Nova Scotia

Minister says pricey defence strategy needed after 'under-investment' in Forces

Harjit Sajjan is in Halifax today to answer questions about the Liberal government's new long-term strategy that aims to increase defence spending by over 70 per cent to $32.7 billion by 2027.

Military analyst Ken Hansen worries adding more troops 'a huge mistake'

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is in Halifax today to talk about the release of a new national defence strategy. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Canada's defence minister is defending an ambitious and expensive strategy for the future of the Canadian Armed Forces, despite criticism from one Halifax-based military analyst that it invests in the wrong areas. 

Harjit Sajjan is in Halifax today to promote the Liberal government's new long-term strategy, which aims to increase defence spending by over 70 per cent to $32.7 billion by 2027.

"The reason why there's a significant investment is because that's what's needed," Sajjan told CBC's Information Morning. "Previous governments have under-invested in the Canadian Armed Forces and we want to make sure they have all the equipment and the environment necessary to be able to carry out their work."

The long-awaited plan, which was announced on June 7, includes modernizing the country's submarine fleet, replacing the CF-18 fleet with 88 advanced fighter aircraft and growing the number of regular and reserve troops by 5,000.

The submarine HMCS Windsor returns to Halifax in 2016 following a deployment. The new defence strategy includes funds to modernize the country's submarine fleet. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)

Sajjan pointed to ISIS and increased aggression by Russia as reasons for the spending. He said cabinet has fully funded the plan. 

"What we've done here is looked at an accurate costing process, which gives us a number that's realistic," said Sajjan. 

'Dramatic shift'

But military analyst and retired navy commander Ken Hansen is worried the strategy sounds more like a "shopping list." There's too much emphasis on traditional combat, instead of looking at how wars are fought today, he said. 

"It's a dramatic shift, and it makes me worried that they are privy to some kind of intelligence about a threat that they see developing and that a major conflict is brewing up," Hansen told CBC's Information Morning last week.

"The only other alternative is that they're being hypocritical about this and have no intention of investing this money because they know the military ... lacks the people to make capital programs go."

Hansen said the military is already having trouble maintaining bases and other infrastructure, and adding more troops is "a huge mistake."

Focus on people 

Lionel Desmond was a Canadian Forces veteran who killed his wife, daughter and mother before taking his own life. (Facebook/The Canadian Press)

Sajjan said the strategy will also provide more support for members of the Canadian Armed Forces and their families. The plan outlines $198.2 million over several years for a new Total Health and Wellness Strategy and another $6 million each year for family support programs.

"When it comes to the tragedy of Lionel Desmond or any other suicides that might have taken place in the Canadian Armed Forces, we've taken this into account very seriously to make sure that we put the right focus into place," said Sajjan.

Earlier this year, Desmond, who fought in Afghanistan and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, shot his mother Brenda, his wife Shanna and 10-year-daughter Aaliyah in Upper Big Tracadie, N.S., before killing himself.

"Our Number 1 capability is our people. Everything that you see around, whether it's our ships or planes, those are capabilities that provide support to them so we are putting a lot of emphasis on this," said Sajjan. 

With files from CBC's Information Morning