Posts Tagged ‘journalist’


January 26, 2010

Forces attack expenses to save $190M; Money to be redirected to Harper government’s Canada First defence strategy

The Ottawa Citizen

Dec 28 2009

By David Pugliese

The Ottawa Citizen

The Canadian military is looking for savings of more than $190 million by March to help pay for the Harper government’s defence strategy.

The navy will cut training for its reserve forces in January and reduce infrastructure maintenance and repairs while the air force will scale back on non-operational training, cut some of its flying time as well as scale back non-essential repairs.

The army recently revealed its cuts including trimming some training and reducing the number of reserve soldiers employed full-time.

The reductions come as the federal deficit has climbed to more than $55 billion this year and the Conservative government has signalled the public service will face cuts.

The air force is required to cut $59 million while the navy has $52 million in reductions to make, according to the Canadian Forces. It was recently revealed that the army’s portion of the reduction is $80 million.

The air force’s reductions represent seven per cent of its annual budget; the navy’s is six per cent. The army’s share is five per cent of its budget.

All three services are reducing travel and attendance at conferences.

The Defence Department could not say whether other organizations within DND are also facing reductions.

The Canadian Forces is not calling the reductions a “cutback.” Officers are instead referring to them as “adjustments” as the money saved is being redirected toward the priorities of the Canada First defence strategy.

The strategy, the Harper government’s blueprint for the future military, promises to spend tens of billions of dollars on new equipment.

Steve Staples, president of the Rideau Institute in Ottawa, said DND is in a better position than other departments to weather the expected cuts to the federal government. He said social, health and arts spending will likely be hit hardest as the Conservatives tighten budgets.

“These cuts that DND has to make are a drop in the bucket since the department has been enjoying large increases each year for many years,” said Staples, who has criticized what he calls excessive spending on the military. “Compared to other departments, DND is the teacher’s pet of the government.”

The money saved is to be “allocated to best meet responsibilities defined by the Canada First Defence Strategy,” an e-mail from the Canadian Forces noted.

Some defence analysts had questioned where the money would come from for the strategy, but in May 2009, Defence Minister Peter MacKay said the policy was fully funded. “The funding will be there, I assure you. It’s locked in,” he told an audience of hundreds of industry and defence representatives in Ottawa during a military trade show.

MacKay also assured the audience the recession would not affect Canadian Forces’ plans to spend billions on new equipment and that he had the support of Finance Minister Jim Flaherty.

Military officers characterized the “adjustments” as a normal part of the Defence Department’s financial management process.

A recently released report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, done in conjunction with the Rideau Institute, determined that for the fiscal year ending in March, Canada will have spent a little more than $21 billion on national defence. That’s nearly 10 per cent of all federal spending.

After adjusting for inflation, Canadian military spending this year was up 9.6 per cent compared to last year and is 15 per cent higher than Canada’s defence spending at the peak of the Cold War in 1952-1953, the report noted.

But other groups have argued that more money needs to be spent on the Canadian Forces to re-equip it for the future.

Air force spokesman Maj. Jim Hutcheson said most of the cuts for that service are based on its fuel and oil budget. “While some of this year’s budget adjustment is absorbed due to the fact that fuel prices have remained lower than last year’s average, there may be some selective reduction in flying hours,” Hutcheson explained.

He did not give further details on what aircraft flights might be reduced.

Although the navy is cutting its spending on petroleum and oil, those reductions will not affect ship operations, Lt.-Cmdr. Sue Stefko noted.

Normally the navy would use extra money at the end of the government’s fiscal year to buy additional fuel for its strategic reserve. As a result of the reductions, there will less fuel for that reserve.

Army spokesman Lt.-Col. Jay Janzen said the money saved by that service will be used to support other higher priority programs such as training soldiers for international and domestic operations and purchasing new equipment.

The army has a $5-billion plan to purchase several types of new armored vehicles as well as refurbish light-armored vehicles damaged or heavily used during the war in Afghanistan.

The reductions that hit the army reserves, however, have angered some of the part-time soldiers who said they left their civilian jobs for temporary full-time work with the regular forces, only to be told they are no longer needed.


For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:



January 26, 2010

Foulup leaves troops out pay, benefits

‘Administrative error’ to blame: National Defence

By David Pugliese, The Ottawa Citizen

December 8, 2009

Troops now training at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa for a mission to Afghanistan next year are in the midst of a battle against the military bureaucracy over pay and health benefits.

