In a speech at the 92nd annual Ottawa Conference on Security and Defence, the Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence, illuminated Canada’s steadfast commitment to bolstering its national defence landscape. The conference served as a platform for Minister Blair to outline key strategic priorities, from fortifying the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to advancing global peace initiatives. This vision encompasses multifaceted endeavors, including the revitalization of the CAF, the modernization of NORAD and continental defence mechanisms, bolstering support for NATO Allies, standing in solidarity with Ukraine, and championing peace and stability worldwide.

“The international rules that keep us all safe are being increasingly threatened – and in this environment, we must step up our investments in national defence. Our government is more than doubling DND’s budget – and through the upcoming Defence Policy Update, we will be taking further measures to strengthen Canada’s defence. Production is deterrence – and alongside our Allies and partners, we are making substantial investments to provide our Armed Forces with the tools that they require to keep our citizens safe,” expressed the Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence.

An essential facet of this strategic blueprint involves ramping up the production of vital munitions. Minister Blair unveiled a significant investment aimed at enhancing domestic production of 155 mm ammunition as part of the Department of National Defence’s (DND) Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program. This strategic initiative, bolstered by an investment of approximately $4.4 million, will galvanize three prominent Canadian manufacturers:

  • IMT Defence, situated in Ingersoll, Ontario,
  • General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems-Canada Legardeur, based in Repentigny, Quebec, and
  • General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems-Canada Valleyfield, located in Valleyfield, Quebec.

Armed with this funding, these enterprises will embark on pioneering research endeavors aimed at refining processes for the design and production of NATO standard 155 mm munitions. Minister Blair emphasized the critical need for such munitions across NATO and particularly underscored their urgent necessity in Ukraine. Concurrently, this initiative will bolster Canada’s defence readiness by facilitating enhanced domestic production.

Minister Blair underscored the integral role of these initiatives within the broader framework of the Government of Canada’s commitment to modernize and augment Canadian manufacturing capacity for 155 mm ammunition. He spotlighted a previous investment wherein DND allocated $4.8 million to IMT Defence in 2023 to bolster the production capacity for the M107 variant of the 155 mm artillery metal projectile bodies. This expansion, operational since December 2023, exemplifies Canada’s proactive stance towards fortifying its defence capabilities.

Furthermore, Minister Blair reaffirmed Canada’s unwavering dedication to Euro-Atlantic security and steadfast support for Ukraine. He lauded the historic Agreement on security cooperation inked between Canada and Ukraine, emphasizing the pivotal role of collaboration in fostering global security.

In a bid to bolster Ukraine’s territorial integrity, Minister Blair announced Canada’s commitment to funding Canadian innovators tasked with devising strategies to navigate and clear heavily fortified minefields. This funding initiative, facilitated through DND’s IDEaS program, exemplifies Canada’s commitment to supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and safeguarding its military assets.

In his address, Minister Blair also stressed the imperative of ensuring the readiness of Canada’s defence institutions to navigate the challenges of the future. To this end, he unveiled the DND/CAF Artificial Intelligence (AI) Strategy, a ground-breaking framework aimed at harnessing emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence while upholding ethical standards and safety protocols.

This AI Strategy serves as a linchpin in DND/CAF’s digital transformation endeavors, with a targeted objective of achieving AI-enabled capabilities by 2030. Minister Blair emphasized that this initiative would empower DND/CAF to leverage data and resources more efficiently, thereby bolstering Canada’s defence posture and fostering interoperability with allied nations.

Moreover, Minister Blair shed light on the significant increase in Canada’s defence budget, surging from $18.6 billion in 2016-17 to approximately $40 billion by 2026-27. This substantial augmentation, spurred by the 2017 defence policy Strong, Secure, Engaged and subsequent funding injections, underscores Canada’s unwavering commitment to fortifying its national defence apparatus.

The tangible outcomes of these investments are already palpable. Over the past year, Canada has expedited the procurement or refurbishment of approximately 140 aircraft for the Royal Canadian Air Force. Additionally, contracts have been secured for all three Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) procurements announced at last year’s conference, with equipment slated for deployment to Canadian troops imminently.

In conclusion, Minister Blair affirmed Canada’s resolve to redouble its efforts in fortifying its national defence infrastructure. The Government of Canada’s unwavering commitment to bolstering defence spending underscores its resolute commitment to safeguarding Canadian interests and fostering global peace and security.