Tories would bring back airborne regiment
Last Updated: Tuesday, December 13, 2005 | 2:23 PM ET
Harper made the announcement at Trenton, Ont., where he said the new battalion and large strategic lift aircraft would be based. The Conservatives would also buy planes to replace the military's aging fleet of Hercules aircraft.
Stephen Harper in Trenton, Ont., Tuesday.
- INTERACTIVE: Parties & Issues
Military spending over the next five years would increase by more than $5 billion compared to the plan set out by the Liberal government, Harper said. By 2010, he said, a Conservative government would be spending $1.8 billion more per year than the Liberals.
"The Canadian Forces deserve better than the neglect that they have seen for the past 12 years," he said.
Asked about his plan to create a new airborne battalion of 650 troops stationed in Trenton, Harper said he doesn't believe there's a stigma attached to the idea of airborne troops.
- ARCHIVES: The Somalia Affair
The Airborne Regiment, which was based in Petawawa, was disbanded in 1995 following a 1993 deployment as peacekeepers to Somalia, during which Canadian soldiers beat a Somali teenager to death.
Harper said, "The government of the day disbanded the Airborne Regiment to avoid getting to the bottom of a particular incident."
The Conservatives also plan to double the capacity of the Disaster Assistance Response Team, which has been deployed around the world to help in relief efforts following natural disasters such as last year's tsunami and the earthquake this fall in Pakistan.
Critics have complained in the past that DART, an ad hoc team of about 200 Canadian Forces staff who can ship out quickly to conduct emergency relief operations for up to 40 days, is expensive to deploy.
Some have suggested the money would be better spent given to non-governmental organizations.
- INDEPTH: DART
Conservative MP Helena Guergis said in October that sending DART to Pakistan would "waste millions on a photo-op instead of disaster relief."
Harper said the Conservatives believe strengthening the military is important to maintain the country's sovereignty, which he said means protecting the borders and dealing with domestic disasters. He also said, "We need strong Canadian Forces to project Canadian values abroad."
Canada would not send troops to Iraq if he were prime minister, he said.
"I have never believed that Canada had the capacity to participate in the Iraq conflict as a military intervenor," Harper said.
But he said his government might reconsider joining the U.S. missile defence plan, something the Liberals rejected.
Tuesday's announcements were only the beginning of the Conservative military spending package, he said.