September 24, 2015

Canada doesn't "need, nor can we afford, a military that can defend against an invading force"

Tim BallRebel Columnist

(This is Part Two of Dr. Tim Ball's series on the future of Canada's military. Read Part One here.)

The landmass of Canada is indefensible with its limited population and the military we maintain.

The extent of our oceans is a bigger problem, especially with the importance of the submarine, which became pivotal in the Cold War. China’s construction of a nuclear powered intercontinental missile-carrying submarine fleet underscores the threat. 

We have three ocean coastlines but only deal with two, both ineffectively.

During the Cuban Crisis, we were surprised by the number of Soviet submarines that popped up and ran to supply vessels knowing that was more important than revealing their location. We didn’t know how they got past our patrols covering the normal access routes from their northern base on the White Sea (Figure 1).

(Figure 1.)

They were tracking under the ice and passing through Canadian waters to the East Greenland Channel, the deepest channel in and out of the Arctic Ocean. This problem is getting worse with new Russian adventurism in the Arctic.

This is just one of a multitude of problems.

I admire the Inuit Arctic patrols, and they detect problems earlier and better than anyone. The problem is they can report, but there is little or nothing we can do.

The best weapon against a submarine is another submarine. Canada has four antiquated second-hand non-nuclear submarines. They are worse than useless, something that is true of most of our military hardware.

We have a wide range of aircraft most of which can be used in a better role for Canada. The biggest waste of money is the CF 188 Hornet.

We bought 128 and had lost 25 in accidents, which is a disturbingly high loss rate. We were going to buy more but delayed so long the price went up and it was all we could afford. We also sold 43, so we have 60 left. They have a combat range of 537 km, which is of little value in a country the size of Canada unless you only want to defend Ottawa.

So much of Canada’s defense policy is dictated by the belief that we need a similar military structure to the United States and, therefore, similar equipment. Our policy is driven by four factors.

First, the US wants to sell expensive equipment like the Hornet.

Second, the belief we can fly in support of offensive military operations like in Europe or the Middle East. The travesty of this was we bought the CF5 as a combat support aircraft in Europe. This plan fell through when they didn’t buy the refueling aircraft necessary to get the planes to Europe. We sold some of the planes to Colombia and put the air-frames in storage. 

Third, we have obligations as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), North American Air Defense (NORAD) and the United Nations.

Fourth, politicians use their equipment purchases to prop up Canadian manufacturers. They buy some Canadian designed and manufactured equipment but ignore equipment that the country needs such as the Canadair CL 215, but more on that later.

NATO is an anachronism, a leftover from the Cold War. It is the remaining Treaty Organization of four designed to contain the Soviet Union (Figure 2). The other three were the Middle East Treaty Organization (METO), the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), and the South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO). With the problems in Europe and a move by the US to withdraw troops from Europe, NATO is unlikely to survive.

Whether NATO survives or not, Canada can provide a very different type of support than we have done to date. We need to develop support services from our domestic needs that respond to our geography.

(Figure 2.)

NORAD continues and makes some sense, but we can provide support of its aims in different, more effective and useful ways.

Canada does not need, nor can it support a conventional US style military. What we need is a military that can provide logistical support to whatever alliance we join. That logistical support will form the basis of the type of Para-military force to meet Canada’s domestic needs.

Canada is so big that just Wood Buffalo National Park at 44,807 km2 is larger than Denmark (43,094 km2) so it would be the 129th largest country in the world. Environment and its protection were not a factor when the British North America (BNA) Act was written. The Act divided powers between the federal and provincial governments but was written when Canada was very different in size, population, values, and needs. Some adjustments occurred through the years, but most involved loss of provincial power and a gain of federal power. That, in my opinion, is not a good trend as I wrote in an earlier column.

Overall reduction of federal power creates better and regionally appropriate response and control. There are, however, obligations and needs that require the wider response of the federal government. This is reflected in its primary role of defense. However, I would extend the definition of defense to include defense of the environment – the national legacy – a legacy that encompasses and challenges all Canadians.

