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Further Canadian grand coalition triumph!


 

“…We have had, in effect, a de facto bi-partisan agreement between the Liberal and Conservative parties that the cuts in the defence budget during the post-Cold War period had gone too deeply and had to be reversed, and reversed quickly, if the de facto destruction of Canada’s defence capabilities was to be avoided.  If you like, there was a real Paul Martin/Stephen  Harper/Bill Graham/Gordon O’Connor/Rick Hillier consensus that a massive re-funding of defence in Canada was necessary, the end result of which was [The Canada First Defence Strategy of] 2008.”

I knew there was no boring way to spend a trillion dollars. And despite the valiant efforts of every Ottawa reporter to reward the feds for dumping their $990-billion defence strategy onto the internet late at night, six weeks after they “announced” it in a detail-free and misleading news conference, by not producing a stitch of analysis of a massive, massive spending plan (here’s my poor attempt to plug the gap, with valiant assist from Inkless Irregular MikeG), such a plan simply couldn’t lie around forever without somebody taking a peek at it and writing about the results.

That somebody is Brian MacDonald at the Conference of Defence Associations, and if you click the last link on this page you can get his analysis for yourself. There’s a lot in MacDonald’s review, some of it way over my head (accrual accounting: I dunno), but a few nuggets stand out. One is that operational deployments — like Afghanistan — are to be funded separately from the Canada First spending framework, essentially guaranteeing a considerably higher spending allocation over time than what the framework provides. Another is that the framework, in itself, does nothing to compress the 16-year procurement lag between bright idea and delivered equipment.

Generally it’s an optimistic assessment, however — it would be churlish for even the military establishment to sneeze at mountains of cash for military equipment. But I’m most struck by MacDonald’s conclusion, which I quote, in part, above: that the strategy’s “budgetary roots are traceable to the previous Liberal Party administration of Paul Martin.”

Understand that I have no interest in allotting credit (or blame). Nor is MacDonald asserting any formal collaboration between the Liberals and Conservatives in concocting this spending plan. But this helps, at least, to explain why it’s so quiet out there, and how a Conservative government could release a policy of potentially far-reaching implication, not only for the defence portfolio as such but for the entire rest of what’s known inside the Queensway as “the fisc,” without getting a debate: because the opposition doesn’t feel like a debate. Essentially there was a Trudeau-Chrétien way to view the military, only slightly inflected by Mulroney, and those days are over. Have been since 2005, in fact. The old ways are gone; the Liberal-Conservative grand coalition lives on.


 

Further Canadian grand coalition triumph!

  1. Oh, you are going to hear from the Libloggers, Paul. I hope you have your earplugs handy.

  2. Well, I found it enlightening. :)

    It sounds like MacDonald would agree with what I tend to think: that the spending plan is vague and it remains to be seen what effect it will have, but it is, at least, an improvement.

  3. I don’t disagree with anything in this post (including la grande coalition), and yet the rationate for the quiet release still seems curious to me.

    There is probably only one field where the interests of defence contractors and good governance are mutual, and the CDA hits on it: There’s no point in having a defence strategy unless you have some procurement capacity. We, it seems, have no such capacity. More of the Paul Martin More Everything! legacy.

  4. “Essentially there was a Trudeau-Chrétien way to view the military, only slightly inflected by Mulroney, and those days are over.”

    Hmmm….one might want to look at the 1975 major increase in defence spending initiated by the Trudeau government. Remarkably similar to the one we’re seeing now.

    What’s really living on are simplistic readings of Canadian defence policy history.

  5. Sorry that link didn’t work.

  6. I have a bit of a question, and it has to do with the Accrual Accounting issue.

    Ok, so my understanding is that Accrual Accounting will have DND buy major equipment but pay it off in their budget as it depreciates. The idea, of course, is that this should help get the ball rolling as the Forces acquires all the new equipment it needs.

