Skip to Content
 

Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Security and Defence

Issue 10 - Evidence, February 2, 2005 - Morning meeting


ST. JOHN'S, Wednesday, February 2, 2005

The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 8:04 a.m. to examine and report on the national security policy for Canada.

Senator Colin Kenny (Chairman) in the chair.

[English]

The Chairman: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. Today, the committee will hear testimony relating to the review of Canadian defence policy.

We are very pleased to be here in St. John's today, in a city with such a proud military tradition. St. John's is the home to Canadian Forces Station St. John's, 1st Battalion, Royal Newfoundland Regiment, 56th Field Engineering Squadron, 36th Service Battalion and 728th Communications Squadron. Thousands of young men and women from this region have served in two world wars and Korea and have continued to serve in peacekeeping and peacemaking missions ever since.

I will now introduce the members of the committee. On my immediate right is the distinguished senator from Nova Scotia, Michael Forestall. He has served the constituents of Dartmouth for 37 years, first as a member of the House of Commons and then as their senator. While in the House of Commons, he served as the official opposition defence critic from 1966 to 1976. He is also a member of our Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs.

On my far left, at the end of the table, is Senator Norman Atkins from Ontario. He came to the Senate with 27 years of experience in the field of communications. He served as senior advisor to Mr. Robert Stanfield, Premier William Davis of Ontario and Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. He is also a member of our Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs.

Beside him is Senator Jane Cordy from Nova Scotia. She is an accomplished educator with an extensive background in community involvement, including serving as vice chair of the Halifax-Dartmouth Port Development Commission. She is the chair of the Canada-NATO Parliamentary Association and a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.

Beside Senator Cordy is Senator Tommy Banks from Alberta. He is the chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, which recently released The One-Tonne Challenge. He is well-known to Canadians as a versatile musician and entertainer. He provided musical direction for the ceremonies of the 1988 Olympic Winter Games. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada and he has received a Juno award.

At this end of the table, we have Senator Michael Meighen from Ontario. He is a lawyer by profession. He is Chancellor of the University of King's College and past chair of the Stratford Festival. Currently, he is the chair of our Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs and he is also a member of the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce.

Beside Senator Meighen is Senator Joseph Day from New Brunswick. He is the deputy chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance and also of our Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs. He is a member of the bar of New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec, and a fellow of the Intellectual Property Institute of Canada. He is also a former president and CEO of the New Brunswick Forest Products Association.

Our committee is the first Senate committee mandated to examine security and defence. The Senate asked our committee to examine the need for a national security policy. We began the review in 2002 with three reports: Canadian Security and Military Preparedness in February; The Defence of North America: A Canadian Responsibility in September; and, An Update on Canada's Military Crisis: A Review from the Bottom Up in November. In 2003, the committee published two reports: The Myth of Security at Canada's Airports in January, and Canada's Coastlines: The Longest Under-Defended Borders of the World in October. In 2004, we tabled two more reports: National Emergencies: Canada's Front Lines in March, and recently, The Canadian Security Guidebook, 2005 edition.

The committee will hold hearings in every province and engage with Canadians to determine what their national interest is, what they see as Canada's principal threats and how they would like the government to respond to those threats. The committee will attempt to generate debate on national security in Canada and forge a consensus on the need and type of military Canadians want.

Our first witness this morning is Lieutenant-Colonel Jim MacAleese. Trained as a helicopter pilot, Lieutenant- Colonel MacAleese has served with the United States forces on two occasions, and has completed two six-month peacekeeping tours, the first in 1988 with the Multinational Force Observers (MFO) in Sinai, Egypt, and the second in 1990 with the United Nations in Central America. He was a member of the first helicopter unit into Kosovo in 1999. In June 2004, he assumed his current appointment of Commander of 9 Wing, CFB Gander.

We will also hear from Major Brian Wicks. Major Wicks is one of a handful of helicopter pilots qualified to fly Twin Hueys from the deck of our naval ships, and has completed a six-month peacekeeping tour in Sinai. He has served as an instructor in Portage la Prairie and has had three tours with 103 SAR Squadron, culminating as the Commanding Officer since July 2004.

Gentlemen, welcome to the committee. I understand you have a brief opening statement and the floor is yours.

Lieutenant-Colonel Jim MacAleese, Commander, 9 Wing (Gander), Department of National Defence: Mr. Chairman, distinguished senators, I am pleased and honoured to appear before you this morning to provide you with information on 9 Wing Gander. My intent is to start with a brief overview of the organization and capabilities of the military presence in Gander before we address the areas that have been identified as of interest. Specifically, I will address 9 Wing in general and discuss the reserve elements serving in Gander before handing over to Major Wicks. As the Commanding Officer of 103 Squadron, Major Wicks is better qualified to discuss the capabilities and limitations of search and rescue in Gander.

In essence, there has been a Canadian military presence in Gander since the construction of an airport in the wilderness of Central Newfoundland that was intended to support civilian transatlantic passenger flights in the late 1930s. Before this became a reality, the Second World War started and the Newfoundland government handed the airport over to Canada and the Royal Canadian Air Force. By 1943, Gander was the largest RCAF base worldwide with up to 15,000 people on occasion, including personnel from the RAF, the U.S. Army Air Force and the Canadian Army. The main task was to provide anti-submarine patrols to protect supply convoys as well as provide search and rescue support, and by the end of the war, almost 20,000 aircraft of all types had staged through Gander while being ferried from North America to England.

After the war, RCAF Station Gander was disbanded and the airport handed back to the Newfoundland government. However, the Royal Canadian Navy which had been operating a long distance radio and range-finding station in Gander stayed after the war.

During the Cold War, Gander saw several expansions to the base. In 1954, the air force returned with the construction of an early warning radar unit as part of the Pinetree radar line. In the 1960s, the naval radar station was expanded and a new high frequency direction finder centre was constructed and manned by almost 200 personnel. After much lobbying by the Newfoundland government for the return of full-time SAR operations in the province, 103 Rescue Squadron was reactivated at Gander in 1977.

Today, the main role of 9 Wing Gander is to provide support to these same three operational activities, although there were many changes and reductions over the years. The most visible operation today is the provision of search and rescue services throughout Newfoundland and Labrador as well as northeastern Quebec.

Crews from 103 Squadron maintain a 24-hour standby posture to respond to calls for assistance in one of the busiest regions in Canada, operating under some of the most challenging flying conditions in the country. As mentioned, Major Wicks will provide more details on this capability during his statement.

