Source: Marek Studzinski/Unsplash

Working class living standards are declining in Canada. Total life expectancy is falling, unemployment and homelessness are rising. And, the federal government’s new budget offers workers little in the way of relief.

But the budget does earmark $33.8 billion for war, and a steady increase up until 2029–30. As he announced the plan, Trudeau repeated his favourite catchphrase: “the world needs more Canada”—that is: Canadian bombs, Canadian bullets and Canadian soldiers.

Canada has been under pressure from its imperialist allies of NATO to increase its military spending. In the near term, the new plan will mean billions to start “ramping up” artillery production, $307 million for early-warning aircrafts and $2.7 billion for long-range missiles. 

The “defence plan” further says the government intends to use this military power to protect Canada’s “prosperity” around the world—in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. This is where Canada’s mining, oil and banking giants reap some of their largest overseas profits. The “prosperity” in question means the “prosperity” of Canada’s capitalists. 

Every dollar for war is a dollar that isn’t going to workers’ wages, that isn’t building hospitals, or serving working people’s needs. Instead it is earmarked to kill workers and the poor abroad, to shore up Canadian bosses’ “interests” and their “prosperity.”

Labour leaders silent on war spending

Unfortunately, the tops of Canada’s largest unions have praised the new budget.

The Canadian Labour Congress called the paltry reforms contained in the budget “welcome” measures and signs of “progress” from the Liberals—without even mentioning the military spending increase.

Unifor, Canada’s largest private sector union, went further and congratulated the government for supposedly “delivering a budget that pushes social progress”—presumably at gunpoint.

The Confédération des syndicats nationaux also praised the Liberal government’s “laudable” efforts and “intentions” on everything from tax policy to housing to climate change. Yet, the CSN leaders could not find space to speak against the government’s “intentions” to build up its forces so it can conduct new imperialist wars.

While the union leaders have made meek calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, they are now staying silent when the Canadian imperialists, who are important military allies of Israel, increase their war spending. The hypocrisy is glaring.

The problem, however, goes beyond words.

Many of Canada’s unions—including the CLC, CUPE and the United Steelworkers—also have representatives on the Federal NDP’s executive committee. After celebrating the NDP-Liberal confidence and supply agreement when it was announced in 2022, none of these unions’ leaders have withdrawn their support to date. 

The Liberal minority government’s support for a genocide provides an golden opportunity for the NDP to bring them down and concretely help the Palestine solidarity movement. This increased military spending was another occasion to withdraw support on a principled anti-imperialist stance. But the NDP leadership has no intention of doing this. And, the union leaders have not pushed them to do so.  

But instead, these union leaders and the NDP are helping keep Trudeau in power. In exchange for a few means-tested crumbs, the Liberals have been given a free hand to raise military spending and conduct other imperialist operations. That has meant, among other things, aiding Israel’s genocide in Gaza, conducting offensive warship operations against China, and backing coups in Latin America—with little opposition from the unions.

Say what is

On the one hand, some of the trade union leaders pay lip service to opposition to war, criticizing Israel and even calling for an arms embargo. But on the other hand, they are incapable of denouncing Canada’s military spending, opting generally to keep silent on this money spent to destroy and oppress. 

Because they accept capitalism, they are incapable of going all the way in their “opposition” to the capitalists’ wars as a matter of principle. Since they accept the rule of the capitalists and their state, they accept the necessity for that state to fund its military.

Unlike reformists, the policy of communists is to say what is. The Liberals are aiding and abetting genocide, and the labour movement needs to bring them down.

The working class is international. Fighting for workers means organizing the working class to sweep away the capitalists, their state and their “interests” internationally—and take power.