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Spectator Op-Ed “Spending more on defence and the military is nothing to celebrate”

Updated: Apr 6, 2021

by Joy Warner, Hamilton Spectator, October 27, 2020

Recent news reports say “Canada has taken a big leap closer to meeting its promise to the NATO military alliance to spend a larger share of its economy on defence.” This is no cause for celebration. Surely this is a case of skewed priorities in a time of the global pandemic, increased demands for health research spending, and expanding youth unemployment to name just a few of the economic challenges facing Canada today.

War is big business for weapons manufacturers.

Canadian weapons exports in 2019 saw a 78 per cent increase over the prior year, rising from $2.1 billion to $3.75 billion. Saudi Arabia was the largest non-U.S. export destination, receiving approximately $2.864 billion in Canadian military exports.

American arms exports increased more than 20 per cent over the past decade and were 76 per cent higher than those of the second-largest arms exporter in the world, Russia.

At the same time, we are failing in our foreign aid commitments. When the Liberals were first elected in 2015, ODA stood at 0.28 per cent of global national income, a ratio that the Trudeau government has never surpassed. Canada is unlikely to return to being one of the world’s most generous aid donors any time soon, let alone meet its five-decades-old target of 0.7 per cent of GNI.

Peace researcher Tamara Lorincz reminds us that “The ecological footprint of war and ongoing preparations for war cannot be ignored. Militarism is a top contributor to the global climate crisis and a direct cause of lasting environmental damage. And yet military activities are often exempted from key environmental regulations, such as the Kyoto Protocol.”

According to the Political Economy Research Institute, investing in peacetime industries produces more jobs, and, in many cases, better-paying jobs, than would spending that money on the military. For example, each billion dollars of government spending invested in the military creates about 12,000 jobs. Investing it instead in health care produces 18,000 jobs, in education 25,000 jobs, and in mass transit 27,700 jobs. The average wages and benefits of the 25,000 education jobs created is significantly higher than that of the military’s 12,000 jobs.

Furthermore, according to the 2018 Global Peace Index, produced by the IEP, the global economic impact of violence is $14.76 trillion, 12 per cent of global GDP. Based on estimates from the United Nations, just $30 billion a year — 1.5 per cent of global military spending — could end hunger on earth and $11 billion a year could provide clean drinking water for all.

It is time to stop the military spending theft from health care, education, infrastructure, the environment, poverty and homelessness

It is time to restore Canada’s reputation as a global leader in peace building. It is also time to challenge the falsehoods that war is inevitable, that other people are evil, that war is in our nature and that war is noble and glorious.

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