Recent events, most noticeably the canceling of the close-combat vehicle procurement scheme, bring the governments lack of direction in Defence matters into sharp relief. As James Hasik points out, it would appear that Canada has decided to have a medium weight, medium mobility army. What no one seems to know is whether that is what Canada needs.
To begin to decide what kind of military we do need, what we must have now is a new White Paper on Defence.
The expression “White Paper” originated in Great Britain where a smaller government document, one considered not large enough to be properly bound in a blue cover, was printed with a white covering page, thus the term “White Paper” to describe certain government documents.
In Canada the Parliament of Canada’s website relates that in 1939 that the term "white paper" was first applied to a government document in Canada. At that time the Minister of Finance announced in the House the government's intention to "follow this year and possibly in future years, as the house may determine, the practice which is followed in Great Britain and also in Australia of putting together what might be called the statistical and accounting information and explanations into one document which is filed as a white paper and published as an appendix to the budget."
In modern usage a white paper in Canada is defined as a term “commonly applied to official documents presented by Ministers of the Crown which state and explain the government's policy on a certain issue.”
That same Website lists all government white papers. In June of 2009 the “Canada First” white paper was published by the government. While purporting to give direction to government Defence policy it is widely seen as little more than a shopping list of future procurements.
In April of 2005 a white paper entitled “A Role of Pride and Influence in the World” was published. Although it had a Defence aspect it was mainly concerned with foreign policy and trade relations.
Previous to that, the last real White Paper on Defence was the 1994 Defence White Paper published in December of 1994. An ambitious work, its aims were largely negated by financial concerns and a changing world order and its goals were never implemented.
In theory a White Paper should be “a policy document, approved by Cabinet, tabled in the House of Commons and made available to the general public”. The belief is that "provision of policy information through the use of White Papers can help to create an awareness of policy issues among parliamentarians and the public and to encourage an exchange of information and analysis. They can also serve as educational techniques".
That sounds like something Canada needs. How about this time next year Canada has a new White Paper on Defence? A White Paper that provides real strategic vision for Canadian Defence in the future and that gives direction to the changes that are happening now. That is what Canadian Defence Matters really wants for Christmas.
The other thing this writer wants for Christmas is to take the opportunity to wish you, and your loved ones, a Merry Christmas and hopes for all the best in the New Year.
Statement - Chief of the Defence Staff and Army Commander issue a joint statement on the decision not to proceed with the procurement process for the Close Combat Vehicle NR - 13.365 - December 20, 2013
Unpacking the Canadian DND's retreat from the CCV
Parliament of Canada, White Papers, Introduction
Parliament of Canada, White Papers, Complete List
Canada First White Paper
Armoured vehicle cancellation hints at smaller, leaner Canadian military
By Lee Berthiaume, December 20, 2013
A Role of Pride and Influence in the World, White Paper
1994 White Paper on Defence