House of Commons Hansard #120 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:30 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, I am glad to report to the hon. member and to this House that we have exceeded our recruiting numbers consistently over the past number of years. There is a tremendous interest in the general population to work for the Canadian Forces, to be in uniform, as the member herself has done in her lifetime.

Budget 2012 spells out what we will do in terms of maintaining our Canadian Forces strength at 68,000 within our regular force and 27,000 for our reserve force strength.

With respect to the sites for recruiting that we will be closing as a result of a slow-down in terms of intake and recruiting requirements, they include centres in Sault Ste. Marie, Yellowknife, Rouyn-Noranda, Thunder Bay, Saskatoon, Bathurst, North Bay, Windsor, Mississauga, Kitchener, Saint John and Three Rivers.

I stress that this will not significantly impact the overall recruiting. We have , called upon new technology, using the Internet as part of our recruiting drive. We are also using recruiting officers and recruiting vehicles that move throughout the country. This is another method that has been very successful. These mobile recruiting stations have received a tremendous response from the Canadian population.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:30 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Chair, with regard to Canadian Forces recruitment, I would like to know what impact these closures will have, especially the closure of sites in remote areas, and how this will affect other movements that use the services of these recruitment centres, such as officers serving with cadets. Is it possible that this will affect officer cadets who wish to serve, and that reserve regiments served by these recruitment centres will be affected?

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:30 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, as I mentioned, we have been extremely successful in our recruiting over the last number of years.

Now, with the slowing of the operational tempo, the close out of the combat mission, it will not impact, as I said, significantly in any way. In fact, the Internet has really become the go-to option when it comes to the civilian population searching for information about recruiting and about how one becomes a member of the Canadian Forces.

With respect to the Canadian Forces being an employer of choice, we have reached those expansion targets way ahead of schedule. We have the highest retention rate that we have seen in years. This again impacts on our need to intake new members into the Canadian Forces.

I mentioned the reserve strength and the regular force strength staying stable now at 68,000 regular forces and 27,000 reserve force. On recruiting, just by point of reference, we saw 4,000 regular force personnel enter the Canadian Forces in the year 2011-12. The regular force recruiting targets planned for next year will go up by about 400.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:30 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Chair, does the minister sincerely believe that the Internet is just as effective at persuading young people to join the Canadian Forces as talking face to face with an experienced soldier in uniform who can speak passionately about the job?

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:30 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, I personally always prefer to talk to people face to face but I can tell the hon. member that the initial contacts over the Internet are an extremely effective tool. Then, of course, this begins a process that eventually leads, as she knows, having served, to an interview process, and a process that involves sitting face to face with recruiting officers.

Just to come back to the overall subject of retention, we carefully track this issue to ensure that we are in the range of the right numbers of attrition and retention. We are conducting, at different points in time, discussions with currently serving members, members who might want to transfer from regular force service to reserve service or vice versa. We have made this option much easier and the transition from regular force to reserve force and back has become a very attractive option to members of the Canadian Forces.

I would also say to those who have suffered injury and those who have undertaken treatment that we and the compassionate work and leadership of the Canadian Forces Chief of Defence Staff have made it much easier and much more of an option for members to stay in service, where otherwise, as in the past, they might have been required to retire.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:35 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Chair, were any studies carried out before the centres were closed? Were alternatives to closing the recruitment centres proposed, such as relocating recruitment centre activities to buildings occupied by reserve regiments instead of completely eliminating the service from certain regions?

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, the way in which we arrive at these decisions is never easy. It is not our preference ever to close recruiting centres, but as I mentioned, new technology was a factor. We look at the numbers that are walking into particular recruiting stations, and statistics are examined in terms of the annual use of a particular outlet or station. We then make decisions regionally based on the numbers and the need. As I said, our retention has had an impact on these decisions.

Most importantly, we have grown the size of the Canadian Forces. Reference points can be drawn from the Canada first defence strategy. We still have aspirations to get to 100,000 over the course of the Canada first defence strategy, but we are way ahead of schedule.

