The Canadian Navy should relocate the majority of its vessels from CFB Halifax to the West Coast, says a national defence analyst.
David McDonough, a research fellow at the University of British Columbia, said Canada needs to increase its presence at CFB Esquimalt and in the Pacific Ocean to remain relevant to ever-increasing Asia-Pacific trade and diplomacy.
“I’ve basically proposed a 60/40 split in surface warships (frigates, destroyers) favouring the Pacific over the Atlantic, rather than today’s 60/40 split in those ships favouring the Atlantic,” McDonough said.
Canada is keen to gain a seat at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations meeting of defence ministers, a key appointment if it hopes to bolster trade, McDonough said.
The so-called “Asia-Pacific rebalancing” is already being carried out by the U.S. Navy, which plans to have 60 per cent of its fleet in the Pacific Ocean by 2020.
But with a defence budget 33 times larger than Canada’s, the Harper government would do better to focus on creating a renewed defence strategy and asking tough questions about the role of Canada’s military in the 21st century, said Jack Harris, NDP defence critic.
“We need to define what Canadians want,” Harris said. “We’ve taken the position for quite some time that there really needs to be a rethink of the military positioning for Canada’s defence strategy.”
Doing that, said Harris, requires a formal review and stakeholder input from all interested parties.
There are five frigates and one destroyer assigned to CFB Esquimalt, while CFB Halifax is home base for seven frigates and two destroyers.
“We’re not talking about the movement of one or two ships influencing world strategy here,” Harris said. “If that’s the perspective from which (McDonough) is coming, you have to wonder what strength to give to the opinions here. It’s speculative.”
Defence Ministry officials did not respond to requests for comment.