With the disappearance of the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union, most Canadians want the government to significantly reduce our military budget. After all, over the past forty years, about half our military budget was spent preparmg for war with the Warsaw Pact. A Gallup poll (Feb.12-15), commissioned by the Canadian Peace Alliance, shows that 24% want the military budget cut in half, while 28% want it cut by 25%. Another 11% want it cut by 10%. Only 7% wanted it increased.
Despite these public sentiments, the government has again increased the military budget, while convincing the public that it has actually been cut. This happens regularly:
While many think the budget has suffered drastic cuts, since 1980 it has increased in real terms by 42%.
Finance Minister Mazankowski said in his budget speech on February 25 that "the defence review of last September and further measures taken with this budget yield a substantial peace dividend for Canadians. Defence spending will be cut by a total of $2.2 billion over the next five years."
Here's how the illusion is created: The government greatly inilates its projected wish lists for military spending over the next five years, then announcs cutbaclrs to those unrealistic projections. This system calms the public while satisfying leaders of the military-industrial complex, who are still getting moderate increases while others are cut.
An editorial in the Globe and Mail pointed out that "though the military budget will increase from $12.1 billion this year to $12.7 billion in 1994, this does represent a total of $2.2 billion less over the next five years than what the artned forces were expected to receive. The savings from these and other cuts around the margins mean that, at least for the moment, there will be no reductions in already announced equipment acquisition programs, such as the Navy's planned 12 patrol frigates" (March 4,1992).
The Main Estimates for the budget (p.22) explain further how "reductions" can mean increases: "Last year's Main Estimates included a non-recurring sum of $600 million related to Canada's support of the United Nation's opera-dons in the Persian Gulf. If this amount is excluded, the 1992-1993 Main Estimates for National Defence are in-creasing by $230 million, reflecting growth in line with the forecasted rate of iniflation....The increases are: $160 million for various capital requirements; $98.5 million for operating and maintenance requirements; $15.3 million for statutory costs for civilian and military pensions; $12.3 million for direct personnel costs."Another real increase, of $23.3 mil
lion, was given to the Defence Industry Productivity Program, which disburses grants to companies to encourage export of military equipment.
Richard Sanders coordinates the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade and edits Press for Converston.