Those currently in uniform know it is an extremely exciting and rewarding career. We had great advertising, which also factored into Canadians' knowledge of the exciting career opportunities in the Canadian Forces.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:35 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Chair, did the minister take language factors into account before making these cuts? Did he determine whether there would be specific impacts on the recruitment of francophones outside the region? Did he take care not to do away with any recruitment centres in regions where there are more francophones?

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, the hon. member knows full well that most of the recruitment centre closures were not carried out in the regions of Quebec.

Clearly, there were regional needs that we factored into the decision.

We look regularly across the Canadian Forces as to what the needs might be and what trades and particular skills sets are required. Right now there is a great shortage of individuals with skilled trades for the ships that we are going to be building in the future. We target certain professions within the rank and file. This is one of the factors.

Language requirements are very much a priority for the Canadian Forces, as the member knows. We have had tremendous participation from the province of Quebec and francophone Canadians in our Canadian Forces. We are very proud of their contribution.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

May 9th, 2012 / 11:35 p.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Chair, during the first wave of cuts in April, the Department of National Defence cut nearly 400 civilian jobs on the Quebec military bases. Quebec was the province most affected by the Department of National Defence cuts. Why?

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:35 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, I disagree with the member's assessment. These cost savings are in reaction to the obvious need, to slow growth in some areas and to make investments in the areas where we need to address certain pressure points.

When it comes to the province of Quebec, we are extremely proud of Bagotville and Valcartier, and our serving men and women who have played a tremendous role in the extraordinary expansion of the Canadian Forces that we have seen in the last number of years.

As witness to that, I would point the hon. member to the incredible response in her province to support the men and women in uniform by the wearing of yellow ribbons, the red Friday rallies and the appreciation shown at sports events.

Quebec takes a great deal of pride in our Canadian Forces' performance and contributions, as do all the provinces. I am also very proud of the contributions made by all Canadian Forces members in Quebec.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Chair, I think I'll preclude a statement and go right to a couple of questions for the Minister of National Defence.

The first question has to do with the Canada first defence strategy.

There are six core missions for the Canadian Forces, which include conducting daily domestic and continental operations, as well as in the Arctic through NORAD and supporting civilian authorities. I wonder if the minister could expand on examples of the Canadian Forces' delivery of excellence at home.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:40 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, I thank the member for Northumberland—Quinte West for his outstanding support of the Canadian Forces. I know his riding is home to CFB Trenton and he is in regular attendance at that base and interacts regularly with members of the forces. He himself served in uniform as a member of the police force in the province of Ontario, so he has a great affinity for service.

What we hope to see in delivering the Canada first defence strategy and updating and keeping ever fresh that document is the further delivery of providing to Canadians the type of security around our territory, our maritime approaches.

Maintaining our search and rescue capabilities remains an important role for our forces, and that includes being able to respond to Canadians and visitors in distress 24/7, also assisting civilian authorities, police officers, like the hon. member in his previous life, in the important work that they do responding to disasters or any attacks that we might experience on Canadian soil.

Those are just some of the many roles performed by members of the Canadian Forces daily.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Chair, perhaps the minister could talk about how improvements, such as the $4 million announcement he made at CFB Borden and improvements at CFB Trenton, will improve the lives of our men and women in uniform and their families, and what they do with regard to safety and success.

National Defence--Main Estimates, 2012-13
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:40 p.m.

Conservative

Peter MacKay Central Nova, NS

Mr. Chair, I will respond directly to the question about the member's base at CFB Trenton.

What we have seen recently is contract awards totalling $52 million for two infrastructure projects at 8 Wing Canadian Forces Base Trenton, a place near and dear to the member's heart.

These types of investments, whether it be in infrastructure, programs or in equipment, y give great solace to Canadian Forces members and their families because it says one simple thing, which is that the government cares, the country cares and we are supporting them with the necessary tools to do this important and sometimes dangerous work. That impacts tremendously on their morale. It impacts, of course, on their performance and it impacts on their continued desire to serve.

It is fair to say that members present here and Canadians who may be tuned in have seen a huge growth, not only in the capabilities provided by members of the Canadian Forces but understanding, appreciation and love for what the Canadian Forces do for them.

The patriotism, the performance of these men and women is outstanding, and we thank them each and every day. Canadians should never miss an opportunity to reach out to the Canadian Forces and to say, “Thank you”.