Saturday, January 27, 2007

A bake sale in Halifax?

It's been a while since I've seen the bumper sticker that goes (with many variations): "When will the navy have to hold a bake sale to buy a new battleship?" If you live in Canada, perhaps that time has come.

Surfing the news from the Great White North on the CBC, I came across this headline: "No NATO exercise for cash-strapped navy." The article goes on:

"The Canadian navy is pulling three ships out of planned NATO exercises off Nova Scotia next week, citing a lack of funding. There's no money for the warships to join the U.S. and German ships, navy officials said Friday."

Let me repeat: The Canadian defense budget doesn't contain enough money for three ships to take part in these exercises, which will be conducted off their own coast. Furthermore, it seems that "now the navy says other exercises and missions could be cancelled because of the budget crunch."

All this took place just two weeks after a "sovereignty exercise" by HMCS Halifax off the Newfoundland coast was canceled because "the navy couldn't afford fuel" (though it quickly changed its mind in the face of adverse publicity).

Meanwhile, the U.S. and German navies will begin the NATO exercises off Halifax without the benefit of any Canadian presence. The cost of participation would've been $3.5 million Canadian, an amount equal to what the U.S. spends in 16 minutes on the Iraq war (1).

This may sound like so much Schadenfreude (2), or even a kind of American triumphalism, but it all seems strangely refreshing to me.

But all kidding aside, I hasten to emphasize that Canada has suffered from its involvement in the war in Afghanistan, with 44 soldiers killed (all but 8 of them in 2006). Much of the strain on its defense budget is a result of Canada's prominent role in that conflict, with 2,500 troops on the ground. Many Canadian units are stationed around Kandahar, an especially dangerous part of the country.


(1) The National Priorities Project notes that, "on average, the federal government spends about $11 million every hour on the Iraq War, $256 million each day, or around $8 billion per month." Their total estimated cost of the war to date is $361,536,871,486 and counting.

This useful German word means, roughly, "finding joy in the suffering of others." The Finns have a saying that goes "schadenfreude is the purest joy, since it doesn't include a bit of envy." But the CDF's budget crunch hasn't created a national crisis for our neighbors, fortunately.

GRAPHIC: Alleged recruitment poster for the Canadian navy.

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