In a sharp break with the past, the new Canadian government has publicly released what were once highly confidential “mandate letters” by which the Prime Minister issues his instructions to new Cabinet ministers. We attach below the links to three of particular interest to readers of The Vimy Report: letters to the ministers of national defence, public safety, and foreign affairs.
The first 12 paragraphs are common to all the mandate letters, reminding ministers of the Liberal Party’s commitments during the recent election campaign and expressing the Prime Minister’s expectation that all ministers will do their part to ensure promises are fulfilled. The letters then outline the expectations for each minister. The final paragraphs are an exhortation to work cooperatively with the Public Service and to abide by ethics guidelines.
For the Minister of National Defence, we would judge the five most notable instructions to be the following:
- End Canada’s combat mission in Iraq and Syria,
- Maintain current National Defence spending levels including current planned increases,
- Hold a competition to replace the CF-18 fighter aircraft (N.B. the instruction does not explicitly exclude the F-35 as the Liberal Party election platform did),
- Invest in strengthening the Navy, and
- Renew Canada’s commitment to United Nations peace operations (N.B. not “peacekeeping”).
The full text of the operational paragraphs are as follows:
As Minister of National Defence, your overarching goal will be to ensure that the Canadian Armed Forces are equipped and prepared, if called upon, to protect Canadian sovereignty, defend North America, provide disaster relief, conduct search and rescue, support United Nations peace operations, and contribute to the security of our allies and to allied and coalition operations abroad. It will be important that you ensure a close link between defence policy, foreign policy, and national security. I also ask you to work closely with your colleague, the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, to ensure a seamless transition for Canadian Forces members to the programs and services of Veterans Affairs.
In particular, I will expect you to work with your colleagues and through established legislative, regulatory, and Cabinet processes to deliver on your top priorities:
– Work with the Minister of Foreign Affairs to end Canada’s combat mission in Iraq and Syria, refocusing Canada’s efforts in the region on the training of local forces and humanitarian support.
– Ensure that the Canadian Armed Forces have the equipment they need. This includes:
- working with the Minister of Finance to maintain current National Defence spending levels, including current planned increases;
- working with the Minister of Public Services and Procurement to launch an open and transparent competition to replace the CF-18 fighter aircraft, focusing on options that match Canada’s defence needs; and
- working with the Minister of Public Services and Procurement to invest in strengthening the Navy, while meeting the commitments that were made as part of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.
– Work with the Minister of Foreign Affairs to renew Canada’s commitment to United Nations peace operations. This includes:
- making Canada’s specialized capabilities – from mobile medical teams, to engineering support, to aircraft that can carry supplies and personnel – available on a case-by-case basis;
- working with the Minister of Foreign Affairs to help the United Nations respond more quickly to emerging and escalating conflicts and providing well-trained personnel to international initiatives that can be quickly deployed, such as mission commanders, staff officers, and headquarters units; and
- leading an international effort to improve and expand the training of military and civilian personnel deployed on peace operations, while insisting that any peacekeepers involved in misconduct be held accountable by their own country and the United Nations.
– Maintain Canada’s strong commitments to the North American Aerospace Defence Command (NORAD) and to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
– Conduct an open and transparent review process to create a new defence strategy for Canada, replacing the now-outdated Canada First Defence Strategy.
– Renew Canada’s focus on surveillance and control of Canadian territory and approaches, particularly our Arctic regions, and increase the size of the Canadian Rangers.
– Work with senior leaders of the Canadian Armed Forces to establish and maintain a workplace free from harassment and discrimination.
– Work with the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence to reduce complexity, overhaul service delivery, and strengthen partnerships between National Defence and Veterans Affairs.
– Support the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in a review of existing measures to protect Canadians and our critical infrastructure from cyber-threats.
– Work with the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence to develop a suicide prevention strategy for Canadian Armed Forces personnel and veterans.
The feature image is of the new Canadian Minister of National Defence (MND), the Hon. Harjit Sajjan, OMM, MSM, CD, being welcomed at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa. (forces.gc.ca)