Canada urged to spend more on defence as NATO chief addresses summit – National

Canada is facing mounting pressure to cough up more cash on defence, with the NATO chief saying the current benchmark is the minimum allies should be spending.


NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg insists the status quo is “not good enough,” warning leaders who have gathered in Washington, D.C., for the alliance’s annual summit — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — that more needs to be done.

“There is no way to provide strong defence without the strong defence industry,” said Stoltenberg on Tuesday. “That’s why this conference is so important.”

Stoletenberg did not single out Canada during his speech, but U.S. lawmakers have expressed their frustrations with Trudeau directly.

Click to play video: 'NATO Summit: Former Canadian ambassador discusses possible tensions'

NATO Summit: Former Canadian ambassador discusses possible tensions

NATO is marking its 75th anniversary, but analysts say Canada risks being relegated to the background of talks as it continues to fall short of spending targets.

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Trudeau met with a bipartisan group of American senators Tuesday, including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and Democratic Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

After the meeting, McConnell posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that Canada needs to boost spending.

“Shared values and close economic ties have always been the strength of the U.S.-Canada relationship. But it’s time for our northern ally to invest seriously in the hard power required to help preserve prosperity and security,” said McConnell.

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Schumer was less critical publicly, writing on X, “I look forward to continuing to work together to further the U.S-Canada relationship, to strengthen NATO.”

But sources have told Global News the Biden administration is increasingly losing patience with Canada for not paying its share in defence.

Click to play video: 'NATO Summit: Defence spending top of mind as Trudeau meets with US political leaders'

NATO Summit: Defence spending top of mind as Trudeau meets with US political leaders

In May, a group of U.S. senators sent a letter to Trudeau expressing their disappointment.

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Canada routinely misses the current benchmark of spending at least two per cent of GDP on defence. NATO estimates Canada spends 1.37 per cent. But Stoltenberg said even that benchmark is only the bare minimum expected of allies.

“Two per cent is now the floor for our defence spending,” said Stoltenberg. “It’s not good enough what we do now.”

NATO says 23 allies now meet or exceed the two-per cent benchmark, up from just seven in 2022.

Trudeau addressed the Canadian embassy in Washington and defended Canada’s defence spending record.

“When we took office, Canada was spending less than one per cent of its GDP on defence every year. We vowed to change that right away, and we followed through on our word,” said Trudeau.

Canada’s updated defence policy forecasts spending will rise from 1.37 per cent of GDP currently to 1.76 per cent by 2030, which is an increase from $26.9 billion in the last fiscal year to an estimated $49.5 billion.

“NATO is the strongest military alliance in the world. To keep it that way, we must continue to step up, individually and collectively, to strengthen both our alliance and the collective peace it represents and protects,” said Trudeau.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland echoed Trudeau’s message at a news conference in Toronto.

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“I think it’s important for Canadians to recognize Canada is the seventh biggest defence spender in the entire NATO alliance of 32 countries,” she said.

In pure dollar value, Canada does rank seventh among NATO allies, according to the alliance. But in share of GDP spent on defence, Canada ranks fifth to last.

Click to play video: 'Freeland defends Canada’s defence spending, calling country 7th ‘biggest’ spender in NATO alliance'

Freeland defends Canada’s defence spending, calling country 7th ‘biggest’ spender in NATO alliance

Defence Minister Bill Blair says Canada will reach the two-per cent threshold but has not said when.

“I have no intention of Canada being a free-rider,” Blair told a security forum on the eve of the summit.

While other NATO members have also failed to hit that number, Canada is the only country that has yet to provide a concrete plan on when it will get there. Stoltenberg has said a roadmap will be expected at this week’s summit.

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Canada will likely face even more pressure to boost spending if Donald Trump becomes the next U.S. president.

Last February, Trump said he would “encourage” Russia to “do whatever the hell they want” to NATO allies who don’t pay their bills.

— with files from Mercedes Stephenson and Sean Boynton

&copy 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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