Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Military shambles

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The Canadian military came to the government's rescue Tuesday, much the way it has in the past, by stowing its plans for new equipment.

The Defence Department was supposed to begin spending $3.1 billion over the next few years on a wide range of desperately needed equipment, but those plans were put on hold indefinitely to meet the government's fiscal objectives.

Former Liberal governments practised the same neglect, but the Harper Conservatives came to power in 2006 on a campaign of bolstering the military and asserting Canada's interests in the Arctic. Now that the war in Afghanistan is over, however, the government obviously believes the military's needs are less urgent.

There's a real risk, however, that the military could be left without critical platforms over the next few years. The navy's two supply ships, for example, are due for retirement in 2017. They were to be replaced with so-called joint support ships, but those plans are now in doubt. The future of the air force is also questionable, since the aging CF-18 was scheduled to be phased out starting in 2017. There are still no plans for a replacement.

Since the government's priorities are unlikely to change in the next few years, it should at least table a new defence strategy. Its current policy is now a shambles.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 12, 2014 A10

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