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U.S. Envoy Slams Canada's Low Defence Spending

Posted on Wednesday, September 04 at 15:15 by canadaka

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BRUCE CHEADLE Canadian Press Wednesday, September 04, 2002 OTTAWA -- Canada's response to the terrorist attacks of last Sept. 11 has been "overwhelming and generous" in every respect but one, says U.S. ambassador Paul Cellucci. For the first time, Cellucci explicitly stated Tuesday that concerns about Canada's anemic military budget reach the highest levels of the Bush administration in Washington. "We have been saying for quite some time - long before Sept. 11 - we were concerned that the decline in the percentage of GDP and the percentage of the budget that was going to the nation's defences was a problem," Cellucci said in an interview with The Canadian Press to mark the first anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Cellucci said when he was appointed ambassador in the spring of 2001 his only marching orders from Secretary of State Colin Powell were to work on increasing Canada's defence budget. "The only specific instruction he gave me - the former chief of staff of the United States armed forces - he said you have to talk to the Canadians about increasing their military spending." The Liberal government delivered a security budget last December that boosted defence spending by a modest $1.2 billion over five years. Critics, including an all-party Commons committee and the auditor general, have argued the Armed Forces need at least $1 billion more annually on their $11.2 billion budget. "We think it's important for Canada; we think it's important for North America; we think it's important for the world," Cellucci said of a larger and better equipped Canadian military. "So I will continue to respectfully urge the leaders here in Canada . . . to put more money into defence." Cellucci was effusive, however, in his praise for Canadians who opened their homes to stranded American air travellers on Sept. 11 and for those who gave humanitarian assistance in the aftermath. He also cited the "extraordinary" level of co-operation between the RCMP, CSIS and U.S. police and intelligence authorities. And he said work on the smart border initiative - which allows faster cross-border access to frequent, low-risk travellers - and improvements in screening migrants to North America have also been great successes. Cellucci dismissed Canadian complaints about cross-border trade disputes such as softwood lumber, agriculture and cultural industries as the natural by-product of competing industries. "That should not be interpreted as any lack of respect or lack of gratefulness for what Canada and the people of Canada have done in the wake of Sept. 11," he said. "It's not as if this is a one-way street. Historically we've had items that we've had disputes about . . . so as good friends, good partners, let's roll up our sleeves and get back to the table." Cellucci said that from his perspective, the greatest side benefit of Sept. 11 was increased American awareness of Canada. The former Republican governor of Massachusetts said he knew the country well, just as the vast majority of Canadians who live near the Canada-U.S. border are flooded with American news and culture. But most U.S. citizens have no window into Canadian life. "Those (stranded travellers) came from all over the United States and when they went back to their homes they were able to tell friends and family and neighbours and local newspapers how well they were treated," said Cellucci. "So that's a positive impact of Sept. 11."

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