Canada’s finance minister, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, shelled out more money for the military in a budget Thursday that also aims to tackle soaring costs of living and a housing crisis.
But the additional 8 billion Canadian dollars ($6.4 billion) earmarked for defense over five years falls far short of a NATO target of spending two percent of GDP.
In a speech to parliament, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said: “Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has reminded us that our own peaceful democracy — like all the democracies of the world — depends ultimately on the defense of hard power.”
“We know that freedom does not come for free, and that peace is guaranteed only by our readiness to fight for it,” she said. “That is why this budget makes an immediate, additional investment in our armed forces.”
According to NATO, Canada currently spends 1.36 percent of GDP on the military, which is down slightly from just a few years ago.
To meet the two percent NATO target, Ottawa would have to set aside tens of billions of dollars more each year, according to parliament’s independent fiscal watchdog and other experts.
Freeland suggested Ottawa could still close that NATO gap soon, proposing “a swift defense policy review to equip Canada for a world that has become more dangerous.”
Canada, with one of the largest Ukrainian diasporas in the world, also announced an additional 1 billion Canadian dollars in loans through the International Monetary Fund and 500 million Canadian dollars in military aid for Ukraine this year.
The budget is the first since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s Liberals won a third term in elections last September.
With support from a small leftist faction, the minority government is expected to pass it in a soon-to-be held vote in the House of Commons.