Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has taken the Stance just because U.S. President Donald Trump says Canada needs to increase defense spending, doesn’t mean it’s something Canada will do. Trump has stated in a number of speeches, and again at the current NATO summit, that the U.S. is spending too much on the alliance and that the other member nations of NATO need to contribute more. The primary way to do this, is for each nation to increase their defense budget to two percent of their respective GDPs. This has nothing to do with the “back-pay” Trump has alluded to other NATO nations owing the U.S., most notably, Germany.
Trudeau has decided that regardless of how Trump thinks NATO nations should be spending their money, that for Canada, defense spending is not going to be an area they increase. In fact, the latest budget proposals for Canada show a decrease in defense spending. The CBC has reported that Canada will spend 1.23 percent of their GDP on defense, which is down from 1.36 percent last year.
According to a column appearing in Newsweek, a spokesperson from Canada’s Department of National Defence, Daniel Le Bouthillier, said the difference in spending has a lot to do with a series of one-off payments, particularly a retroactive pay increase for service members, and a large contribution to their pension fund. As such, the money to cover that was taken from the defense budget. The money had to come from somewhere, and that was the logical place.
This, of course, did not please Trump who was expecting the neighbor to the north to fall in line and increase defense spending. Trudeau, however, was quite clear with the CBC, that Canada isn’t buying into the necessity of meeting a two percent spending target.
“There are no plans to double our defense budget,” Trudeau told reporters at the end of a bilateral visit to Latvia, where he announced Canadian troops would remain until 2023. “I think the two percent metric is an easy shorthand … it is a very specific and, to a certain extent, limited tool.”
Canada’s long-range plans have military spending pegged at 1.4 percent of GDP by 2024, and Trudeau and most members of the Canadian government seem to be in agreement that 1.4 percent is a more than sufficient expenditure. That number will likely keep Canada around its current position of 18 of 29 regarding NATO nation’s defense spending.
Trudeau summed up his feeling regarding the two percent spending marker in an interview with The Globe and Mail which removes any doubt, in his opinion, that Canada is doing their part for NATO.
“Ultimately, the more important metrics are always, ‘Are countries stepping up consistently with the capacities that NATO needs? Are we leading in different opportunities? Are we contributing the kinds of resources and demonstrating the kind of commitment to the alliance that always needs to be there?”‘