Great. Thank you, Mr. Chair, for this opportunity to meet with you and committee members once again. It is my distinct pleasure to provide a brief overview of our new defence policy—“Strong, Secure, Engaged”. The Government of Canada is committed to keeping Canada strong at home, secure in North America, and engaged in the world.
First, I'd like to thank the committee for its efforts to contribute to and support the development of our new defence policy. In particular, the information and recommendations in your fall 2016 report on Canada's participation in NORAD and the defence of North America were extremely helpful. I also want to thank you for your most recent report, “The Readiness of Canada's Naval Forces”, which I look forward to reviewing and responding to in due course.
The parliamentary engagement in our new defence policy was part of our most comprehensive consultation exercise ever conducted on defence and security issues, and Canadians certainly had a lot to say, providing over 20,000 public submissions. That does not include the more than 4,700 participants who contributed comments online, or the many more who participated in nine expert round table discussions held across the country. We also spoke with our allies and partners, many of whom had recently updated their own defence policies and were able to share their experiences.
I suspect that we heard similar things to them during our respective consultations. For one thing, we heard that the Canadian Armed Forces has long been underfunded and under-resourced. We expect that our allies were told the same about their respective militaries. As you know from your work on this issue, the status quo spending on defence is insufficient to maintain the current capability. Your observations regarding the global security environment and aerospace threats to North America, the requirements to modernize NORAD to meet evolving threats, and the importance of strengthening the Royal Canadian Air Force were all very timely.
Since I began as Minister of National Defence, I've been clear that my first priority is that our women and men in uniform deliver on the vision set out in “Strong, Secure, Engaged”. We will grow the size of the regular force by 3,500, to 71,500 personnel; and increase the reserve force by 1,500, to 30,000. We will also hire an additional 1,150 civilians in the Department of National Defence to support them. We are improving how we recruit and have put in place targeted initiatives to attract, enrol, and retain women and men who reflect the diversity of Canadians.
The members of the Canadian Armed Forces are proud to serve their country, and we deploy them to difficult and dangerous environments. We have a duty of care to our women and men in uniform, and we are committed to improving the assistance, services, and care we provide them, and to their families as well, for the duration of their careers as they transition to post-military life. They deserve nothing less.
Our new defence policy will keep Canada strong at home, secure in North America, and engaged in the world. Being strong at home is about ensuring the safety and security of the Canadian people, which is our top priority. The Canadian Armed Forces will monitor the approaches to Canada and have high-readiness assets available at all times to respond if potential threats are detected. We will detect, deter, and defend against threats to, or attacks against, Canada. The forces will also develop and maintain a robust capacity to respond concurrently to multiple domestic emergencies when called upon in support of civilian authorities. We will ensure that our search and rescue crews, who assist thousands of people in distress every year, have the resources they require to help Canadians when called upon.
Being secure in North America means that we will be active in a modern, continental defence partnership with the United States. The policy pledges us to work closely with our neighbour to modernize NORAD to meet the threats in an evolving security environment. This includes continued co-operation in renewing the north warning system, on which we are already collaborating with the U.S. To further protect North America, the policy commits to expanded aerospace and maritime domain awareness and control, and to taking an all-perils' approach to protecting against the full range of air and maritime threats.
Being engaged in the world means that the Canadian Armed Forces is well-equipped to contribute to a more stable, peaceful world. As Minister Freeland noted when unveiling our new foreign policy priorities, it would not be in Canada's interest to leave world peace and stability to the great powers to settle among themselves.
Our policy will prepare the Canadian Armed Forces to advance Canadian international security objectives, from conducting expeditionary operations to engaging in capacity-building with partners, and to support our allies where our shared interests are at stake.
At all times, Canadian engagement will be guided by the Canadian values of inclusion, compassion, accountable government, and respect for diversity and human rights. We will pursue leadership roles and will prioritize interoperability in planning and capability development to ensure seamless cooperation with allies and partners, particularly with NATO. We will be a responsible international actor, including through participation in United Nations peace operations.
Key to achieving that is providing our people with the tools they need to get the job done. In your report you identified an urgent need to move ahead with the recapitalization of the Royal Canadian Air Force. Our new policy outlines numerous projects that will result in greater air power. For example, we will acquire 88 advanced fighters to replace the CF-18 fleet, through an open, fair, and transparent competition. This will help ensure Canada's long-term relevance in the future security environment and help us to meet our NORAD and NATO commitments simultaneously. However, air power means more than just fighters, and we intend to provide the air force with the resources it needs to take on all assignments.
Your report called for airlift capability, which is essential to our ability to operate when and where we are needed. As such, the Globemaster and the Hercules fleet will be sustained and our utility transports, the Twin Otters, will be overhauled and their life cycle extended until at least 2025. A replacement project is also planned to ensure the ability of the Canadian Armed Forces to operate in the north over the long term.
Canada's utility tactical transport helicopter provides tactical airlift to soldiers and helps with the rescue of civilians in the High Arctic and offers support during natural disasters. We will ensure its reliability through a platform life extension, in addition to planned modification under the CH-146 optimized weapons system support contract, valued at $640 million over 10 years. We will also dedicate additional personnel to better leverage the exceptional information gathered by the sensor suite of the CP-140 Aurora, and support capabilities such as air-to-air refuelling by the CC-150 Polaris, and we will eventually purchase new replacements as well. These capabilities will be critical to the success of the Royal Canadian Air Force for many years to come.
Our new policy is ambitious. However, it is also the most rigorously costed defence policy in Canada's history. It is backed up by a commitment to sufficient and long-term predictable funding. This policy will increase the annual defence budget by more than 70%, from $18.9 billion to $32.7 billion by 2026-27. It also includes new defence funding of $62.3 billion over 20 years from today's budget.
As I've stated previously, I do not believe that the level of defence spending as a percentage of GDP tells the whole story with regard to our actual contribution. Canada has consistently shown that it is ready to step up when it matters. However, “Strong, Secure, Engaged” will see Canada's defence spending reach 1.4% of GDP by 2024-25. Of that, almost one third will be spent on capital projects, exceeding the NATO target by more than 60%. Whenever duty calls, Canada's military will have the means to take on the task, whether that involves enforcing our sovereignty, monitoring our approaches, supporting diplomacy, delivering humanitarian aid and disaster relief, enhancing capacity building, or strengthening global peace.
I'm very proud of “Strong, Secure, Engaged” and would be pleased to talk about any aspects of our new defence policy.
I welcome your questions.