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U.S. President Donald Trump talks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a North Atlantic Treaty Organization Plenary Session at the NATO summit in Watford, England, on Dec. 4, 2019.


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From the Comments is designed to highlight interesting and thoughtful contributions from our readers. Some comments have been edited for clarity. Everyone can read the comments but only subscribers will be able to contribute. Thank you to everyone furthering debate across our site.

Readers respond: Canada is rich – and cheap

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Okay, so we are less in debt than other countries in the G7? Let’s rephrase that: We are a little further away from austerity. Massive debt and continuing to spend more money each year than we make will lead us to inevitable problems. Yes, I get that there is such a thing as healthy debt, but there is no such thing as continuous deficits being healthy, especially in times of economic expansion. It’s incredible how leaders have somehow convinced the nations that this is in any way healthy. –Reasonable in Niagara

For a mere 35-million-plus people we are up over our necks in debt. All during a time of low interest rates. Our three levels of government have nothing to be proud of when it comes to spending. –Jack Reacher

There are no votes to be had with defence spending or foreign aid. We have enjoyed a free ride living in a “fire-proof house, far from any flames,” as the Americans do our heavy lifting in North America and the world. In the far North, Canadian and American interests differ and Canada does not have the means (if it even has the will) to enforce any practical sovereignty over the internal/high seas waters of the Arctic archipelago. Our penny pinching may end up costing us a great deal. –Fobar

There is no "cost" of being part of NATO. There is no communal pot into which each country contributes funds.

Donald Trump, as he is prone to do, has characterized the the NATO arrangement among countries to suit his own “America First” agenda. No countries “owe” the United States money for underpayment. This is a complete fiction invented by Trump.

Each country sets its own military budget built around its own priorities, just like the U.S. The 2-per-cent target is a voluntary goal to be reached by 2024.

Trump’s “America First” agenda has seen the U.S. withdraw from multiple international organizations:

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  • The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty
  • The Paris Agreement on climate
  • The Trans-Pacific Partnership
  • The Singapore Agreement
  • The UN Human Rights Council
  • The Iran nuclear deal

It’s a little rich for Trump, and the author of this article, to suggest Canada, by not yet meeting the 2-per-cent target, is being delinquent in its international responsibilities when the U.S. has a declared policy to abandon the international stage to further its own interests.

Maybe it’s time we employed a “Canada First” policy when it comes to Trump’s histrionics. –PHILCO3

‘Free Meng Wanzhou! And free the two Michaels! We should never have participated in this U.S. plot.’ What readers think, one year after the arrest of Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou

‘Trump tells the truth.’ Readers debate the impact of Justin Trudeau’s NATO comments, plus other letters to the editor

‘What happens at NATO doesn’t stay at NATO.’ What readers think of Donald Trump’s ‘two-faced’ comment about Justin Trudeau, plus other letters to the editor

Britain's Princess Anne, left, talks to NATO delegates from left, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, French President Emmanuel Macron and Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, during a reception at Buckingham Palace, in London, as NATO leaders attend to mark 70 years of the alliance, Tuesday Dec. 3, 2019.

Yui Mok/The Associated Press

Canada and all of NATO do contribute funds to some shared assets like the Airborne Warning And Control System wing in Geilenkirchen, Germany. Where we should be concerned is in the upcoming NORAD modernization as that is just Canada and the United States. What should our number be there? –Dartguard

Canada’s debt-to-GDP ratio is not so pretty when sub-national (provincial) debt is taken into consideration. If the feds are so rich, then wouldn’t increasing health-care transfers to provinces (e.g. to offset the transfer cuts during the 1990s) be a priority? Moreover, current debt-to-GDP predictions will only hold if there is no recession or prolonged slowdown, as Trudeau is planning even larger deficits. –billy112

I was in politics 40 years ago when we upgraded our Air Force to use CF-18s. Does anyone still seriously believe that they qualify as adequate today? I doubt our pilots do!

Canada seems to tender for new frigates or destroyers every few years, but gets almost none built. Doling out the jobs regionally seems more important than getting first-rate ships built. For a country with one of the longest coastlines in the world, how can we neglect maritime defence so badly?

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Canada is doing one aspect of worldwide peacekeeping well. For the same 40 years, Canada has been at the forefront of refugee resettlement from war-torn countries. In my opinion, spending on helping those persecuted in their own countries due to ethnic or religious persecution is just as much foreign aid as direct help to those countries to build their economies.

Who favours giving aid to the regime in Syria? But rescuing Yazidis from rape (or murder) is also aid. And helping Jordan and Lebanon relieve the financial burden of supporting refugees also aids their economies – maybe more than direct foreign aid. –formerpolitician

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at the NATO summit at the Grove hotel on December 4, 2019 in Watford, England.

WPA Pool/Getty Images

The United States has about 600 bases outside their country, protecting their interest abroad. Let them spend what they want – don’t expect other countries to follow suit. –Yesby1

Canadians appreciate the free ride we get on American coattails, so that we can spend more on social programs. Perhaps appreciate is the wrong word. We expect the free ride, but don’t appreciate Americans. –HabFan410

Canada is rich and should probably spend a lot more on defense. A good candidate would be the navy for coastal defense, rescue and particularly icebreakers for patrolling our northern coast. Meet the 2-per-cent agreement and spend money on protecting Canada’s sovereignty, win-win.

But let’s everyone take a deep breath and look at how powerful Canada is. We shouldn’t be in the G7 because we are the 10th largest economy in the world and falling (Brazil is larger). We talk a good game and the progressives love us around the world, but when it comes right down to it, we don’t project power (political, economic or military) and don’t really affect situations anywhere in the world. We have 750 peacekeepers, which we don’t deploy, in a world where the old idea of peacekeeping doesn’t apply any more.

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We talk a good story, but when it comes right down to it we don’t accomplish much in the foreign policy space. We will declare a great victory if we get a seat on the UN Security Council, where we can give speeches and our vote won’t really count. –outsider22

When you have the means to look after yourself but choose to let your neighbour do it for you, you are cheap. Then when you bad-mouth that same neighbour at every opportunity, you are a boor.

I don’t know about reaching 2 per cent of GDP, however we can certainly afford to provide our service people with proper modern equipment. Buying old jets from Australia is shameful. –Bbcaron

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gives a press conference in the media centre at the NATO summit held in the Grove hotel in on December 4, 2019 in Hertford, England.

Chris Ratcliffe/Getty Images

If you aspire to be a leader on the international stage, then you can’t just mouth the words. You must show by example, which is pretty much what Justin Trudeau tells us when he is pushing the Liberal carbon tax. If we want to have influence and want to belong to NATO, then we should at least accept the cost of membership. As is pointed out in the article, it’s not like we can’t afford it. –JeffSpooner

Canada is rich and cheap? Tell that to the lengthening lines of people in food banks in all of our major cities, queued up for medical treatment in our hospitals or those facing bankruptcy. Apparently the message hasn’t hit the street. Between television ads, letters in the mail, stands at grocery stores, people at the door and every checkout clerk asking if you would like to give money, it appears to say there are many in dire need in Canada. –HW01

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