Needs that transcend current divisions of power and mandated by the new priorities include:

* Forest fire control.

* Data collection and complete environmental inventories.
The lack of data for a multitude of natural resources is seriously limiting for planning, preserving, conserving and managing the environment. There are completely inadequate inventories of rivers, streams, and climate data. We have fewer weather stations now than we had in 1960. Some say Canada has 30 percent of the world’s freshwater, but nobody knows. We know animal populations fluctuate widely naturally but have no accurate data. Extremists exploit animal population numbers when they are low because people don’t know about the natural variations in the numbers. We heard about low salmon numbers back in the 1990s, but nothing is said now about the massive numbers of salmon runs of the last two years.

* Identification and preservation of unique ecologies.

* Environmental disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, and droughts.

* International disasters.

Countries with successful economies are ones that develop their resources and accommodate the geographic realities. Successful defense of the country must follow the same concepts.

We do not need, nor can we afford, a military that can defend against an invading force. We do not need a force that spends all its time preparing for war. Even now most of the military spend most of their time taking courses.

What they really need are activities that improve their skills but also benefit the country. This is important for morale.

I know serving in search and rescue was often frustrating but very rewarding. It was the same when flying antisubmarine patrols. It involved hours of “boring holes in the sky”.  Then we learned how to identify whale species and report all we saw, including, type, number, location, and direction of movement.

We need a force that allows us to keep our treaty and alliance commitments, but we also need a force that can contribute to bettering the nation in peacetime, which is most of the time and hopefully forever.    



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commented 2015-09-26 10:52:22 -0400
Gordon T – in a time of war our natural resources would be in high demand. There definitely would be potential threats and I am sure the DOD has played out numerous scenarios. Our protection would be the US.
Tim, this article makes so much sense – we need the right Military for Canada but also need to respect the Alliances we have and our need to outfit our soldiers (airmen, navy, etc.) with the best equipment. The F-35 is just wrong. Hopefully Canadian designed and made (like the Avro Arrow in its day). So much opportunity here with the right vision leading. I nominate Tim Ball to be on the procurement committee.
commented 2015-09-25 12:02:39 -0400
We should be like the Swiss, where every law abiding citizen is an armed member of the nations security force.
commented 2015-09-25 01:46:35 -0400
We probably have to worry about a war internally than externally. I don’t think countries really want to take over Canada but it is so big all they really need to do is take over a small section of it to use as a hub to attack the US. I don’t think it will happen though.
commented 2015-09-24 23:38:48 -0400
We need a Military capable of delivering DEVASTATION to a foreign power. Simple. I don’t care if you use a Warship, Aircraft, Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, or an individual wearing a body bomb walking into their leaderships midst. Seems to be the approach used in modern warfare. Prepare your appropriate offensive and be PREPARED to protect your home. Leave the platitudes for Liberals looking for dinner conversation and prepare everything in your nations defence.
commented 2015-09-24 21:49:39 -0400
Simply defund the CBC and the problem would be solved.
commented 2015-09-24 21:45:23 -0400
Tim, you are not on the Ball with this one.
commented 2015-09-24 19:47:01 -0400
We might need a very strong Military -if the our current Politicians continue to insist that we Love every body that Hates us.
commented 2015-09-24 19:37:24 -0400
How did we defeat Germany twice?
commented 2015-09-24 18:58:31 -0400
I have never read an article so full of mistruths, incorrect statistics and or offering so much unresearched data.
commented 2015-09-24 17:56:10 -0400
Sorry Mr. Ball I disagree with you there are far too many tyrant countries in the world right now and I am not even sure that are some countries’ that we ahould not be aiding right now????
The problem is that one would need to investigate and look into them personally to know the truth – and that is not a possibility for most ordinary citizens’ – we must hope our Military top end is on top of any manipulations!!!
commented 2015-09-24 16:25:42 -0400
Sorry Mr. Ball. I totally disagree with you.

We can easily fund a modern military by simply putting our priorities straight. In a 500+ channel TV world, we do not need a national broadcaster anymore. Maybe we did in the past, but not anymore. All we have to do, is sell off the CBC and use that 1.1+++ Billion dollars per year to purchase and build state of the art equipment we need to keep us safe … and we would not even have to raise taxes doing it.

