HALIFAX SECURITY FORUM NEWS: Canada Boosting Defense Spending, Industry Outreach

By Yasmin Tadjdeh
Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan

Photo: Halifax International Security Forum

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — Canada is planning to ramp up its defense spending through 2026 and strengthen engagement with industry to address a wide range of threats, said Canada’s minister of national defense Nov. 22.

“We are concerned about the rapidly changing and unpredictable nature of the global security environment,” said Harjit Singh Sajjan. “The pace of change is staggering.”

Canada's defense policy, "Strong, Secure, Engaged," sets a path forward that will allow the country to meet the challenges it is seeing, he said during remarks at the Halifax International Security Forum. That means “building a Canada that is strong at home, secure in North America and that is engaged in the world.”

To that end, Canada’s Liberal Party — which is led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who recently won a close election — has pledged to grow defense spending by 70 percent, from about $19 billion in 2016 to $32 billion in 2026, Sajjan said.

“This money, which is carved out of Canada's fiscal framework, illustrates our commitment to supporting the women and men of the Canadian armed forces, buying new equipment and updating our infrastructure,” he said.

The country is investing in new defense programs to protect its homeland, he noted. For example, in Halifax a new fleet of Arctic and Offshore Patrol Ships are being built. The government will also soon receive 16 new fixed-wing search-and-rescue aircraft, Sajjan said.

Canada is seeking new, innovative technologies to meet its security and defense needs, he said. One program, the Innovation for Defense Excellence and Security, or IDEaS, is meant to connect the military with Canadian companies and innovators to solve some of its biggest challenges.

“We're investing $1.6 billion in this program to bring forward the best ideas to help better support our women and men in uniform,” he said. “It does not matter if you're working from home, in a university lab, or a small company or a large corporation. Canada needs to hear from our best and brightest and to reach out.”

It is also reaching out to academia institutions through a program known as Mobilizing Insights in Defense and Security Program, or MINDS.

“MINDS is different from IDEaS in that our focus is on global security policy and generating knowledge in the public-policy realm,” Sajjan said. “We're working closely with experts in the defense and security community … as a way to access relevant [and] timely defense experience that brings together a diversity of viewpoints.”

As it faces emerging threats around the world, Sajjan noted that Canada is stronger when it works together with its allies such as the United States.

“Canadians know that we can't be an island of stability in an ocean of turmoil,” he said. “Eventually negative ripples will reach our shores, and it is why Canada will always work with our friends and neighbors.”

Ottawa’s “closest friend” is the United States, he said. It is bolstering that relationship with training exercises and aerospace and maritime defense initiatives through North American Aerospace Defense Command, sanctions enforcement and combating illegal traffic on the high seas, he said.

“Canada and the U.S. do a lot together,” he said. “Simply put, we can address more threats and achieve greater security in North America together than by doing it alone.”

Another important relationship is the one Canada has with NATO, he added.

“Threats from non-state actors, challenges in the space and cyber domains and the ever-evolving information environment — all of these underscores the importance of our transatlantic security lines and its deterrence effect."

Canada is committed to multilateralism and international cooperation, he said. It leading three NATO efforts globally, he noted. They include: countering Russian military aggression by deploying to Europe its largest military force since the end of Cold War; being present in Latvia providing additional security for the Baltic States; and working in the Middle East commanding NATO’s training mission in Iraq and building more effective defense and security institutions there, Sajjan said. 

Topics: International