The base still maintains a Canadian coastal radar site, which provides radar coverage of the eastern approaches to Canada as part of the NORAD network. With the advance of technology, personnel reductions were possible in the 1990s once the1950s technology of the Pinetree radar line was replaced with modern electronics. Today, the entire network is controlled from a central location at the Canadian Air Defence Sector Headquarters in North Bay, part of the greater NORAD Network. With the operational aspects being "remoted,''9 Wing's function is to provide maintenance to the equipment through our wing telecommunications section. The remote sites in Canada are presently maintained by civilian contractors, however, Wing 9 is one of the few remaining sites that are manned, and is also responsible for providing technical training on the radar maintenance for all of the air force.

The third operational unit in Gander is actually a detachment of CFS Leitrim in Ottawa and is a lodger unit of Gander. The detachment collects signals information through an extensive array of antennae, but, as in the case of the radar site, technology allows the information to be passed to operators in CFS Leitrim. Therefore, from a high of 200, the detachment consists of seven persons who perform servicing and maintenance of the equipment. 9 Wing provides administrative support to these personnel and limited support to the detachment's infrastructure, but has no involvement in the operational task or equipment.

While reductions were taking place during the 1990s, there was one area of expansion. At the end of 1994, a new military reserve unit was established at Gander, named 91 Airfield Engineer Flight. The flight is a lodger unit of 9 Wing, but a subunit of 14 Airfield Engineer Squadron located in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. The primary role of the unit is to prepare personnel to deploy on peace support or contingency operations worldwide. The airfield engineers maintain a partnership with the Town of Gander and are also mandated to do community projects, provided the project offers useful trades training for the reservists and does not conflict with local industry.

There is an additional reserve lodger unit at 9 Wing that deserves mention. 5 Canadian Ranger Patrol Group has a small headquarters on the base to coordinate the training and other activities of Canadian Rangers dispersed throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. Again, 9 Wing provides administrative support only to the personnel assigned to this headquarters.

As well as being the principal military unit on the island, and given the central location of Gander, the Wing supports the Canadian Forces Recruiting Centre in Corner Brook, 41 various cadet units, and maintains the militia armouries located at Grand Falls-Windsor, Corner Brook and Stephenville.

As you can imagine, supporting such a wide range of tasks over such a large area of responsibility provides some challenges for a small organization like 9 Wing. To support the approximately 140 regular force military personnel assigned to 9 Wing an air reserve flight is established to augment the operational, administrative and technical functions of the base. The personnel are distributed throughout the different sections on the base to work alongside their regular force counterparts rather than being employed in a reserve subunit, as is the norm with some other elements. The flight exists to look after the recruiting, training, administration and pay rather than day-to-day employment of the reserve personnel.

We are fortunate in Gander that the recruiting of reservists is normally not a problem. Most of the reservists are ex- regular force members who have retired to Newfoundland who want to continue to serve or augment their pension. Because we are the only air force base on the island, we have an expanded recruiting base and, in fact, we have personnel who travel from as far away as Port Aux Basque or St. John's to stay in quarters during their period of employment each month. We are able to attract people from out of town by providing a travel assistance allowance to help cover their travel expenses, at a cost of about $60,000 per year. This is money well spent as it ensures that we retain the qualified trades' personnel that we need to maintain our operations. Retention is not an issue for us, although we do lose one or two a year through transfers to the regular force, but then we normally recover them through transfers from the regular force to the reserves. Since the training for reservists is the same as for the regular force, these transfers have proven to be easy to do, and since the CF retains the member in both cases, there really is no loss.

As with the rest of the air force, one of the challenges 9 Wing is facing right now is the fact that as a result of significant personnel reductions in the 1990s, we have become increasingly reliant on reservists at significant cost. With the personnel cuts over time and the high operational tempo of the past few years, reservists are filling several key positions and are being employed on a full-time basis in several instances. Although our strength is within the authorized manning level of 40 personnel, because reservists have taken on more duties, our spending for salaries has risen above our baseline allocation. As is the case with most air force units today, we have developed a plan to reduce the amount of operation and maintenance funds that are being converted to reserve pay, while continuing to provide the same level of service.

The 1990s were a time of change for the entire CF as the military tried to find a balance between cost effectiveness and operational capabilities in the post Cold War world. However, despite all the reductions and reorganizations that 9 Wing has undergone over the last few years, the wing is still a viable operational flying base with an important role and a proud military heritage stretching back more than 60 years. Now, at this point, I would now like to hand the floor over to Major Wicks.

Major Brian Wicks, Commander, 103 Search and Rescue Squadron (Gander), Department of National Defence: Mr. Chairman, honourable senators, I would like to thank you for the opportunity of coming and speaking to you today.

103 Squadron's roots go back to 1947, but we have only been in Gander since 1977. Our mission is to provide 24- hour-a day, seven-day-a week SAR response for the Halifax search and rescue region. The Halifax region is also served by 413 Squadron in Greenwood, Nova Scotia.

We are mandated to provide a 30-minute standby during working hours, meaning we are airborne within 30 minutes, and a two-hour response time during quiet hours. To accomplish this, we are established for 12 pilots, 12 search and rescue technicians and seven flight engineers. We have 20 military support personnel including nine reservists and three civilians. The squadron historically flies an average of 1,500 hours a year and we are tasked for an average of 120 missions per year. Of these missions, approximately 55 per cent to 60 per cent are marine-related cases. Another 25 per cent are civil medivacs, basically from hospital to hospital medivans; 3 per cent to 5 per cent of these are air distress. Another 3 per cent to 5 per cent are emergency locator transmitter searches, ELT searches, and 10 per cent are humanitarian and missing person-type missions. Mission locations tend to be fairly well distributed around the entire region; however, the majority of marine distresses that have involved or have the potential to involve multiple persons tend to be off the east coast and south coast of Newfoundland.

We are equipped with three CH-149 Cormorant helicopters. The Cormorant replaced Gander's Labradors in 2002. Our first aircraft arrived in July of 2002 and we were operational with the Cormorant in November 2002. Our Cormorants are maintained by IMP, a civilian contractor, and there are 33 technicians in the hanger that maintain the aircraft.

The Cormorant is an exceptionally capable aircraft. The normal complement for the crew is two pilots, one flight engineer and two search and rescue technicians. It has an all up weight or a maximum weight of 146,000 kilograms. It has a top speed of 150 nautical miles per hour and we can stay airborne for approximately five hours. In the configuration we fly at, our effective range is straight line about 650 nautical miles, keeping a little reserve in the tank. What that turns into for a return mission from Gander back to Gander, is 270-280 miles, and allows time on scene to lead a rescue. Now, these numbers can change significantly depending on wind and weather on scene.