It’s the second time in less than eight months that reserve soldiers assigned to the Afghan mission have run into pay problems. In February, soldiers contacted the Citizen after their pay was cut off while they fought in Afghanistan.

This time, soldiers say they have lost the extra pay they are entitled to because of a bureaucratic screw-up. According to the soldiers, the pay problems are due to a backlog in processing paperwork and an inadequate pay system at National Defence headquarters in Ottawa.

As well, there are problems with health coverage for families of the part-time soldiers.

“A caveat to the fact that they aren’t inputted into the regular force pay system is that their families (eligible dependents) at home are not eligible for medical coverage under the Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP),” one individual wrote to the Citizen, complaining about the problem.

“Soldiers who once had coverage under their previous civilian careers are left with the medical expenses for their children and spouses until their contracts are processed.” About 300 reservists training at CFB Petawawa will head to Afghanistan in the spring.

Army spokesman Lt.-Col. Jay Janzen confirmed there are problems with pay. “The army is aware of pay issues affecting some reservists conducting pre-deployment training at Petawawa and we’re working quickly to address them,” he said.

Janzen said the soldiers are receiving their basic pay, but the problem centres around incentive pay they would receive. That problem is “due to an administrative error.”

Janzen didn’t have specific numbers affected, but added it is believed to be fewer than 100 reservists. He said that once the problem is sorted out, the soldiers would receive the money owed. A military source said the health-care issue will also be taken care of once the paperwork goes through for the reservists and they are assigned to the full-time regular force.

It’s not the first time there have been pay problems for part-time soldiers. From December 2008 to February of this year, some reserve soldiers fighting in Afghanistan said they had their pay cut off because their contracts with the army expired while they were serving overseas.

The troops continued to serve, but some told the Citizen they were worried they would not be covered by health insurance and other benefits if they were injured in battle.

At the time, the army confirmed in an e-mail that there had been problems, but it claimed that “at no time were the members’ pay and benefits at risk.”

The e-mail also added that emergency financial assistance was offered to anyone who needed it while the error was being fixed.

In 2006, former Canadian Forces Ombudsman Yves Côté launched an investigation into what he warned was a lack of services and inconsistent care available to members of the reserves when they are injured on overseas missions or during training at home. The investigation, completed in April, revealed numerous problems for reservists injured in the course of duty to Canada and subsequently required health care.

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:


January 26, 2010


By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen

Defence Watch

The Defence Department is on the look out for a few good men (and presumably women) security contractors to train the Afghan National Army in Kabul.

The contractors will be responsible for developing and teaching the Afghan National Army Junior Officer Staff Course or (JOSC) of the Afghan National Army Command and Staff College, Defence Watch has been told.

The Defence Department and the Canadian Forces committed last summer to sponsor the development and delivery of the JOSC. It is the first of four courses within the larger national CSC Afghan National Army training institution.

The idea behind the JOSC course is to prepare senior level ANA Captains and junior Majors to be assigned as primary staff officers in Kandak/Batallion/ Corps Headquarters.
The Canadian Forces wants to build up sufficient capacity for the ANA to administer and deliver the course on its own by July 2011.

The Defence Department intends to move quick on hiring a company to provide the contractors as the first course is to start in April 2009s and run until July, Defence Watch has been told.

A second course will run from September to December 2009. Then there will be four courses in 2010.

Each class will have between 25 and 40 ANA to teach.

Only companies who reside and carry on business in Canada will be allowed to bid on the upcoming competition.

But the actual instructors can come from a variety of countries as long as they meet certain criteria. Included among those are officers who have graduated from the Canadian Land Forces Command and Staff College Army Operations Course or from U.S. Marines Expeditionary Warfare School Courses, and the U.S. Command and General Staff officer course, among a variety of U.S. courses. Others who have graduated from command and staff courses offered by Germany, France, Norway, Belgium, Australia or the United Kingdom would also be considered, sources have told Defence Watch.

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:


January 26, 2010


By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen

Defence Watch

The Army, Navy and Air Force are all facing budget “adjustments” that have to be made by the end of March but the extent of the impact appears to be felt the hardest on the Army reserves.

“The main thing for the Reserves is that training has stopped,” said one Defence Watch reader in the reserves recently noted. “We can’t train any new recruits, drivers, signallers, junior NCOs, nothing.”

