OTTAWA — Canada’s national security spending skyrocketed in the post-9/11 decade and it may be time to start cutting back, said a report released Wednesday by an Ottawa-based think tank.
“The government has created a national security establishment in Canada,” Steven Staples, president of the Ottawa-based Rideau Institute, told a press conference.
“A decade after the attacks of 9/11 it’s time to re-evaluate whether we should continue the high level of national security spending.”
In total, Canada devoted an additional CAN$92 billion (US$93 billion) to keep Canadians safe, the report said.
Canada’s military expenditures have nearly doubled since 2001, when hijacked planes slammed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania.
In the same time period Canada’s spending on security and public safety programs tripled.
The report notes that a new Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness was created in late 2003 mirroring a similar US agency reorganization. The same year, a new Canada Border Services Agency was created. Both moves aimed to better consolidate intelligence and security functions.
Spending by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police doubled in the last decade, and tripled at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
Foreign Affairs, which was dominated by trade promotion in the 1990s, took on an increased role in understanding and identifying potential foreign security threats.
There was also a renewed focus on Canada’s justice system as more resources were poured into discovering and apprehending potential terrorists and their networks.
“Canadian governments, alarmed by new US border security measures that could impact trade, politically navigated between deeper integration with US military and security priorities, and a wary Canadian public deeply distrustful of US ambitions,” the report said.
“While other countries have been much harder hit by terrorism, Canada has nonetheless committed significant resources since 9/11 to national security. While some may feel that the $92 billion spent … has been worth it, others might argue that the money could have been better spent,” it concludes.
“The real question today is whether or not we should continue this level of expenditure.”
The report did not look at whether the increased spending was appropriate, said Staples, but he commented that when you have such a rapid increase in spending, “there’s going to be waste.”
The report’s author, David Macdonald, said the increased expenditures “may have made sense” after the 9/11 terrorist attacks — but now that Al-Qaeda has largely defeated, its leader Osama bin Laden is dead, and Canada’s Afghanistan combat mission is ended, it may be time to scale it back.