We've given up on Canada's military, so let's abandon it altogether - Macleans.ca

We’ve given up on Canada’s military, so let’s abandon it altogether

We could save billions we’d otherwise spend on duct tape for our fleets and squadrons. We could keep some soldiers for disaster response—but they don’t need guns


CF-18 Hornet fighter jets belonging to the Canadian 410 ‘Couger’ Squadron are seen under shelters on the tarmac at Naval Air Facility (NAF) El Centro on November 4, 2009. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

It was revealed over the weekend that the government intends to keep our aging CF-18 fighter planes in operation until 2032. But, like the Sea King helicopters, the planned retirement date for these jets has been pushed back before. There is no reason to believe the next government won’t try to keep them airborne for another decade after that.

And why not? It will cost us billions in maintenance to ensure these can fly well past their designed lifespan, but it would cost even more to replace them with modern fighter jets. And Canadians don’t really care one way or another. The state of the military is never a significant election issue. And when did you last see a public protest over another leaky frigate or more broken helicopters?

In fact, it is long past time we simply disbanded the Canadian military altogether. That seems like a radical step, but it would require little actual movement—just the simple act of accepting this is where we already stand.

COUNTERPOINT: Canada’s military is vital—but public outcry is needed to save it

The Canadian Navy, at the end of the Second World War, was the third largest in the world, with 434 ships. We are now down to about three-dozen. Of those four are barely operational submarines, there is nothing that can manage four-season Arctic navigation, and nothing capable of “blue water” or ocean-going fleet operations. In effect, the Canadian Navy has already been disbanded, replaced with a small coastal defence force.

And that force has already abandoned our northern seaboard. You can still see the wind-hollowed remains of a large military base in Churchill, but the long-promised naval base was downgraded to a fuelling facility, and then to a jetty. It is literally a pile of rocks pushed out a hundred yards into a bay. As for the rest of the Canadian Arctic, an area roughly the size of Europe, we are down to only about 120 military personnel—that’s one for every 30,000 square kilometres.

READ: The sinking of Canada’s Navy

This current government loves to breathlessly emote about our peacekeeping past, but is careful to avoid promising any actual troops. In November of last year, after side-stepping previous promises to make a significant UN deployment, the Prime Minister announced an initiative to increase the proportion of women deployed in peace operations–just not women from the Canadian military. Right now, there are 14 Canadian officers assigned to the UN, a record low; that is less than Honduras, Bhutan, and Armenia. Former Liberal senator Romeo Dallaire explained that this was a new enlightened policy that went beyond the “traditional boots on the ground.” So, why do we even need actual boots anymore?

The Conservative track record on supporting the Canadian military is just as bad. The Navy rusted out on their watch. And in spite of (or perhaps because of) the Afghanistan deployment, defence procurement completely broke down. Nonetheless, former prime minister Stephen Harper was always happy to pose with members of the Canadian military. Because for parties of all stripes, that is the single most important role of the Armed Forces—optics. It allows politicians to look bold, and it allows the country to pretend that we are a useful ally.

READ: Military procurement is a national disgrace

But, in truth, it only irritates our allies in the UN, NATO and NORAD. Ottawa loves to show up at international conferences, talk up a storm about the importance of peace or a strong and united defence, then quietly slip out the backdoor when it comes to actually putting troops on the table.

And none of this was a secret. Defence journalists reported on all of this. And the Canadian public greeted every step of decline with a shrug. There were ample opportunities to pressure the government to turn things around, but we frankly just didn’t care.

So, why don’t we just own it and admit the truth, as painful as it is: We do not have a functional military, and that’s the way we want it. Let’s implement this new “enlightened policy” by shutting down the Canadian Forces and declaring ourselves a post-military nation. We could join the ranks of Haiti, Andorra, and Vanuatu.

NATO might accept an annual payment in lieu of actual troops. (We won’t be able to donate any of our tanks or ships, however, unless they want them for scrap.) In return for staying in NORAD we could simply give the Americans a few Arctic islands; we’re not using them. Perhaps we keep a few soldiers for disaster response, but they don’t need guns or jets for that.

In return we would save billions on the duct tape needed to hold our fleets and squadrons together, forces we don’t intend to deploy anyway. We will stop undermining our international relations by making promises we will never honour. And, just as importantly, we would no longer have to demean ourselves and the dedicated men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces by keeping up this ridiculous lie. It would be a tonic for the entire country. So let’s finally move forward and accept this truth: Canada disbanded its military long ago, we just haven’t gotten around to announcing it yet.


