$12.8B increase means 'good day' for military

Canada's defence chief welcomes budget announcement of $12.8B increase in military spending over next 5 years.

The country's new chief of defence staff welcomed the federal budget's $12.8-billion increase in military funding over the next five years, calling Wednesday "a very good day for the Canadian Forces."

Gen. Rick Hillier said the new dollars will allow him to start boosting the size and strength of the military after two decades without a significant infusion of new money.

"We've got an investment and a commitment from our government to rebuild the Canadian Forces ... into something more relevant, something more responsive and something that is tangibly valuable for all Canadians," he said after Finance Minister Ralph Goodale delivered the budget in the House of Commons.

At the moment, the military's total budget is $13 billion a year, which supports 60,000 full-time troops.

The new money is aimed at several initiatives:

  • $3 billion will help the Canadian Forces grow by 5,000 troops and the reserves by 3,000 soldiers.
  • $3.2 billion will bolster "operational readiness."
  • $2.7 billion will be spent between 2007 and 2010 on helicopters, trucks, aircraft and a training facility for JTF2, Canada's special forces unit.
  • $3.8 billion will support projects that will arise from the government's upcoming international policy statement and defence policy review.
Interviewed by CBC immediately after the budget speech, Defence Minister Bill Graham said that last category does not include any investment in the controversial ballistic missile defence program. 

"I'll leave the prime minister to talk about government policy," Graham said, but "there is nothing in here that would relate to ballistic missile defence."

Money to come slowly at first

The new military investment will start slowly, amounting to $500 million extra in the coming fiscal year and rising to $2 billion extra by 2010.

Hillier said he had no problem with that schedule.

"It's going to take more than one year, clearly, to get out of this," he said. "We need a period of time to ramp our program up and make the best use of the money that's coming our way in later years."

The "substantial increase" in military spending was also hailed by Paul Cellucci, the American ambassador to Canada. On behalf of his government, he has long called for Canada to spend more on its troops.

"This is something we've been respectfully suggesting," he said Wednesday.

"The Canadian Forces are quite good and it's important that they have the resources they need to continue to do the job, both here in North America and around the globe."