In our normal SAR configuration, we can carry two to three stretcher patients plus four sitting patients plus the crew of five, but the airplane can be configured to carry up to 12 stretchers. In an emergency, we can carry even more passengers. In January 2003, we hoisted 16 persons off the stricken freighter Camilla 260 miles east of St. John's. In February of 2003, 20 persons were rescued off a Spanish vessel about 50 miles south of the Burin Peninsula in Newfoundland. If we get on scene and we have to take more, we can find a place to put them.

For many of the missions off the east coast, we proceed from Gander to St. John's. We will configure the airplane, top it up with fuel and head out to sea from there. That gives us an additional 108 miles of range, but it also adds an extra hour of transit time to the mission. With the oil production on the east coast, there are times when we can use oil rigs as refuelling platforms, thus extending our range even further out to sea. However, due to the unpredictable nature of weather of the North Atlantic, as a rule, we use an oil rig to get out; we try not to use it come back. However, every rule has an exception and in the right conditions, we will both hit an oil rig on the way out and on the way back. In fact, last September, we went out 424 miles off St. John's to get the guy who tried to row across the Atlantic. He was a long way out.

In Gander, we do not have any fixed-wing assets at all at 103 Squadron. Fixed-wing SAR for the Halifax region is provided by 413 Squadron in Greenwood. Fixed-wing SAR provides a quick response to a multitude of SAR cases. Because of their speed and obviously their range, they are excellent search platforms. They can stay airborne a long time, they can cover a lot of distance, and they can deliver air-droppable supplies both on land and at sea. They can parachute SAR technicians into remote areas and provide immediate assistance until a helicopter or other means of rescue can get there. We have had SAR techs jump out of a Hercules as far as 600 miles out to sea.

As a helicopter operation, our main requirement for fixed-wing support is in the top cover role. Whenever we go more than 50 miles out to sea, we require a fixed-wing asset or an escort. The top cover not only provides a degree of immediate assistance in case of an emergency on our part, but it also acts as a communication platform between the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre, JRCC, in Halifax, and the vessel itself. They can go ahead of us and locate the exact position of the boat. This saves us valuable time and we are able to get right on scene. If we are looking for something, they can find it generally ahead of us, so we can just go straight to the point. At night, the fixed-wing drop flares to illuminate the vessel or search object that we are going to, and that makes our job a lot easier.

Since it is stand-up in Gander, 103 Squadron has literally flown thousands of missions. We have done it all through Newfoundland and Labrador as well as eastern and northern Quebec and Baffin Island. We have been as far north as Ellesmere Island. We were in Winnipeg for the floods, Saguenay for the floods and we have been 424 miles out to sea. I think if you went around Newfoundland, you would be hard-pressed to find any community that did not people in it, or did not know somebody that was rescued by 103 Squadron.

Senator Meighen: Thank you very much for coming. I wonder if you could take us through a search and rescue mission from the moment you are tasked till to the moment you thankfully put down again in Gander.

Maj. Wicks: The Rescue Coordination Centre in Halifax calls the air craft commander directly. During normal work hours, he would is called at the squadron; any other time, he is called at home. He then makes a quick decision as to whether or not we can do the mission. It could be a typical night mission out to sea.

Senator Meighen: Excuse me. There is never any difficulty in reaching somebody, whatever the hour of the day, whatever the day?

Maj. Wicks: No, sir. We are on cell phones and pagers. We have a specific person on standby 24 hours a day. There's a crew set at all times and that is always coordinated with the Rescue Coordination Centre so they know exactly who they're calling. When they call, the aircraft commander calls the rest of his crew. They get into work, are briefed for the mission and prepare the airplane and themselves to be airborne. Our mandate is for a two-hour launch on quiet hours; the average time is about an hour. We have done it in 45 minutes. We have gotten people out of bed and into the air in 45 minutes. We usually reconfigure the airplane at Gander and from there go to St. John's. We carry a tremendous amount of gear on board the aircraft because it is ready to do any mission from out to sea to up north, so that equipment is always on board. If we have a mission out to sea, obviously, we do not need a survival tent and that equipment is unloaded in St. John's. When we unload unneeded equipment it makes room for extra fuel and then we head out to sea. We complete the mission, and usually transfer the patient directly to a hospital or to an awaiting ambulance and then head back to Gander.

Senator Meighen: Is it a matter of general practice that you have fixed-wing support and top cover in every mission?

Maj. Wicks: Yes, on every mission that takes us out to sea we have it. Once we cross the coastline, 413 Squadron is asked to provide a fixed-wing asset and they come out with us.

Senator Meighen: Are there any inconveniences in not having the fix-wing support attached directly to you, but, rather, coming out of Greenwood?

Maj. Wicks: The only problem with the fixed-wing coming out of the Greenwood is the transit time of getting from Greenwood to us. However, in a typical mission that I explained from Gander to St. John's, by the time we get to St. John's and reconfigure the airplane and refuel, the fixed-wing can be either very close or overhead.

It sometimes happens that we do go out to sea in an emergency without top cover or they meet us en route. Not having the top cover would not delay us from doing our mission; again, depending on the weather and the conditions as well.

Senator Meighen: Yes. How many Cormorants do you have at your disposal?

Maj. Wicks: Three, sir.

Senator Meighen: What is their serviceability rate?

Maj. Wicks: What I will talk about is availability.Ninety-nine per cent of the time we have one available. About 60 per cent of the time, we have two of them available for missions.

Senator Meighen: Is that not a relatively high percentage of down time?

Maj. Wicks: There is one issue with the aircraft, and that is that they require a tremendous amount of maintenance. The aircraft themselves, once the maintenance is completed, are very reliable and the serviceability rate is very, very high. However, the availability rate, because they are in maintenance, tends to be a little bit of a problem.

Senator Meighen: Is this a growing-pain situation, or is this going to be a constant state of a high degree of maintenance?

Maj. Wicks: No, I believe it is a growing pain. It is a brand-new aircraft. It takes a little time to figure out exactly how much maintenance is required. Obviously, they are going to err on the side of safety and over-inspect until they realize how much is really necessary. We have a combination of an hours-based inspection and a calendar-based inspection, and they tend to overlap, so we end up doing multiple inspections.

Senator Forrestall: Can you come up with a figure of the number of hours of maintenance per hour of operation?

Maj. Wicks: There is a report published monthly on exactly how many hours of maintenance it takes to get the airplanes flying and it changes month to month depending on how much maintenance is going on. I do not have the exact figures with me, but we are talking about 25 hours as an average of maintenance hours per flying hour.