The navy will cut some training for its reserve forces in January and reduce infrastructure maintenance and repairs while the air force will scale back on non-operational training, cut some of its flying time as well as scale back non-essential repairs.

The army is cutting some training and reducing the number of reserve soldiers who are employed full-time as Class B reservists.

The air force is required to “adjust” $59 million of its budget while the navy has $52 million in adjustments to make, according to the Canadian Forces. The army’s portion of the adjustments is $80 million. The money is being redirected to priority areas, according to DND.

The air force’s adjustments represent seven percent of its annual budget; the navy’s is six per cent. The army’s share is five per cent of its budget.

“We’re moving around about $80 million to support higher CF priorities this fiscal year,” Army spokesman Lt.-Col. Jay Janzen told Defence Watch. “Of that about $2 million have been assigned to full-time reserve budgets.”

“But local commanders may decide to make further reductions in that area,” he added.

Officially, the unit budgets have only been cut by 10 per cent, some reservists told Defence Watch. There are still parade nights, and possibly a weekend exercise or two.  “But the meat and potatoes of our training cycle is gone and there is no information whatsoever,” said one reservist.

At 31 Canadian Brigade Group in Southwestern Ontario, the budget has been cut by about 16 per cent. That works out to about $2.5 million on its $18.2-million budget, according to news reports. The brigade also cut 25 full-time jobs.

Reservists report how the cuts have affected their units:

— Ongoing courses including the BMQ (recruit course) and PLQ (junior leadership course) were shut down at the last minute even though they were ongoing.

— Emails came in from Army in the morning to “cease training” immediately and reservists were phoned at home to inform them not to show up for pre-scheduled training that night.

–There is little information provided for units about the way ahead. More is expected in April when the government announces its budget.

-Until the BMQ courses are complete, other training (SQ, DP1, etc…) cannot be done so everything else gets backlogged.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay has remained silent on the cuts. However, Conservative Senator Marjory LeBreton, the government leader in the Senate, has said she read about the cuts in the newspaper and that every effort was being made to ensure that reservists are prepared for any operational activity.

The Harper government, she noted, is committed to treating the reservists reasonably so that they remain fully operational.

But when asked about the reserve cuts in December by Liberal Senator Romeo Dallaire, LeBreton originally denied that such a thing had happened.

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:


January 26, 2010


By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen

Defence Watch

As U.S. government agencies continue to make use of unmanned aerial vehicles for domestic security, such operations in Canada remain blocked by bureaucratic inaction.

Just recently the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency branched out in its UAV operations by acquiring its first maritime variant of the Predator B unmanned aerial vehicle.

Nothing similar will be happening anytime soon in Canada, industry representatives tell Defence Watch.

The Defence Department’s JUSTAS (Joint Unmanned Surveillance Target Acquisition System) program is still years away from fielding UAVs for domestic patrols.

But private operators say they can augment the Canadian Forces and government’s maritime surveillance capabilities by operating small UAVs for domestic coastal patrols and to support Canadian military search and rescue missions. The government already uses private firms to conduct some of its secondary surveillance needs using fixed-wing aircraft.

But private UAV users who want to operate the aircraft have been stymied in their efforts. Current federal aviation regulations are designed for manned aircraft and do not take into account unmanned flight operations.

“The technology and customers are there now but it’s a matter of the regulator trying to figure out how to fit these aircraft into the civilian air regulations,” said Pip Rudkin, chairman of the industry group, Unmanned Systems Canada.

Canadian operators want to use the UAVs in domestic settings ranging from support to police tactical and explosive ordnance teams, security patrols over key infrastructure such as oil pipelines in remote areas, and maritime surveillance patrols. Other operators have suggested using UAVs, outfitted with infrared sensors, to support domestic Canadian Forces search-and-rescue missions.

So far the Ontario Provincial Police has been using UAVs on a limited basis. It must receive special permission from Transport Canada, which oversees the country’s aviation rules.

Transport Canada has had a UAV working group in place since 2007 in an effort to determine how best to proceed on the issue of unmanned aerial vehicles in civilian airspace. But little has happened, say UAV industry officials.

Transport Canada spokeswoman Mélanie Emma Quesnel stated in an email that the department is consulting with the UAV industry to develop a regulatory framework that would deal with public safety issues while allowing for the development of the unmanned aerial vehicle sector. “There is no set timeline for that process,” she added.