How much does a brand new state of the art nuclear submarine cost ? 2 to 4 billion ? We could have one paid for in 2 to 3 years. free and clear. We could have a fleet of them in 10 to12 years. We could have a fleet of F35s purchased the same way.

As I have said before, we cannot play the 12 year old kid in the school yard with the big USA backing us up anymore. The Russians have laid claim to the Arctic. The USA claims part of it as well. Therefore we can’t depend on the USA for help anymore.

We can build a strong and viable military. We just have to get our tax priorities corrected. The CBC is not necessary anymore. It’s wasted money.
commented 2015-09-24 12:33:05 -0400
Satellites and drones. Fighter jets are a 1990s thing. Harper knows this. Drones announcement after re-election.
commented 2015-09-24 12:15:24 -0400
The future role of our military will be determined by “events” not by Ottawa politicians developing policy papers with predefined roles. Our military must be flexible and have the ability to ramp-up in size very quickly to respond to events. To ramp-up quickly we must have a nucleus of well trained non-commissioned and commissioned officers. The ranks can be filled quickly but there has to be someone there who knows what to do and how to do it to provide organization and training. I believe that our future independence will depend on how well our military can respond, in a credible way, to unforeseen events.

A country without allies stands alone. Canada cannot defend itself and must have like minded allies. We must participate with our allies when collective action is required, as is currently the case in the middle east. As John Manley famously said, Canada cannot expect to have a seat at the table and a role with our allies (read US) in our own defence if, when it’s our turn to buy a round, we excuse ourselves and go to the washroom. Canada must maintain our equipment and our skills so we can participate, else be a lone voice in our wilderness.

There are a lot of really bad people out there and it some point in time we are going to have to deal with them. Canada must be capable of dealing with whatever comes our way.
commented 2015-09-24 12:08:03 -0400
we need to be able to police and control our waterways, otherwise we lose our fishing industry and eventually off shore oil reserves. we’re already had danish squatters claiming canadian islands up north (and russia is starting to make claims as well).

furthermore, we can not rely on the usa to protect us. if we do, we become like the ukraine who gave up military might for usa promises … and that didn’t really work out well for them.
commented 2015-09-24 10:43:06 -0400
Hi Tim et al,

This is an interesting piece and I am glad to see these issues finally being addressed (though I would not agree with all of the conclusions reached).

We live in a large resource rich, more or less politically stable country with a small population – and we are surrounded by a sea of political instability internationally. The world is changing by and large for the worse around us and for lack of a crystal ball it is difficult to see what this means for us as a nation.

Our commitment to NATO (and the UN) needs to be refined as we redefine what the purpose of our military should be used for in general. In a world of political instability we are fooling ourselves if we believe we are not a target on someones radar. Should we live in fear? No – the end is not nigh – but we should also be realists – if we value our sovereignty and our way of life (especially in terms of generations from now) we should be prepared to defend it – at the very least we need to begin to put the infrastructure in place so that our great grand children do not have to suddenly reinvent the wheel – we should be forward thinking – not reactionary – reactionary is bad in a tactical situation. That being said – given the logistical challenges brought on by our immense geographical size and relatively small population and tax base how do we make ourselves ‘unattractive’ to outside powers while still remaining friendly and respected?

I think there are time proven answers to this question – none of them perfect (what is?) but until we realize we no longer live in the world most of us thought we would inherit when we were kids then little will change and Canada will remain a resource ‘jewel’ prime for the plucking by the first strongman (wherever he may come from) with enough gaul to give it a go. It may seem implausible now – but as US power withers and the nation to the south of us further deteriorates financially, politically and socially can we really say that in a generation or two we will be able to depend on them to help us out in a crisis? Can we guarantee our grandchildren or great grandchildren that they’ll even exist as a nation?

The one constant in the universe is change. We can accept that and prepare for the future – good or bad – or we can be steam rolled by it. It’s our choice.