Madam Speaker, it is important that I thank the member for Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, and it is also important to read out what the motion is about. It states:
That, given that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance has made an immeasurable contribution to peace, security, and prosperity for all its members, the House call on the government to increase spending on national defence to at least two per cent of Canada's gross domestic product, in accordance with NATO's 2014 Wales Summit Declaration.
For the folks out there watching today wondering why we put the motion forward, it is because this simply was not getting done.
I am going to focus my arguments on Arctic sovereignty and security. The reason I will do that is we need to understand in Canada that Putin has even made aggressive moves toward our own country. He has made claims to the Arctic seabed, which would add just under a million square kilometres to his existing claim. It is concerning to us as a nation, but it is especially concerning to our residents in the Arctic, and frankly to our allies as well. The threat is real. We have seen Putin deliver on that threat in Crimea and Ukraine, and he is very capable of delivering on it with others as well.
I will start off my arguments with what the experts are saying. We hear rhetoric from the Liberals, but we also hear some good comments from members who have been on the committee for many years. They give an accurate assessment, and I commend them for that.
I will start with my first article, “Canadian Forces in desperate need of new spending, procurement follow-through, experts say”. This is an article posted on April 2, 2022, which is very recent. Dave Perry, the president of the independent foreign policy and defence think tank, had these comments:
Perry said the image of the military used to be one focused on peacekeeping, but the direction the Forces are supposed to take is less clear now.
After that, Perry said the first step “would be for the government to actually make a decision about whether or not spending the money is a priority or not. I don't think there's been much evidence that it has been for this government.”
All we are asking for this afternoon is to bring spending up to the 2% commitment, that promise, especially considering the threat is very real in our north, especially in the Arctic.
It is one thing for us to have a rhetorical battle here in the House of Commons, but I am going to speak to what some leaders in the Arctic are saying about their concerns around their own security and sovereignty.
This is in another recent article, from March 24, 2022:
N.W.T. Premier Caroline Cochrane said Russia's aggressive actions should serve as a wake-up call to shore up safety and resiliency in the North.
“Now with Russia invading Ukraine, it does show that we are vulnerable,” she said. “We need to make sure that we have the structures, the infrastructure in place, the services in place so that our people can not only thrive but that we can maintain Arctic sovereignty.”
Here is a leader of one of our territories who is very concerned about this.
I will go to a mayor in the Arctic as well, Clarence Wood, who is the mayor of Inuvik. The article notes:
He says he's not worried for the safety of people living in Inuvik right now, but he also thinks locals would be “foolish not to be worried” about Arctic sovereignty, in light of current events.
“Russia has ambitions,” he said. “They've always had ambitions in the Arctic, and with the expansion of their military to their Arctic regions, it puts us even closer. So, yeah, I'd say we have concerns. We have a very limited military presence. I don't think it would take the Russians very long to go through here if they put their mind to it.”
Here again is a mayor on the front lines in the Arctic who has concerns and obviously represents the people of his region. I have heard this. I have been to several Arctic conferences, and a common comment I hear from residents is that this is their front yard and they are seeing a potential threat coming across the Arctic and the North Pole.
I know time is limited and always is in this place, so I will speak to the motion and what is actually being done.
I think 2% is an aspirational goal. Obviously it is something that has been aspired to by previous governments. It is one thing to aspire to it in word, but it is another to aspire to it in actual delivery. What I am getting at is that it is one thing to make big promises and say, “Hey, we are going to do this”, but then not deliver. An example of that would be in the estimates around Arctic sovereignty. We have seen comments from the government, again talking big.
Speaking to what the member from Saskatchewan said before regarding accusing former prime minister Stephen Harper of talking to Putin and not having done anything, at least we had a prime minister who would stand up to him, and aggressively so. He understood the threats to Ukraine and other nations around Russia, and he spoke to Putin in a way that he needed to be spoken to. I think our country wishes our Prime Minister would do similarly, but that just is not happening.
In getting back to the estimates, we looked at what the government is actually spending on this. We know the commitments of NORAD. We have heard from many experts that billions are necessary to upgrade our northern defence system. The government had only committed $163 million as of last year to even try to attempt to fix the system. General VanHerck, a leader of NORAD, as an example, has said that billions are necessary to upgrade the system in the north to get it to the standards of 2022 and beyond. To me, the government is just not delivering.
I am going to speak to an article by the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, entitled “On the Arctic Watch: Why we need to protect Canada’s sovereignty and security in the Far North.” The article states:
The [Liberal] government, right before the 2021 federal election, issued a joint statement with the Biden administration on the need to modernize NORAD but there are no timelines, financial commitments, or shopping list of desired capabilities. The statement acknowledges Arctic geopolitical competition, the impact of climate change, and advances in conventional missile threats (e.g., Russian hypersonic missiles) and leaves it open to both parties on what those capabilities can be.
The whole premise of why we are here tonight is that it is necessary but it is simply not being delivered. I think we could agree, probably members from both sides, that all we want to see is this stuff delivered. We want to see boats in water. We want to see defensive capabilities actually purchased and acquired and the procurement process fixed. I think we want to get this thing fixed. We do not want to just have an argument where we poke each other in the eye. We really do want to get this across the line.
The budget is coming up this week. This is a call deliberately ahead of that, so that the Liberal government can make some good decisions and put that money into the budget. Our wish would be that it actually gets done.