"Canada has been increasing the defense spending, as I mentioned in London and elsewhere. It's up some 27 per cent since we took office. And more importantly, a significant percentage of that expansion of expenditure is investments in equipment and capacities of the Canadian Armed Forces for the future." -- Prime Minister Stephen HarperUnfortunately this is only part of the story. The real story lies here. Yes, the Harper government has spent more money, but not as much as they claim and there have been very real cuts in the past few years.
One of the real questions is whether whatever spending there has been has really accomplished anything.
There has been the on-going saga of the F-35 fighter jet program. The government claimed that the program would cost $12B. The Conservative-appointed Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, and others, came out a few years ago and revealed that the program would cost at least $45B, likely more. Depending on the time frame and who you choose to believe (other than the Government), the true costs could be anywhere up to maybe $50B over the lifetime of the plane. In any case, the whole program has been an utter disaster. There was no competitive bidding and it appears the plane has problems. So, here we are, 9+ years into the Conservative's administration and the issue sill hasn't been resolved. The question still remains whether the Canadian military needs a fighter jet and if this jet is the right one.
Then there is the issue of replacing the tired, old Sea King helicopters. This project has been in the works since 1983. You would think that an administration so concerned with the military would find a way to sort this out, but as of 2013, the project is far over budget, far beyond the completion date and the government was then talking about canceling the whole project.
A year or so ago, one of the two military supply ships that Canada owns suffered a catastrophic fire. It now sits at dock. The second ship is due to be retired soon. It's difficult to know what the government's plans are here, but recently Canada rented a supply ship from Chile. I'm not sure if this marks a new low for the Canadian military, but it doesn't say much about a country that can't even figure out how to put a couple of supply ships in the water. Another story about the Chilean supply ship is here as well.
During the election campaign, Harper made at least one announcement about increasing the size of the military reserve. This is a repeat of a promise made back in 2008, but if it's a good promise, I guess it needs to be repeated. Some weren't impressed, however, including one retired senior officer:
The greatest amount of flack has come from the Harper government's treatment of veterans. From closing veterans' support offices to trying to weasel out of support payments to injured veterans to spending taxpayers' money to fight veterans in court, the past few years have not shown the Conservatives in the best possible light. Veterans have been busy forming groups to try and defeat Harper and his government.
For many of the Harper decade, his Minister of Defense was Peter (Playboy) MacKay. There can be little doubt that his tenure was a complete disaster. He was good at calling in military helicopters to shuttle him to and from fishing trips, but sorting out the problems in the military, especially when it comes to equipment, fell by the wayside.
In short, while the talk has been all puff and swagger and sounding of support, the reality has been much different. Like much of what Harper and his cronies have had to say over the years, it's much talk and hot air but very little substance.
One more reason why Canadians should not support Mr Harper and his candidates in this election.