The Facts


Dollar for dollar, Canada is the sixth highest military spender in NATO.

Source: Table 2., Defence Expenditure of NATO Countries (2009-2016)


2016-17 DND authorized spending:

$19.263 billion

  • 2.6% higher than 2015-16 spending ($18.770 billion in 2016 dollars; $18.669 billion in 2015 dollars)
  • 19.7% higher than 2000-01 spending ($16.090 billion in 2016 dollars; $11.876 billion in 2000 dollars)
  • 14.7% lower than 2009-10 spending ($22.585 billion in 2016 dollars; $20.332 billion in 2009 dollars), which was the peak spending year

Note, however, these overall spending figures can be somewhat misleading. While the DND budget has undergone significant reductions since its peak in 2009–10, about 60 percent of that reduction can be attributed to accounting changes (removal of CSE and significant IT spending) and the decreased incremental cost of Canada’s overseas military missions, most notably the end of the mission in Afghanistan. The department’s ability to fund its core programs is thus budgeted to decline by a much smaller, although still significant amount—about $1.3 billion.

That said, it is very likely that not all of the spending authorized for 2016-17 will actually take place. In 2015-16, DND spent only $18.669 billion of the total of $20.081 authorized during the fiscal year, a shortfall of $1.4 billion. In 2014-15, the shortfall was nearly $2.1 billion, while in 2013-14, it was $1.0 billion. In each case, unspent capital funds were responsible for the majority of the gap ($0.923, $1.519 & $0.763 billion respectively). If this pattern continues, spending in 2016-17 could easily fall $1 billion or more short of the authorized amount, which would drop total spending below that in 2015-16.

In actual dollars, Canada remains the sixth largest military spender among the 28 member nations of NATO [2015 NATO statistics], and the 16th largest spender in the world [2015 SIPRI statistics].

Bill Robinson (

Bill Robinson is a defence analyst and senior adviser of the Rideau Institute. He has been writing about Canadian defence and security policy issues since 1983. From 1986 to 2001, he was on the staff of Project Ploughshares, an ecumenical peace centre of the Canadian Council of Churches.  


Canadian Military Spending (FY2000-01 to FY2016-17)

Bill Robinson (


Canada should spend far more on foreign aid, which can help to reduce conflict and build peace. As a percentage of Gross National Income, Canada's aid spending has slipped from 0.34 percent in 2010 to 0.26 percent in 2016, far below the target of 0.70 percent established in 1971 by the UN Commission headed by former prime minister Pearson.

Roy Culpeper  (

Roy Culpeper  is the chair of the Group of 78. Previously, he was President and Chief Executive Officer of The North-South Institute, Ottawa, and an official at the World Bank in Washington, the federal Departments of Finance and External Affairs in Ottawa, and the Planning Secretariat of the Government of Manitoba in Winnipeg.