According to recently leaked documents, Trudeau allegedly told NATO officials that Canada will never meet its defence spending commitments. Pictured is the Prime Minister at Adazi military base in Latvia, Mar. 8, 2022. Photo credit: AFP/Toms Norde via Getty Images
It’s never good when American news outlets have the inside scoop on Canadian politics. In most cases, the story must be salacious enough to capture readers on both sides of the border. Think Time Magazine breaking the story of Justin Trudeau wearing brownface during the 2019 election.
This week brought a fresh headline for Trudeau, albeit under a very different set of circumstances. According to leaked Pentagon documents obtained by the Washington Post, the Prime Minister allegedly told NATO officials that Canada will never meet its defence spending commitments. Naturally, our allies aren’t happy about it.
Oops. After years of platitudes on the subject, it looks like the Prime Minister finally came clean and said the quiet part out loud in hopes the conversation would stay behind closed doors.
Unfortunately for Trudeau, the Washington Post is one of the largest and most credible media outlets in the United States, and the story was front and center on their website Wednesday afternoon.
Talking heads will argue that this is not a problem of Trudeau’s making, and that the writing has been on the wall for decades. While it is true that the previous Conservative government also failed to reach NATO spending targets, the geopolitical climate has changed significantly since the Trudeau government took power in 2015. Despite recent instability, Canada has not markedly changed its strategy to meet the current defence and security challenges.
Ukraine continues to fight for survival in the war against Russia. China is flexing its muscle in the Indo-Pacific region, and is embroiled in allegations of foreign interference right here in Canada. The threat of nuclear war is back in the spotlight, after being dormant since the Cold War.
It’s not just Canada who has been negligent when it comes to defence spending. Many allied nations are guilty of failing to meet their NATO obligations in recent years, but the current conditions have lit an unprecedented fire that has resulted in pledges of billions of dollars of military spending that are being acted on.
Sweden, who is in an active bid to join NATO, is on track to meet the defence spending threshold by 2026. Their ascension through the NATO process is notable and stands in stark contrast to current members like Canada who have let their military spending fall to the wayside.
There are currently 30 countries that are part of the NATO security alliance, and in 2022, Canada ranked 25th in terms of military spending. While the Trudeau government argues that recently announced spending commitments will help outfit the country’s military to meet modern challenges, it doesn’t change the fact that we are years behind our allies in terms of shoring up our military to respond to the current threat landscape.
Canada’s unwillingness to change course and arm our country to meet the security challenges presented by an increasingly unstable geopolitical climate should come as concern for not only Canadians, but the allies who rely on us to contribute in times of need. As for our enemies, they know we are vulnerable.
When it comes to Canada’s military readiness, we must hope for the best, given we have failed to prepare for the worst.
Josie Sabatino is a Senior Consultant at Summa Strategies, focused on providing strategic insight and helping clients meet their objectives in an ever changing and complex political and regulatory environment. Prior to joining Summa, Josie spent nearly a decade in political communications and most recently served as the Director of Communications to the Hon. Erin O’Toole, former Leader of the Official Opposition.