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Canada considering sending 4 Leopard tanks to Ukraine: sources

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Canada is considering contributing four Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, senior sources told CBC News — but no decision has been made.

The government could announce the donation of tanks as early as Thursday, the sources said.

CBC News is not identifying the confidential sources because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

One source said Canada is likely to send Ukraine the A4 variant of the tank — the oldest in the Canadian military’s inventory. Canada bought the A4s from the Netherlands during the Afghan war.

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The Globe and Mail first reported the number of tanks that Canada may send to Ukraine’s war effort.

“Many of the tanks are in poor condition, but we can make sure they are operational, ready to go for the Ukrainians,” retired Canadian general Rick Hillier told Power & Politics Wednesday. “It would cost us some effort, certainly, but I’d like to see it happen.”

Earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government will provide more support to Ukraine but declined to join allies in announcing a donation of German-made tanks to fend off Russian forces.

One military expert said Germany’s announcement that it’s sending Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine puts pressure on Trudeau to follow suit.

“We will continue to be there to give whatever support we can to Ukraine,” Trudeau said. “I won’t be making an announcement today but I can tell you we’re looking very, very closely at what more we can do to support Ukraine.”

Trudeau made the remarks in Hamilton, Ont., where he is attending a cabinet retreat in advance of the return of Parliament.

For weeks, Ukraine has been asking its allies to supply it with up to 300 German-made Leopard 2 battle tanks. Several allies have those tanks in their inventories but were unable to donate them unless Germany gave its approval for the vehicles to be transferred to a third party.

Earlier Wednesday, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that his country would provide Ukraine with 14 Leopard 2 tanks from his own military.

German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said that Germany advised several allies of its plan ahead of the announcement, including Canada.

“Germany will always be at the forefront when it comes to supporting Ukraine,” Scholz said later in an address to lawmakers in the German federal parliament.

Allies step up

Germany made the announcement on the same day U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters in Washington that the United States will send 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine.

Germany, which was reluctant to incur Russia’s wrath alone by sending tanks, had said the Leopards would not be sent unless the U.S. put its Abrams on the table.

The U.K. announced last week that it would send 14 Challenger 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Reuters reported Wednesday that Norway’s defence minister announced his country also would donate Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, joining Poland, Finland, Spain and the Netherlands.

A military tank with 6 soldiers on top.
One of the old Soviet armoured vehicles Ukrainian soldiers are using in the field. (Stephanie Jenzer/CBC News )

Walter Dorn, a professor of defence studies at the Royal Military College, said the donations announced by other countries ramped up the pressure on Canada to do the same.

“I think there will be pressure from the United States for Canada to pony up on the Leopard-2 tanks, because Leopard-2s will be the mainstay of the Ukrainian tank forces,” he said.

Dorn said that the Abrams tanks are very different from the Leopard-2 tanks and allies likely want Ukraine to have a more uniform fleet of vehicles to ensure they can be supported with parts and repairs on the battlefield.

Maintenance challenges

Dorn said the German announcement is significant because it allows Ukraine to counter Russian advances into Ukraine and launch attacks of its own.

“It’s potentially a game-changer because it adds much more punch to the Ukrainian forces,” Dorn told CBC News. “They are an entire generation better.

“The Western weapons are heavier, they’ve got better armour, they can pack more punch, they have the capacity to take territory more easily. Really, the [Russian] T-72s can’t stand a chance against these more modern weapons.”

Dorn said that while Ukraine has asked for 300 tanks, having just 100 of these vehicles would make a significant difference on the battlefield.

Germany said the tanks will not be battle-ready for several months.

Dorn said it will take time to train crews and build the maintenance facilities required to keep the tanks operational.

The Canadian Armed Forces has 112 Leopard 2s in its inventory. They include 82 designed for combat and 30 that are used for engineering purposes and recovering disabled vehicles. Many are not battle-ready because of maintenance issues.

According to a paper published last year by the Royal Military College, “the poor serviceability rate of the Leopard 2 main battle tanks is an endemic issue and a strategic-level concern since implementation.”

The paper blamed the maintenance problems on a lack of infrastructure, technicians and spare parts.

Forces won’t say how many tanks are battle-ready

Retired lieutenant-general and former Canadian Army commander Jean-Marc Lanthier said in an interview with the Canadian Press that any donation almost certainly will have to balance the needs of Ukraine against the potential impact on Canada’s military.

“Getting rid of any tanks — because we have so few, and so few that are actively working — would have an immediate impact on the level of readiness of the Army,” said Lanthier, who served as an armoured officer.

“Is that something that should stop us from sending tanks? I think we have a moral responsibility in terms of the immediacy of the requirements of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the Ukrainian people. They are fighting a war. We are not.”

Canada bought its Leopards from Germany during the war in Afghanistan. They are notionally divided into squadrons of 19 tanks each, with two squadrons in Edmonton and a third at CFB Gagetown, N.B. Most of the rest are at the armour training school in Gagetown.

