The 2015 campaign has witnessed Tom Mulcair boldly take on issues of foreign policy, and there are whispers regarding the New Democratic Party if elected, would maintain a sizeable defence budget. However, the NDP’s history does not tell a story of a party highly in favour of the military.
“The NDP has traditionally been a pacifist party. They’ve voted against every single military deployment…,” said Stephen Saideman, the Paterson Chair in International Affairs at Carleton University.
Historically, the NDP has opposed Canada’s involvement in NATO and has spoken in favour of Canada becoming a nuclear-free zone. The NDP also expressed concerns about increasing military integration with the U.S., weaponization of space. The NDP disregards tactics employed by U.S. leaders around the world and called for the CAF to be used in UN peacekeeping missions.
However, experts note that there has been a distinct shift in policy over the past decade within the NDP. Saideman notes that Jack Layton, NDP party leader from 2003-2011, made an exception to the rule when he voted in favour for the mission in Libya, an attempt to move the party more to the center.
“I think that was probably because it was defined as a Responsibility to Protect mission and partly because Jack Layton was trying to drag his party close to the mainstream and to oppose that mission would have made it seem that the party was out of the mainstream,” said Saideman.
In the 2011 Federal elections, Layton assured voters that the NDP would keep defence spending at $21 billion, the current number set by the Conservative government. And though the NDP does call for an adequate defence budget, they still have been in favour of traditional peacekeeping missions.
“It’s true that, under the UN arrangements, that a different emphasis has been placed,” he said. “But still I think Canadians want to see us playing more of the role of peacemakers and want to see that in higher priority in the modern context. … It reflects expertise that we’ve developed over many years which has been allowed to atrophy under recent governments,” said Jack Layton in a speech made in Esquimalt, BC in 2011.
The NDP is yet to release a substantial defence plan which makes it uncertain how willing Mulcair is to move his party to the center.
However, look at Mulcair’s record in the 41st Parliament session alone, he has voted in favour of several bills and motions that positively impact veterans support and benefits.[poll id=”7”]