Senator Forrestall: Is that relatively normal given some of the difficulties they have and with the problems they are trying to solve?

Maj. Wicks: I think that they are working very hard to solve many of these problems. There is an awful lot of maintenance being done on this airplane. Something that also causes a lot of problems is availability of parts. What happens in a lot of cases, if they need a part and they do not have it they take it off an airplane that is in maintenance; this essentially triples the amount of maintenance time. You have to take it off one airplane, put it on the next and then when you get it, put it back on the first airplane.

LCol. MacAleese: I would like to point out that although there is a significant maintenance-load on this aircraft, it is a new aircraft, so the parts supply has not really been sorted out exactly. We are still learning which parts we really need, and which ones break more frequently than others. IMP and the manufacturer are looking at the maintenance schedule to try to make it more efficient so that we can determine what needs to be done so that the aircraft does not spend as much time in the maintenance base. We have recognized maintenance as a bit of an issue right now. Hopefully, we will make things better before too long.

Senator Meighen: You have recognized the problem but has the outside contractor?

LCol. MacAleese: Yes, sir, very much so. IMP and AugustaWestland International are in discussions right now. They are looking at the situation, trying to improve, not only the maintenance schedule, but the parts flow, new parts, repair and overhaul of parts that take a considerable amount of time. The air force, the contractor that does the maintenance, and the manufacturer are working together to try to improve the system.

Senator Meighen: In your view, are these delays caused largely by administrative problems, or is there a financial component to this problem? Are any of these delays caused by the fact that you are short of funds?

LCol. MacAleese: I do not believe that there is a shortage of funds. The funds are available. When the initial contract was set up, it may have been set up to try to minimize the cost. We find that it is not working, so adjustments will be made. However, if we need the parts, the money is there to buy the part right now, so that is not the issue. The manufacturer does not have the part coming off the line quickly enough to supply us, is the issue.

Senator Meighen: Would it be a fair summation to say that the aircraft is performing well, notwithstanding these maintenance problems, and that you are happy with its abilities?

Maj. Wicks: Yes, the aircraft is exceptionally capable. There are maintenance issues, but once all these get worked out, this is going to be an ideal aircraft for SAR.

Senator Meighen: You can understand that our heads have been filled with the horror stories of the Sea Kings, and their maintenance demands. It seems that we are in a similar situation with this aircraft; it also has service and maintenance requirements that are both timely and costly.

LCol. MacAleese: This is little different from the Sea King issue, which requires a lot of servicing. In our case, the scheduled maintenance has to be done routinely anyways. You have to remember that this is a relatively new aircraft. Although there are some other countries that operate it, we have more hours on our air frames than anyone else. We are leading the fleet, which means we are running into some of the normal bugs that you get with a newly designed aircraft. We are hitting the problems first, so once we solve the problems, we are going to help other countries avoid the same sort of thing.

Senator Meighen: And two and a one-half years is not an unduly long period of time to solve the problems?

LCol. MacAleese: No, because we are still running into new problems. The fleet is only a couple of years old, so it is not like somebody else has already done it, so we should have learned lessons from them. We are the ones that are learning the lessons and teaching the others.

Senator Meighen: Well, specifically, perhaps you could tell us quickly about what we are not going to see this morning, which I gather is a lift operation.

Maj. Wicks: We are currently under a restriction for a minimum training. We do the minimum required to keep our crews current so that we can conduct the SAR missions. Based on that, it goes outside of that restriction, then, to be able to do flying demonstrations.

Senator Meighen: So, this is a restriction that has been placed on you for an indefinite period of time?

Maj. Wicks: Yes, it is an indefinite length of time. It is based on cracking of the tail rotor half-hubs; this is a large plate to which the tail rotor blade is attached.

All the other countries that fly this aircraft also have the same sort of cracking. However, we had one aircraft which had a significant crack, and there is an investigation underway that includes the company and the manufacturer, our maintenance and QETE people, the Quality Engineering Test Establishment in Ottawa. All of these members are trying to determine why this particular aircraft cracked. It may be related to a manufacturing process which is now being changed. Right now, there is no redesign for the half-hub, but they are changing the way they are made to hopefully minimize these little cracks. There is a carbon core, which takes all the strength from this component and it is covered with fibreglass and various other components and painted. A lot of the cracks are quite often skin-deep through the paint and that is all. Out of over 40,000 hours of Cormorant flying worldwide, there has been one that has cracked in through the main structure and that was the one that we had. We have flown over 13,000 hours on the Cormorant and, as I said, 40,000-plus worldwide. There has only been one incident of the crack through the main structure.

Senator Meighen: How would you describe the lift capability of the Cormorant? Is it a heavy lift or medium lift?

Maj. Wicks: It is classified as a medium lift.

Senator Meighen: Correct me if I am wrong, the Chinook or the Labrador had heavy lift?

Maj. Wicks: No, the Labrador has a lot less. The Cormorant is just about 32,000 pounds; the Labrador is 21,000 pounds.

Senator Meighen: Did you fly Chinooks?

LCol. MacAleese: Yes, sir, I did. The Chinook is has 50,000 pounds, which gave us about a 20,000-pound lift capability, which is more than the Cormorant. It is still considered a medium lift, but it is at the top end of the medium.

Senator Meighen: In your collective or individual opinion, is the lift capability of the Cormorant what you require for SAR?

Maj. Wicks: Yes, it is. It is very capable for SAR.

Senator Meighen: Is there any problem with, what do you call it, the "down wash'' in terms of flipping small boats?

Maj. Wicks: We have not seen it flip a small boat yet. We have a new piece of equipment, which is a Cormorant. We fly it differently than we flew the Labrador because it is a different piece of equipment. It does have a significant amount of down wash. However, we have adapted our procedures to compensate for any differences in the airplane.

Senator Meighen: Colonel MacAleese, have you received any additional funding to train in support of first responders in the Gander area, and also, what is your relationship with the first responders?

LCol. MacAleese: We do not have funds specifically for training first responders, but we do allocate some of our money to maintain, for instance, our hazardous material team, HazMat. It is a small team of about 20 people that works on occasion with the town. We do not have a fire hall any more. We rely on the town and the airport to provide that service for us, other than one firefighter who does inspections and that sort of thing. So, we are limited in what we can provide as far as first responders. However, of course, being military people, we can respond and provide support to any emergency or disaster in the area by just providing manpower or any other facility that the base has to offer.

Senator Meighen: Have you done any training exercises in town?

