In this post I discussed how Canadian border guards are unarmed and pretty much useless because they donít have the means to impose a monopoly of force. For decades the SOP was to let dangerous and potentially violent people in to the country, and then to call the nearest police station and let them handle it. The primary function of a border guard, essentially to guard the border, was passed off to other law enforcement agencies within the interior.
The incoming Conservative government has vowed to arm the custom agents. How many are to be armed, and what they are going to have so far as firepower is concerned, are issues that havenít been resolved as of yet. But the one thing we can be sure of is that itís going to cost money.
Donít just mean the cost of a few thousand handguns. Training costs money and the people who go through it have to take refresher courses every so often. Realistic training is tough on equipment, so guns will have to be replaced and ammunition purchased in large quantities. And, of course, there will be unanticipated legal costs just as soon as a suspect sues the government because a law enforcement officer points a gun at them.
The Conservatives have started to shovel a great deal on their plate even before they take control. This blog entry says that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, their national law enforcement agency, is 25% under strength. (I have no idea how accurate this assessment is, but it wouldnít surprise me.) Itís been my experience that corners are cut on training and maintenance of equipment long before there is a staffing shortfall. If there are fewer Mounties in the ranks than there should be, then Iíd be surprised if they could function at anything approaching their expected level of competence.
One thorn in US/Canadian relations is the Arctic. Canada insists that a great deal of northern waters are actually part of the country, while US naval vessels routinely transit and patrol the area without bothering to inform Ottawa and ask for permission. . The Canadians might very well claim the area as their own, but they donít have the means to project force that far North. Heck, they donít even have any way to tell for sure that one of our subs wandered through. Thatís probably why this is such a big deal to the Canadians while people in the US, even those interested in military affairs like myself, arenít even aware that itís happening.
This has been going on for some time, where US ships cross into territory claimed by the Canadians. It is said that just about every maritime power in the North Atlantic does the same thing with impunity. (That would be Russia, Great Britain, France, and the US.) The only reason that the Canadians seem to be singling us out is that we have a bigger Navy than anyone else so weíll do it more often, and that we will actually listen instead of ignore them.
Stephen Harper, Canadaís next prime minister, has said that his government is going to do something about it. He wants to build three armed icebreakers to patrol the disputed area, a deep water port that will drain more than a billion dollars from the treasury, and a line of undersea sonar installations similar to the SOSUS net that the US built during the Cold War to keep an eye on the Soviet submarine fleet.
I donít have a problem with this. Iíve long thought that Canada was just relying too much on the goodwill of its large neighbor to the South. It wouldnít bother me if they carried more of their fair share in the future. But I do have a real problem figuring out where the money is going to come from to pay for all this.
Harper promised the voters that heíd decrease taxes, something that will reduce government revenues by, what, $4 billion a year? Add in the new warships, the sonar sensor line, the deep water port, and new money for law enforcement. Let us not forget that Canada has a problem even acquiring second hand submarines, something that will have to be addressed. How much is all of this going to cost, and how much less is the government going to have coming in to pay for it?
It looks to me like the Conservatives promised the sky in order to be elected, but Iím not sure that itís possible for them to deliver. Could it be that theyíve already set the stage for the inevitable triumphant return of the Liberals?