National Newswatch

OTTAWA — The British are coming — at least to provide expert advice to the Trudeau government for its defence policy review and shipbuilding plans.

At least two senior British officers already on exchange in Ottawa will be available to help the Liberal government and National Defence conduct a major review of the country's defence posture. 

Lt.-Gen. Mark Poffley, deputy chief of the British general staff, said in an interview with The Canadian Press that the two nations are friends, with shared values and a shared outlook on the world.

"Canada, like every nation, will have to work out how it sees itself in the world and how it's going to play," he said.

Britain recently completed its own defence review and some of its lessons could be valuable to Canada, which has not refreshed its military marching orders since the Harper government's Canada First defence strategy in 2008.

What differs from previous review exercises is the pace of globalization, Poffley said. 

The era in which both countries could enjoy a relative degree of isolation — either as an island nation or as country separated from turmoil by an ocean — is coming to an end, he said.

"The world is coming to you whether you like it or not and therefore the people of Canada, like the people of Britain, have to reconcile themselves to that reality," Poffley said.

Britain's strategic defence and security review, published last November, reversed a decline in defence spending, which began in 2010. 

Prime Minister David Cameron's government had faced accusations — mostly from the U.S. — that it was no longer a strategic partner. 

The review saw Britain create two new army strike brigades, fast-track the delivery of F-35 fighters and double spending on special forces.

Canada's Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan told a conference last week that he wanted to see this country's review completed by the end of the year, but conceded there was no mechanism yet in place for consultation. 

Separately, Public Services and Procurement says it is hiring a retired British admiral with a long history in naval acquisitions to provide advice on the troubled national shipbuilding program, where cost estimates are soaring.

Steve Brunton, who served 36 years in the Royal Navy and retired as a rear admiral, will advise the Liberal government for at least a year on program management, construction benchmarking and competitiveness.


The Canadian Press

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