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Defence Spending  –  Strategic Industries  –  Domestic Production  –  January  2009

Canadian Sovereignty  is  Rooted  in  Canada's Manufacturing  Sector
Defence Spending  is one way  to  Support  such  Strategic Industries


Editorial  comments  on  recent  government  decision  to  buy  trucks  built  in  Texas   
Why  Would  the  Canadian  Government  Neglect  Truck  Manufacturers  in  this  Country?

Most industrialized nations use defence spending as a means to partially subsidize their most important strategic industries. It is generally agreed that this is one form of sustained govern- ment  stimulation  that  goes a long way  to ensure the longevity of  the country. Without this ability to build and  maintain the most fundamental military equipment, a nation state becomes vulnerable to the whims and fortunes of  other countries. This unthinking descent into a weak dependence on  foreign manufacturers  is a drift away from sovereignty.  The great fear of  the elderly, the disabled, and the infirm is to be forced to rely on the goodwill of others. Why then would any government consciously put their country – and their citizens –  in such a tenuous position, when they had  the power  to  maintain a strong,  independent  manufacturing  base?

  During  World  War  II,  Canada  produced
  more trucks for military use than any other
  country, other than the US.  [1]   Over  800
  thousand trucks were manufactured across
  Canada  in  the five years  between autumn
  1939 and the middle of  1945.  Over  half of
  these  vehicles were designated  Canadian
  Military Pattern (CMP) - trucks and trailers
  built  for use by  Commonwealth countries.
The entire CMP family were built to Commonwealth, UK, and Canadian military specifications. Today, such dedicated truck designs would be designated 'Standard Military Pattern' or SMP.

Canadian Trucks manufactured during WWII were Rugged, Versatile, and Easy to Maintain

Made of interchangeable parts,  these trucks were simple in the extreme  –  thus, regardless of which company built  the individual  CMP, the maintenance procedures were almost  identical. The CMP specifications  were issued in 1939  and  prototypes were made available for testing by the Canadian Army almost immediately.  By 1940,  CMP trucks were  in  full  production. [2]

The CMP family included almost 4000 C15TA Armoured Trucks, as well as specialty armoured vehicles  (1506  Fox Armoured Cars and  1761 Otter  Light Reconnaissance Cars  –  all  built in Oshawa).  Completed CMPs were shipped to Commonwealth and other Allied nations.  So too were CMP parts for assembly abroad, some becoming the basis for new armoured vehicles. [3]

During  WWII,  Canadian  auto makers also produced  almost  400,000 civilian- pattern trucks  –  about  half  of  which were so-called 'Modified Conventional' vehicles. These were commercial trucks adapted  to military roles.  Today, such
'off-the-shelf ' designs would  be called MilCOTS. The 'Modified Conventional' trucks were rather uninspiring vehicles. But they did vital work as radio trucks, MO (Medical Orderly or casevac) vehicles and the like. However, there was one Canadian-built 'Modified Conventional'  truck design that would gain lasting fame. This was the quite unprepossessing, 2x4 Chevrolet 30cwt light truck (above). [4]

The Canadian-built 30cwt was selected  by Britain's Long Range Desert Group [5] as an armed patrol vehicle for use in the Western Desert. These 30cwt trucks were unarmoured. The LRDG crews relied on speed, surprise, and  skilled camouflaging for survival. Any truck  part seen as non-essential was just cut off. What remained was festooned with weapons or piled with gear.

During the Second World War,  Canada was able  to produce vast numbers of  military trucks. How was this country  ( then with a population of  only 11M  –  much of  it in uniform)  able to build so many trucks and other  types of  military vehicles? [6]  In part,  it was simply national pride. Productivity was part of how nations defined themselves at the time. That productivity would also include at  least a degree of  self-sufficiency. And there was also wartime urgency.

Now Canadian Heavy-Duty Truck Builders are Leaving the Country or are Being Shut Down

No one would compare the Second World War with the current  Canadian Forces  involvement  in Afghanistan. But  Canadian soldiers are fighting and dying overseas. So where is our sense of urgency now?  For that matter, where is our desire for productive self-sufficiency?  We are told that Canadian industry can no longer construct military vehicles and we are asked to believe this at face value.  Producing a modern  tank  or  armoured  fighting vehicle from scratch may now be a stretch for Canadian industry. But simple heavy-duty trucks for the military?

Canadians have watched as  heavy-duty truck makers  in Canada  have either left  the country (eg: Western Star, makers of  the CF's Heavy Engineering Support Vehicle series) or been shut down by foreign owners (eg: Sterling , maker of  commercial-pattern stand-ins for the MLVW).

MLVWs are, of course, the clapped-out medium trucks that the Medium Support Vehicle System is struggling to replace with a combination of  militarized civilian trucks and Standard Military Pattern vehicles. The SMP order has yet to be filled  but  MND, Peter MacKay, has already announced  that  the 1300 MilCOTS MSVS trucks  will be built entirely in Texas. The irony is driven home when Sterling, one of  the few remaining Canadian-based
( if not Canadian-owned ) truck makers accepts its last order on the same day that  the LOI  for the MSVS MilCOTS was issued. It's hard to argue that the skilled labour and factory floor space can't  be readily found in Canada today  (with back-up from a hard-pressed auto parts sector ).

The job of any government  is to secure, build, and maintain the nation it serves. US President Barack Obama understands this and will likely move to protect US industry and interests. And so he should. Canadian industry also faces tough times. Canadians should be demanding that their government emphasize the development and building of  Canadian industry and a skilled workforce free from lay-off cycles and constant changes of  foreign owners. "We [were once] a fierce, proud nation." All  that is necessary to be so again is the recognition that make-work projects like Industrial Regional Benefits are for the conquered.  Free people are self-sufficent.
[1] The US built almost 2.4M military trucks during WWII. Canada built double the trucks that Britain did, more twice the number built  by Germany, and  four times that of  the Soviet Union.

[2] Canadian Military Pattern production was undertaken by Ford Motor Company of Canada and by General Motors of Canada. CMPs built at Windsor or Oshawa differed primarily in the engine used. Otherwise CMP trucks built by the two companies were all but indistinguishable. (Chrysler's Dodge also produced pilot model CMP trucks but never built the CMP in volume.)

[3] These CMP-based foreign armoured cars include the Rover in Australia,  Beaverette NZ in New Zealand, the ACV-IP series in India, and the South African Reconnaissance Car Mk IVF.

[4] The 30cwt was a generic term (the cwt stood for hundredweight, ie: a unit of mass equaling 112 pounds,  30 cwt = 1 1/2 tons). To GM, this truck was known as the 1940 Chevrolet 1533X2. This 30cwt had a 134 inch wheelbase and was powered by an 86hp 6-cylinder gasoline engine.

[5] The LRDG chose its 1940 Model 1533X2 after successful experience with another Canadian Chevrolet 30cwt truck, the 1938 Model VA. In many ways, the British LRDG was the precursor of  modern military special forces units, leading indirectly to the formation of  the famous SAS.

[6] Alongside 815,729 trucks, Canada produced over 3,600 Valentine, Ram, and Grizzly tanks, 2,000 Sexton self-propelled guns,  almost  42,000 Universal and  Windsor armoured personnel carriers, over 6,500 Lynx, Fox, and Otter armoured car types, and a host of other land vehicles.

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