A new survey from the Pew Research Center says almost two-thirds of Canadians now support NATO — just as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government continues to spend less than one percent of its GDP on defense spending — when it is expected to contribute double that.
The questionnaire also determined that 58 percent of Canadians are prepared to fight if another NATO member is attacked.
Support for NATO has also increased in the U.S., despite President Donald Trump’s past statements questioning the organization’s efficacy.
The research was released Tuesday, just as the leaders of all NATO members are converging on Brussels for the alliance’s annual summit Thursday.
It could not come at a less opportune time for the Trudeau government. In its last budget, it sidelined all major equipment purchases, totaling some $8.4 billion, well into future spending plans. It continues to delay the release of a defense review that was due months ago but will now be announced only after Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland makes a major announcement on peacekeeping — presumably about a controversial mission to Mali.
Trudeau continues to persist in his suggestion that “good intentions” and “participation” are more important than how much you spend on your military.
Conservative Defense Critic James Bezan dismisses that kind of talk.
“The Prime Minister will be going to our allies empty handed. The Liberal government made a commitment to reveal Canada’s new defence policy and return to peacekeeping by the end of 2016, but still have nothing to show,” he told The Daily Caller.
“The consecutive budget cuts to our military introduced by Prime Minister Trudeau are a slap in the face to our NATO allies. While other allied nations have been implementing increases to their defence spending, this government has used the past two budgets to take a step in the opposite direction,” said Bezan.
David Perry, a defense analyst at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, agrees. He told CBC that Trudeau isn’t fooling anyone — least of all the administration of Donald Trump.
He says they NATO summit will be subject to severe spin doctoring.
“If it’s not a disaster, it’s a success,” Perry says.
But don’t anticipate Canada to be hauled out on the carpet at the Brussels meeting for its penurious defense spending or shamed for reneging on its promises to contribute 2 percent of its GDP toward that end.
“Don’t expect the U.S. to really call out Canada individually and publicly. That is not how diplomacy works,” retired colonel Lee J. Hammond told CBC News.
“Canadians will never hear the real comments — that will all happen behind closed doors,” says Hammond, a defense analyst who used to be a strategic planner with the Canadian Armed Forces.
But the real damage could come in other areas.
“If we are not pulling our weight on defense spending, the Americans will care, and President Trump will hold it against us, I expect.”