Foreign Affairs Minister Christa Freeland, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, and PM Trudeau are working hard to convince Canadians that a 70% increase in military spending is a noble expression of their government’s commitment to Arctic sovereignty and global security. But the truth is much simpler and a lot uglier: the Liberals are preparing to take Canada to war.
In a reversal of the Liberal promises during the 2015 federal election, the government has adopted Harper’s aggressive foreign policy of war and regime change, and surpassed the vast military expenditures the Tories planned to make – but had to back off from as a result of vocal public opposition.
What’s new? The arrival of Donald Trump, his demand that Canada and other NATO member states increase military spending to 2% of GDP, and Trudeau’s immediate acquiescence in February while meeting with Angela Merkel in Germany. Merkel also promised to deliver, while both leaders offered cash and soldiers with boots on the ground, to be deployed wherever NATO (read: the US) was inclined to organize the next regime change (read: coup d’état).
The background to these developments is last year’s announcement that NATO no longer sees itself as a North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but as the world’s policeman with the ability to overthrow governments at will, anywhere in the world.
Trump, who just last year also campaigned as a ‘peace’ candidate who could get along with Russia and find political solutions in global hotspots like the Middle East, said then that NATO was obsolete.
Pierre Trudeau, when he was faced with US ultimatums over Vietnam and Cuba, among others, developed a two-track foreign policy which kept Canada out of the Vietnam War and in a friendly relationship with Cuba including trade, tourism, and cultural exchanges. It was far different from the US policy of economic blockade, invasion, chemical and biological warfare, and hundreds of assassination attempts on Fidel Castro.
Justin Trudeau, on the other hand, has put up no resistance to US demands on foreign policy and military spending, or on trade. In every case, the Liberals have responded with concessions, not only on trade and foreign policy, but on issues affecting the fundamentals of Canadian sovereignty and independence.
To be sure, the Canadian economy has been shot through with US corporate investment and ownership, and the resulting pervasive influence of US multi-national corporations. But the Liberals’ capitulation to US demands to increase military spending by 70% and gear up to become a full partner in the US dirty war machine, is breath-taking.
It’s also criminal. Overthrowing governments you don’t like is a crime under international law, and under Canadian law too. Terrorist attacks in Canada will increase as Canada is increasingly identified as a terrorist state that is a full partner in illegal US and NATO wars of aggression.
The government has said nothing about how it will pay for this 70% increase in military spending. But since it has ruled out corporate tax increases to pay for social programs and infrastructure spending, the only other options are (1) to increase taxes on working people such as the regressive HST, property taxes, gas tax, taxes on alcohol and other ‘sin’ taxes, invisible taxes and user fees, such as road tolls, child care fees, etc., and/or (2) to eliminate universal social programs such as Medicare, privatize public services and assets, privatize education, eliminate supply management system in agriculture, increase the pension age to 67 or 70, introduce right-to-work laws and smash the trade union movement, drive down wages and living standards.
Sound extreme? Just look south of the border, where a similar agenda is leaving millions of working people unemployed and on the margins, living from hand to mouth, with nothing left but a deep hatred for Wall Street, and (for some), an abiding faith in the billionaire President who said he would fight to restore their jobs and living standards – by making America great again.
Trump’s prescription for recovery is war: huge profits for the arms industry that backed him, and jobs for life (a short life) for the young unemployed.
It’s not an agenda the Liberals want to admit to two years before an election, but it’s an agenda that’s already out there in the NAFTA ‘renegotiations’ and in the NATO deployments and vast increase in military spending.
Chrystia Freeland’s assertion that this is an expression of Canadian sovereignty and independence is nothing of the sort. It’s a craven collapse to the demands of the Trump administration and US imperialism. Why Freeland? Her grandfather’s Nazi past may make it easier for her to churn out this fictional version of the Canada-US relationship and global politics, while Trudeau may find it more difficult to junk his father’s history as a friend of Cuba and a head of government willing to say no to uncle Sam. His plan to attend the funeral of Fidel Castro – so quickly reversed after public attacks in the media – suggests this PM is not up for a fight, preferring appeasement to a vital political struggle for Canada’s sovereignty and independence from US control.
What’s the solution here?
Pretty simple in fact. This is exactly the moment for Canada to withdraw from NATO (and NORAD) and from NAFTA. Instead, the Canadian government should pursue a foreign policy of peace and disarmament, and a trade policy that is multi-national and mutually beneficial.
Instead of increasing military spending, we should cut the existing military budget by 75% and use these funds to create good jobs across Canada; build affordable housing and infrastructure; develop a sustainable industrial strategy and expand value-added manufacturing and secondary industry; expand and improve Medicare; introduce a universal, accessible, affordable public childcare system; fund public and post-secondary education and eliminate tuition fees and student debt; increase the minimum wage and pensions; raise wages and living standards; deliver on promises made to Indigenous People for urgent and long-term funding to raise living standards on and off reserve, for just and urgent settlement of land claims, to implement the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and to create nation to nation relations within Canada.
This is the recipe for peace, and for real economic and social recovery for working people in Canada.
But it won’t come without a fight that the labour and people’s movements must take on now. There is no time to lose.