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2011 Election

Layton prizes ships over jets in latest campaign pledge

Image Courtesy of CBC.ca

NDP Leader Jack Layton was in Esquimalt, BC this morning to talk about the importance of keeping Canada’s Navy in top shape, even if it means not investing in other branches of the Armed Forces. Potentially. Layton also indicated that a NDP government would order a white paper review of military spending (which has not happened since 1994, apparently!), and the overall direction of Canada’s military into the future, according to the CBC.

I don’t know about anyone else, but this makes sense to me. Granted, as commentator BubbaBaxter pointed out, “the discussion shouldn’t be ‘which’ branch of our military needs more funding, since the answer is ‘all of the above,’ but rather how much funding do they need and [how] soon can we get it to them.” He/she has a good point, which I never would have known had I not broken my cardinal rule of never, EVER reading the comments on news sites when they go past 25, let alone 250. (It quickly becomes a pissing contest, and leaves the article behind. It’s true.)

BUT – let’s just say for a moment that Canada has a rather large deficit, and that governments may need to cut programs and services in order to reduce that deficit: is it unreasonable to suppose that important government agencies (like the military) may have to make tough choices in terms of priorities? And that maybe – just maybe, BubbaBaxter – that it could eventually become a question of either/or if Canadian’s priorities for Health Care and other social services get in the way of all military branches getting everything they want?

In this rather “impossible” scenario, Canada’s Armed Forces may have to decide something as fundamental as which is the larger priority: ships or planes? And on this matter, I’m with Layton. Granted, he was in Esquimalt when he made this announcement, the base for Canada’s Pacific Fleet, and saying anything but “The Navy Is G-dash-d” would have been foolish – but the sheer versatility and importance of possessing functional, up-to-date naval ships in a country that borders three oceans, Hudson’s Bay, and the Great Lakes makes much more sense to me, and must take priority over replacing aging CF-18’s in the Air Force.

Our Navy can be used for far more internal matters like search and rescue operations for maritime vessels and Arctic Sovereignty matters (a favourite of Harper’s, and all Conservative governments dating back to Diefenbaker, at LEAST) than a fleet of stealth fighters can, in addition to overseas deployment for peacekeeping and aggressive military engagements alike.

I’m just not convinced that stealth fighter jets are as necessary for our Armed Forces as more naval vessels are, IF we find ourselves in a position where we have to choose. Which could happen. And even if Layton only said it because he was in the Lion’s Den, it’s the first I’ve heard it from any Leader. And I still think he’s right.

About awreeves

Editor-in-chief at Alternatives Journal. Author of 'Overrun: Dispatches from the Asian carp Crisis'.


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