Harper, the Military, and Wedge Politics

Harper, the Military, and Wedge Politics

By: Steven Staples

Date: 23 September 2008

Key Findings:

  • After Harper’s government inherited a war from the former Liberal government, it is clear that bolstering the military and convincing a sceptical Canadian public to embrace a Canadian war-fighting global role has become an unofficial priority for them.
  • In a game of “wedge politics” – the theory that a politically united and well-organized minority can beat a divided and disorganized majority – Harper has attempted to use the war to rally his base and widen divisions between the opposition, and within the Liberal party itself.
  • Harper has attempted to write a new narrative for Canada, ridding us of our role as peace-keepers established under Liberal direction and instead casting us as war-fighters.
  • In the largest increase in military spending in a generation, Harper pledged to fulfil Paul Martin’s 2005 Budget promise to increase defence spending by $12.8 billion over five years, and in his own first federal budget committed an additional $5.3 billion.
  • Canada’s military spending increased 30% from 2004 to 2006. It is rising above $19 billion per year, is the sixth highest in NATO and 15th highest in the world. When adjusted for inflation, defence spending is at its highest since the Second World War.
  • These increases come at the cost of social programs, such as the national child care program. Worse, much of the spending is meant to avoid political conflict or satisfy special interests rather than to meet legitimate defence needs.


Staples, Steven. Harper, the Military, and Wedge Politics. In The Harper Record. Healey, T., Ed.; Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Ottawa, 2008. pp. 243-257

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