The department’s main concern centers on the potential for UAVs to collide with manned aircraft.

There are similar concerns in the U.S. but regulators are working out the issues.

The U.S. Customs department maritime UAV is expected to be ready for Operational Test and Evaluation in early 2010. After the UAV completes operational testing this spring, it will be deployed to the drug source and transit zones to support joint counter-narcotics operations.

The UAV, called the Guardian, has been modified from a standard Predator B with structural, avionics, and communications enhancements, as well as the addition of a Raytheon SeaVue Marine Search Radar and an Electro-optical/Infrared (EO/IR) Sensor that is optimized for maritime operations.

Canadian UAV specialists say it will take between five and 10 years at least before Transport Canada alters existing rules to take into account UAVs for domestic uses.

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:


December 6, 2009

By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen journalist

The Joint Support Ship project still sits idle waiting for the Harper government to move ahead on a new shipbuilding policy.

When will that be happening?

There was talk that the policy would be ready by the end of this year but that won’t take place. Some in industry expect a policy by the spring, unless a federal election gets in the way. If that happens, then all bets are off.

Work on a new shipbuilding policy was launched with great fanfare in the summer, with meetings between government and  industry representatives. But since then, the government has been focused on other issues.

The Canadian Navy, however, has signaled that it is ready to move ahead on JSS.

“We’re pretty much ready to be talking to the [defense] minister about what we need to do to advance the JSS so we’re ready to go,” Vice Admiral Dean McFadden told Defence Watch several months ago. “One thing that has caused us to take a bit of a pause in progressing that as an independent program is what I think is a superb initiative to try and develop a new and strategic relationship between government and industry in how this country goes about building ships.”

“That initiative gained a great deal of momentum in the summer,” McFadden added. “There was a forum held in Ottawa in July where I think we are coming to the fundamental issue — we want to stop doing a boom-and-bust building cycle in this country.”

And so it stands.

No Cabinet approval on a shipbuilding policy. Then no movement on JSS.

The big question in the maritime world is focused on when JSS will be delivered (although the more pessimistic ask, “Will it ever be delivered?”).

The project, before it ran into trouble, called for a contract to be awarded last year with the first vessel delivered in 2012.

But Dan Ross, the Defence Department’s Assistant Deputy Minister for Materiel, acknowledged the obvious to a Senate defence committee when he informed them that the delivery schedule won’t be met. But he still told the Senate committee (May 25) that he expected a request for proposals for the ships to be issued to industry in 2010. It could take another year to get to a contract and from there another four to five years to complete the ship, he noted.

That would mean the first ship would be delivered around 2016.

But even with that schedule Ross would not commit to the program delivering three Joint Support Ships at the end of the day. “I do not know if anyone here is prepared to state what the outcome will be,” he told the committee.

The JSS was originally announced in 2004 by the Martin government but the focus on Afghanistan diverted DND’s attention to equipment issues related to that war. As a result, JSS went on to the backburner for a bit. It did eventually proceed, only to derail in August 2008 after industry failed to meet the government’s specifications within the allotted budget.

The three JSS would replace the existing 40-year-old plus supply vessels which haul fuel and ammunition for naval task groups at sea. The ships would also provide support to the Canadian Army and special forces, carrying troops, vehicles, helicopters, ammunition and a hospital, as well as act as a command center for ground forces sent ashore.

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:


November 20, 2009



Liberal Senator Romeo Dallaire is warning that impending cuts to the defence budget from an ongoing Strategic Review could see military spending in some areas  scaled back.


Defence Department officials confirm that the department is now undergoing a Strategic Review to try to find savings. Dallaire says the review is focused on the department’s operations and maintenance budget.


Last year, the Strategic Review process saw 14 federal organizations examine their spending. Savings of $586 million were determined and redirected to fund new initiatives as part of the Economic Action Plan announced in the 2009 budget, according to Treasury Board.


Dallaire says he is worried that any budget cuts imposed by such a review would eventually impact other programs as well and hurt, in particular, quality of life programs for Canadian Forces personnel. He brought up the concerns about the Strategic Review during question period in the Senate.


But Senator Marjory LeBreton, the government leader in the Senate dismissed Dallaire’s concerns, noting that the Harper government has “massively increased” the budget of the Department of National Defence.”


I am not talking about the Capital Acquisition Support Program; I am not even debating the personnel envelope,” Dallaire responded. “I am speaking of the operations and maintenance envelope, and it is going through a strategic review, like every other department, and rumours are it is being cut to the 2006 level.”


