Harper’s cuts delay search & rescue replacement

Buffalo

The Harper government’s hiring freeze has delayed the purchase of new search-and-rescue aircraft, according to documents obtained by the Ottawa Citizen (David Pugliese, “Government’s hiring freeze delays search-and-rescue aircraft purchase,” Ottawa Citizen, 2 July 2014):

The Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces have been trying to buy a new fleet of search-and-rescue aircraft since 2004 but it’s still unclear when that purchase will happen.

Part of the delay can be linked to the government’s freeze on hiring new staff, according to a report prepared in 2012 for Julian Fantino, who was then the associate defence minister.

The documents, obtained by the Citizen under the Access to Information law, noted that the shortage was in the procurement management office but didn’t provide further details.

The project to replace the aircraft has fallen years behind schedule.

The Canadian Forces announced the project to find a replacement for its search-and rescue planes more than a decade ago.

The Conservatives re-announced that project as part of their Canada First Defence Strategy. In 2008, then-defence minister Peter MacKay called the project a top priority and vowed to buy a new fleet of planes by early 2009. That never happened.

In 2011, the Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces once again noted the $3-billion project was to be one of their top procurement goals over the next three years.

But the project still remains in limbo.

Canada’s current search-and-rescue planes – the CC-115 Buffalos and the CC-130 Hercules – were scheduled to retire in 2015 and 2017 respectively, and still no replacement has been chosen.

The Harper government’s new defence acquisition guide now claims that a contract will be awarded next year, with final deliveries of the aircraft between 2021 and 2025.

As UBC professor Michael Byers and Stewart Webb argued in their 2012 report Search and Replace: The case for a Made-in-Canada Fixed-Wing Search and Rescue Fleet, the ongoing delay in replacing Canada’s search-and-rescue aircraft puts Canadian lives at risk.

Photo credit: Jessica_Trinity

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