Mandate letter results so far: Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan takes part in a press conference at the National Press Theatre in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 20, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick



Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has knocked a number of items off his to-do list, most notably the release of a new defence policy that promises billions in new funds for the military and more benefits and support for military personnel. He has also rolled out a new suicide prevention strategy for military personnel and veterans, and withdrew Canadian fighter jets from the fight against ISIL while tripling the number of special forces helping to train local forces. Sajjan has also overseen plans to have the military and ultra-secret Communications Security Establishment develop stronger defensive as well as offensive cyber-capabilities.

Working on it

The biggest "incomplete" is peacekeeping. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tasked the minister with making everything from mobile medical teams to engineering support and transport aircraft available to UN peace operations. Instead, the number of Canadian peacekeepers in the field has fallen to its lowest point in recent memory. After raising expectations among the UN and other countries, including some of Canada's closest allies, Sajjan still hasn't delivered.

Not at all, or at least not yet

While Sajjan was told to launch a competition to replace Canada's aging CF-18s, the Liberals have instead spent the past two years talking about the need for "interim" fighter jets. The original plan was to buy Super Hornets from Boeing. Now it appears the government is looking at used aircraft from Australia. Meanwhile, there has been little about when the competition will be held. Many retired military officers and defence experts say a competition can and should already be underway, but it's believed the Liberals are worried the F-35 — which they promised not to buy — would win.

Will it matter?

Only time will tell if the promised money and equipment arrive, but the new defence policy has been relatively well received. A decision on Canada's new peacekeeping contributions is also expected in the coming weeks. But the Harper Conservatives learned first-hand how fighter jets can bomb a party's chances at re-election, and the question will be how the Liberals escape what many say is a mess of their own making.

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