The U.S. and Germany both announced Wednesday they would be providing Ukraine with main battle tanks. Germany’s Ambassador to Canada Sabine Sparwasser joined Power & Politics to discuss how Germany arrived at this decision.

“And normally you keep a bunch of them at a depot ready to be deployed, but that’s not something we’re doing necessarily because we don’t have the numbers,” said Lanthier.

Department of National Defence spokesperson Andrew McKelvey would not comment Wednesday on what percentage of the military’s Leopard 2s are currently battle-ready, and how many are out of service for maintenance or other reasons.

“Tank maintenance is similar to aircraft maintenance, and the status of the fleet at any given moment depends on a comprehensive maintenance, repair and overhaul schedule, which is tied to specific requirements for training or operational employment,” he said.

“For operational security reasons, we cannot specify how many Leopard 2s are being maintained at any given time or give indication of their maintenance schedule.”

The question facing the government will be whether the benefit of sending tanks to Ukraine outweighs the impact on the military, Lanthier said. If it does, another question will be whether those tanks would be replaced — and if so, how quickly.

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Canadian assessment team deployed to Turkey after earthquake

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Canadian assessment team deployed to Turkey

A senior government official says a Canadian assessment team is on its way to Turkey to determine how Canada can contribute to earthquake relief efforts.

International Development Minister Harjit Sajjan was expected to formally announce the deployment of the Canadian Disaster Assessment Team this evening.

The senior official, who spoke on background pending Sajjan’s official confirmation, said the team consists of a handful of military and Global Affairs officials.

The official underscored that the deployment of the team does not automatically guarantee a further deployment of Canadian resources to the country.

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The earthquake, which razed thousands of buildings in Turkey and Syria on Monday, is one of the deadliest quakes worldwide in more than a decade and the federal government is facing criticism that the window to help with rescue efforts is closing.

Search teams from more than two dozen countries have joined tens of thousands of local emergency personnel and Canadian humanitarian aid workers with charitable organizations were arriving Wednesday

Defence Minister Anita Anand said late Tuesday that the federal government had not ruled out sending a Disaster Assistance Response Team, to help with the recovery effort, but that it was working to figure out what would be most useful.

The assessment team would recommend whether to send additional support, such as a DART.

Earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the federal government would match funds donated to Canadian Red Cross relief efforts up to $10 million on top of an initial aid package of $10 million.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2023.

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Canadian soccer player describes the horror of the earthquake in Turkey

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Canadian soccer player

Canadian soccer player Sam Adekugbe is one of the lucky ones. He managed to escape earthquake-ravaged Antakya in Turkey.

Some of his teammates and staff at his club Hatayspor are still missing.

The 28-year-old from Calgary is now safe in Istanbul with Canada captain Atiba Hutchinson, who plays in the Turkish Super Lig for Besiktas. But in a Zoom call Wednesday sitting next to Hutchinson, a sombre Adekugbe told a harrowing tale of being caught in the quake — and the horror of what he saw in the aftermath.

“Unfathomable. Something you never really expect,” said Adekugbe, who looked shell-shocked.

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Adekugbe was relaxing at home with some teammates after a 1-0 win over visiting Kasimpasa in a Turkish league game Sunday evening. The quake began as he started cleaning up his home when they left.

He started shaking, which initially made him think he was having a panic attack. Then the furniture and TV began to tip over and cups and dishes smashed in the kitchen.

He went outside to find the road split and people yelling amid freezing rain and lighting strikes. After witnessing the damage around his home, he drove the 20 minutes to the team training ground, seeing the devastation along the way.

“It just felt like a movie. You’re seeing collapsed buildings, fires. People yelling, people crying,” he said. “People digging through the rubble. Broken pieces of houses. Just things you never really expect.”

It got worse the closer he got to the centre of the city, which is located 1,100 kilometres southeast of Istanbul in a region bordered by the Mediterranean and Syria.

“Roads split. Bridges broken. Twelve-storey highrises just completely collapsed. Families looking for loved ones. Parents looking for their kids. Kids looking for their parents. It was just something unfathomable. Something you never really expect.”

Adekugbe says people are still missing, including the team’s sporting director, Taner Savut. There is confusion over the whereabouts of Ghana international Christian Atsu, who was at Adekugbe’s home that night.

Reports of Atsu being rescued are now in doubt, said Adekugbe, who joined the search for survivors after getting to the training ground.

“It’s also people who work around the team,” Adekugbe said.

He says one of the team’s equipment men died in the quake. So did the daughters and mother of a woman who works in the team kitchen.

The wife of another equipment man needs urgent medical attention, facing having her arm amputated if she doesn’t get it.

“Of course I’m thankful that a lot of my teammates have been found. But the people that do help the team, the people who work around the club, they still have loved ones that are missing and unaccounted for. Really it starts to hit home when you just see the agony, the desperation on their faces,” he said.

