The Conservative Party is promising to spend $75 million to expand Canadian military special forces to address the threat of terrorism.
Conservative Candidate and Federal Defense Minister Jason Kenney made the announcement on a campaign stop in Regina on Saturday morning.
The Canadian Special Operational Forces Command (CANSOFCOM) currently has five specialized units with a total of 1,900 armed forces personnel. Kenney says the Conservatives plan to expand that force by 35 per cent within seven years. The initial cost will be $75 million over the first four years, starting with a $10 million investment next year and increasing to $30 million in 2019. It would cost $50 million per year on an ongoing basis after the expansion is complete.
There are currently 69 members of the special forces on the ground training Iraqi troops to fight Islamic State terrorists. He said this type of tactical training has been effective in helping the Iraqi army push back the IS from cities they held a year ago.
When asked if this step could signal plans for more ground forces, Kenney said no. He repeated that the Conservative position is to keep Canada out of a ground combat mission, saying that it’s up to the Iraq army to fight the war on the ground.
Kenney noted that the Islamic State is “an organization that has declared war and hostility on Canada and which has called on its followers to kill Canadians wherever they can find us.”
When asked how the government can justify more military spending, Kenney said Canadians understand that the country is not immune to the threat of terrorism. He also referenced the attacks on Canadian soil in October that killed Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo.
Kenney also touted anti-terror legislation as a success, noting the charges against a 22-year-old Alberta man who is one of 130 Canadians believed to have left the country already to join IS.
The NDP party has promised to end air strikes on IS targets in Iraq and Syria and pull out all military personnel from Iraq and to repeal Bill C-51.
The Liberals are also promising to end air strikes but still keep Canada on the ground in a training capacity and to amend the anti-terror legislation to limit some of the new powers for CSIS.