LCol. MacAleese: Yes, senator. This past fall, the Town of Gander set up an exercise with a hazardous tanker spill which also involved a bomb; it was a very complicated scenario. Our HazMat team responded and took care of the situation so the town's first responders could go in and clean up the situation.

Senator Meighen: Are you satisfied that you can talk to each other through whatever communications equipment you have, other than the telephone?

LCol. MacAleese: No, it actually was not an issue with the exercise that we just ran. As with any exercise where you have different agencies working together, there are always some communications problems. Our system is different from the RCMP, which is different from the town's system. However, we were able to work through it and it was not an issue.

Senator Meighen: You indicated that you have had some reservists that transfer in and transfer out. Are there any unnecessary delays or problems in terms of the paperwork?

LCol. MacAleese: No, not that I have seen.

Senator Meighen: If not, you are very lucky.

LCol. MacAleese: The paperwork does take a certain amount of time.

Senator Meighen: Yes.

Maj. Wicks: I am sure people would like to see it done more quickly at times. I know a couple of reservists who transferred over to the regular force who waited for a couple of months for the paperwork to go through. In that case we kept the reservists employed while they waited for their new jobs and because of that they were kept happy.

Senator Meighen: Have you had some reservists deployed overseas?

LCol. MacAleese: Yes, actually, quite a few; more so from the Airfield Engineer Flight, and a couple from our Air Reserve Flight which is part of 9 Wing.

Senator Meighen: It has become something of a mantra to encourage contracting out to try to save money and employ our financial resources as efficiently as possible.

Are there serious inconveniences to the contracting out to a civilian firm? Would it be much easier for you to have it done by your own personnel?

LCol. MacAleese: Yes, well, in fact, 103 Squadron is probably one of the biggest users of maintenance contractors. The quality of the maintenance does not suffer because the contractor's maintenance is kept up to our code of maintenance. The issue is it reduces my flexibility as the base commander a little bit because I lose the people in uniform who, of course, I can use to do other things other than their primary job. In the case of a disaster or an emergency downtown, if I had uniformed people doing the aircraft maintenance, I could grab them and send them to do other things, whereas, I cannot take that civilian contractor and send him downtown to fill sand bags, for instance. So, that is probably the biggest issue; it reduces our flexibility to respond to other things because the numbers are down.

The Chairman: Senator Meighen, we only have five minutes left in this panel. I am going to extend it in any event, but, thank you.

Colleagues with your permission, I am going to extend the panel by 10 minutes, so we can accommodate the two more witnesses. And for clarification colonel, do you have interoperable communications with the other first responders and the police?

LCol. MacAleese: Well, because we with a variety of people or organizations across the province, in some of the smaller communities, small first responders, I suspect, no, we would not have radio communications that are compatible. However, if we are responding to a smaller community, it would be more of a face-to-face type of communications that would be required.

The Chairman: Do you have a plan or is there a plan in place to ensure that there are compatible communications?

LCol. MacAleese: The only plan we have is to take extra radios and provide them to the other user. We communicate with so many different agencies that there is no way we can make ourselves compatible with every organization that we may work with at one time or another. We normally take extra radios and if it is a requirement, we issue them to the people with which we are working.

The Chairman: I would like to clarify that in regards to the 26 hours of maintenance for every one hour of flying time that Senator Meighen touched on; our understanding was that this aircraft was in use by other countries prior to our purchase. Are you saying that the bugs had not been worked out of them by the first owners of the aircraft?

LCol. MacAleese: You are correct. Other countries were using the aircraft before we purchased them, but because of the flying rate at which we operate we have moved ahead of everybody. We are the leader of the fleet, so we are finding the problems, or bugs, before anyone else.

The Chairman: The number 33 or 36 sticks in my mind for the maintenance hours for the Sea Kings and everyone believed that was a huge amount of maintenance. Was that just sort of a press myth?

Maj. Wicks: I do not know what it was for the Sea King. On the Cormorant, a lot of the maintenance is involved in taking parts off of one airplane to put on another plane. That really drags up the numbers.

The Chairman: So, your problem is the same as the others.

Maj. Wicks: Yes, our problem is the availability of the parts.

The Chairman: You are getting short-changed on parts, and if you do not have a part then you have to jump through hoops to do things that you would not normally do if you were properly funded and had the parts that a reasonable operation should have.

Maj. Wicks: Yes. If we had the parts, certainly the maintenance costs would go down and the aircraft availability would go up.

The Chairman: We have heard this at every base that we have been to, and this finding will become a large part of our report.

LCol. MacAleese: I am not sure whether money is the issue necessarily, but there is definitely a problem with the parts supply. I am not sure that this problem can be fixed by putting in more money. If the part does not come off the line, even if you have the money, you are not going to get that part. If we had more money, we could set up the contract a little differently, and pay a little extra to get priority off the line or something like that. In reality, if it is does not come off the line we cannot get the part.

The Chairman: Do you know of a platform in the air force that has a satisfactory supply of parts?

LCol. MacAleese: Well, my background is on the tactical helicopter side. I came from the Griffin fleet where there were some problems, but the availability of parts was not a major issue. There will always be problems because there are always going to be parts that break and it takes some time to get them, either from repair facility or from the manufacturer. I think it is more a matter of the repair and overhaul lines, and putting our parts through more quickly. Whether that requires changing the contract, or the way that the contract is worded, or maybe stockpiling a little more might, I do not know, but those are a few possible solutions to the problem.

Essentially yes, one of our biggest problems is the supply of parts. It triples the workload when we have to take the part off of one aircraft and put it on the other and then eventually put it back onto the first one.

Senator Day: Thank you. Is it IPM's responsibility for provision of parts or is that maintained by the Canadian Forces?

Maj. Wicks: I am not sure who is actually responsible for getting the parts, whether it is IMP or DND.

Senator Day: We will investigate that question. Obviously, you are having a problem getting the parts and we have to find out whose job it is to get them there and stockpile them so you are not spending half your time on the ground.

If you had four Cormorants rather than three, would that be better for you?

Maj. Wicks: Three works extremely well for us. If we could get our availability up through the maintenance, three would be optimum.

Senator Day: How many Labradors did you have?

Maj. Wicks: Initially, we had three. After the crash in Gaspé and another one off Comox, we ended up splitting five between us and Greenwood, so we needed to have two or three depending.

Senator Day: And would your job of search and rescue be better if you had a fixed-wing aircraft at Gander?

Maj. Wicks: Not necessarily. When we are going out to sea, we get a very good coverage from 413 Squadron in Greenwood. In an ideal world, yes, I would put a fixed-wing asset with every helicopter asset, but with limited resources, they are probably better off in Greenwood.

