Election Coverage

Liberal Defence & Veterans Policies

The Liberal Party recently revealed part of their party platform for the Canadian Armed Forces with a focus on rebuilding the Royal Canadian Navy and axing the plan to purchase the F-35 fighter jets.

Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau’s plan calls for a replacement of the current Canada First Defence Strategy in part by focusing  on the RCN recognizing that “it was determined our navy ranks below Bangladesh in terms of capabilities, and can no longer be considered a ‘blue water’ navy.”

Trudeau plans to make the RCN a “blue water fleet” and meeting its additional ship requirements by replacing the existing CF-18 by more affordable aircrafts than the F-35 the government has been in the process of purchasing.

Trudeau’s plan points out that the per unit fly away cost of each F-35 is $175 million and a sustainment cost of $270 million. Therefore, Trudeau has stated the Liberal Party would “immediately launch an open and transparent competition to replace the CF-18 that will exclude requirements that do not reflect Canada’s interests, such as first-strike stealth capabilities.”

Trudeau promises to include guaranteed industrial benefits for Canadian companies.

The Liberal Party believes this will then pave the way for procurement of not only additional ships for the Navy but long range surveillance UAVs, rescue aircraft and additional projects of the Army.

Trudeau’s plan states that it will maintain the current National Defence spending levels. The Liberal Party has promised to use funding in a way to better equip the military.

“We will not lapse military funding from year to year, and we will re-invest in building a leaner, more agile, better equipped military. This will also include ensuring adequate support systems for military personnel and their families.”

The Liberals have also promised to cut down on the size of bureaucracy so that the CAF has “more teeth and less tail,” wording taken from retired Lt-Gen. Andrew Leslie’s Report on Transformation of 2011. In this report, he calls for cutbacks on staffing in the DND and CAF. A defence analyst at York University, Mark Shadwick, believes that if the Liberals come into power it is possible Leslie could very well be the next Minister of Defence.

“If the Liberals get in and form the government, and Andrew Leslie himself is elected, I think you could assume there’s your new Defence Minister. Therefore anything Andrew Leslie has said in the past about defence would be worth taking a look at,” said Shadwick.

Shadwick notes that if elected, Trudeau will most likely take a middle-of-the-road approach to foreign policy.

“It [Liberal Party policy] would try to restore what they see as a diminished Canadian profile on the world stage and get back to the roots of Canadian foreign defence policy,” said Shadwick.

Other concerns the Party has promised to focus on include strengthening partnerships within North America and looking into the recent cases of sexual harassment within the CAF.

Last month Trudeau revealed his plan to pledge $300 million for better support and care of veterans. The comprehensive plan to reform veterans support highlights re-establishing lifelong pensions for injured veterans, increasing the value of the disability award and ensuring that veterans have better access to financial advice and support. The Liberals promise swift change with the re-establishment reflected in the 2015-2016 budget.

Other improved benefits the Liberal Party has promised for veterans are:

  • Investing $25 million to expand access to Permanent Impairment Allowance
  • $40 million to increase the Earnings Loss Benefit to 90 per cent of pre-release salary
  • $80 million per year for a new Veterans Education Benefit that would provide full support for up to four years of education after completing service
  • $100 million per year to provide better support to families of veterans. This includes greater support in education, counseling and training
  • Increasing the veteran survivor’s Pension amount from 50 per cent to 70 per cent

Better support and care will be provided with the reopening of nine Veterans Affairs offices that had been closed while hiring 400 new service delivery staff including case managers starting in April of 2016. Trudeau promises to budget $20 million to create two new centres for veterans care, one specializing in mental health, PTSD and related impairments that retired CAF members and first responders.

If elected Trudeau has promised, “A Liberal government will live up to our obligation to Canada’s veterans and their families. We will demonstrate the respect and appreciation for our veterans that Canadians rightly expect and ensure that no veteran has to fight the government for the support and compensation they have earned.”

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Mishall Rehman

Originally from Atlanta, GA, Mishall is a freelance journalist pursuing her passion for writing in her new homeland Canada. She currently lives in Trenton, ON with her husband.

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