The Weekly Recap: Could the Greens save the Canadian Forces

With an election looming, federal party websites are woefully short on their visions for the Canadian Armed Forces… with one exception: The Green Party.

1 June 2015 – Ottawa, CA

by Jason McNaught

The Liberal Party should put a disclaimer on its website reading “More to come,” because clicking the “What we stand for” link reveals precious little in the way of policy — and even less when Canada’s military is concerned.

Suffice it to say that there’s an election looming in the not-too-distant future, and the Liberals have been repeatedly jabbed by their political opponents for lacking substance. Trudeau is charismatic, charming and passionate, yet Canadians long for something we can sink our teeth into: a firm position…on something.

Right now, the Liberals reveal only this about where they stand on issues related to the Canadian Armed Forces.

• The Conservative government has ignored its sacred obligation to care for the well-being of our troops returning home – and their families.
• Liberals will ensure that no veteran will have to fight the government for the treatment and compensation they have earned by putting their lives on the line for this country.
• We commit to re-opening the 9 Veterans Affairs Service Offices closed by the Conservative government.

You will notice that they fail to talk about the Canadian Armed Forces at all, opting instead for the hot-button topic of returning Afghan vets, followed up by a statement that will be nearly impossible to follow through on (again, concerning Vets) and then, finally, wrapping their position on the military up by making a promise to re-open the nine Veterans Affairs Service Offices closed by the Conservatives. Unfortunately, on this point, they fail to mention that part of the reason for closure is based on the fact that some of those Service Offices are based in areas where there are barely any veterans left.

Even with military superstar and former Chief of Transformation Lt. Gen. Andrew Leslie, the Liberals have failed (thus far) in communicating their future vision for a (and let’s be honest here) a very troubled Canadian military.

Enter the Conservatives, the party that came to power promising vast increases in military spending and were stymied by the downturn of the global economy, the lack of a clear rationale for large military equipment purchases, spectacular failures in procurement processes, and by a fickle Canadian public who failed to “come aboard” with support for these initiatives.

Despite making lots of noise, Canadians are keenly aware that the engine of the large, lumbering government vehicle driving procurement has been stuck in neutral for quite some time. Just ask the defence industry.

As the Conservatives edge nearer to an election that could spell the end of the Harper dynasty, the party is making few promises on defence; their vision for the Canadian Forces has slipped from murky to opaque. On their website, there is no mention of the military — but you could easily surmise, however, after a quick look around, that Justin Trudeau may be the largest threat to Canadian security.

As for the NDP, it ranks no better. Official Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair boldly told the House of Commons only a few months ago that Canada should stay out of Iraq in lieu of a concrete strategy — earning equal parts scorn and admiration — but what other direction he and the party have for the military is yet to be determined. It is a political opportunity missed: Canadians are looking for leadership concerning our Forces; the NDP would be wise to offer a plan as they compete with Conservatives in the polls.

Considering the flip side

And then there is the “other party,” filled with members whose cheeks are still red as their leader, Elizabeth May, flamed out in spectacular fashion before an uncomfortable audience at the 2015 Press Gallery Dinner. The Green Party — like them, loathe them, or count them out as insignificant — surprisingly offer a decisive (if not idealistic) vision for the Canadian Armed Forces.

The party has switched its philosophy of cutting defence spending, instead keeping it inline with current levels, reducing Canada’s participation in NATO missions in favour of UN Peacekeeping contributions and using military assets to provide disaster assistance.

Although the Green Party defence platform isn’t backed by any superstar Generals, it has noble intentions and places a great deal of attention to something that the Canadian government has become increasingly poor at: Diplomacy.

“The Green Party will restore the capacity for superb diplomacy, a traditional Canadian strength. We will increase our overseas development assistance and revamp the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to focus more on developing green economies and on poverty alleviation. We will expand our defence role in UN-led peacekeeping missions and in emergency and disaster relief and equip it accordingly.”

While the above notion will undoubtedly earn a round of vigorous scoffs, it does provide a clear direction for the Canadian Armed Forces — something that no other party has gotten around to doing. Unfortunately, it falters considerably in other areas, one of them being the ignorance of threats to Canadian soil and how our allies would feel about our new morally superior military. Despite playing the part of global “do-gooder” in the Green Party defence platform, we cannot ignore the fact that there is evil in the world. Mounting a retreat from our international “responsibilities” will lead to serious repercussions.

Now that the huge warning labels are out of the way, don’t count our their platform as idealistic tripe just yet. Elizabeth May might not be a great comedian, but she and her party are more in tune with left-leaning Canadians on defence matters than you’d think. The military is in disrepair; Canadians may not choose to use the Green Party manual to fix it, but they could certainly borrow from a few chapters.

 

Feature Photo – US and Coalition Forces Mentor ANA in Dismount Patrol, DVIDSHUB, Flickr, 2015

DefenceReport’s weekly recap is a multi-format blog that features opinions and insights from DefRep editorial staff and writers. The opinions expressed here are the author’s own and are separate from DefRep reports, which are based on independent and objective reporting.

With an election looming, federal party websites are woefully short on their visions for the Canadian Armed Forces… with one exception: The Green Party. 1 June 2015 - Ottawa, CA by Jason McNaught The Liberal Party should put a disclaimer on its website reading “More to come,” because clicking the…

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