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Liberal minister inflated defence spending figures: report

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Defence Minister Bill Blair inflated numbers on military spending, says a Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) report. It follows Department of National Defence (DND) polling where half of Canadians believe the military is underfunded.

“The Budget Office forecasts Canada’s military expenditure will rise from 1.29 percent of GDP in 2025 to a peak of 1.49 percent of GDP in 2026 before falling and stabilizing at 1.42 percent by 2030,” said a Budget Office report. “This represents $39 billion in 2025 rising to $52.2 billion in 2030.”

The April 8 budget note Addendum: National Defence Spending predicted military expenditures would grow to 1.76% of GDP by 2030, reported Blacklock’s Reporter. NATO mandates a 2% target.

Canada will soon share with its allies a “credible, verifiable plan” to boost its military and defence spending by billions of dollars to meet NATO targets, Minister Blair said at the 75th Annual NATO Summit in Washington, D.C. 

“I think we have a very aggressive plan to move forward,” he said. “I’m very confident that it’s going to bring us to that threshold.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau defended his government’s record: “When we took office, Canada was spending less than one percent of our GDP on defence each year, but we vowed to change that. And we have followed through on our word.”

The Trudeau Liberals intend to spend an additional $73 billion on defence over the next 20 years but did not clarify when it will reach 2%.

The report, Update Of Canada’s Military Expenditure And The NATO 2% Spending Target, cites two factors for discrepancies between PBO and DND figures.

“First, the Budget Office’s projection of major equipment expenditure is lower than that of the defence department since recent experience as well as multiple Budget Office reports suggest a high likelihood of delays and lapsed appropriations,” it reads.

“Second, the defence department’s forecast uses the OECD outlook for nominal GDP in line with NATO publications on military expenditures,” wrote analysts. “The Budget Office uses its own outlook.”

Minister Blair has repeatedly claimed Canada will reach the NATO target. “The 2% commitment is a challenge for Canada to reach,” Blair told reporters June 19. “We are going to reach it.” 

“We recognize we have a commitment to reach two percent,” said Blair. “I believe we must inevitably reach that level of spending.”

In May, 23 U.S. senators across party lines penned a letter to Trudeau, calling on him to bolster defence spending.

America’s NATO Ambassador, Julianne Smith, earlier condemned Canada’s “lack of commitment” to the organization. 

“Over the last 10 years, we’ve moved from three countries meeting that target to 18, with more to come, and those that aren’t meeting it right now have a plan to get there, except for Canada,” she said, emphasizing “collective security is not free.”

Of 32 NATO members, 23 countries meet or exceed the 2% GDP target. Canada is currently spending 1.37%, according to NATO’s figures.

The barrage of criticism for not meeting NATO targets continued to intensify.

Mike Johnson, the U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives, accused Canada of “riding on America’s coattails.” 

“They have the safety and security of being on our border and not having to worry about that,” he said. “I think that’s shameful.”

Almost half (46%) of Canadians surveyed say the military is underfunded, says DND research.

Asked, “Do you feel Canada’s military is underfunded, overfunded or receives about the right amount?” More than a quarter (26%) said current spending is adequate. Another 23% had no opinion, said the report, Views Of The Canadian Armed Forces 2024 Tracking Study.

Among those with a family member in the army, navy or air force, 57% believed the military is underfunded. 

Asked if they agreed with the statement, “The Canadian Armed Forces have the equipment they need to do the job,” only 27% agreed. Two in five (41%) disagreed.



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