That major imbalance

Long ago, U.S. President Eisenhower warned his nation about the dangers stemming from the burgeoning military-industria1 complex.

It was becoming the single most powerful influence on policy. In the intervening years, the dangers originating there have turned into something even more sinister, a major imbalance in the nation’s affairs. Regrettably, that alarming development has had echoes here in Canada.

Nowadays U.S. defence expenditures have reached heights that are almost beyond comprehension. As of a year ago, the total of $677-billion is more than all of the other countries of the world combined, consuming approximately 23 per cent of the United States’ total federal budget. While that, of course, is not directly our problem, unfortunately Canada appears to be going along that irresponsible path.

In 1968 in the middle of the Cold War, Canada’s annual defence spending was slightly more than $1.8-billion. Adjusted for inflation that would be $7.2-billion today. Instead, our current defence expenditures are the wildly extravagant $18.2-billion.

With the Cold War over many years ago, we are now spending more than twice the total allocated in 1968. That excludes the planned purchase of 65 fighter jets costing at least $16-billion.

Certainly it would be logical to cut defence spending to half the outlays of the Cold War, $1.8-billion, to $900 million – in current dollars: $4.6-billion. The saving of about $14-billion would reduce the federal budget deficit by some 27 per cent.

The Harper administration tries to justify the purchase of jets, which incidentally was made without competitive bidding, by arguing that small businesses in Canada would receive spill over sub-contracts. Clearly, there must be a better way to spend taxpayers’ money.

Obviously, the public should reject our defence expenditures program. We should not be captives of the giant, military-industrial complex in the United States, one that has had an insidious influence on us. Members of Parliament and the U.S. Congress accept this plan for several reasons.

First, no one wants to be accused of being “soft” on questions of defence, even though there are no looming threats to national security.

Then lobbyists for military contractors prey on legislators by presenting huge campaign contributions and implying that otherwise opposition candidates would be funded.

Finally, various parts of Canada, anxious to obtain a share of sub-contract work, continue their clamour for ever higher defence spending.

Long overdue is an end to this irrational, in fact disgraceful, charade.



Bruce Whitestone