Continuing my search for a Federal candidate or a Party, I’m looking at defence this week.
Unlike the US, our Commander in Chief (C-in-C) is not elected. The Queen of Canada is the C-in-C of the Canadian Forces (CF) – a role that is performed by Her Governor General (GG) hence the uniforms worn by the GG. The CF cannot deploy or go to war except over the signature of the C-in-C on the advice of the Privy Council for Canada. Canada’s military is unaffected by changes in government for the most part.
The CF comprises the Regular Force, the Reserve Force, and – when necessary – the Special Force. The profession of arms in Canada is composed of military members dedicated to the defence of Canada and, historically, wars involving Canada are fought by a Special Force raised just for the duration. Unlike many nations, our Coast Guard is a special operating agency of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. It has no law enforcement authority and cannot conduct naval operations. In my world, it should be part of the CF.
The Department of National Defence (DND) exists to support the CF although the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) still lives within DND to serve all of government. The who can serve, how many, what capabilities, where to focus, what alliances, and the why of the CF and the DND is governed by the current Defence Policy and that could be a Defence Policy written by a previous government under a different Party – but the ‘how’ always belongs to the C-in-C and the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS).
The Trudeau-Junior Liberal Party government promulgated a new Defence Policy in 2017 called “Strong, Secure, Engaged”. Unlike other iterations of Canadian Defence Policy that I have read – and lived by – this one is significantly different in focus, format, and content. The focus is on the role of DND. The format emphasizes the DND role. The content is primarily DND and not CF.
Unlike previous Defence Policies, finding the priorities for the CF takes some digging but it is on this pointy-end content that I place my attention. The priorities for the CF appear to be a renewed NORAD, a robust commitment to NATO, the UN, and Coalitions, and better intelligence in order to anticipate threats, adapt to emerging challenges, and act decisively. The CF has always fulfilled the biggest part of the intelligence role in Canada and that is now being enhanced. The intelligence mandate remains as before but there is a significant reliance on new technology here and throughout the new Defence Policy.
The Reserve Force goes from a collection of individual part-timers to a collection of full-time mission-capable formations with part-time soldiers. That’s a huge change. The new policy envisions an updated NORAD that includes a space component and a modernized North Warning System. Cyber operations get an offensive capability. That’s both new and significant. Finally, the new policy states “Increase Special Operations Forces by 605 personnel”. That speaks volumes for future deployments.
What I take away from this new Defence Policy by our current Liberal government is an expanded intelligence capability and a shrinking operational role. In other words, listen and look everywhere, and deploy when necessary, but don’t leave home unless accompanied by friends. I quote: “To ensure Canada remains strong at home, secure in North America, and engaged in the world …”, the CF will defend Canada, defend North America (NORAD), contribute to NATO to deter and defeat adversaries, contribute to the UN and others to stabilize or bring peace, help others help themselves, assist the civil authority, and do search & rescue.
Overall, this new Defence Policy has a homeland defence imperative.
I can live with the policy, but because it relies heavily on new technology, the issue will be money. Probably, the Liberals and Conservatives would fund it, but the Greens and NDP might not – and then we would have nothing. Will the Parties make their intentions clear in the coming election campaign?
I’m still looking … at issues that are within the Federal jurisdiction. After all, it is a Federal election.