British Columbia

New defence funding to boost Vancouver Island bases, says federal minister

The Liberal government's new defence policy lays out a plan to increase the defence budget by 70 per cent over the next decade to $32.7 billion — which could provide a boost B.C.'s Vancouver Island bases according the Canada's minister of defence.

Liberal government has commited to increasing military budget by $32.7 billion over next 10 years

Naval officers in Esquimalt, B.C. The new defence spending increase could benefit the Vancouver Island base. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

The Liberal government's $32.7 billion dollar boost to the defence budget over the next decade could benefit British Columbia, according to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

Sajjan told CBC's The Early Edition the military spending plan — which includes the construction of 15 advanced warships — could also benefit Victoria's shipyards.

Vessels like coast guard ships are already being built in B.C., he said, and two joint supply ships will also be built here, plus work on submarines.

"Because of the great work that Seaspan [the Victoria Shipyards in Esquimalt] actually did, New Zealand will be modernizing their two frigates in Canada as well," he said.

Sajjan said the military spending increases are meant to prioritize safety and security for Canada's military but he did not say specifically what could be built at Esquimalt with the new money.

"It's going to be focused on our people and part of that is making sure they have the right training and the right equipment."

A 'substantial' effect

Retired Rear Admiral Ken Summers with the Royal Canadian Navy said the funding increase was a bit of a surprise.

"It is quite a surprise since past Liberal governments have been more for soft power as opposed to hard power," he said.

Summers also said the commitment could have a "substantial" effect on Vancouver Island's military bases.

For example, he said of the 15 new combat ships, nearly half could be based in Esquimalt.

The air force base could also stand to benefit, he said. He predicted a number of the promised 88 new fighter jets would most likely end up at the air force base in Comox.

However, Summers said he will be watching if the policy announcement will actually translate into dollars.

"In the past both Liberals and Conservatives have come out with a policy that looks great, sounds great, is written great, but when priorities come up, all of a sudden, there's an emergency and we have to divert funds."

With files from The Early Edition and On The Island