Security spending after 9/11 tops $92B

Military spending has nearly doubled since 9/11 and national security spending is $92 billion higher, according to a report released Wednesday.
A report by the Rideau Institute released Wednesday says spending on national security is $92 billion higher than pre-9/11 levels. (Vincent Elkaim/Canadian Press)

An additional $92 billion has been spent on national security in Canada in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, according to a report released Wednesday.

The study by the Ottawa-based Rideau Institute tracked the budgets for what it calls the "new national security establishment," that it says was built in response to the terrorist attacks a decade ago and includes the departments of National Defence, Foreign Affairs, Public Safety, Justice, the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and the Canada Border Services Agency.

The study found that since 2000-01, Canada has dedicated $92 billion more to national security spending than it would have if budgets had remained in line with spending levels before the attacks in 2001, $69 billion when adjusted for inflation.

The report doesn't examine whether the money was well-spent, but rather, raises questions about whether growth in spending in those departments should continue.

"It’s a significant expenditure and I think the question for Canadians is: could that money have been better spent?" the report's author, David Macdonald, said in an interview with CBC News. "We could argue about whether it was valid … I think the question going forward is, should we spend another $92 billion or $100 billion over the next decade on what’s essentially become a national security establishment or should we use those funds some other way."

This fiscal year, Canada will spend $34 billion on national security, $17 billion more ($13 billion adjusted for inflation) than it would have spent pre-9/11, according to the Rideau Institute's calculations.

The think tank's study also says that military expenditures have nearly doubled since Sept.11, 2001, and that the Department of National Defence's budget of $21 billion this year makes it the largest consumer of national security expenditures.

Security and public safety program spending grew faster than national defence, however, the report found, nearly tripling from $3 billion pre-9/11 to almost $9 billion in 2011-12.

"The rapid growth in security and public safety programs since 9/11 warrants increased scrutiny from the government and the public," the report says.

The Canada Border Services Agency was created in 2003 and since then, spending on it grew 177 per cent, the Rideau Institute reports and spending at CSIS grew by 134 per cent.

In questioning whether Canada should continue to spend billions of dollars on national security, Macdonald said conditions have changed since 2001. Osama bin Laden is dead, for example, and Canada's participation in the combat war in Afghanistan is over, he said, adding that global economic conditions are posing more of a threat now to Canadians' security than terrorism.

"Perhaps it’s time to re-orient our priorities as opposed to continuing with something that happened a decade ago and continuing along that track," he said.

The report says $100 billion could instead be used for transit systems, a national childcare program, or a pharmacare program for prescription drugs.

The Rideau Institute used the federal government's main spending estimates to calculate the figures.

Conservative MP Candice Hoeppner, parliamentary secretary for public safety, made no apologies for the money her government has spent on national security since taking office in 2006.

"It's something we believe is a priority for Canadians, it's something that they've asked our government to do," she said. "We know it's very costly but we believe it's an important part of being a Canadian and having safety as a Canadian," she said.


Meagan Fitzpatrick is a multi-platform reporter with CBC in Toronto. She previously worked in CBC's Washington bureau and covered the 2016 election. Prior to heading south of the border Meagan worked in CBC's Parliament Hill bureau. She has also reported for CBC from Hong Kong. Follow her on Twitter @fitz_meagan