Election 2015 means that Canada once again gets to hear from the various political parties on the issue of National Defence. Sometimes such platforms bring vision, a new direction. Such was the case with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s promise of three heavy armed icebreakers for the Canadian Navy. Other times the platforms reveal policies that would lead to weakness in the military, cuts that would reduce the capability or capacity of our ability to respond in time of need.
Esprit de Corp magazine has published a link to the four Party’s various defence policies on their website, so let’s take a look at the policies and how they might affect the Canadian Forces and Canada.
Green Party of Canada
The Green’s start off pretty strong. They reasonably identify problems facing the Canadian Forces including procurement and funding issues. It’s actually a very strong start, not at all what I expected from the Party to be honest. Then it starts to unravel, revealing weaknesses in policy or understanding that wouldn’t bode well for the Country should the Green Party achieve power.
Some specific examples:
“Such a debate would likely lead to support for alternatives to the F-35s, such as upgrading our aging CF-18s…”
The CF-18 aircraft, like all tactical aircraft, have a finite service life. Some life extension is possible, but it rapidly becomes far more expensive for diminishing returns. Even the current plan of pushing the CF-18 out to a retirement date of approximately 2025 is fraught with hazard, to push any further is bordering on the foolhardy.
“We need to move to request proposals to supply these aircraft and prioritize those tenders made by Canadian manufacturers.”
The Fixed Wing Search And Rescue (FWSAR) replacement already has an RFP issued, it was issued on March 31, 2015. There are, unfortunately, no Canadian manufacturers that are compliant with the project specifications.
“…three of our four submarines are finally seaworthy, but they are still not fully capable of under-ice operations…”
The Victoria-class submarines have had a long and often tortuous entry into RCN service, and they do remain incapable of any significant under-ice operations. The reason for that is simple; they were never designed for such use. The Party does not appear to advocate either refitting the Victoria-class with either the air-independent propulsion required for such operation, or replacing them with a new class that is inherently capable.
“Finally, Canada’s Coast Guard icebreakers are aging, yet colossally ineffective procurement processes have resulted in the Royal Canadian Navy effectively having no new ice-breaking ships, only ones that are “ice-strengthened.”
This section ignores the planned CCGS John Diefenbaker. It also ignores the idea that the RCN’s new Harry DeWolfe-class patrol vessels are not meant to be icebreakers. They are patrol vessels that will deploy to the Arctic. They only need to be capable during the patrol season.
The remainder of the policy is not really a Defence policy at all. Peacekeeping and Foreign Relations impinge on Canadian Security to be sure, but they are part of a larger narrative that should be addressed in greater detail separately.
Final Grade: F
The policy simply isn’t adequate. There are major holes in things like the CF-18 replacement, and in understanding of current issues facing the Canadian Forces such as the FWSAR program.