During the Harper era, Canada’s Arctic question has been brought to the forefront of national debate. We’d always assumed the Arctic would be there. True North strong and free. But many of us just saw the Arctic sovereignty issue as a wedge the Conservatives were using to leverage more military spending.
A prime example of this is found in the uproar in the House of Commons over the last few years about the F-35 fighter purchase. The planes are overdue, and the prices have skyrocketed since the original purchase agreement, and so the issue has become representative of the conservative tendency for military overspending.
The opposition appears to be on the right side of the F-35 issue. However, the view that ‘Canada doesn’t need so much military spending’ is often confused with ‘Canada doesn’t need a military.’ I think this is an outright dumb view to have.
Why does Canada need a military? Because without one Canada would be America and I don’t know about everyone else but I don’t want to live in America.
The argument out there is that America is our greatest ally, and would respect Canadian national boundaries. On the Arctic issue, however, this doesn’t appear to be the case. Since rising temperatures have left the Northwest Passage ice free over the last few years, the U.S. position has been that the Northwest Passage be legally considered an international shipping lane. Given that the Russians and other European nations are circling as well, Canada better shape up.
Canada needs to spend more on the military either way. It seems like every second casualty coming out of Afghanistan is whenever one of our helicopters flips over, and I doubt it will be long before the jets start falling out of the sky as well.
The economic development that would come out of placing a few more bases in the Arctic also wouldn’t be a bad investment. This is all by way of saying I don’t know the right course of action, but I don’t think the debate should necessarily rule out military spending in the Arctic, or military spending altogether.