He asked LeBreton to review the situation and update the Senate about the extent of the budget cuts that could happen at National Defence as part of the Strategic Review.

LeBreton, however, declined. “I am quite certain that, as we go through the whole strategic review process, rumours will run rampant,” she said. “We have known that for years, but I cannot and will not respond or answer a serious question based on a rumour.”


As part of the Strategic Review process, organizations examine their direct program spending and the operating costs of their major statutory programs to assess how and whether these programs: are effective and efficient; meet the priorities of Canadians; and are aligned with core federal responsibilities.


Defence Department officials privately say they expect some impact from the Strategic Review but at this stage it’s too early to tell what that might be. They note that defence and the Canadian Forces has been a priority for the Harper government. “We’re confident the savings can be absorbed,” said one official.


For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:



November 15, 2009


Book Review

By David Pugliese



The Naval Service of Canada, 1910-2010

The Centennial Story

Edited by Richard Gimblett


280 pages


Published by the Dundurn Group


The Naval Service of Canada is a first-rate and heavily illustrated volume that will appeal to those currently serving or retired from the navy or anyone with a strong interest in Canadian maritime matters.


The book was produced under the guidance of the Canadian Naval Centennial Project and chronicles the full century of the Canadian Navy. Edited by Richard Gimblett, it covers the origins of the navy back to 1867 as well as its operations in both world wars, the Korean conflict and the postwar period. It also examines what the future might be like for the navy.


The book is more of a general overview of Canada’s naval history, as opposed to an in-depth look; it is indeed more akin to a coffee-table style book.


With that in mind, readers will appreciate the top-notch color and black and white photos (some photos never seen before), and in particular the high quality art plates detailing Canada’s ships and submarines. In addition, the drawings of technical maritime innovations of the Canadian Navy will also be welcome.


Besides the more than 100 years of history outlined in the book, there is an excellent chapter by James Boutilier on the future of the navy and where the service could find itself being used in the coming decades.


One of the goals of the Canadian Naval Centennial Project is to foster a renewed awareness among Canadians of the navy and its contributions to the country, as well as the role the service plays within the Canadian Forces.


Gimblett says The Naval Service of Canada was produced “to give an accessible survey history to people who would not normally read naval history, and the point is to help Canadians better connect with their navy.”


Will this book help in that?


Perhaps, if enough libraries purchase it. At $40 a book, it will likely not appeal to the general public. But then again, with the holiday season coming it would make an excellent gift for those interested in maritime matters, or as I mentioned, current or retired navy personnel.


The Commander of Maritime Command, Vice-Admiral Dean McFadden, will preside over the launch of the book on Monday at the NDHQ Chief’s and Petty Officer’s mess, 4 Queen Elizabeth Drive, in Ottawa at 11:30 a.m.



November 14, 2009

By David Pugliese

Ottawa Citizen

The Canadian government won’t say whether the U.S. informed it in advance about a nuclear-powered submarine which recently surfaced near the North Pole.

The U.S. Navy has noted that the submarine, USS Texas, recently completed its Arctic mission. The 7,800-ton submarine, with a crew of 134, completed what some U.S. media outlets are calling a historic month-long exercise near the North Pole since it became the first of the new Virginia-class submarines not only to operate in the region, but also to surface through the ice.


It is unclear exactly what route the submarine took and whether the U.S. requested permission from Canada to operate in any waters claimed by Canada. Before being elected prime minister, Stephen Harper complained about U.S. submarines operating in Canadian waters without permission.

Defence Watch asked Defence Minister Peter MacKay for comment but that request was passed on to Foreign Affairs.

In an email late Friday night Foreign Affairs spokesman Alain Cacchione stated that information about submarine operations is considered secret. He noted that Canada permits shipping through Canadian Arctic waters provided vessels respect Canadian controls “related to safety, security, the environment and Inuit interests.”

There are safety protocols in place under NATO that provide for the exchange of information on allied submarine movements, Cacchione added.

Defence sources, however, note that the Pentagon does not ask Canada for permission if its submarines need to operate in Arctic area that Canada claims sovereignty over but the U.S. considers as international waters. That includes the Northwest Passage.

