HALIFAX — Canada’s military reserve units will see $250 million in repairs and upgrades to their armouries and training facilities over the next five years, changes Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says are long overdue.
Sajjan announced the funding Thursday at Artillery Park, a reserve facility in downtown Halifax.
He said approximately $38 million of the total is expected to be spent on immediate maintenance and repairs across the country this fiscal year.
“This investment will have meaningful impact on reservists across Canada,” Sajjan told a gathering of reservists from various units in the Halifax area.
The federal minister said training areas such as firing ranges would be upgraded, while many aging armouries will see repairs to things such as plumbing, electrical wiring and leaky roofs.
Heating and cooling systems will also be upgraded to make workspaces more comfortable and to make buildings more energy efficient.
“Maintenance may not seem glamorous, and it should have been done a long time ago, but it wasn’t,” Sajjan said. “Under-investment leads to simple things like washrooms not working or roofs starting to leak. A reservist that gives up time from their employment and from their families deserves to have a proper working environment.”
Sajjan said a regional study will also be conducted to assess longer term infrastructure needs. The study will begin by looking at facilities in Vancouver and Edmonton with an eye to future modernization.
The Liberal government has committed to increasing the size of the primary reserve force by 1,500 people to reach a total of 30,000.
“As we increase our numbers we must ensure that our facilities can accommodate that growth,” Sajjan said.
Sajjan told reporters the Armed Forces have had to make tough decisions in the past about where to put their finances when it comes to maintenance.
“Reserve infrastructure was always left to the side,” he said. “What this is about is making sure we invest in the right places.”
Investments planned this fiscal year include an estimated $15.8 million for Quebec, $5.2 million for the West region, $3.8 million for the Pacific and $1.2 million for Ontario. Atlantic Canada’s estimated share for the year is about $3.7 million.
Brigadier-General Roch Pelletier, Commander of the 5th Canadian Division, welcomed the funding for the Atlantic region.
“Atlantic Canada has a large footprint of reserve units,” said Pelletier. “Their armouries were built many years ago and they require maintenance and upgrades to make sure they are ready to support the mission and the task that we have today.”
Pelletier said it’s a required move given that the reserves are being asked to do more under Canada’s defence policy in both supporting the regular force and in assisting communities.
He highlighted recent missions such as the assistance that was provided this spring during the second straight year of severe flooding along New Brunswick’s Saint John River.
While the Canadian Forces have a long history of helping provinces and municipalities, recent trends indicate those requests are growing in both frequency and magnitude.
A recent analysis by The Canadian Press found the military has been called out to help with 10 weather-related disasters in the last two years — compared with 20 between 2007 and 2016 and only 12 between 1996 and 2006.
Pelletier said the funding “will increase the operational effectiveness of reserve units and regiments.”