Financing Peace

A Collection of Articles Compiled by Erik Poole

By Erik Poole (editor) | 1991-07-01 12:00:00

The Canadian Government is cutting back defence programs and personnel. This comes as no surprise given the passing of the Cold War and the state of federal finances. After all, if some Canadians think $12 billion a year is too much to spend on defence, then they should really get excited when they realize that over $42 billion is spent yearly to service the public debt!

Apparently proposals before Cabinet could see the withdrawal of most or all troops from Europe and reductions in military personnel by as much as 25 per cent from the present 87,000 to somewhere between 65,000 and 70,000. As of this writing, the federal government has already removed $900 million in military acquisitions from the budget and has planned to eliminate just under 1,000 jobs at defence headquarters in Ottawa. Seven bases, including Lahr and Baden in West Germany and Goose Bay, Labrador, will be closed or scaled down.

The "peace dividend" debate comes to us from the United States, which has experienced hefty defence expenditure increases during the Reagan years. This debate has a much greater sense of urgency for the U.S., which spends, as a proportion of national wealth, two-and-a-half to three times as much as Canada does.

Yet, savings to the federal government could be substantial and some of the proposed cuts will hurt locally. Several strategic analysts have complained the cuts will drastically affect the operational ability of the Canadian armed forces, leaving it only capable of "thumping Canadians," as one Toronto-based consultant put it. The way the cuts were planned drove Vice Admiral Charles Thomas to resign publicly in April, days before he was slated to retire from a 37 year career with the armed forces.

In the first article in this collection, Rear-Admiral F.W. Crickard (Retired) supports Thomas's unusual move and his call for a public debate on defence policy.

Ivan Head draws upon his years of work in international development to make novel suggestions as to how Canada can fight poverty and repression and promote peace in the South. These include free-trade with the South and military training for Third World military officers.

Erik Poole argues that Canadian defence expenditures and production have unwittingly become tools of the welfare state, and that defence expenditures on the one hand and the creation and distribution of wealth on the other need to be disentangled.

If there is a common theme to these articles, it is that the peace dividend in itself promises to be meagre. Much attention needs to be paid to what we spend defence dollars on and how.

Since the completion of this dossier Erik Poole has gone on to work as a defence economist at the Centre for Studies in Defence Resources Management, National Defence College, Kingston, Ontario .

Peace Magazine Jul-Aug 1991

Peace Magazine Jul-Aug 1991, page 16. Some rights reserved.

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