    This is a lot of money, as the plan calls for 60 billion dollars of equipment, and MacDonald shows that this is going to be front-end loaded, with six major projects over the next four years. The front-end loading is an issue because the government has to pay in cash upon delivery, no matter how DND chooses to match this all to its budget.

    My question is how the bills get paid over the next four years if the DND budget (“stream of income”) stays more or less the same. I imagine there are big catch-all federal accounts out there that can administer this, but we’re talking about billions of phantom dollars in near-deficit conditions.

    I’m having real trouble understanding this plan. Is it really a steady ramping up of funding? Or is this accounting change a way to funnel massive cash to DND over the next few years, with who knows what happens later?

  7. I am not surprised a) that there is Lib-Con agreement at the elite level to increase military spending and b) that neither party wants to talk about this a whole lot.

    The silence isn’t surprising because the leadership of both parties knows they are largely out of step with Canadian public opinion on this matter.

    As poll after poll shows, except for Canada’s small group of hard core conservative voters, Canadians do not want more spent on the military.

    It drives the elites and conservatives nuts, but Canadians simply prefer a foreign plicy which emphasizes “soft power”, not militarism.

    – JV

  8. It seems to me that Harper has discovered the joy of “Buy now and don’t pay for a whole year!” spending plans. He has quietly committed the government to large expenditures while pushing off the budgetary implications to a vaguer future. Either he or his successors will have to find the money but so long as he does not explicitly announce to the tax-payers the large numbers involved right now, then he expects to avoid the political problems that might arise.

  9. Bill Simpson should remember that Harper’s long term goal is to make the federal government less able to mount national programs.

    Like taxc cuts, massive spending promises on the military (one of the few Harper-approved areas for federal government activity) will reduce the amount of money available for future national governments to act.

    For neoconservatives like Harper, this is a good thing. Needless to say, Canadians would overwhelmingly oppose such a plan if they udnerstood it, which is why Harper never talks about it.

    – JV

  10. “Like taxc cuts, massive spending promises on the military (one of the few Harper-approved areas for federal government activity) will reduce the amount of money available for future national governments to act.”

    If it constrains future governments from implenting foolish welfare state schemes like a national daycare strategy, then you know why our PM SH, despite a little too much pandering to greenie nonsense etc., remains our guy.

    Correct me if i’m wrong but isn’t the Conference of Defence Associations part of the problem when it comes to the procurement lag? By insisting that so much of the defence budget be spent in Canada; as essentially pork barrelling to firms who may not have the skills, tools or training to execute the projects, they are pushing us to use probably more inefficient suppliers.

    Here’s a though experiment: let’s propose that we build our next three frigates in massively efficient South Korea shipyards — much faster than we could build them here — and see how the CDA reacts.

  11. Soft power is an imaginary nothingness that unrealistic pacifists claim can be used to influence world affairs. It has never worked, and never will. Attempts to use soft power have only ever given rogue regimes time to build their offensive and defensive capabilities, and in the end caused only more suffering and death. That suffering is usually borne by the innocent civilians before, during and after the inevitable use of hard power.

  12. Well said Greg : though I would add that soft power is irrelevant unless it’s backed up by hard power. I am very happy that both the Liberals and the Conservatives have for all intent purposes come to an agreement that we made a terrible mistake as a country a few years ago and it needs rectifying … we went to sleep years ago and savaged our military for the sake of large gov’t programs in other areas and even quite a few canadiana fell into the false bravado of sure fire nanny state thinking that with blue helmets and Pearsonian ideals coming to rule the world and we would all live happily ever after under the nuclear umbrella of the USA – Thank God for both Chretien, Martin and Harper who now are dealing with this not only am I in full agreement of the current policy I think it should be doubled! We need way more naval with the new challenges we are going to be facing in the Arctic.

  13. This failure of soft power is best demonstrated by the tens of millions who’ve been slaughtered on European soil during the failed attempt to construct a “European Union” in the second half of the 20th century.Imagine thinking that a coal and steel consortium could seal a continent’s peace for generations! Thank God the realists won out over that nonsense.

