25 October 2011

Back to the Future #nlpoli

The Department of National Defence will freeze the size of the Regular Force and sell off property in an effort to cut spending and control budgets, according to David Pugliese.

The man knows what he is talking about. 

Take it as a given that this is what DND is planning to do.

You can also take it as a given that one of the properties on the block is Goose Bay.

Liberal Sen. Colin Kenny said closing bases and selling off surplus property is essential since unwanted or underused facilities are costing the military hundreds of millions of dollars annually to maintain. Up to 25 per cent of DND’s facilities, some of which date back to the Second World War, could be sold or shut down, said Kenny, the former chairman of the senate’s defence committee.

He said Goose Bay in Newfoundland and Labrador is a good example of a site that has become redundant to military needs.

“It’s been kept alive by political pressure,” Kenny noted, “and it’s costing millions to keep operating.”

He said any closure should be accompanied by a financial package to help communities and workers involved and money from the sale of properties should be funnelled back into the defence budget.

People in Goose Bay will get their knickers in a knot.  Provincial politicians will beat their chests and spit and foam and stamp their feet.

And nobody will notice that DND has been down this road before and never sold off bits of stuff he was supposed to sell.

Like the airfield at Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia.

In the 1990s, DND figured out it didn’t need the Shearwater base that was home to the Canadian Force’s maritime helicopter fleet.  So they proposed to sell off the airport and all the prime real estate that went with it.  The helicopters would move to  Greenwood out in the Annapolis valley.


Well, 15 years later, the only bit of the old Shearwater that isn’t still owned by National Defence is one runway.  Everything else is still where it was.

And the taxpayers of Canada are still pumping cash into upgrading and repairing and refurbishing one of the oldest air bases in the country.

Now, to be sure, Shearwater still has an operational purpose.  While the air force could have moved it’s helicopters out to Greenwood,  having the helicopters at Eastern passage makes it just a wee bit easier to marry them up with the navy when the ships deploy.  In fine weather you can fly the Sea Kings on or off the ships.  If the weather is crappy, you can just bring the ships alongside the Shearwater jetty and winch them on or off.

Goose Bay, on the other hand, simply has no operational purpose for the Canadian Forces.

Still,  if you dig around the records of previous efforts to sell off all the surplus military infrastructure, you are bound to find an example that fits the Goose Bay situation.

You see, as much as DND will talk about selling off places like Goose Bay, the odds are it will never happen.

As much as it makes sense, the politicians can’t afford to let it happen.

- srbp -