ontario news watch
Other Categories

Canada set to provide details on defence funding timeline as NATO summit wraps up

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Canada is expected to provide more details about its plan to meet defence spending targets, in an effort to quell concerns that have dogged the prime minister during this week’s NATO summit in Washington, D.C.

NATO allies have agreed to spend at least the equivalent of two per cent of their national gross domestic product on defence but Canada has long fallen short.

A senior government official speaking on background said Canada will provide a timeline to reach the funding goal on Thursday, along with more information about its plan.

Defence Minister Bill Blair suggested a plan was coming earlier this week on the margins of the summit. American politicians also alluded to Canadian promises during meetings with the prime minister.

Roger Wicker, the highest-ranking Republican on the U.S. Senate’s armed services committee, said he spoke to Trudeau as he called out Canada on the Senate floor for not meeting its commitments.

“I was able to meet with Prime Minister Trudeau just a few moments ago and was glad to hear him say that an announcement will be made from our friends in Canada … about a new plan to more quickly reach that two per cent goal,” Wicker said Tuesday.

“And I call on him to fulfill that statement that he made to us in private.”

Trudeau began his week in Washington trying to deflect criticism rather than releasing the plan. In a Tuesday speech, the prime minister said the Liberal government has been following through on promises to drastically increase defence spending since it came into power.

Canada’s defence budget has grown by more than 57 per cent since 2014, and it is estimated at $29.9 billion for this year. Only the U.S., United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Turkey spend more in terms of real dollars.

But 23 of the 32 allies are expected to meet the two per cent target this year. Canada, thus far, is the only lagging ally that hasn’t presented a plan to meet the minimum.

Some experts have said that if Ottawa had a plan, it should have been shared ahead of the three-day summit so NATO allies would know Canada is serious.

“Tell them exactly what you are going to do,” Fen Hampson, a professor of international affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa, said Wednesday.

Meanwhile, NATO is expected to continue its focus on Ukraine Thursday after members formally declared the war-ravaged country was on an “irreversible” path to membership in the Western military alliance.

Trudeau pledged another $500 million in military assistance to Ukraine in a one-on-one conversation with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday.

The prime minister is expected to meet with new British Prime Minister Keir Starmer and other leaders on Thursday as the three-day summit comes to a close.

Joe Biden will close out the NATO summit with a rare solo press conference at a critical time for the U.S. president to quell concerns about his age and well-being.

Biden’s health and the possibility of a second Donald Trump presidency have cast a shadow over the summit.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 11, 2024.

— With files from The Associated Press.

Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press