Amid growing international hostility, Canada continues to slip further away from its NATO commitment to spend a minimum of 2% of GDP on the nation’s defence. 

NATO’s Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg made the message clear that all NATO allies are expected to meet the 2% target as a minimum and that Canada needs to step up.

“I expect all allies to meet the guidelines that we have set,” he said. “So of course, this is a message to all allies, including Canada.”

His comments came as NATO leaders arrived in Munich on Tuesday to take part in a major NATO summit. 

Prime minister Justin Trudeau defended his government’s defence spending at a press conference on Tuesday at this year’s G7 summit.

“We, like others, are developing plans to be able to scale up rapidly and those are conversations I very much look forward to having over the next couple of days.”

Despite the commitment made in 2014 to increase Canada’s defence spending to 2%, the Trudeau government has not outlined how they will reach this goal, instead choosing to remain vague.

According to a NATO press release, Canada’s defence spending as a share of GDP has dropped from 1.42% in 2020 and 1.32% in 2021 to 1.27% in 2022. 

While the Trudeau government has committed to increasing Canada’s military spending in the latest federal budget, the increase from $41.5 billion to $51.1 billion by 2026-27 will only increase Canada’s defence spending rate to an estimated 1.6%.

The parliamentary budget office estimates it would take $75 billion over the next five years to reach the target.

Currently, Canada falls behind the NATO guidelines and the NATO average as Canada places 24 out of the 29 NATO member nations in defence spending as a share of GDP.

In the report, Stoltenberg identified three groups of NATO members; 9 countries that are currently meeting the NATO defence spending recommendation, 19 that have a clear path to meeting the target by 2024, and 5 that are further behind. Canada is currently in the latter category. 

Countries like Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Slovak Republic, and Croatia did not meet the NATO recommendation in 2014 but were able to cross the threshold with significant increases in defence funding. 

On Wednesday, Trudeau met with Stoltenberg while at the NATO summit. According to the prime minister’s press release, “Trudeau affirmed Canada’s commitment to strengthening [NATO’s] shared security commitments, including through substantial investments in continental and northern defence.”

Conservative leadership candidate Jean Charest has said if he is elected prime minister, he will ensure that Canada meets the 2% defence spending mark and expand the Canadian Armed Forces to 100,000 regular personnel. 

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