In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

Summer Work for a Senator

Posted 8/26/2009 by Senator Grant Mitchell

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The Senate Committee on National Security and Defence is one of the Senate’s most active and intense committee. Committee members often visit Canada’s defence bases. At the beginning of the summer, we toured the Maritime bases: the Halifax naval base, the Shearwater and Greenwood air force bases as well as the Gagetown army base.

The single greatest impression I had over the four days is that the personnel that we met in all three branches have great morale. They are also very well trained and very motivated. They all feel that they are doing very important things and they are.  Another strong impression is how hard the forces are working to adapt to the pressures of budgets and of finding people who want to join.

One of the most interesting things that we did was to have lunch at each base with the soldiers, sailors and air force personnel who are not officers. Once again it was clear that they are happy and have a great sense of purpose. These are very intelligent and capable people. They are well led and are also leaders in their own right. One young sailor is a reservist and a full time university student who deploys with the Navy each summer.  Very impressive.

There were a number of issues that we pursued while visiting the bases. What progress is being made with the purchase of the Cyclone helicopters designed to replace the aging Sea Kings in their surveillance role? What is the status of the Cormorant helicopters that have been in use for several years in a search and rescue capacity?  How are the Auroras working? What of the role of the CF 130’s? What is the capacity of the army to train and sustain the forces needed for Afghanistan? What are the needs of the navy in replacing aging vessels? And, how do the troops feel about how things are going both here in Canada and in the theatre?

There are some technical problems with the Cormorant which are widely known and the air force has determined ways to overcome them safely and satisfactorily. The Cyclones have been delayed and that is worrisome in light of the well known maintenance challenges with the Sea King, but the air force personnel felt that they have overcome these and have huge respect for that aircraft. There are huge pressures to find personnel for all the forces but once again they are using a variety of creative means to attract and hold people.

Stay tuned for our upcoming committee report which will look further into these issues!

 

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