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PostPosted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 12:16 am    Post subject: Navy cancels patrols to save money Reply with quote

January 17, 2007

Alison Auld
Canadian press

HALIFAX — Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor is promising more funding to the navy so it can buy the fuel it needs to send one of its warship on a fisheries patrol off Canada’s East Coast.
O’Connor said late Wednesday his department will come up with the money to send HMCS Halifax on the 35-day mission.

“I was given an estimate today that the navy would need $3 million to $5 million for fuel, essentially to meet these fishery patrols and a few other issues,” he told the CBC.

“And I’ve told our officials, make sure they get the $3 million to $5 million.”

The navy said earlier in the day that it had to postpone the patrol and cancel such things as overtime and travel as it scrambles to save money sapped by the army’s costly mission in Afghanistan.

Marie-Claude Gagne, a spokeswoman for the navy on the East Coast, said the decision to suspend the patrol came as officials started a financial review before the end of the fiscal year in March.

Gagne said the patrol, which costs roughly $26,000 a day, could have pushed the navy over tight spending limits and leave it in the red.

“We’re raising awareness of those activities we planned for, that unless provided additional funding, we will not be able to execute,” she said.

“The overall driving factor of this financial review is to ensure that we stay within our funding envelope, so if we had carried that fisheries patrol we might not have been able to stay within our envelope.”

It’s possible other patrols and exercises will be postponed if more money isn’t allocated, making critics question the efficiency of a navy that can’t afford to carry out its missions.

Peter Stoffer, the NDP’s Veterans Affairs and Fisheries critic, said Canadians have been told since 9/11 that security is a top priority, but that the federal government has done little to adequately fund its military.

“I’ve said for years that the Canadian border is a fairly leaky sieve,” he said in an interview.

“It’s no wonder the Americans don’t trust us when it comes to security measures when they’re told that we don’t have enough gas for our ships, and resources, to do the patrols that are required for Canadian sovereignty.”

Stoffer said the ships aren’t just crucial to border security. They’re also used for preventing drug trafficking and the smuggling of illegal aliens into the country.

“Basically what we’re saying now is, if you’re in a dory or the Queen Mary, you can float right in undetected,” he said.

Gagne said the navy had planned on carrying out certain activities in the hopes that it would receive adequate funding, but that money did not come through.

It planned for activities that would amount to roughly $315 million in this fiscal year, but has less than $290 million in its coffers.

Earlier this week, the commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic ordered that only essential expenditures be permitted, meaning overtime payouts, certain types of travel and professional development have all been suspended.

Defence officials are apparently trying to find additional funding in other areas that can be funnelled to East Coast operations.

Observers say the shortfall is not new to the navy, but that the military’s ongoing commitment in Afghanistan is putting undue pressure on financial resources in all aspects of the forces.

“Afghanistan is eating money like you wouldn’t believe,” said Peter Haydon, a retired naval officer now with the Centre for Foreign Policy Studies in Halifax.

“The demand for money is being transferred through the whole military system. Afghanistan is a huge financial drain.”

The Defence Department estimates it will spend almost $1 billion on operations in Afghanistan in the next fiscal year. A spokesman in Ottawa insisted that the navy’s budget has increased over the last three years.

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Navy cancels patrols to save money

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