Canadians were filled with pride on April 9th as we commemorated the 100th Anniversary of what many refer to as Canada’s coming of age, our victory at Vimy Ridge. A few months later, on August 24th, I felt this pride again as I witnessed 29 Canadian Armed Forces members march in the Ukrainian Independence Day Parade in Kyiv (Kiev), the capital of Ukraine.
As parliamentary secretary to Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland, I was honoured to represent Canada during commemorative ceremonies marking the 26th anniversary of Ukrainian Independence, which took place on August 24, 1991. Canada was the first Western nation to recognize Ukraine’s independence, in December 1991.
Canada and Ukraine continue to work together on military training and defence matters. Through Operation UNIFIER, the Canadian Armed Forces have delivered more than 140 courses to thousands of Ukrainian soldiers. The recent signing of the Canada-Ukraine Defence Cooperation Arrangement further opens the door for increased cooperation on defence-related issues between our two countries.
Cooperation like this not only reflects the vision of Canada’s new defence policy – Strong, Secure, Engaged, released in June by Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, but also Canada’s desire to build stronger international relationships.
The new defence policy will grow annual cash defence spending by more than 70 per cent over the next 10 years, which means 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown — the Home of Canada’s Army — will take on an even bigger role both defending our country and as an economic generator in the local economy.
The Base, including its lodger units, provides full-time employment to approximately 6,500 military members and 1,000 civilians. It contributes over 200 million dollars to the local economy and more than 700 million to the provincial economy annually.
A TAPV is a multi-purpose, 4-by-4, combat vehicle that weighs more than 30,000 pounds when fully loaded, roughly the weight of six SUVs. It can reach speeds of up 110 km/h while providing a high degree of protection for its crew.
In total, 127 TAPVs will be operated at 5 CDSB Gagetown, with a portion of these already in use for a variety of tasks on the battlefield, including reconnaissance and surveillance, security, command and control, and transport of cargo and personnel.
Following the decision to purchase the TAPV fleet, the Government of Canada committed to providing Base Gagetown with a modern facility to park and maintain these vehicles. Completed on time and on budget at 6,800 square meters, the building is larger than a CFL football field and will house a total of 61 vehicles and include 12 maintenance bays, storage, maintenance and support space, and new classrooms for training. More space means the Combat Training Centre and Technical Services Branch now have enough room to get their jobs done efficiently.
When you add this $26 million investment to the $38 million in funding announced for 5 CDSB Gagetown during the Defence Minister’s visit last year, you get a clearer picture of just how big an economic generator Canada’s second largest military base is.
Last year’s funding includes $36 million toward new training facilities for identifying and disposing of improvised explosive devices and other explosive weapons. It also targeted $2.3 million for repair and upgrade of critical infrastructure, which is part of the federal government’s commitment to invest an additional $200 million over two years toward infrastructure at Canadian Armed Forces bases.
As important as these infrastructure investments are, the federal government’s highest priority is investing in the women and men of the Canadian Forces.
Beginning on January 1, 2017, all troops deployed on international operations have been exempt from federal income tax on their CAF salary up to the pay level of Lieutenant-Colonel. This is in addition to existing allowances that compensate for hardship and risk.
Other investments that will improve the lives of CAF members include $198.2 million over the course of the policy to implement a new Total Health and Wellness Strategy providing a greater range of health and wellness services and programs.
There is also an increase of $6 million per year to modernize family support programs, such as Military Family Resource Centres so they can provide better support to families when members are deploying or during periods of absence. And a new CAF Transition Group of approximately 1,200 members to help CAF members and their families’ transition back into active service following illness or injury, or out of the CAF and into civilian life at the conclusion of military service.
I have always had great respect for the military and watching our soldiers carry the Maple Leaf in the Ukrainian Independence Day Parade is an experience I will never forget. Like our government, I am unwavering in my support of the women and men of Canada’s military. Investing in them honours the spirit of those who, with failing hands, passed the torch of freedom on to future generations of Canadians.
Matt DeCourcey is MP for Fredericton and parliamentary secretary to the minister of foreign affairs.