No one, including the senior ranks of the Canadian Forces, really knows when Prime Minister Paul Martin is going to find himself in front of a television camera and announce he?s sending Canadian soldiers on an overseas mission.
Soldiers had to be watching Mr. Martin?s appearance on a live townhall meeting on CBC television last month to learn that as many as 500 troops would be left in Afghanistan after the current mission ends there in August. This week, he found himself at United Nations headquarters in New York and couldn?t resist the opportunity to commit Canadian troops to Haiti.
Once again, senior military officials are now scrambling to scrounge up the resources and personnel to carry out Mr. Martin?s sweeping commitment. Neither the Forces nor Mr. Martin can answer questions like ?how many?? or ?how long??
Should Canada be sending soldiers to help protect the citizens of Haiti as they endure another round of civil unrest? Absolutely! The crisis in Haiti is the kind of mission where Canada can offer stability and security to a people in crisis. The trouble is ? where is the government going to find the troops?
The Canadian Forces has told the Liberal government it has a maximum of 500 soldiers available for foreign deployments. The 2000-troop force sent to Afghanistan has left Canada?s military stretched far beyond its limits. An ?operational pause? is urgently required. Yet, that advice hasn?t stopped Mr. Martin from committing additional soldiers to Afghanistan and Haiti in less than a month.
Since coming to power in 1993, the Liberal government has made $20-billion in real culmulative cuts from Canada?s defence budget and then forced the cash-strapped military to get by with 20,000 fewer soldiers. As a result, we?ll be lucky if a few hundred soldiers can be scraped up for a mission to Haiti.
Alain Pellerin, the Executive Director of the Conference of Defence Associations says the Liberals were gambling that another international crisis wouldn?t arise for another few months. ?But the world will not stop because our troops are stretched,? added Mr. Pellerin.
As I made very clear in the House of Commons last month, the men and women of the armed forces are more than willing to do the job they ?signed up to do?. They?re eager to use their skills and training. There just simply aren?t enough of them.
This government?s ?seat of the pants? diplomacy and defence policy consists of little more than making grandiose statements on the international stage about sending our troops around the world, while back at home, Mr. Martin denies the funding, personnel and equipment required to carry out his haphazard announcements.
As Senior Defence Critic for the Official Opposition I have stated that the Canadians Forces immediately requires an additional $2-billion per year and that regular force personnel should be increased to 80,000 troops. This is the only way that Canada can continue its role in international peace and security matters and maintain our domestic defence needs.
Let?s see this Liberal government start to put their money where their mouth is and financially support the military in this country!