Evidence of meeting #54 for Public Accounts in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was numbers.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Michael Ferguson  Auditor General of Canada, Office of the Auditor General of Canada
John Forster  Deputy Minister, Department of National Defence
C.A. Lamarre  Commander, Military Personnel Command, Department of National Defence
André Demers  Commander, Canadian Forces Recruiting Group, Department of National Defence
Susan Truscott  Director General, Military Personnel Research and Analysis, Department of National Defence
Gordon Stock  Principal, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Lefebvre Liberal Sudbury, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Demers, you said earlier that you receive 44,000 applications to join the armed forces every year. Is that correct?

5:15 p.m.

Commander, Canadian Forces Recruiting Group, Department of National Defence

Col André Demers

Yes, that is about right.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Lefebvre Liberal Sudbury, ON

Mr. Lamarre, you said that the regular force is about 4,000 members short, is that right?

5:15 p.m.

LGen C.A. Lamarre

I said that the regular force is 4,000 members short right now.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Lefebvre Liberal Sudbury, ON

How many soldiers leave the army every year?

5:15 p.m.

LGen C.A. Lamarre

It depends.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Lefebvre Liberal Sudbury, ON

How many, as a rule?

5:15 p.m.

LGen C.A. Lamarre

As a rule, about 4,500 people leave every year, but it varies. That is roughly 7% to 8%. It also depends on the labour market and the economy.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Lefebvre Liberal Sudbury, ON

You said that you receive 44,000 applications and accept about 10%, is that correct, Mr. Demers?

5:15 p.m.

Commander, Canadian Forces Recruiting Group, Department of National Defence

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Lefebvre Liberal Sudbury, ON

It was noted that your numbers are low. These 4,000 people replace the 4,000 members who leave the forces. That is what you are doing now.

You said there are some challenges, since some candidates change their minds and others lose interest. Nonetheless, by improving the way you communicate with the 44,000 candidates and by improving services, don't you think that would improve your results? It seems that Canadians are interested.

5:15 p.m.

Commander, Canadian Forces Recruiting Group, Department of National Defence

Col André Demers

Definitely, we are working on that now. We are looking for ways to improve our services, how to better approach potential candidates through social media in particular.

Among those 44,000 candidates, there are also some who simply consulted the website and created a profile on it. That does not necessarily mean that those individuals are good candidates for the Canadian Armed Forces.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Lefebvre Liberal Sudbury, ON

Thank you, that's all.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Lefebvre.

Mr. Christopherson, please.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Thanks, Chair.

I want to return just briefly to the issue of 68,000 being how many you determined you need, and that we're short of that. Again, I quote the Auditor General's report, paragraph 5.11:

Overall, we found that the total number of Regular Force members had decreased, and that there had been a growing gap between the number of members needed and those who were fully trained.

Although I think you have up-to-date information that says you think you're turning that, the information we had at the time of the audit was that that gap is growing.

Further, I quote from 5.17, “In our opinion”, meaning the Auditor General, and I raised this earlier, “it is unlikely that it will be able to recruit, train, or retain sufficient personnel to meet its target of 68,000 members by the 2018-19 fiscal year.” Anyone who wants to can see a very effective chart at the top of page 5, Exhibit 5.1, which shows the trend line down and the gap growing.

Here's my question. Why aren't you freaking out more?

Here's why I ask. When you were explaining that you lowered the target to make sure that it's reasonable, okay, I accepted that for that round. Here's the more macro question. Either 68,000 is 4,000 more than you need, or you're leaving us vulnerable. I don't expect and I'm not going to ask you to get into the vulnerabilities in a public setting, but I think it's fair to say, if you determined that 68,000 is the number we need and we're not meeting it, just artificially lowering the numbers so you can be more realistic about how you're going to fail to achieve 68,000 still leaves us vulnerable.

I'd like you to comment on that vulnerability, please.

5:20 p.m.

LGen C.A. Lamarre

Thanks very much for the chance to comment on that.

I'm not freaking out because I know that we have a job to do and we are going to do it. I'm comfortable about that.

The other thing is that, when we're saying very openly right now and agreeing with the Auditor General's comment that we're short 4,000, it's because the problem is there. At this point, what we need to be able to do is to address that and come up with a plan that's going to get us those 4,000 to bring us up. We also need to put the resources into it, as the deputy minister was just mentioning, to make sure that we can have success and bring those numbers up to the 68,000.

It's not a short and easy task either, because of course you're still dealing with all the issues that are there. It means that we need to do things significantly differently, as Mr. Lefebvre was telling us and counselling us to do. That's exactly what we want to do.

5:20 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

I have a statement and I'll take less than a minute, Mr. Chair.

I just wanted to make a reference to page 7 at the top where the department says, “The following initiatives have been or will be initiated before the end of 2016”. I just assumed this was probably written last year because these things lag. I won't read what comes after it.

