The Progressive Conservative Party led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper has only revealed snippets of their party platform on defence.
However, many experts believe if elected again the Harper government will continue to follow policies they have adhered to for the past nine years.
“They’re not going to run away from what they’ve done they’re not going to come up with any new initiatives. I don’t see the Conservatives doing anything surprising at this moment in time,” said Dr. Stephen Saideman Paterson Chair in International Affairs at Carleton University.
So, what policies has the Harper Government adhered it to while in power? The concrete answer to this question is the Canada First Defence Strategy unveiled in 2008, two years after Harper became prime minister. The document is the guiding principal for the modernization of the CAF. However, this document was declared unaffordable in 2012.
The conservative government also maintains that since it came into power they have been able to take steps to rebuild the RCN through the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy worth close to $35 billion; they have also partnered with the U.S. to fight ISIL and taken a stand against Russia and assist Ukraine.
The Conservatives have helped to acquire new fleets of C-17 Globemaster III aircraft for strategic airlift, C-130J Hercules and Chinook helicopters. In Nov. 2014, the Government announced an investment of an additional $452 million over the next two years to maintain and improve infrastructure for the military and their families.
Another indication of what the Conservatives would do if reelected is to look at the 2015 budget. The current government has promised several changes in the 2015 budget for defence. These include:
- Increase National Defence’s budget by $11.8 billion over the next ten years starting in 2017
- Provide National Defence with up to $360.3 million in 2015-2016 to counter ISIL
- Provide 7.1 million for CAF to deliver enhanced training assistance to Ukrainian Security Forces
- Provide $23 million over four years on cash basis to upgrade physical security of CAF bases
- Provide 292.6 million over five years to counter terrorism
The budget also looks into improving the New Veterans Charter for enhanced benefits. Programs, such as Permanent Impairment Allowance, have been or are in the process of expansion.
The Government expects $85.5 million over the next five years will be used to increase benefits and services for veterans. The budget also promises $193.4 million over five years to Veterans Affairs to improve services delivered to veterans and their families, the hiring 100 new case managers and 100 new disability benefits staff.
What is certain for the CAF if Harper is reelected is the expansion of reservist forces. Last month, Harper announced a plan to increase the amount of reservists from 24,000 to 30,000 within the next mandate. He has set aside $163 million over the next three years to reach this target and an additional $64.4 million once the target is achieved.
Harper points out the importance of reservists in making the CAF a viable force overall. “A larger Primary Reserve will significantly augment the surge capacity of the CAF in emergencies and have a broader capacity to assist in the protection of Canada’s sovereignty, respond to national emergencies such as floods and forest fires and better protect Canada’s coastal and offshore waters.”
In his announcement, Harper also promised to maintain the budget for defence, connect CAF to the regular Canadian and build up the infrastructure of the CAF with $136 million invested into the Infrastructure Investment Plan to provide modern and hi-tech facilities upgrading 60 armouries across Canada.
Though not specifically mentioned yet by the conservatives, it is also expected they will make specific suggestions for improving the current procurement program.
“I’m certain they would want to put more priority in getting the defence procurement system to work more efficiently. There are lots of projects that have been rather sluggish for various reasons. They’ve [Conservative party] certainly indicated that they want that fixed that way they can deliver the promises they made earlier in their first and second terms in office,” said Dr. Martin Shadwick a defence analyst at York University.[poll id=”7″]