We’ve given up on Canada’s military, so let’s abandon it altogether

  1. First off, Gilmore, we didn’t simply shrug when the ongoing shit show that is the Canadian government short-changed our military and let their equipment rust away beneath them. Millions of us have routinely told Ottawa, for years, that they needed to re-think military funding and procurement. We told them they needed to spend less on stupid shit (Status of Women? Puh-leeze! And that’s just a start.) that Ottawa routinely funneled wasted billions into. NEWS FLASH! The collective of morons that is generally the Canadian government failed to heed.
    Secondly, what of the conundrum of your supposed solution? So we eliminate our military. Which country do we then ask to enforce our sovereignty? Russia? Do you really think Vlad will keep Canadian interests at heart when we ask him to keep an eye on our arctic? That leaves the US, but the reflexive wailing, should it come to that, from the left will leave every dog in the nation with bloodied ears. Relatedly, how do you like the prospect of routine intercepts of TU-95’s over Saskatoon or Lloydminster by American F-16’s? Does the idea of Soviet boomers lolling about the southern reaches of Hudson’s Bay give you chills?
    On the other hand, I’ll give you credit for opening the conversation. Few countries have coasted on their WWII coattails as we have, and our consistency at not meeting our NATO obligations should have long been a national embarrassment. Strangely, our national media community has rarely made it an issue. Why is that?

    • But Bill Komarade in Gilmore`s wet dream he can then invite the North Koreans to protect us..Sarc/off

    • To be honest, Bill, I think we have more to fear from a US invasion than from any other country.

      • Keithbram You sir are a FOOL, We have been living under the American Defence Umbrella since the 1950s.

        • Absolutely correct!!

    • Bill, I don’t think you understood the purpose of this article. The article is meant to be taken as satire. Scott Gilmore has published many articles detailing the failure of the government to support the Canadian Armed Forces, and is indeed a supporter of our military. However, the purpose of this article was to highlight how little public outrage there is over these issues.

      • Billy97- I’m willing to assume you’re right. My own particular beef is that the Canadian media has done a lousy job on this front. For every Canadian journalist with a realistic attitude toward the need for a stable and well funded military, there are a half-dozen who actually do claim we don’t. That and the overarching tendency of Ottawa to screw up most of what it touches.

    • It’s quite simple really. Governments don’t get votes for spending on the military. We have two choices, elect a Prime Minister with the balls to spend on the military at the expense of a multitude of special interest groups, or become a dependent of the US like Costa Rica.

    • The Arctic has been mentioned a couple of times, but only slightly. Russia has established a number of bases there for some time and, amongst other things, is researching for oil. China is, now, extending its usual invasive interest (see the so-called South China Sea) and has officially declared its policy to establish an efficient northern sea route from the Atlantic to the Pacific (if in doubt of its feasibility, study the Yangtze dams).

      Canada will sit and watch, and watch. Eventually, a Canadian version of Eddie Izzard will, no doubt, arrive and say, “Do you have a flag?”.

  2. And furthermore Komarade Gilmore under PM Harper we purchased (5) CC177, (17) CC130J Aircraft and many mine resistant vehicles for the Army….

    • The problem with those purchases is that they were almost exclusively made for the Afghanistan mission. I know the majority of the mine-resistant vehicles that were purchased have since been retired from service already.

  3. The Canada don’t need the top fighter in the world, the USA would like us to do for two reasons: They would like their neighbours, Canada, to have the same fighters, then to sell at a sky high the price for new ones.

    There is more jet fighters manufactures in the world.
    All this sound the same as USA arms guns allowed to US citizens to ”protect themselves” That is crazy and super dangerous. It is mainly central Canada citizens who prefer top fighter jets for Canada. Why?

    • Why do we need fighter jets? Because we are the second largest nation in the world, and therefore have the second largest airspace. It’s absolutely foolish to depend on any other nation to defend us when we aren’t even making the slightest effort to defend ourselves. We haven’t been meeting our NATO defense spending quota (2% of GDP) for decades now, we’re currently paying only half that. Most of which, by the way, simply goes towards simply paying the members in uniform. As a member of the CF myself, I can say that our equipment is in dire shape. Everything from ground vehicles such as tanks and trucks, to ships, to aircraft are falling apart. We haven’t made any new large purchases for our military since the mid-90’s, and it’s showing now. And like the article suggests, the public doesn’t even know or care.

      • “…like the article suggests, the public doesn’t even know or care…” Actually, I think the author said the public does know, but doesn’t care. Not a single politician of any stripe has ever lost a seat because of national defence. Until they do, nothing will change. As for our pathetic defence procurement system, the real issue IMHO is the insistence on every major purchase having “economic spinoffs” at home. It’s never about simply buying the most planes, tanks or ships for the least money; it’s about how many jobs at home can be attributed to the purchase. We never just go shopping and buy stuff.

  4. the only threat to the Canadian arctic is the US. all other countries recognise claims of the 5 counties that hold rights of the area . only the US refuses to sign the ret…only the US thinks they are aloud to play both side . the price is high but its not from who you think. US Is content as long as other counties defence equipment from them. I say make it hear and the 10% that we cant best by that means Eurofighter 66units best bang and f35 22units stealth first strike , Canada has a small military we have one of the highest GPD so we should have the most advanced and highly trained in the word and not even come close to 2%GDP but that only happens if you have a budget 1 ship per year 10 planes not have and need.

    • see my outrage I cant even think straight sorry.

