Prime Minister Stephen Harper statement that the first priority of our Canada First defense strategy is to strengthen our ability to protect our citizens through more and better equipment is belied by reality.
Search and Rescue (SAR) capability is the only direct manner in which Canadian Forces operations affect Canadians on a continuing basis with approximately 8,000 search and rescue emergencies in Canadian territory yearly.
Though promising Canadian Forces better equipment, such is anything but the case. Though a replacement for the over 40 year old Buffalo aircraft in Western Canada has been selected, current planning is that they be kept flying until 2015. Funding was allotted in the 2004-2005 Budget and the replacement, the C27J Spartan chosen in January 2007 to replace the Buffalo and the SAR variant of the CC130 Hercules; the purchase has not gone forward.
The promise that there will be improved surveillance of our land and coastal borders is not being kept. Our current 14 Aurora aircraft are being reduced to 10. These are scheduled to be in service until 2020. No replacement has been chosen and not all ten are in operation because of upgrading equipment. Interestingly, one of the potential replacements could be an adaptation of Bombardier’s Global Express Bizjet.
That all possible steps are not being taken comes as no surprise. “Canada has a choice when it comes to defending our sovereignty in the Arctic — either we use it or we lose it,” was the talk. Full-fledged icebreakers were the promise not the “slush breakers” incapable of operating other than in the summer season that were bought.
Not Search and Rescue capability, nor aerial surveillance, nor all season presence in the Arctic are priorities. These are the ways in which Canadian Forces serve Canada and Canadians directly. The “Canada First” defense strategy is not placing Canada first. Reality is it’s a hollow Harper re-election slogan.
Niagara Falls, Ontario