Trudeau has made Canada ‘weak, poor and defenceless’: Poilievre

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The comments come after Donald Trump repeated his claim that the U.S. would not defend NATO allies that do not meet their spending target

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OTTAWA – Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said Canada has become “weak, poor and defenceless” under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and promised to “bring home control” of the country’s defence capabilities – but did not commit to reaching the two-per-cent NATO target.

Poilievre’s comments come after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump doubled down Wednesday on his claim that the United States would not defend any NATO ally country that does not spend at least two per cent of its gross domestic product on defence, including Canada.

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Under Poilievre’s leadership, Conservatives have consistently pledged to make an effort to hit the defence spending target set out by the military alliance if they form government, but have not committed to reaching it, which is essentially the same position as Trudeau’s Liberals.

When Poilievre was asked by reporters on Thursday how his approach on defence is going to differ from the Liberals, he took the opportunity to slam the current government.

“Justin Trudeau has made Canada weak, poor and defenceless,” he said. “His plan for national defence is to rely on Joe Biden or Donald Trump to protect Canada. That puts America in charge of Canada’s future. I don’t want that.”

“I want to bring home control of our country and our defence,” he added, before listing the ways he would find savings to better fund Canada’s defence and military procurement.

Poilievre committed to “cut wasteful foreign aid that goes to dictators, terrorists and multinational bureaucracies” and said those sums would serve to reinforce our military.

He had already committed to slash funding for the United Nations’ main relief agency in Gaza, UNRWA, which has seen its funding paused by Canada because of allegations that some of its staff were involved in the Oct. 7 terror attacks in Israel.

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Poilievre also promised to cut back on bureaucracy and use the savings to bolster front-line resources, as well as get rid of the “corruption and incompetence” in Canada’s defence procurement system “to get the best value for our troops and our taxpayers.”

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International Development Minister Ahmed Hussen said it was “shocking” that Poilievre would promise to cut foreign aid to some of the most vulnerable people in the world and worried that enacting such a promise would diminish Canada’s influence on the world stage.

“If he’s prepared to make this cut, what else is he prepared to cut? It’s quite frankly irresponsible, not well thought out and reckless,” he said.

Hussen said that, despite pausing aid for UNRWA, Canada has “stepped up in a big way” to help civilians affected by the conflict in Gaza with an additional sum of $40 million going to “trusted international partners” on top of $60 million given at the start of the conflict.

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Canada is now awaiting the results of an investigation to determine if it will resume giving funds to UNRWA, as Liberal MPs are openly and privately criticizing the decision.

Earlier this week, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland remained prudent as she was asked to comment on Trump’s criticism of NATO and his claim that he would let Russia do “whatever the hell they want” to alliance members that do not “pay their bills”.

“The core principle of NATO is an attack on one country is an attack on all. That’s what makes the alliance so powerful and that’s why that alliance has protected all of us since it was first founded,” she said during a press conference on Monday.

“It’s incredibly important to be clear in the world today where we are seeing countries like Russia trampling all over international law, for all NATO allies to be very, very clear that that core principle of Article 5 holds. And Canada is very clear on that.”

NATO’s Article 5 states that, if any member state is attacked, it is considered “an armed attack against all members and will take the actions it deems necessary to assist the Ally attacked.”

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As for a possible Trump presidency, Freeland said it is “a core responsibility” of any Canadian government “to work effectively and in pursuit and defence of the national interest with whoever the American people choose to lead them.”

“That’s something our government has done in the past, it’s something that we’re doing today and it’s something that we are absolutely prepared to do in the future,” she said.

National Post
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