Senator Day: In the past, has there been fixed-wing here to provide that overhead coverage?

Maj. Wicks: No, not since 103 Squadron has been in Gander. Do you want to go way back to when we flew the Lancaster's out of St. John's?

Senator Day: No. Colonel, we are running out of time, but I think it is important for us to understand the relationship of your reservists with the regulars and how you have integrated them to augment. Reading your comments, it sounds to me like what you were doing is you have an authorized manning level of 40 personnel. That is not enough to do the job. You have some reservists for whom you are robbing your operating and maintenance fund. You are paying them out of that to get the job done that you have to do. Am I reading that correctly?

LCol. MacAleese: Basically, yes. We could use a few more reservists within 9 Wing. I think, ideally, if we had another six to eight, it would allow us to fill all the holes that we have. The main issue and the reason why we are spending more is we are using them as full-time workers rather than part-time workers. The reservists are supposed to operate as part-timers. Now, because we have the requirement, we are actually employing them full time and, for the most part, those people want to work full time anyway, so that is not a problem.

Senator Day: When you say that you have the requirement, you have a mission, a job requirement, and you do not have the authorized, full-time, regular force personnel to do the job requirement?

LCol. MacAleese: Right. After all the cuts of the 1990s, our units were all reduced to what was considered to be theminimum. It would be fine if we had all those people, but even though the people are assigned to the positions, people go on maternity/paternity leave, some are deployed overseas for six months, and some get injured. When even a couple of people are taken out of the picture, we obviously have to still do the job that person was doing. That is where the reservists come in. So, because we are at the minimum manning to be able to do the job, there is no flexibility. If we lose somebody, then we have to find a replacement elsewhere.

Senator Day: Please tell us about your plan to solve this problem. You indicate that you have a solution to stop the robbing of your operation and maintenance budget to pay for these additional augmented reservists.

LCol. MacAleese: Yes. Over the next three years we plan to reduce the amount of spending that is being converted. We do not have a plan to figure out exactly how we are going to backfill the people, but we will reduce the amount of full-time funding that is being spent. What it may mean is we may have to reduce some services. As an example, we have several reservists working in our base supply. If need be, if it comes down to it, we may have to close our clothing stores two days of the week and only open three out of five. So, that is the sort of thing we may have to do. We will reduce the service, but as far as the end product, we will still be able to do our mission, so that will not be affected. It is primary to ensure that we provide enough support that the operational missions are not affected at all.

Senator Day: You have been running pretty slim for quite a while. I would guess that you have done a lot of this reducing of service down to just about as much as you can do.

LCol. MacAleese: It is getting pretty difficult to find. Well, there is no fat left.

Senator Day: Yes. That is what I would have guessed.

Senator Banks: Would the average Canadian, having heard what you told us this morning about people and parts, be approximately right in saying that this extraordinarily important function, none more important that I can think of, is beingnickel-and-dimed and reduced to something below the minimum that it ought really to be for it to operate properly and efficiently all the time?

Would that be a fair observation by an average Canadian?

LCol. MacAleese: I am not sure that we are at the point where we are being nickel-and-dimed to death. Actually, we have been given what we need. However, as I say, we are given the minimum that we need to be able to do the job. So, what happens if somebody has a medical condition and one of the air crew cannot fly? Obviously, somebody else has to take up the slack. So, what it comes down to is our people are, in fact, being worked a little harder than I would like to see in a lot of cases.

Senator Banks: I think I heard you say earlier that there is an aircraft available 90 per cent of the time. Have I got that right?

Maj. Wicks: Ninety-nine per cent of the time.

Senator Banks: Okay, 99 per cent.

Maj. Wicks: Yes.

Senator Banks: There is no redundancy?

Maj. Wicks: No, there are occasions, although they are fairly rare, where we would not have a serviceable helicopter to respond.

Senator Banks: Are the 33 technicians that maintain your aircraft in Gander?

Maj. Wicks: Yes, they are, senator.

Senator Banks: I am sure there is a perfectly logical reason for this, and it is probably geographical. Why do you leave Gander and fly your aircraft to St. John's to reconfigure and refuel on your way out to sea? Is it closer?

Maj. Wicks: If we are going out to sea the closest point to the boat is here. We would come here and top up with fuel. In order for us to take our maximum amount of fuel, we will take some of the equipment off to lighten the aircraft as much as possible before going to sea.

Senator Banks: So, it is geographical proximity and not any shortfall? You could reconfigure the aircraft in Gander; you could refuel in Gander if the ship that you were going to happened to be closer to Gander?

Maj. Wicks: In fact, we would do exactly that if we were going north or west.

The Chairman: Excuse me, Senator Banks. Do you have the capacity to land on a frigate and refuel there?

Maj. Wicks: We are not checked out to land on frigates. We have landed on boats. I have landed on oil tankers and taken people off of them. The aircraft is capable of landing on a ship. That was the original design for this aircraft, but we do not do it very often.

Senator Banks: Why do reservists cost more than regular members cost?

LCol. MacAleese: I hope I did not give the impression that reservists cost more.

Senator Banks: Do their wages come from a different budget?

LCol. MacAleese: Yes. We are funded to a certain level for reserve pay; that comes from the centre. Right now, we are taking some of our operations and maintenance money and converting it to reserve pay to top up the amount that we are given. We are trying to reduce the amount that is being converted and live within our budget allocation for pay.

Senator Banks: Happy Valley is the town. Do I remember that correctly?

LCol. MacAleese: No, that is Goose Bay.

Senator Banks: Goose Bay. Sorry.

I do not think we heard anybody say as clearly as you did that you have the reserve unit that is working in the town doing community events. You talked about the HazMat team and the fact that you rely upon the town for fire services.

LCol. MacAleese: That is right. We work closely with the town for all services. The town provides the fire response for the base proper. However, the airport authority provides response for the aircraft.

Senator Banks: Are you leasing your space from the airport authority?

LCol. MacAleese: We lease the lands that our buildings are on from the airport authority, although we own and are responsible for the actual buildings. At one time, Transport Canada owned the land, but then they handed it over to the airport authority. Now, they own the land and we lease from them, but all the infrastructure belongs to us. Water and sewer pipes, for instance, are our responsibility.

The Chairman: Colonel and major, thank you very much for appearing before us. We are very grateful to you for coming. We see the function that you have as being vital to the community. We are very concerned when we hear you do not have everything you need. We do think that it is important that the military run lean and mean, but there is a limit.

