Feds announce more money for Arctic defence with few details on infrastructure

Members of Joint Task Force North gathered in Yellowknife on Monday morning to hear an announcement from federal Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal about military spending in the coming years. (Travis Burke/CBC )

The federal government says it will spend billions of dollars on the military over the next several years, including in Canada’s North. 

The new defence policy announced on Monday ahead of the federal government’s annual budget will include $8.1 billion over five years and $73 billion over 20 years in military spending. 

Federal Northern Affairs Minister Daniel Vandal made the announcement in Yellowknife on Monday, alongside N.W.T. Premier R.J. Simpson, N.W.T. MP Michael McLeod and Yukon MP Brendan Hanley. 

The event echoed an announcement made earlier on Monday by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

The policy, called Our North, Strong and Free, is heavily focused on Canada’s North and Arctic sovereignty and includes money for new fighter jets, new maritime patrol aircraft and Arctic and offshore patrol vessels.

It also includes $1.4 billion over 20 years to buy specialized maritime sensors to conduct ocean surveillance on all three coasts. 

In terms of new infrastructure in the Arctic, the policy includes $218 million to be spent over 20 years on what the federal government calls “northern operational support hubs.”

‘A year-round presence in the Arctic’

Vandal said those hubs will include logistics facilities and equipment, as well as stockpiles of materials and essential parts.

“These hubs will allow the [Canadian Armed Forces] to establish a year-round presence in the Arctic and increase the military’s ability to respond on short notice to all kinds of threats,” Vandal said.

Vandal also said there will be “significant opportunities to invest in multi-use infrastructure” to support the military’s operations in the North.

Vandal did not explain what those opportunities would involve. 

He also said the new policy commits to buying all-terrain vehicles for ice, snow and tundra. It will also renew and expand submarine fleets with vessels that can operate under the ice and create ground-based air-defence systems. 

“As we proceed with all of these investments, northerners will be at the heart of our work,” Vandal said. 

Premier Simpson said the N.W.T. government intends to be a “strong partner” to the federal government and Indigenous governments on the new defence policy. 

“We know that more work needs to be done to shore up our transportation, energy and communications infrastructure,” Simpson said. 

“I am hopeful that today’s announcement will help us advance these goals.”

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Canada pledges billions for defence, falls short of NATO’s 2%, CBC News

FinlandMilitary exercise apparently disrupts weather images from Lapland, Yle news

IcelandIceland authorizes U.S. submarine service visits, Eye on the Arctic 

Norway: “Historical strengthening of our Armed Forces,” says Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

RussiaAs NATO forces move north for exercise, Northern Fleet sails out frigates, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Swedes must mentally prepare for war, says military top brass, Radio Sweden

United States: U.S. nominates Alaskan as first Arctic ambassador, Eye on the Arctic

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