Both MacKay and Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon have taken a hard-line in regard to excursions by the Russians into the Arctic. Earlier this year, MacKay accused the Russians of sending military aircraft too close to Canadian northern airspace. He vowed that Canadian Forces CF-18 fighter aircraft would intercept every Russian aircraft each and every time they come near the country.

Cannon told reporters in March that Canada “will not be bullied” by a Russian plan to create a new security force for the Arctic. Canada has its own plans for a new response force for the Arctic.

In the past, U.S. Arctic submarine exercises have included firing unarmed torpedoes to test their performance in frigid waters. The U.S. Navy did not release details on what, if any, weapons tests were performed by the Texas.

The sub remained on the surface for 24 hours.

“Words cannot describe how impressed I am with my crew’s performance and professionalism,” Cmdr. Robert Roncska, the Texas’ commanding officer, said of the Arctic mission. “The ship performed extremely well in the cold under-ice environment, and I am honored to carry on the tradition of Arctic operations by our awesome submarine force,” Roncska added in a recent release by the U.S. Pacific Fleet submarine force.

For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at:


November 13, 2009

Reserve units to form core of new Arctic force

By David Pugliese, Ottawa Citizen
March 22, 2009

The Canadian army has designated four reserve units to form the backbone of a new Arctic force to be created over the next five years.


Eventually the units, with about 480 personnel in total, could conduct exercises up to four times a year in the North. They would also be available to respond to any incident in the Arctic.


At the same time the Canadian Forces is continuing with its expansion of the Canadian Rangers, made up of First Nations and Inuit reservists. That expansion to around 5,000 personnel is expected to be completed by 2012.


The reserve units are 1 Royal New Brunswick Regiment, Voltigeurs de Quebec, Grey and Simcoe Foresters from Ontario and the Royal Winnipeg Rifles.


The army will start off with small numbers of soldiers but eventually work its way up to having company size units, with about each having around 120 personnel, said Lt. Col. Bernie Ciarroni of the directorate of land force development, responsible for reserve issues.


“It will take place over a five-year period,” he said. “We’re now looking at what resources could be put toward this.”


The work up will give troops a chance to develop the skills they need as well as get additional equipment for Arctic operations, Ciarroni said.


Depending on the situation, regular army units may respond first or combine to join forces with the reserve units in reacting to an incident in the Arctic.


But Ciarroni noted the selected reserve units will constitute the leadership of the Arctic companies. “Our focus is getting them up there so they can understand the environment and survive in it,” he said. “That’s our principle thing at this stage of the game.”


Initially the units will go up North once or twice a year but other initiatives would be included as time goes on. The first operation could be scheduled for the fall.


Ciarroni said that the focus is to have units working in the fall and the spring. “Our intention is to work up there in peak periods,” he explained. “If it is 72 below zero and pitch dark I don’t think we’ll be up there unless we really had to be.”


Prime Minister Stephen Harper has emphasized that Canada will increase its military presence in the North as part of his government’s Canada First defence strategy. Over the years the government has announced a series of initiatives, ranging from the proposed construction of Arctic and offshore patrol ships for the navy, an icebreaker for the Coast Guard, and an Arctic training centre for troops. Such initiatives are still years away from becoming reality.


Harper has also signalled concern about incidents where foreign military vessels, including those from the U.S., have entered Canadian northern waters without permission from Canada. There have been a number of sightings of mysterious vessels in the country’s northern waters, the latest taking place last summer. Some in the military believe the vessel, sighted by hunters at the northern portion of Baffin Island, was a foreign submarine.


Harper has pointed to the oil, gas and mineral deposits in the country’s Arctic region, resources which he noted are critical to the country’s economic growth. “Canada has a choice when it comes to defending our sovereignty over the Arctic; we either use it or lose it,” Harper said in July 2007. “And make no mistake — this government intends to use it.”


But Liberal Senator Colin Kenny, chairman of the Senate’s defence committee, questioned the government’s focus on the use of military forces in the Arctic. He said while having a military capability for the North is useful, the emphasis should be on adding more RCMP and employees from other government agencies to boost the Canadian presence in the region.


Kenny also said that more resources should be directed to the Canadian Coast Guard so it can expand its operations in the North.


Ciarroni said the Arctic companies will develop good relations with the Rangers and the local population, ensuring those links continue on a regular basis.


The navy and air force are also looking at ways to increase their presence in the north.



For more Canadian Forces and Defence Department news or articles by David Pugliese of the Ottawa Citizen go to David Pugliese’s Defence Watch at: