Not unexpectedly in an election year, and nearly two years removed from the publication of Strong, Secure, Engaged, Canada’s Defence Policy, Budget 2019 contains relatively little in the way of new defence commitments, although it does have a section on improving veterans’ benefits and some foreign policy and other commitments with actual or potential impact on Canada’s defence and security.  

Veterans’ Benefits:

The budget notes that the new Pension for Life comes into effect, but is silent on any additional funding for it beyond previously committed funding.

In terms of new funding, Veterans Affairs Canada and National Defence will receive $135.1 million over six years, beginning in 2018–19, to improve the transition process from military service to civilian life.  Beyond 2023-24 there will be ongoing funding of $24.4 million a year.  Measures include:

  • Expanding access to support provided by the CAF’s Transition Group to ensure that CAF members receive personalized support services;
  • Enhancing training for transition to civilian life to improve knowledge of programs, benefits and available services;
  • Launching a new online tool to help Veterans Affairs Canada identify members of the CAF at risk of a difficult transition so that support to them can be better focused;
  • Improving benefit application and information sharing between Veterans Affairs Canada and National Defence; and
  • Creating a personalized online transition guide to help retiring CAF members navigate the process.

In addition, the government plans to expand eligibility for the Education and Training Benefit so that members of the Supplementary Reserve can also access it.  This benefit was launched in 2018 and provides veterans with up to $80,000 to pay for education or training.

The government will also create a Centre of Excellence on Chronic Pain Research, which will work with veterans, partners and experts in the field to ensure that veterans’ chronic pain realities are reflected in research, and help pilot innovative therapies and enhance treatment options.  Veterans Affairs Canada will receive $20.1 million over five years, starting in 2019–20, to fund this initiative, and subsequently $5 million per year to sustain it.

$25 million over 10 years, starting in 2020–21, is also being provided to Veterans Affairs Canada to support the work of the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research, which brings together a network of universities, global affiliates, philanthropic organizations, industry partners, and several government departments with the objective of improving the way Canada cares for members of the military, veterans and their families.

A new Veterans Survivors Fund will better support veterans who married over the age of 60 and their spouses.  Veterans Affairs Canada will receive $150 million over 5 years starting in 2019–20 for this purpose. 

Finally, the budget includes funding for Veterans Affairs Canada to support several initiatives aimed at improving commemoration of veterans, including:

  • $2.9 million over three years, starting in 2019–20, to support the Highway of Heroes Project, which aims to plant 2 million trees between Trenton and Toronto: one tree for every Canadian that has served since Confederation. So far, over 90,000 trees have been planted;
  • $2.5 million over five years, starting in 2019–20, to support ongoing operations of the Juno Beach Centre in Normandy; and
  • $30 million in 2019–20 to recognize the service of Métis veterans of the Second World War and commemorate the sacrifices and achievements of all Métis veterans.

Cyber Security

The budget commits $144.9 million over five years, starting in 2019–20, to strengthen the cyber security of critical infrastructure.  This amount includes $22.9 million from existing Communications Security Establishment funding. 

It also launches an initiative to improve collaboration between cyber security centres of expertise by expanding R&D and commercialization partnerships between academia and the private sector, and increasing the associated talent pool in the country.  $80 million is allocated to this effort over four years, starting in 2020–21.  A competitive process will be followed to identify three or more partnerships between cyber security networks and post-secondary institutions to receive funding support.

Economic Security

$67.3 million is allocated over five years, starting in 2019–20, followed by $13.8 million per year in ongoing funding to support efforts to assess and respond to economic-based security threats in consultation with the private sector.  The funding will be split among multiple federal agencies.

Other Commitments of Interest

A Strategic Science Fund will be created in 2022-23, aimed at improving the way the federal government invests in third-party science and research.  Whether this will include defence-related research remains to be seen, and the level of funding has yet to be determined.   

An additional $700 million will be added in 2023–24 to Global Affairs Canada’s International Assistance Envelope.

The budget reaffirms the government’s plan to provide an additional $1.39 billion over two years, starting in 2019–20, to renew the Middle East Strategy.  $967.9 million will be provided from the fiscal framework and $426 million will come from the existing International Assistance Envelope. The funding covers humanitarian, development, stabilization and security, and diplomatic activities; the CAF’s Operation IMPACT; and intelligence activities.

Lastly, the budget reaffirms the government’s plan to commit up to $105.6 million over three years, starting in 2019–20, to Operation UNIFIER in Ukraine, including the CAF’s military contribution and Global Affairs Canada’s support to security sector reforms.

Colonel Charles Davies (Retired) is a CDA Institute Research Fellow.  During his career in National Defence, he was personally involved in several interdepartmental initiatives aimed at resolving systemic impediments to the conduct of the Afghanistan mission, including the operations of the KPRT.  While these yielded some benefits, none succeeded in providing the effective strategic solutions required.

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