Then the next paragraph talks about other initiatives that “will be under way in 2017”. Referring now to the last, just before the conclusion, it says, “They were to be implemented gradually”. In 2009 you had a new strategy for retention and, “They were to be implemented gradually from 2009 to 2011.”

Now I'm quoting the Auditor General, “We were informed that action had been taken for some individual projects, but that the strategy had not been fully implemented. In 2014, the Canadian Armed Forces Retention Working Group planned to develop a revised retention strategy, to be completed by June 2018, using the 2009 strategy as its base.”

I'm assuming, if you're using 2009, that the strategy was good but you didn't have the funding to make it real, and that by June 2018, you should have everything caught up. I just want to leave with you that this would probably and potentially be a prime reason for us to ask you to come back in the fall and tell us exactly how well you're doing. I do not want to wait another few years for another audit report that might point out a problem. If we have one, we need to see it early. Conversely, if you're finally hitting targets in this area, then it's an opportunity for us to give you the kudos that you will deserve.

Thank you for your indulgence, Chair.

May 3rd, 2017 / 5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you very much, Mr. Christopherson.

There are no other real questions coming, committee, but I do have just a couple of comments and a couple of questions.

I'm very fortunate to have CFB Wainwright in my constituency. First of all, I'll say that we were very saddened last week by an accident there, and Sergeant Robert Dynerowicz was killed. He was an armoured crewman with the Canadian Dragoons based out of Petawawa. I know that the whole base supports his family, and certainly we pass our sympathies along.

Now, having Camp Wainwright in my constituency, I've also attended many of the graduations there. I'll tell you there is nothing that really brings as much pride to everyone involved, not just to a member of Parliament but to their families, when you see these individuals graduating. One of the programs they have that you have referenced today is the Bold Eagle program. It became so obvious, with the number of first nation graduates that we saw going through that program, how much pride their families took in the fact that their children, their cousins, brothers, and sisters successfully went through this program.

When we're talking about recruiting, given that there is such a great deal of pride amongst our first nations when their children are serving in the Canadian military, are we doing enough to target that? Social media, yes, I get it, but are there other ways more specifically that we can connect with our indigenous people? Because when you watch them at graduation, if you had a recruitment office sitting right there that day, you would have brothers and sisters of those graduates signing up.

Maybe there are just a couple of comments on other innovative ways to see some of our very important indigenous people serve with the Canadian Forces.

5:25 p.m.

LGen C.A. Lamarre

First of all, as for Wainwright, I've spent enough time there that I feel like I'm one of your constituents. It's a great opportunity.

As for engagement, you are absolutely right. I was just recently at Vimy Ridge. I was fortunate enough to be there for the 100th, and Chief Perry Bellegarde was there as well. He and I had a chance to have a bit of a pull-aside, and I asked for a chance to come and meet him because part of the key things we need to do in here—and it's referred to—is to have an advisory body that can help us specifically when we're looking for either visible minorities, indigenous people, or women.

Part of the mandate that I have as chief of military personnel is to be engaged with those groups and those advisers who can help us specifically reach into those targeted areas to find out how we can be most effective.

I'm only four weeks into my job here as the chief of military personnel command, but certainly, one of our keys things is to establish an advisory body so that we can reach in and not just trust ourselves as to how we're doing it on an attracting, marketing, advertising system, but get that advice from the senior leaders. When you refer to people who are so proud to see their kids register and be part of a program like Bold Eagle.... I know in fact, if we had a recruiting office there, not only would we get the sisters, the brothers, the kids sometimes, but we probably would get the parents too.

We want to do those things because we hire folks of a large range, if you will, of ages, including into their forties and everything else because they can come and do service for us. So if any of you leaving this place are interested, certainly, I would be as well.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

I appreciate those comments. Maybe there are better ways that members of Parliament, when we go to schools.... We talk about the importance of an education and getting into some of these other careers, but maybe there's a better way that members of Parliament as they meet with their high schools, whether it be, not at trade shows, but certainly with counsellors at the high schools, to encourage and say that it's not a second choice. It could be a first choice among so many young Canadians. Maybe there are resources that you have or you could give to members of Parliament so that they can put that forward as they go into their schools. Anyway, it's just a suggestion.

I also want to say that there have been good questions today and I appreciate all those who have asked those questions. We are going to wait on some of the answers to come back. You've already stated that you look forward to coming back. There's no need to come back, except, as Mr. Christopherson said, perhaps in the fall. When you leave here and go back and get those numbers or those answers, please just email them to our clerk and he will see that our analysts get them. Anything that goes into a report could include those answers as well.

Thank you very much for being here today and for the good work that you do. All the best, as you implement some of these programs to help us meet the targets for our Canadian Armed Forces.

Thank you all. We are now adjourned.