In the light of day, the horror grew.

“You’re looking through rubble trying to find your teammates. You’re trying to yell for them in like darkened spaces of apartments that used to be standing,” Adekugbe said. “It’s just something you never find yourself doing. People coming back with broken bones. People still missing to this day. It’s something you can’t really explain.”

Adekugbe and some of his teammates managed to get out thanks to his coach, Volkan Demirel, who used to play for Fenerbahce, another Turkish club based in Istanbul. He called the Fenerbahce president who organized a plane departing from a city about a 150-minute drive away.

Adekugbe and other Hatayspor players and staff were bused to the waiting plane, which took them to Istanbul.

“We were very lucky,” Adekugbe said.

“I just grabbed what I could … I have three suitcases and my dog.”

Hutchinson was waiting to take him in. Adekugbe had called him in the aftermath of the quake, showing him the damage via FaceTime.

He called his parents when he got to the training ground.

Antakya is renowned for its cuisine, which has many Middle Eastern influences. UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has designated Antakya as a “city of gastronomy.”

Adekugbe, who joined Hatayspor in June 2021 from Norway’s Valerenga Fotball, has won 37 caps for Canada and saw action in all three of Canada’s games at the World Cup in Qatar.

Born in London, England, he was three when his family moved to Manchester and 10 when it came to Calgary.

At 16, he moved to Vancouver to join the Whitecaps residency program. He signed a homegrown contract with the MLS team in 2013 but made just 16 appearances for the team over the next four seasons, spending much of the time out on loan.

Adekugbe had loans stints with Brighton in the English Championship and Sweden’s IFK Goteborg before joining Valerenga in January 2018.

While Istanbul escaped quake damage, Hutchinson’s concern for Adekugbe grew when internet connection was lost and a second quake hit.

Both players urged Canadians to donate to relief organizations to help the region and its people.

“There’s a lot of people that are still under the rubble,” Hutchinson said.

“People are just really in bad conditions right now,” he added. “It’s really cold here. Just making it through the day and the night, it’s extremely difficult.”

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 8, 2023.

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How much money is needed to retire in Canada

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Canadians now believe they need $1.7 million in savings in order to retire, a 20 per cent increase from 2020, according to a new BMO survey.

The eye-watering figure is the largest sum since BMO first started surveying Canadians about their retirement expectations 13 years ago. It’s also a drastic increase from the $1.4 million in savings Canadians expected to need for their nest eggs just two years ago.

The results reflect Canadians’ concerns about current economic conditions, particularly inflation and higher prices, said Caroline Dabu, head of wealth distribution and advisory services for BMO Financial Group.

“If you look at the average Canadian, they’re feeling the rising inflation costs,” said Dabu.

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“And so, not surprisingly, we are seeing that Canadians are feeling they absolutely will need more to retire.”

Canada’s annual inflation rate hit a four-decade high of 8.1 per cent in the summer of 2022 and has since fallen to 6.3 per cent as of December 2022. BMO Economics expects the country’s CPI to decline to around three per cent by the end of the year.

The sharp increase to Canada’s inflation rate in 2022 exceeded wage gains, eroding purchasing power for most families and heightening fears about the future. The BMO survey found that just 44 per cent of Canadians are confident they will have enough money to retire as planned — a 10 per cent decrease from 2020.

But while the $1.7 million figure may sound overwhelming to working-age Canadians, Dabu said the number says more about the economic mood of the country than it does about real-life retirement necessities.

“Certainly when we’re working with clients, we find that many overestimate the number that they need to retire,” she said.

“It really does have to be taken at an individual level, because circumstances are very different … But $1.7 million, I would say, is high.”

While rising inflation may require tweaks to a retirement plan — such as contributing slightly more to savings each month if you’re a young worker, or making cash flow adjustments if you’re nearing the end of your working career — Dabu said these changes don’t necessarily have to be drastic.

When it comes to retirement planning, Dabu said, knowledge is power. By working with a professional financial advisor and making a plan that encompasses individual circumstances and goals, Canadians can come up with their own retirement savings number.

“In the survey, we note that 53 per cent of Canadians didn’t know how much they will need to retire,” Dabu said.

“That increased confidence comes from knowing the exact number that I need to save for, and how I’m going to get there.”

The BMO survey also found that approximately 22 per cent of Canadians plan to retire between the ages of 60 and 69, with an average age of 62.

Millennial and generation z Canadians are the most nervous about their ability to save and invest right now, the survey found. However, all age groups — 74 per cent of survey respondents — said they are concerned about how current economic conditions will affect their financial situation, and 59 per cent said economic conditions have affected their confidence in meeting their retirement goals.

The BMO survey was conducted between Nov. 4 and 7, 2022 by Pollara Strategic Insights via an online survey of 1,500. The survey’s margin of error is plus/minus 2.5 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 7, 2023.

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