considering that we spend roughly $25 billion on our armed forces today and that doubling that number would be a huge boost to our national defence, we would be looking at deficits of roughly $45 billion if we immediately embarked on a military build-up, while keeping other spending on the current trajectory.
$45 billion is a large deficit, but it is smaller than the deficits run by the Harper government during a portion of the 2008 financial crisis aftermath.
Additionally, much of that increased deficit would be going towards wages for more members of the armed forces, military-focused research and development at Canadian universities, and a huge surge in domestic manufacturing, all of which would strengthen our domestic economy, boost GDP, and make it easier to balance the budget down the road as the economic benefits spread throughout the nation.
The final point is this: It’s usually a bad idea to run budget deficits, but there are exceptions. And the crisis facing our nation due to our inability to protect our own territory is one of those exceptions. Canada needs a military build-up, and we need it now. And if that means running bigger deficits for a while, then that’s a price we must be willing to pay to ensure our nation is secure.