    • Canada has no business being in the Middle East or Asia. They have no relationship to the Atlantic, i.e., NATO. Therefore, neither should we. BTW, add Turkey to that. Thus, further thoughts about F-35 aircraft are mute.

  5. This article is a bit off the wall but there is some truth to what is really going on. It is time to revamp the entire structure and bring it into the 21st Century. This undermanned overpaid Canadian Military is led by a system that is big on chiefs & perks and less on equipment. It is time to look to an automated Navy and Airforce that would leave funds to develop a Paramilitary Ground Force and an enlarged Special Forces / Intellengence Network. The Scandinavians, Swiss and Israeli’s could teach us what to do. Since we are very poor at Military Procurement, we must hire outside consultants to assess our needs for equipment purchases. We are too large of a nation with far too many obligations. Globally were are looked upon as smoke and mirrors when it comes to Procurement of Equipment. Too long of a decision making process based on lack of experience and incompetence.

  6. Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Scott Gilmore? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for the Air Force and you curse the Navy. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know, that Military’s decline, while tragic, probably saves lives. And our existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives! You don’t want the truth, because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall. We use words like “honor”, “code”, “loyalty”. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said “thank you”, and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to!

    • WHAT A JOKE!

      Who even reads Maclean’s anymore? (I only read it because it was posted on My Page)

      Maclean’s should abandon altogether, or join the CAST of As The World Turns…. Oh wait they folded in 2010, Maclean’s should follow the lead… Oh Look a whooping 155K like this (Maclean’s)….They had 2M on the As The World Turns and look what happened….

    • Quoting Aaron Sorkin from a Tom Cruse movie, is about as real as it gets for some folks.

      • Aaron Sorkin? It was Jack Nicholson…how dare you!

  7. Yea, and then we can make mountains out of molehills the way this article does.

  8. The problem with this satire is that large portions of the CF could and should be disbanded. Half the “executives”, the display teams, hundreds of public affairs officers, 59 musical bands, a reserve armoured corps with no armour and the military colleges to begin with. That’s before we ask ourselves what the purpose of a “low readiness” regular army is or why we have ships and planes operating off the coasts of Germany and Turkey. Do they really need our help?

    Canada is too big to be defended by the few people who live here and we’ve always relied on the major naval power to keep harm far away. It’s worked well and there is no reason to borrow billions to guard against phantom invaders.

    DND (and the CF) has too many full time employees doing too much make work in too bloated a rank structure. We could have far more force (not that it’s needed) for far less if DND was sorted out.

  9. “The Canadian Navy, at the end of the Second World War, was the third largest in the world, with 434 ships.”

    This is a common myth but it’s wrong. The RCN started to disband itself after D-Day. Sailors in the Pacific demanded to be and were sent home after Germany surrendered. On V-J Day the RCN was definitely well behind the USN, RN, Soviet Navy, and Japan. It was probably (it depends how you count- hulls, tonnage, manpower) behind France, Sweden, Italy, and perhaps even India, Australia, Spain and Turkey. So the best the RCN was 5th, probably 7th and perhaps even 12th.

  10. The CF has never been relatively stronger. Shocking but true. After the Cold War the Soviets and most of the rest of NATO cut back far more than we did. The so called “decade of darkness” (were we supposed to be sad the Warsaw Pact folded and millions of people were freed?) saw the CF lose a single infantry battalion, the Airborne Regiment, while the Bundeswehr shed 20 divisions. Th US cut about 10 army divisions and scores of air wings and ships. More importantly ditto for Russia which now has a much smaller population and less powerful military compared to just the European part of NATO which is now at least 3:1 in numbers and 10:1 in economy.

    There is no reason to increase the CF and many good ones to cut it back.

  11. Most in Canada cares not a rats petunia about improving or growing the military. There are several reasons for this
    1- DOD seems incapable of understanding budgets and is poor at planning.
    2- Military equipment costs are enormous. Even the UK has abandoned replacing some of its fleet given the costs and has shrunk its army.
    3- Canadians are more concerned about the declining quality of health care and jobs.
    4- Canadians do not understand why Canada is fighting wars in the Middle East that have nothing to do with Canada and its all about following the US into wars. The military is not used to protect Canada but to support US geo-politics.
    5- In surveys of NATO countries – when asked – “If Russia attacked a NATO country should our military be used to defend them” …… percentage said “NO”. Canada 37%, US 37%, UK 37%, France 53%, Germany 58%, Italy 51%.
    6- No Canadian government in the last 30 years gave a priority to funding the military. Announcements yes plenty …… actions ….. zero. The half century old Sea Kings are still flying in 2018.
    7- On a conventional basis only….. Canada’s military is ranked 26th. Its on par with Algeria in Africa.

  12. Wow! One of the most poorly thought out articles I’ve ever read on this subject, but sadly the loonies on the extreme left will eat it up. Almost seems like a “White Paper on Defense” by the current Liberal Government.
    Shame on Mclean’s for promoting such destructive policy ideals.