OTTAWA — The country's top soldier has pushed back on suggestions the armed forces are struggling from a lack of cash, saying that he's not convinced National Defence is making the most of the money it already gets.
Chief of defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance says there are some areas of the military that clearly need more funding, starting with its crumbling bases, armouries and other infrastructure.
Yet he isn't prepared to go to the government with cap in hand just yet, saying there are ways the Defence Department can make better use of its $19-billion budget.
Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance speaks to the media at Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ont., on March 29, 2017. (Photo: Lars Hagberg/The Canadian Press)
"My gut instinct right now tells me we have way too much infrastructure in the armed forces for the size that we are," Vance said in an interview with The Canadian Press.
"We have a lot of buildings that we're paying tax on that we don't use. So before we blame government for a lack of money, we've got to make certain that in-house we are the most efficient we can be."
Vance's comments echo those made by Finance Minister Bill Morneau, who said last week that the armed forces was "appropriately provisioned" to meet Canada's needs.
The question of military spending has taken on a life of its own over the last year, after U.S. President Donald Trump called on NATO allies to contribute more to their own defence.
'The reprofiling was our choice'
Canada currently spends about one per cent of its GDP on defence, which is half the agreed-upon NATO target of two per cent and puts it in the bottom half among the allies.
Yet rather than increase defence spending, last week's federal budget saw the Liberal government delay hundreds of millions of dollars in planned equipment purchases by several years.
Vance said defence officials were the ones who asked for the delay because several projects weren't ready for the money, which Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan's office blames on a shortage of procurement staff.
"The reprofiling was our choice," Vance said. "I know people have a hard time believing that, but it is true. There's no point giving us billions when we can't spend it."