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The federal government has become strangely surreal. Each day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announces new initiatives that are some combination of (a) unnecessary, (b) outside federal jurisdiction and (c) unlikely to be realized before the next federal election.

Meanwhile, the government remains silent on the most pressing issue, and one for which it is 100 per cent responsible: shoring up Canada’s defences in a world growing more dangerous by the day.

Several recent announcements have been about housing. The Liberals are making large sums available to accelerate housing construction, provided provinces and municipalities meet federal requirements to loosen zoning restrictions, accelerate approvals and increase density.

This is an egregious intrusion by Ottawa into an area of provincial jurisdiction, and Ontario and Quebec governments swiftly rejected the proposal. But at least there is some hope for a negotiated agreements. Other announcements have been equally intrusive, but have much less hope of ever becoming real.

As part of a renters’ bill of rights, the Liberals want to make it easier for renters to have their rent payments count toward their credit score. This could involve a great deal of red tape for landlords, and could hurt more than help renters who miss a payment.

How likely is it that such a complex new agreement would be in place before the next election, which polls suggest the Liberals are likely to lose, or that it would survive in a Conservative government under Pierre Poilievre?

Then there was Monday’s announcement of a new national program to provide meals for schoolchildren in need. Negotiating a new federal-provincial-territorial school food program agreement – or, more likely, 13 separate and asymmetrical agreements – by the target date of the 2024-25 school year seems ... ambitious.

Little of what is being announced is likely to see the light of day, or to long remain in it.

Something that should have seen the light of day long ago is the long-promised but still-not-delivered defence review. Not only is defence an area of exclusive federal jurisdiction, it should be the single highest priority of any national government. Instead, Canada’s military is an embarrassment.

All NATO members have committed to spending at least 2 per per cent of GDP on defence, with 20 per cent of that money going to equipment. But while other NATO members have ramped up defence spending in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Liberals continue to dither and delay. As a result, according to the latest NATO calculations, Canada is the only NATO member that falls below both 2 per cent of GDP in spending and also below 20 per cent in spending on equipment. We have the worst-funded military in the alliance.

This is frightening. It leaves this country vulnerable to incursions by Russia and China in our Arctic territories.

It angers the United States, which expects Canada to contribute its share to the modernization of NORAD’s air and space defence.

It causes European nations to question Canada’s commitment to protecting the security of Europe in the face of an increasingly hostile and aggressive Russia.

And it makes Canada’s efforts to be taken seriously in the Indo-Pacific region a joke.

“Canada is back,” Mr. Trudeau told the world in 2015. The exact opposite is true. Because of the Liberal government’s unwillingness to spend on defence, Canada today has a lower standing in the eyes of both allies and adversaries than at any time since the outbreak of the Second World War.

Finding the money needed for defence won’t be easy. Bringing Canada’s military up to NATO standards would cost about $20-billion annually, paid for through tax increases or cuts to federal transfers for health, education and social services.

Everyone wants meals for schoolchildren who need them. But defence should be the highest priority. In any case, other NATO countries are able to properly fund their military while sustaining social programs. So can we.

Mr. Trudeau needs to release the defence review. The April 16 budget should commit major funds for defence, and show where the money is to come from. Mr. Poilievre should lay out his own plan for meeting Canada’s defence commitments.

A federal renters’ bill of rights is surreal. It’s time for this Liberal government to get real, and focus on defence.

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