We have heard the story you are telling us in too many other bases that are struggling with the same problem, and it is in this allocation of resources. Just as you said, it is three times the work when you have to take a part off a part from one plane and put it on another, then take it back and put it on again. We have heard that message clearly and we will comment on it in our report.

We are very grateful to you and we are looking forward meeting with some of your personnel. We understand that they are going to give us a briefing and show us the equipment. We are looking forward to seeing these people who can be described as heroes and of whom Canadians are very proud. And if you would communicate that from us to the others in your command, we would be very grateful. It is a very difficult job they do and Canadians are very proud of the work they do.

Senators, our next panel is from the Coast Guard, more specifically, the union representing them. We have appearing before us Lawrence Dempsey, who comes from Sudbury,Ontario. He began his career sailing on the Great Lakes ships in 1963, working in various positions including porter, fireman, oiler, deckhand, watchman and wheelman. Are there any positions you have not worked in?

He became a Canadian Merchant Service Guild member and navigating ships' officer in the spring of 1972. Mr. Dempsey was appointed to the position of National President of the Canadian Merchant Service Guild in the spring of 2004. He is a holder of a Coastal Navigator Class 11 Certificate of Competency.

We have also Mr. Mark Boucher. He is the National Secretary-Treasurer for the Canadian Merchant Service Guild. He was a serving Master with the Department of National Defence on the civilian side and also with the Coast Guard.

We have Mr. Wayne Fagan, who began working with the Coast Guard in 1980 in a shore position as a power engineer. He started working with the union as a regional vice president, Atlantic Union of Canadian Employees, in 1996, and currently holds that position, representing the Coast Guard, Nav-Canada, airports, port authorities, pilotage authorities, Transport Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. I have to wonder if there is anybody you do not represent.

We also have Mr. John Fox. He is from Nova Scotia and a member of the Union of Canada Transport Employees. He joined the Coast Guard in 1984 and has represented the Union for over 15 years.

This is not the first time we have seen some of you, so welcome back. And to those of you that are new, welcome. We are delighted to have you before us. We are pleased that you could set aside the time to come and talk to us. We understand that two of you have a brief statement to make. Who would like to lead? Mr. Dempsey, the floor is yours.

Mr. Lawrence Dempsey, National President, Canadian Merchant Service Guild: Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, once again, I would like to thank you and the committee for requesting and allowing the Canadian Merchant Service Guild the opportunity to make comment on issues of Canadian Maritime National Security and Defence. After this short brief, my colleagues and I would welcome any questions you may have for us and we will try to respond as best we can.

For the record, I would like to restate who we are and whom we represent.

We believe we are a unique relative to other federal bargaining agents. The Canadian Merchant Service Guild was originally incorporated by Act of Parliament in 1919, which was amended and re-incorporated by Act of Parliament in 1980 as Bill S-12.

The objective of the guild is to promote the economic, cultural, educational and material interests of ship masters, chief engineers, officers and pilots. We represent the vast majority of masters, mates, marine pilots and engineers employed in the Canadian shipping industry. The guild is also certified as a bargaining agent by the Public Service Staff Relations Board to represent ships' officers employed with the Canadian Coast Guard and the Department of National Defence civilian vessels as well as the marine instructors of the Coast Guard College. The national total membership is comprised of approximately 4,300 members. The majority of our members are covered by collective agreements, yet a sizeable minority are managerially excluded masters and entrepreneur marine pilots. The federal government's ships officers' collective agreement with the Treasury Board, covers approximately 900 members, is our largest.

Since the events of September 11, 2001, security issues for all modes of transportation and, in particular, for mariners on ships and in ports, has resulted in an ever-increasing workload for those of us representing members in the industry.

We understand the need, real and perceived, that drives this agenda into the 21st century and this new age of terrorism. Not a day goes by that we are not being asked to attend meetings regarding security matters by a company, a government department or a port.

The role for the Canadian Coast Guard in maritime security is vital and important, but it is a role that men and women of the Coast Guard have been doing for many years, even before the events of 9/11.

Unlike the "grey funnel fleet'' that generates front-page news and a lot of hoopla on arrival in a port, the red-and- white vessels of the Canadian Coast Guard barely get a look when they are doing their job. Every day, these ships and the men and women who serve on them watch for anything unusual in Canadian ports.

If you were ashore with a pair of binoculars looking into the bridge of a Coast Guard ship, I am sure that you would find a pair of binoculars looking back at you. No fanfare, no pomp and no news articles. Just Canadians doing their job!

I will enter a quote from MP Tom Wappel, Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, concerning the committee's first report:

Mr. Chairman, Members, after meeting with you in Halifax in September of 2003, I was most pleased to read the recommendations of that committee, who in their recommendations addressed issues of structure, funding, reporting and capital needs now and in the future for the Canadian Coast Guard.

These recommendations, I am sure, took into account issues that this committee raised in your report on national security and defence. It would seem to me that you heard all of us who told you that these issues as well as others needed to be addressed in a post 9/11 world.

Much could be said about how our organization would like to see the Coast Guard evolve over the next 10 years, but given the time constraints placed on us today, let us say that it is of the utmost importance that everyone understands that money will not fix everything.

It would be easy to say to you that we want to see more employees and bigger and better ships. That approach would only be self-serving, and not in the best interest of Canada, the Coast Guard or the guild; nor would another study that costs money, eats up precious time and, in all likelihood, ends up on a shelf gathering dust.

The Coast Guard of today has a mandate to carry out duties as required by the Government of Canada. Years, no, make that decades, of budget restraints, cutbacks and program reviews have the Coast Guard in a position of robbing Peter to pay Paul to meet existing responsibilities. You already know that.

As for funding, previous recommendations clearly outlinethe need for what is required today. A comprehensive,well-thought-out program for renewal and replacement has already been articulated by Mr. Adams and his people. Dollar figures do not fall under the guild's purview, but we can say if the word "millions'' scares you, then the committee should wrap up discussions and issue its final report.

Ships dedicated to the role of maritime and port security must not be junk bought and refitted to do a job. They must be built from the keel up with an ability to do whatever is required of them to fulfill their role. They must be crewed by Coast Guard officers and crews trained to perform duties that they may be called upon to perform.

The old adage, "Don't send a boy out to do a man's job,'' needs to be front and centre in whatever discussions or recommendations are being considered; 47-foot search and rescue vessels rolling around the North Atlantic in November gales or the coastal waters of British Columbia are not the way to go. This is not to take anything away from their abilities or seaworthy designs, but maritime security may require that ships meet suspect vessels prior to them reaching Canadian waters in any weather.

