In The Media

Fact Check: Would expansion of military reserves be beneficial?

by Angela Mulholland (feat. David Perry)

CTV News
August 18, 2015

The Conservatives are pledging to bolster the ranks of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves, saying that doing so will help Canada’s military draw on the many skills of Canadians working in the private sector who want to help out our country’s full-time soldiers.

Here’s a look at what the Conservatives are promising and what insiders are saying about their plans.

Conservatives promise to expand reserves personnel

Harper said Monday that a re-elected Conservative government would add 6,000 more reservists to bolster the total number of Canada’s part-time soldiers to 30,000.

This is not the first time Harper has made this promise. When the Conservatives were first elected in 2008, they unveiled the Canada First Defence strategy in which they committed to increase the size of both the regular forces and the reserves by 2028.

The government has yet to make good on that promise, but now they are promising to accelerate the reserves expansion, to boost their numbers to 30,000 “within the next mandate.”

As for the regular armed forces, the Conservatives have offered no promises.

Conservatives vow to “streamline and shorten the current reserve recruiting process"

The Conservatives say they will shorten the reservist recruitment process, broaden the eligibility criteria “to tap into a deeper pool of recruits with more diverse skills and talent.”

Many say these changes are badly needed, as reservists are leaving the force faster than new members can be recruited. Many in the military point to a cumbersome and slow application that seems to only favours “the best and the brightest,” leading to an intake process for most applicants that can drag on for months.

David Perry, a senior analyst at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, tells CTV’s Canada AM that many Canadians consider joining the reserves because they want to help their fellow Canadians, while still holding onto their day jobs. “They are motivated by a desire to offer service to their country,” he said.

But he said many potential reservists have to wait seven months or longer to hear if they have been accepted. By then, many lose interest and decide to move on with their lives.

Conservatives pledge to improve training for reservists to respond to domestic emergencies

Perry says this would likely be a good idea, since he believes that reservists need to have more dedicated, strategic roles.

Reservists already do the majority of their work in Canada, helping communities deal with natural disasters, such as floods or fires, although they can also volunteer for missions overseas.

Perry says it sounds as though the Conservatives want to ensure that reservists receive more specific training so they can to respond to national emergencies, ensuring, for example, that they receive baseline forest firefighting training. That would make better use of their skills, said Perry.

“The point would be you could get them right out on the frontlines quicker,” he said.

Conservatives say they are dedicated to supporting the reserves

Harper said in his announcement Monday that since his party was elected, “we have taken many steps to repair the damage done to our Canadian Armed Forces and to rebuild and extend their ability to operate.”

Many military analysts say the opposite is true and that the Conservatives have actually slashed funding for the reserves, particularly since the end of the military operation in Afghanistan.

Andrew Leslie, a retired lieutenant-general who is running for the Liberals in Orleans, Ont., told The Canadian Press that the budget cuts are the reason that the reserves have been allowed to dwindle to just 24,000 members.

He told CP he was incredulous of Harper's announcement.

"How dare he?" Leslie said. "Since the end of combat operations in Afghanistan, Mr. Harper has decimated the reserves."

He said the the budget for part-time soldiers is so low, at one point the reserves were required to stop training for a short time. Leslie also tweeted Monday: “Fact: reservists have had funding cut by 33% since 2011 by @pmharper. Conclusion: Mr. Harper announcement today is deceitful.”

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