Military short thousands of personnel despite small increase in ranks

OTTAWA — The Canadian military has reversed what had become a worrying trend by posting a small increase in the number of people in uniform last year — though it still has a long way to go to fill all the holes in its ranks.

New figures show that there were about 450 more military personnel at the end of March 2017 than the previous year, with about half being regular-force members and the other half reservists.

That represents the first real growth in the number of people in uniform in several years, as increased attrition and recruiting challenges exacerbated by Conservative-era budget cuts steadily thinned the ranks.

Yet officials are unlikely to celebrate, as the military is still short about 2,000 regular-force members and 5,300 reservists even before the Trudeau government’s promise to grow both forces in the coming years.

The Liberals plan to increase the regular force to 70,500 members from its authorized strength of 68,000 and the reserves to 28,500 from 27,000 to defend against growing global instability and emerging threats such as cyber.

Federal auditor general Michael Ferguson flagged the personnel shortage as a real threat to the Forces in November 2016, warning that it put a heavier burden on those in uniform and hurt military operations. In real terms, that meant not having enough staff to fly or maintain the air force’s Chinook transport helicopters or its Hercules transport planes.

Senior commanders have said streamlining the recruitment system and addressing attrition are their top priorities, but at the current pace, it could be many years before the military has enough people in uniform.

In a recent interview with The Canadian Press, Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of defence staff, blamed past cuts to the ranks followed by large recruiting drives that produced a wave of members now leaving at the same time.

“It’s like a python swallowing a meal,” he said. “It’s a bulge that goes through the system. So it feels good while it’s happening, but behind that bulge you end up having a lot of attrition through the gateway years.”

The military has launched several initiatives to speed up the recruitment process, which Vance said are starting to bear fruit and will be expanded in the coming months.

The Forces have also been working to become more attractive to women, visible minorities, members of the LGBTQ community and other segments of society that have been historically under-represented in the ranks.

“So what we’re trying to do is normalize the system and make it better overall. There’s no question about it: We’re growing. And it’s going to start slow and it’s going to pick up,” Vance said.

But, he added, “it’s not just getting people through the door, it’s getting the right people through the door. Where I would say we need to continue to improve is attracting qualified people, particularly youth.”

Just Posted

Red Deer massage therapist not guilty of sexual assault

Judge said he had reasonable doubt and must acquit

Update: Nine dead, 16 injured in van incident authorities call a horrific attack

TORONTO — Nine people died and 16 others were injured when a… Continue reading

Watch: Flood watch remains for Waskasoo Creek

Red Deer crews monitoring creek

Warm temperatures this week for Red Deer

23 C forecast for Saturday

WATCH: Central Alberta dancers take over Red Deer College with their moves

Danceworks Central Alberta Dance Festival is now in its 38th year

As Osoyoos Indian Band flourishes, so too does Okanagan’s wine tourism

Indigenous practices have driven growth of South Okanagan’s wine history and agricultural influence

Anti-straw movement should consider people with disabilities, advocates say

TORONTO — Some Canadians who rely on plastic straws are calling on… Continue reading

Doctors must get better at diagnosing patients with darker skin: Dermatologists

TORONTO — About a month ago, a frustrated Emma Schmidt turned to… Continue reading

Loblaw Companies tax court trial over Barbadian banking subsidiary starts

TORONTO — A tax court trial involving Loblaw Companies Ltd. and allegations… Continue reading

As trial winds down, DA downplays Cosby travel records

NORRISTOWN, Pa. — Prosecutors highlighted gaps in Bill Cosby’s travel records on… Continue reading

Summer Movie Preview: Hollywood roars back into action

LOS ANGELES — Summer starts early this year in Hollywood with the… Continue reading

5 things to know as William and Kate have 3rd child

LONDON — Like everything to do with Britain’s royal family, a mix… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month