While Bill Morneau is said to be living up to his name – “more no” – when approached by colleagues with spending requests ahead of his March 21 budget, the finance minister is actively seeking to spend more money on the defence file.

This absurdity has resulted from the Liberal government’s desire to ditch Canada’s reputation as the cheap date of NATO by increasing the percentage of gross domestic product it spends on defence from 1 per cent to 1.2 per cent, in line with a commitment made by all NATO countries to work towards a goal of 2 per cent. The new Trump administration has made clear its intolerance toward what it sees as “free riders” on defence.

The speculation is that Morneau will achieve this by a combination of methods.

Firstly, he will shovel existing spending such as the $1 billion or so spent on the Canadian Coast-Guard into the defence envelope, as well as some costs associated with the Canada Border Services Agency.

The second move is likely to cause indigestion for many progressive Liberals. Sources suggest that a proposal to sign on to the U.S. ballistic missile defence program was sent to Cabinet last week.

There is no word on whether it was approved but if it was, the spending implications could show up in the budget, with details to follow in the Defence Policy Review that is sitting on the desk of minister Harjit Sajjan.


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