Canada’s defence strategy for the next 20 years will be based on speeches by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Defence Minister Peter MacKay given on Monday in Halifax.


In a highly unusual move, the Conservative government will base its entire future rebuilding of the Canadian military on Mr. Harper’s 10-minute speech and Mr. MacKay’s 700-word address.


No actual strategy document has been produced, nor will be produced, according to government and defence officials. Neither speech went into any specific details about equipment purchases, costs or timelines or how the future strategy will unfold. Both speeches presented more broad-brush approaches to defence.


Asked about when the actual Canada First Defence Strategy was going to be released, Jay Paxton, Mr. MacKay’s press secretary replied that “It is a strategy that you heard enunciated by the Prime Minister and Minister MacKay.”


“It is not a ‘document’ like a white paper — it is the vision delivered today for long-term planning for the CF,” he added. “As such, the speeches are the strategy.”


Mr. Harper’s speech repeated some of the same phrases from previous addresses, including the need to have a strong military. “If you want to be taken seriously in the world, you need the capacity to act – it’s that simple,” Mr. Harper said. “The Canada First Defence Strategy will strengthen our sovereignty and security at home and bolster our ability to defend our values and interests abroad.”


Mr. MacKay’s speech talked about the purchase of fixed wing search-and-rescue aircraft, new fighter planes, replacements for destroyers and frigates, combat vehicles for the army and a replacement for Aurora maritime patrol aircraft. He did not provide any details about how much such procurements would cost or the timelines for such purchases.


Mr. MacKay also talked about improving key infrastructure used by the Canadian Forces and increasing military readiness but did not go into details about either.


The Conservatives did retreat on an election promise which called for a boost to the size of the regular military to 75,000 and the reserves to around 35,000. Now the size of the regular force will be 70,000 and 30,000 for the reserves, an expansion that will take place “over the course of the plan,” according to Mr. MacKay.


The Canada First plan covers the next 20 years.




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