Minister Blair announces investments in Canadian innovation and launches Artificial Intelligence Strategy at Ottawa Conference on Security and Defence

News release

March 7, 2024 – Ottawa, Ontario – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces

Today, the Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence, delivered a keynote speech at the 92nd annual Ottawa Conference on Security and Defence and discussed Canada’s national defence priorities – including growing and reconstituting the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), modernizing NORAD and continental defence, supporting NATO Allies and standing with Ukraine, and promoting peace and stability around the world.

In support of these priorities, Minister Blair noted that Canada is taking action to increase the production of much-needed munitions. Today, Minister Blair announced an investment to support increased domestic production of 155 mm ammunition, through the Department of National Defence’s (DND) Innovation for Defence Excellence and Security (IDEaS) program. To support efforts to modernize Canadian ammunition manufacturing, DND has awarded approximately $4.4 million to three Canadian manufacturers:

  • IMT Defence, in Ingersoll, Ontario;
  • General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems-Canada Legardeur, in Repentigny, Quebec; and
  • General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems-Canada Valleyfield, in Valleyfield, Quebec.

With this funding, these companies will undertake research to advance processes for the design and production of NATO standard 155 mm munitions, which is in high demand across NATO and urgently needed in Ukraine. Concurrently, this will help enable increased production in support of Canada’s defence needs.

Minister Blair stressed that these projects are part of a larger Government of Canada effort to modernize, and increase, Canadian manufacturing capacity for 155 mm ammunition through Canada’s Munition Supply Program. In 2023, DND invested $4.8 million with IMT Defence to increase the production capacity for the M107 variant of the 155 mm artillery metal projectile bodies from 3,000 rounds a month to 5,000. This extra capacity is now available, as of December 2023. Minister Blair reiterated that production is deterrence and noted that Canada is assessing further steps to increase the domestic production of this critically needed ammunition.

Minister Blair also reaffirmed Canada’s unbreakable commitment to Euro-Atlantic security and Canada’s unwavering support for Ukraine, highlighting the historic Agreement on security cooperation between Canada and Ukraine signed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on February 24, 2024.

To further support Ukraine’s efforts to liberate its territory, Minister Blair today announced that the Government of Canada will provide funding to Canadian innovators to develop concepts that could help Ukraine move through and clear heavily defended minefields. Successful applicants could receive up to $1 million to develop their concepts, and an opportunity as early as next year to demonstrate their technology to military experts. This project is funded by DND’s IDEaS program, and it will fund the best and brightest concepts that could save Ukrainian lives and protect crucial Ukrainian military equipment.

In his remarks, Minister Blair also highlighted the need to ensure that Canada’s defence institutions are ready for the future and able to responsibly harness emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence. To this end, Minister Blair today launched the DND/CAF Artificial Intelligence (AI) Strategy, which will enable innovation while providing guidance on the ethical, safe, and trusted use of AI across the Defence Team.

The AI Strategy is a foundational component of DND/CAF’s digital transformation and modernization efforts, aimed at helping the Defence Team become AI-enabled by 2030. Its launch will help DND/CAF use data and resources more efficiently on behalf of Canadians and help DND/CAF remain fully capable and interoperable with Canada’s partners and Allies for years to come.

Minister Blair noted that from 2016-17 to 2026-27, the Government of Canada is more than doubling DND’s budget from $18.6 billion in 2016-17 to approximately $40 billion in 2026-27. This increase comes as a result of the 2017 defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged and subsequent funding increases, including Canada’s NORAD Modernization Plan, announced in June 2022.

These investments are delivering results for Canada. In just over one year, Canada has finalized the purchase or refurbishment of approximately 140 aircraft for the Royal Canadian Air Force. Further, contracts have been signed for all three Urgent Operational Requirement (UOR) procurements announced by Minister Anand at last year’s conference, and this equipment is expected to flow into the hands of Canadian troops this year. Minister Blair noted that Canada must and will do more to invest in its national defence, and that the Government of Canada remains committed to increasing defence spending substantially.


“The international rules that keep us all safe are being increasingly threatened – and in this environment, we must step up our investments in national defence. Our government is more than doubling DND’s budget – and through the upcoming Defence Policy Update, we will be taking further measures to strengthen Canada’s defence. Production is deterrence – and alongside our Allies and partners, we are making substantial investments to provide our Armed Forces with the tools that they require to keep our citizens safe.”

The Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence

Quick facts

  • Research and development investments announced by Minister Blair to modernize Canadian ammunition manufacturing include the following research projects:

    • IMT Defence, in Ingersoll, Ontario, will develop a production line concept for 155 mm projectile bodies, using advanced manufacturing and inspection techniques. This project will also outline how they could meet DND/CAF requirements. The contribution agreement is valued at $455,872 and the work will be completed later this winter.
    • General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems-Canada Legardeur, in Repentigny, Quebec, will investigate automating key areas of production of 155 mm projectiles, such as casting and solidification processes, inspecting for defects using an X-ray, and transporting materials using automated guided vehicles. The contribution agreement is valued at $1,968,825 and the work will be completed in fall 2025.
    • General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems-Canada Valleyfield, in Valleyfield, Quebec, will demonstrate the capability to manufacture a combustible cartridge case for the 155 mm Howitzer, including developing the expertise and pre-engineering study to manufacture combustible cartridge cases for Canada’s needs. The contribution agreement is valued at $2,019,959 and the work will be completed in the winter of 2026. 
  • Since February 2022, Canada has committed over $13.3 billion in funding to support Ukraine. This includes: $4 billion in military assistance, such as M777 howitzers, Leopard 2 main battle tanks, armoured combat support vehicles, hundreds of thousands of rounds of ammunition, high-resolution drone cameras, thermal clothing, body armour, fuel, and more.

  • Canadian Armed Forces members are supporting the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the United Kingdom, Poland, and Latvia under Operation UNIFIER, providing training on a range of military skills. Since 2015, the CAF have trained more than 40,000 Ukrainian military and security personnel under this operation. The CAF have also been assisting with the delivery of military aid for Ukraine from Canada and on behalf of our Allies and partners.

  • As a result of Strong, Secure, Engaged and subsequent funding increases, including funding for NORAD modernization and continental defence announced in June 2022, DND's annual budget is expected to more than double over ten years, from $18.6 billion in 2016-17 to $39.7 billion in 2026-27 on a cash basis.

  • Defence spending has increased year-over-year since 2015 – and that growth is set to continue. Since 2014, Canada has had the third biggest increase of all NATO countries, in real terms, and Canada has the seventh-largest defence budget among NATO’s 31 Allies. In addition, Canada is on track to exceed the current NATO target of 20 percent of spending on equipment and will reach 32 percent in 2024.

  • Current Canadian contributions to NATO include:

    • Leading the multinational NATO enhanced Forward Presence in Latvia as the Framework Nation since 2017 as part of Operation REASSURANCE.
    • Providing support to NATO maritime forces through the deployment of surface and sub-surface vessels as part of Operation REASSURANCE.
    • His Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Charlottetown is currently deployed with NATO as part of Exercise STEADFAST DEFENDER, the largest NATO exercise in decades.
    • Continuing to support training and capacity building efforts in the Middle East under Operation IMPACT, including through NATO Mission Iraq.
    • Continuing to provide CAF personnel support to the NATO-led international peace support Operation in Kosovo through Operation KOBOLD.

Associated links


Diana Ebadi
Press Secretary and Communications Advisor
Office of the Minister of National Defence

Media Relations
Department of National Defence
Phone: 613-904-3333

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