David Perry – Is the NDP promising the biggest defence budget?

The full platforms from the Liberal Party of Canada, the New Democratic Party and Conservative Party of Canada are now available.

Interestingly, a tri-partisan consensus appears to exist regarding the appropriate level of defence spending.

The Conservatives have promised “A re-elected Conservative Government will continue to support and stand up for Canada’s military because they’re the ones who stand up for us. This support includes an $11.8 billion, ten-year increase to the Department of National Defence’s budget to ensure that Canada can continue to field a combat-ready military to serve at home and abroad” (p. 94). This is a recommitment to the measure introduced in the 2015 Budget (p 322-323) that will see that annual amount by which the defence budget is automatically increased rise to 3% a year starting in 2017.

The Liberals say they “will maintain current National Defence spending levels, including current planned increases” (p. 69 – emphasis added). This is the exact same commitment the Conservatives are making.

The NDP, in turn has committed to “maintaining Department of National Defence budget allocations” (p. 44).

If (and I haven’t been able to confirm it one way or the other) the NDP pledge also means they will adhere to the 2015 Budget measure then all three political parties are roughly in agreement about the fiscal commitment that should be made to the military.

The difference, however, is that both the Liberals and the Conservatives (but not the NDP) have committed to government-wide spending reductions of one type or another, that would see some money removed from the defence budget.

The Liberals are pledging a government-wide “spending review” (p. 80) that would result in $3B in savings within four years. The Conservatives, on the other hand, have promised a one-year “operating budget freeze” (p. 12).  Neither has exempted DND from those exercises in their platforms, so both the Liberals and Conservatives would claw back some of the defence spending promised in the 2015 Budget.

Based on their platform, the NDP won’t.

Bottom line: The NDP may be promising the largest defence budget!

David Perry is a Senior Analyst and Fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

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