Setting the record straight on Canada's defense spending trends

In the lead-up to this year's federal election in Canada, the major parties are jockeying for position on the defense file.

According to a report at iPolitics, some rather unusual claims are being made by Conservative defense minister Jason Kenney's office in reply to Liberal defense critic Joyce Murray:

The government reacted to Murray's press conference with its own list of what it called "Just the Facts," highlighting cases where it says Liberal governments and MPs have failed to support to military.

"Joyce Murray admitted today 'that Liberals may not have been perfect in previous governments.' In fact, this is a massive understatement about their legacy -- the 'decade of darkness' they inflicted upon on our armed forces," said Lauren Armstrong, press secretary for Defense Minister Jason Kenney.

Armstrong outlined four "facts" to support the government’s position as a supporter of the Canadian Armed Forces, saying that:

1) The Liberals slashed defense spending from $12 billion in 1993 to barely $10 billion in 1997;

2) The Conservative government has increased the defense budget since 2006 by 38 per cent;

3) The government believes that if the Liberals had their way, Canada wouldn't have acquired any new strategic airlift capacity; and

4) The Canadian Armed Forces are active at home and abroad.

"These are just a sample of the contribution made by the Canadian Armed Forces domestically and internationally, of which we can be very proud," Armstrong said.

These claims by Kenney's office have already made their way up the "baloney meter" in some media outlets, and deservedly so.

It's clear that the Conservative government has most certainly not increased the defense budget since 2006 by 38 percent, no matter how we look at the data.

In the 2006 fiscal year, Canadian defense spending was CAD$17.1 billion in current dollars.  As of 2014, it had reached CAD$19.5 billion, for an increase of only 14 percent – not 38 percent – in nominal terms.

But even this number still gives credit to the government that is not due, because it fails to take inflation into account.

In 2006, Canadian defense spending was US$18.6 billion in constant 2011 U.S. dollars.  By 2014, this had dropped to just US$17.4 billion – a decline in real defense expenditures of 6.4 percent under the Conservatives.

As a share of GDP, Canada's military spending has been reduced from 1.2 percent of GDP in 2006 to only 1.0 percent in 2014.

The Liberals also weren't supporters of the military during their term in office from 1993 to 2006.  Over that time frame, inflation-adjusted expenditures were unchanged (actually, a slight decline of 0.6 percent in constant 2011 dollars), and Canada's share of GDP on military spending dropped by one third from 1.8 percent of GDP in 1993 to 1.2 percent in 2006.  Thus, Murray's party doesn't have any significant credibility on defense spending, either.

But whatever way you cut it, the notion that Canada's defense spending has increased 38 percent since 2006 is pure baloney.