MP Report by Jay Hill

Faced with a ?carrot or stick? approach to retaining trained personnel, Canada?s military is poised to choose the stick.

Canadian Forces personnel levels have dropped to all time lows. The most obvious part of the problem is that the federal government hasn?t bothered to invest the resources needed to boost recruitment. However, the other factor significantly depleting troop levels is that the Canadian military can?t hang on to the soldiers they?ve already got!

It costs roughly $80,000 over eight months just to train an infantry soldier for battle. Then there?s the cost of university, college and other specialized courses needed to train qualified technicians, engineers, medic, etc. whom are critical to carrying out our military operations and operating highly-sophisticated equipment.

In return for getting their university education paid for by the Canadian Forces, for example, personnel must commit to at least three years of military service. Fortunately, the investment pays off in many cases, when soldiers continue their military career for longer than that, sometimes for many, many years.

Yet increasingly, many of the military?s best and brightest are getting out ?as fast as they can?, meaning the armed forces loses desperately-needed trained soldiers. This leaves a gaping hold in operational exercises and even fewer experienced personnel to train newcomers.

It?s a problem that urgently needs addressing, but the military?s approach demonstrates it doesn?t understand it?s in the midst of a morale crisis. Instead of trying to make new recruits want to remain in the military, they want to simply make them stay longer. Military staff have been ordered to report by the end of this month, the number of years each soldier must serve in order to cover the entire cost of their training.

Many soldiers know what they?re getting into when they embark on a life of serving their country. In exchange for their free training and/or education, they must be willing to accept relatively low pay, long hours, months away from home and frequent uprooting of their families. They?re not prepared however for what I believe is a profound lack of respect and appreciation for their hard work and dedication by their political masters in the Liberal government.

Any Canadian worker can relate. Loyalty to the job is difficult to maintain when your boss continues to cut back on your budget, forces you to make do with broken-down equipment or no equipment at all, and provides you with so few staff that sometimes you can?t even do your job. The number of currently serving members and veterans who regularly contact my office regarding their legitimate grievances has helped to demonstrate to me that Canada doesn?t always do enough to take care of its soldiers.

Even CF members who had originally chosen to remain longer than their obligatory number of years of service are now choosing to take early retirement or find work in the private sector.

If the Canadian government really wants the men and women of our armed forces to continue to serve their country, it should start by enticing them with respect, acknowledgement, and the support that they need make their chosen career a fulfilling and rewarding experience.