  14. Yes, thank God they barely needed American hard power to keep the commies at bay while this was going on.

  15. History is so easy to learn when we don’t have to study the stuff without guns! Whee! Realism makes the books shorter!

  16. Paul I think hard power – WW I and WW II – had a lot to do with acceptance of EU project.

    I don’t think EU would have got off the ground if it had been proposed in 1910.

  17. It doesn’t reduce the amount of money for national welfare schemes like a national daycare plan, it just reduces the amount of money.

    This might come out of a daycare plan, it might come out of the gun registry, alternatively, it might come out of subsidies to rural farmers, national health care, national transportation infrastructure, the competition bureau (that investigates things like non-competitiveness at the gas pumps), nuclear safety, IMF participation, the ability to effectively investigate and argue our case at international trade negotiations, the ability to prosecute violators of trade treaties that are in place, harm reduction projects such as insite, money going into national research so that we don’t become a second-world backwater, etc..

    But hey, so long as we’re making sure people down on their luck have to starve or turn to crime before they get any of your tax money, things are cool, right matt?

    JV, what exactly do you mean by soft-power? Personally, I want to see our military adequate for the tasks it is asked to do, but I want those tasks to be primarily peace-keeping and reconstruction related.

  18. Absolutely, jwl. WWI and WWII had everything to do with it. By 1946, dying in truly stunning numbers was getting a bit old, and Europeans, ever trendy, were eager to try something new.

  19. Greg, I think you overstate the case against soft power. I think Wayne is on the right track with the notion that soft power needs to be backed by a military. Interestingly enough, the Americans provide the military, and Canadians often provide what the world sees as soft power. By allowing the Americans to provide the majority of the military force, we’ve created a health care system and managed to establish a reputation for being a swell country.
    That said, Canada has a proud military history, and I’d hate to see us give up all semblance of a real military (one that could defend the Northwest Passage, and one that could be involved in “peacekeeping”. The quotations are there because peacekeeping is meaningless without real military power.)
    The military cannot solve all problems, but Canada can’t have a seat at the big table if we don’t have a real military that can get involved in places like Afghanistan. What Canada should be doing is modeling itself after Australia, who get far more value for their military dollar. Australia has specialized in certain areas that they know they need strength in based on their geography. We used to do that. We were wonderful sub-hunters.
    Giving up the military is not the answer, but spending a ridiculous amount of money isn’t either. We need to have some serious thought go into a new white paper, and we need to get some people with real military experience in our House.

  20. T. Thwim asks what I mean by “soft power”.

    I’m pretty good with the classical definition of the term, which is as follows:

    The basic concept of power is the ability to influence others to get them to do what you want. There are three major ways to do that: one is to threaten them with sticks; the second is to pay them with carrots; the third is to attract them or co-opt them, so that they want what you want. If you can get others to be attracted to want what you want, it costs you much less in carrots and sticks.

    See the writings of Joseph Nye.

    As another commenter noted, soft and hard power are not mutually exclusive approaches to foreign policy.

    And I have a question for the armchair warrior realists here: How many modern insurgencies have been defeated using military force?

    (Hint: the answer is somewhat less than one.)

    Interestingly, even the Rand Commission now thinks the “war on terror” needs to be abandoned in favour of a less military approaches.

    See http://www.boingboing.net/2008/07/29/to-destroy-al-qaeda.html

    – JV

  21. So T Thwim the answer is yes, right. Considering your list is like an NDP wet dream, reducing the amount of money for almost all of it is fine

  22. Paul, I don’t see how the EU stuff applies here. The main parties in the EU (Germany and France) wanted the EU to work very badly. Neither was influencing the other in the sense that the USA wants to influence North Korea or Iran.

  23. You cannot have a realistic, ahem, conversation about Europe’s ability to afford its democratic socialism and engage in various soft power posturings without seriously consider the role the American security guarantee played in it. NATO = Needs America To Operate

  24. “And I have a question for the armchair warrior realists here: How many modern insurgencies have been defeated using military force?”

    Because the only possible use of a military is to invade other countries in the sorts of long-term reconstruction projects that cause insurgencies to flare up.

    Also, it depends on how you define “modern”. If we say “Second World War and later”, which seems reasonable to me, then I’m taking the Warsaw Rising, Hungary in 1956, the Red Army Faction in post-war West Germany, a few African conflicts I’m too lazy to look up, and a few (like the Chechens and the Basques) that, while still active, seem unlikely to do anything more than kill a few people aimlessly for the rest of their history.

  25. Sorry, I should definitely been more clear that soft power is useless and has never worked without accompanying hard power. Obviously one needs to use the two together, and adjust the amount of each that is used. The discussion started with the costs of hard power. Although come to think of it, how many billions have been spent on soft power engagement with North Korea, with no benefit whatever going to North Korean peasents?

  26. I just want it on the record that I am the other Greg.

  27. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe the federal government has a mandated responsibility to defend the borders, and protect Canada’s foreign policy objectives, sometimes with force if necessary. It’s what countries do on this planet.
    Does the federal government have a constitutionally mandated responsibility to fund daycares coast-to-coast-to-coast? Eh, not so much.
    It’s about bloody time the two credible (as in likely to one day govern!) federal parties are dealing responsibly with one of the major responsibilities of the federal government.
    It’s interesting: fail to plan distantly, and you are accused of thinking only of short-term electoral success. Plan far ahead, and you are accused of passing the bill onto future governments…

  28. Mr Wells: You may have missed something I think rather basic:

    “…The thing is, there is no strategy. The substance of the paper is basically all about equipment acquisition, total CF personnel strength, budgets, industrial benefits, etc. There is nothing about what level of strength each service may be expected to commit to various types of missions nor what overall individual service strengths are required. The paper is essentially a status quo document.

    Moreover, there is no detailed analysis of the nature of domestic and international missions the CF may be asked to conduct and why the CF need to be configured and equipped as planned to carry out those missions. Nor is there any assessment of the nature of the opponents/threats they are to deal with abroad–or off our coasts or in our airspace. Steady as she goes…

    I ask: why do we require the forces composed as outlined?”

    In other words, no service oxes (in my view necessarily the Navy’s) to be gored.

    “Note the proportion of money devoted to maintaining a blue water Navy, as opposed to one focussed on coastal defence and sovereignty protection. Why does our Navy need to be engaged in the Arabian Sea interdicting rum-runners (see Update)? Or hash smugglers?

    The answer: jobs building and repairing ships in Canada, and the hoped-for attendant votes. Western countries have a surplus of frigates/destroyers for any likely multilateral blue water operations requiring such vessels. Canadian ones are not essential for the West as a whole; we are exceedingly unlikely to operate on the blue waters on our own.

    Then there’s the Air Force. Does Canada really require fighters with top-end aerial combat abilities (as opposed to interception and patrol in defence of Canada and North America) and ground-attack capabilities?

    Trying to maintain “combat-capable, flexible, multi-role” Canadian Forces for all three services is, to my mind, simply impossible for those services all to be effective and efficient, given the limited funding that our governments (both stripes) are willing to provide.

    So a true “defence strategy” would attempt to:

    1) Outline how the government thinks the CF should be employed for national, and then international, purposes;

    2) Outline what mix of service capabilities are required to fulfill those roles.

    But that would require serious decisions with political and service consequences this government is not willing to make–nor are, I am sure, most Canadians. Will any Canadian government ever be so ready?

    More at the comment thread here (I’m for a mini-Marine Corps plus national sovereignty protection). And how about:

    A civilian maritime patrol aircraft fleet?

    Get mad at me–but get mad at our governments first for not being willing, or able, to think honestly in public.”

    Mark
    Ottawa

  29. Mr Wells: You may have missed something I think rather basic:

    “…The thing is, there is no strategy. The substance of the paper is basically all about equipment acquisition, total CF personnel strength, budgets, industrial benefits, etc. There is nothing about what level of strength each service may be expected to commit to various types of missions nor what overall individual service strengths are required. The paper is essentially a status quo document.

    Moreover, there is no detailed analysis of the nature of domestic and international missions the CF may be asked to conduct and why the CF need to be configured and equipped as planned to carry out those missions. Nor is there any assessment of the nature of the opponents/threats they are to deal with abroad–or off our coasts or in our airspace. Steady as she goes…

    I ask: why do we require the forces composed as outlined?”

    In other words, no service oxes (in my view necessarily the Navy’s) to be gored.

    “Note the proportion of money devoted to maintaining a blue water Navy, as opposed to one focussed on coastal defence and sovereignty protection. Why does our Navy need to be engaged in the Arabian Sea interdicting rum-runners (see Update)? Or hash smugglers?

    The answer: jobs building and repairing ships in Canada, and the hoped-for attendant votes. Western countries have a surplus of frigates/destroyers for any likely multilateral blue water operations requiring such vessels. Canadian ones are not essential for the West as a whole; we are exceedingly unlikely to operate on the blue waters on our own.

    Then there’s the Air Force. Does Canada really require fighters with top-end aerial combat abilities (as opposed to interception and patrol in defence of Canada and North America) and ground-attack capabilities?

    Trying to maintain “combat-capable, flexible, multi-role” Canadian Forces for all three services is, to my mind, simply impossible for those services all to be effective and efficient, given the limited funding that our governments (both stripes) are willing to provide.

    So a true “defence strategy” would attempt to:

    1) Outline how the government thinks the CF should be employed for national, and then international, purposes;

    2) Outline what mix of service capabilities are required to fulfill those roles.

    But that would require serious decisions with political and service consequences this government is not willing to make–nor are, I am sure, most Canadians. Will any Canadian government ever be so ready?

    More at the comment thread here (I’m for a mini-Marine Corps plus national sovereignty protection). And how about:

    A civilian maritime patrol aircraft fleet?

    Get mad at me–but get mad at our governments first for not being willing, or able, to think honestly in public.”

    Mark
    Ottawa

  30. Paul Wells yet again took another opportunity to take yet another shot at Martin? Yawn.

  31. On soft vs. hard power: can someone remind me how much “hard power” Japan has? or let me in on how much, say, Canada or Europeans fear the US will use their “hard power” if they don’t get their way with, say, re-writing foreign copyright laws or trade treaties? or, for that matter, how much a country like North Korea actually fears the US will use their “hard power” if they don’t dismantle their latest nuclear facility?

  32. Oh, and that bit about the “Trudeau-Chretien” view of the military?

    Apparently, not true.

    Good Ol’, PET was the biggest spender on defence in the last 37 years. Too bad Jean-boy gutted our defences. Anyone got any helicopters they wanna sell?

  33. Apparently, the Russians are ready to lease. Ted, are you in?

  34. I didn’t figure you for an illiterate, Ted. Where’s the shot at Martin?

  35. As for Trudeau, it’d be really swell if people quoting that Canwest story would notice that it studies a period that BEGAN WHILE TRUDEAU WAS PM. So it’s easy to make him look like a big spender if you ignore everyone before him. Pearson’s military spending was nearly double Trudeau’s. Pearson’s predecessors spent more still:

    http://toyoufromfailinghands.blogspot.com/2007/12/trudeau-military-big-spender.html

    You’re free to think PMs who cut defence spending are brilliant or awful. But getting facts straight is handy too.

  36. Ted,

    While Article 9 of Japan’s constitution (1947) forbids a war capable military, ” In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained.” The Japanese Self-Defense[sic] Force maintains many aspects of what people here are advocating as “hard power”. On a pure numbers basis their active strength is well over 200,000 members while Canada remains stagnant in the mid 60,000. Granted the population of Japan is much larger. However, on an equipment side of things Japan’s forces are again superior to that of Canada.

    To maintain adequate control and force projection, again purely for defensive purposes, over their sea lanes and coastal approaches; Japan sees it necessary to maintain atleast 30 destroyers of various classes and many more escorts and training vessels. Canada relies on 2 somewhat aged destroyers with 12 frigates covering the vast majority of deployments beyond the litoral zone of Canada from two major ports. I do not know the exact figures but I believe it is safe to say Canada’s coast line is slightly larger than that of Japan. While my focus in mainly naval, I’m sure other persons could easily provide figures for Japan’s other branches of the Self-Defence Force. Canada could do much worse than look to Japan as a model.

  37. Wow. Paul, caught, immediately responds with personal insult. Again, yawn.

  38. “You’re free to think PMs who cut defence spending are brilliant or awful. But getting facts straight is handy too.”

    Ah, defence as a portion of GDP. An inaccurate measure of military capability to say the least. More to the point, when defence goes down as a percentage of GDP, that doesn’t necessarily mean that defence spending was ‘cut’. It may mean (gasp!) that the overall economy has grown.

    Here are some ‘facts’ that the GDP figure leaves out:
    -Defence spending stagnated from 57 to the early 70s.

    -Real defence spending began to climb significantly under Trudeau, particularly with the 1957 Defence Structure Review.

    -Capital expenditures reached their highest percentage of of the defence budget under the last Trudeau ministry.

    -The Canadian economy grew significantly from the 50s to the 70s, which reduced defence’s share of GDP.

    Now, I know these aren’t the type of facts that one will find in Who Killed the Canadian Military?, the CDA website, or The Torch, but shouldn’t journalists dig a little deeper?

    Maybe then we could have an honest debate about defence in this country.

  39. Correction: 1975 Defence Structure Review

  40. Peter W:

    Sure, Japan has a military force, but in terms of this debate of “hard” vs. “soft” power and specifically whether soft power only works when you’ve got hard power backing you up, the point is I don’t think anyone has ever agreed to do what Japan wants because of a fear of military intervention by Japan.

  41. Careful, Phil, tread very lightly on the mythology that Chretien was anything but the continuation of Trudeau and that there is a simple/simplistic Trudeau-Chretien (true Liberals) vs Turner-Martin (really just Conservatives of a lighter shade of blue) divide.

    You might get called illiterate.

  42. Fun choice of options when challenged:
    (a) engage the challenge with some facts;
    (b) play the martyr.

    I ask again:
    – Where was the insult against Martin in the original post? He made a decision, of which his government was very proud and which I have nowhere ever criticized, to increase defence spending. Another government decided, after he had announced his retirement from politics, to use his spending base as the planning base for their own defence strategy. Yet another fellow, guy by the name of Dion, has refrained from serious criticism of the Conservatives’ defence strategy. End result: In a thoroughly poisonous Hill atmosphere where everyone criticizes everything, you’ve got a trillion-dollar concord. I honestly meant what I wrote, Ted: I thought you to be capable of a higher level of reading comprehension than your utterly random comment demonstrated.
    – How is it possible to tease any kind of dichotomous Chrétien-Trudeau (good)/ Turner-Martin (bad) straw man, which Ted would then be free to critique if I had asserted it, out of spending trends on defence since 1960?

    Tough questions. Feel free to stick with option (b). I’m pretty sure you can still get some mileage out of the yawning thing too.

  43. Both Germany and Japan are interesting studies in respect of how influence follows military power, since both have had to officially renounce this option since 1945. The US provided for their defense in this period, but neither had any offensive capacity, so any leverage they have is based on economic strength. I don’t think that either has been noticeably more or less influential in world affairs than Canada and can’t think of any notable examples to prove or disprove that statement.

    Both the UK and France, on the other hand, have maintained a fairy aggressive military force, complete with nuclear weapons, but I would be hard put to say that either was more influential than Germany or Japan.

    Lots of huffing and puffing by all four of those countries, but the big three trump them every time.

    What exactly does Harper expect to get for all this money? If we chose to spend it all on economic development, education or giving everyone free holidays in Hawaii (which is what Japan and Germany have perhaps been doing), what do we lose internationally?

  44. I guess I got spun by the National Post and some grey beard Liberal Senator. Thanks for the link Mr. Wells. I came across this quote in the Canadian Military Journal, in a commentary titled: Defence and the Conservatives. (It is a PDF file)

    A more realistic defence policy emerged in 1975, arguably spurred as much by trade and diplomatic calculations as by a sober reappraisal of the changing geo-strategic environment, but nevertheless prompting a substantial increase in defence spending.

  45. ”How is it possible to tease any kind of dichotomous Chrétien-Trudeau (good)/ Turner-Martin (bad) straw man”

    Oh, I don’t know, Paul, maybe it was when you typed in the following:

    ”Essentially there was a Trudeau-Chrétien way to view the military, only slightly inflected by Mulroney, and those days are over. Have been since 2005, in fact. The old ways are gone; the Liberal-Conservative grand coalition lives on.”

    The problem is, as is pointed out above and in the National Post article, there is no such thing as a “Trudeau-Chrétien way to view the military”. That is a fabrication or a myth or both. Like so many other important policy points (distinct society, deficit spending, tax cutting, trade), there is more to distinguish Trudeau and Chrétien than to align them, and defence spending is a good example. We don’t need to go back further than Trudeau to point out that defence spending increased significantly under Trudeau, both in absolute dollars and as a percentage of the GDP and the budget, while it flattened or decreased under Chrétien. So there is no Trudeau- Chrétien view. And so there is no Trudeau-Chrétien dove view vs. Martin-Harper hawk view on military spending. The evidence just doesn’t support that.

    In fact, it is more logical to conclude one of two views on this:

    1. Chrétien was an anti-military dove who didn’t value the military enough to spend on it and diverted military spending to other priorities, and Martin the hawk swept in to correct that. If you take this argument, given the reality of the small increases by Martin and the relatively large increases by Trudeau, you really have to conclude that Chrétien is the outlier among all these PMs, not a representative of The Old Way, and that The Grand Coalition is restoring defence spending after the Chrétien years, rejecting Chrétien’s New Way and going back to The Old Way.

    or

    2. Chrétien did what any responsible leader in his position would do which was to balance policy priorities with fiscal reality, which meant cutting spending in all areas, especially the big expensive line items for the military, healthcare and transfer payments to provinces. Especially in a time of relative peace. Sort of like what all the western governments were doing. And then, as the fiscal crunch turned into a fiscal surplus, the PM did what PMs naturally do which is to balance policy priorities with fiscal reality, which meant increasing spending in all areas, especially the big budget items for the military, healthcare and transfer payments to provinces. Especially in a time of relative turbulence after 9/11. Sort of like what all the western governments have been doing. Would Chrétien have gone that way? Certainly seemed like he was. If you take this argument, there is a more or less seamlessness to the various PMs views on the defence spending. The Old Way is The New Way.

    I actually agree with you fully on The Grand Coalition. I just don’t think military spending is any kind of guide for tracing that the outlines of that coalition, let alone a good guide. The facts just don’t support that, even if the mythology created around Trudeau, Chrétien and Martin by some does. But if there is a way to continue the theme of your book that there are two sides – Trudeau-Chrétien = winners/good left-leaning Liberals; Turner-Martin = losers/bad right-leaning (not really) Liberals – why not jump on the chance to push that meme a bit, eh?

    Right back at ya Paul with some equally fun choice of options when challenged (with a very mildly snide comment):
    (a) engage the challenge with some facts (and the comment with humour) and respond to facts that seem to differ with yours;
    (b) get all defensive and start name-calling.

    Feel free to stick with option (b). I’m pretty sure you can still get some mileage out of the witty cleverly worded put-down thing too.

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