Just a few weeks ago, the government agreed with NATO allies on a “long-term commitment” to meet the alliance’s two-per-cent spending benchmark. Now, the Liberal government is planning to cut nearly $1 billion from DND’s annual budget — a move that the country’s chief military commander says is causing “difficult” discussions within the military.
DND’s Chief of the Defence Staff, General Wayne Eyre, and Deputy Minister, Bill Matthews, spoke to the House of Commons’ defence committee on Thursday, where they outlined the implications of the government’s proposed spending cuts. Eyre and Matthews issued a joint internal statement earlier this month, warning that the department will be “part of the overall plan” to reduce spending.
According to DND’s 2023-24 budget estimates, the department is expected to have a $26.5-billion budget for this year. Word of the projected cuts, which has not yet been made public, comes just a few weeks after the government agreed to meet the NATO spending benchmark of two percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Achieving the NATO spending benchmark would require a significant increase in the defense appropriation.
According to NATO’s most recent annual report, Canada’s military spending amounted to 1.3 percent of GDP last year, below the target of 1.5 percent. The cuts come on the heels of the Liberal government’s missteps at the NATO summit last month in Vilnius (Lithuania). The government has faced criticism and pressure from allies to increase its financial commitment to the alliance. It’s unclear how the planned cuts will impact Canada’s commitment to NATO.
In August, former defence minister Anita Anand told other federal cabinet cabinet members that they would have to cut $15 billion in government spending over the next two years. She said they had until October 2 to come up with ideas. Anand said the government wants to make sure that money is spent wisely while still delivering on key promises like dental and child care.