In discussions with the Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, it has been made clear to us that the arming of the Coast Guard is not the way the Coast Guard wants to go. These reasons have been ably articulated by the commissioner and his representatives. We agree with his position, but want to emphasize that the collective agreement between the guild and the Treasury Board of Canada does not impede or restrict the Government of Canada should it wish to arm certain vessels of the Coast Guard, and in that event issues of allowances, and safety and training would most certainly have to be addressed.

We once again thank you for this invitation and we will try to answer any questions that you may have.

Mr. Wayne Fagan, Regional Vice-President, Union of Canadian Transportation Employees (UCTE): Mr. Chairman and honourable members of the committee we are pleased to be here today to present to you on behalf of the men and women of the Canadian Coast Guard. Let me also congratulate the committee on its past work on Coast Guard issues and pass along our best wishes as you continue your deliberations concerning the Defence Policy Review. Our membership appreciates your ongoing attention to the Canadian Coast Guard, demonstrated by your invitation for us to appear today.

By way of background, the Union of Canadian Transportation Employees, the UCTE, represents more than 3,000 Canadian Coast Guard, or CCG, employees from coast to coast. Our members work to protect Canada's marine and fresh water environments, maintain safety on Canada's waterways and facilitate maritime commerce. Millions of Canadians rely directly or indirectly on programs delivered daily by the Coast Guard, such as search and rescue, environmental response and enforcement, ice breaking, marine navigation services, and marine communications and traffic services.

The CCG also operates Canada's civilian fleet that provides the platform for other government departments and agencies like Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the RCMP, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and Environment Canada. Coast Guard vessels and staff enable these departments to manage and protect the fisheries, study and understand our marine environment, catch criminals and smugglers, enforce immigration and security policies, and successfully prosecute those who pollute our waters.

The Canadian Coast Guard operates 107 vessels, 27 helicopters and two fixed-wing aircraft. It operates out of 11 bases with a thousand personnel on the Pacific coast, 550 in Central and Arctic Canada, 780 in the Quebec region, 860 here in Newfoundland and 960 in the Maritimes.

When UCTE last appeared before this committee on September 22, 2003, in Halifax, we were asked if our membership would be amenable to taking on an increased role in coastal security. As I mentioned earlier, as Canada's civilian fleet, the Coast Guard is called upon to deliver services and to provide the marine platform for other government agencies to deliver their services.

The Coast Guard is and always has been an adaptable and agile organization. Anyone searching for evidence of the Coast Guard's ability to adapt need only look at the way we have dealt with the shameful underfunding the Coast Guard has faced over the past decade.

Our members are professionals who have proven their ability to take on new roles over our organization's history. I would, however, like to take this opportunity to reiterate our position that combining the Canadian Coast Guard with the Department of National Defence would result in a worse situation than the Coast Guard has encountered at DFO, where the Coast Guard has been referred to by a former deputy minister as, "just one of 17 other programs that I have to administer.''

The Coast Guard's adaptable organizational culture as Canada's civilian fleet has lent itself well to the varied and diverse roles of a service deliverer and platform provider. UCTE feels strongly that the Coast Guard could not be put in a military command environment and still be expected to deliver the critical non-military services that Canadians currently rely on them to carry out.

However, a stand-alone or collaborative new security role would be strongly supported by our members, provided that any such increased role on maritime security, surveillance or interdiction was also accompanied by proper program funding, proper training and job classification, and proper capital investments for the fleet and its implements.

Given the fact that, by all accounts, the government has failed to fund properly the Coast Guard's current mandate, these caveats are all the more critical to consider. While the issue of the future mandate of the Canadian Coast Guard is very important to us as an organization, and we agree that the Coast Guard should be called on to do more, we would be remiss if we did not take this opportunity to discuss our work over the past year, aimed at ensuring that the Coast Guard receives the proper funding in the upcoming budget to fulfill its current mandate.

As I am sure many of you are aware, since the beginning of program review and the merger of the Canadian Coast Guard with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in 1995, this proud Canadian organization has endured hundreds of millions of dollars in cuts to its national program, with cuts to the tune of a 30 per cent reduction in budgets and a 40 per cent cut in human resources.

The funding shortfalls facing the Canadian Coast Guard and the numerous operational difficulties the cuts have created have been a matter of record before numerous parliamentary committees and are referred to in far greater detail than my time today will allow me to discuss in both your committee's report, Canada's Coastlines: The Longest Under-Defended Borders in the World and last year's House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans' unanimous report, Safe, Secure, Sovereign: Reinventing the Canadian Coast Guard.

As both committees note, perhaps the most alarming aspect of the current state of the Canadian Coast Guard is the condition of the fleet. Your report said:

The Canadian Coast Guard is rusting out. Although the CCG possesses 107 ships, the majority of them are reaching the end of their useful lives and the federal government must make a decision soon as to whether to replace many of these vessels or reduce their tasks.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans report said:

The Coast Guard has virtually disappeared within DFO. The combined fleet has been reduced almost to half its pre-merger strength. The average age of the Coast Guard vessels is over 20 years. Almost half have less than five useful years of service left. Fisheries and the Coast Guard patrols have for all practical purposes been abandoned.

We also believe it is important to note the degree of consensus amongst all parties involved in the drafting of these reports, particularly the unanimous fisheries committee report. Clearly, providing proper funding for Canada's Coast Guard is an issue that cuts across partisan lines.

I must note that these are not new concerns. The government has known about the need to invest in the Coast Guard fleet for many years. In a 2001 audit of Coast Guard fleet management, then Auditor General Denis Desautels wrote:

The need for action is urgent and well recognized. The services provided by the Canadian Coast Guard are of no small significance to Canada and the safety and security of its citizens and others traveling through its waters. Failure to resolve deficiencies is beyond contemplation.

The Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, John Adams, has also been very candid in discussing the need to invest in renewing the fleet. As recently as October 28 of last year, Adams told the House of Commons Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans that major parts of the fleet, "are clearly past their economic life.'' He went on to tell members of parliament how the situation has become so dire:

It is a question of lack of capital, lack of re-capitalization of the fleet over a protracted number of years. We simply have not been reinvesting sufficient money in the fleet to keep it rejuvenated, to keep it fresh, to keep it capable of responding to the program demands.

We know the government is currently considering options and doing its due diligence regarding making an investment in the Coast Guard fleet. Indeed, Commissioner Adams expressed his hope to the fisheries committee at the same meeting late last year that the government will make the needed investments this budget year. To assist the government in making the case for investing in the fleet and to demonstrate the political support for the Coast Guard, we at UCTE have been busy meeting with parliamentarians from all parties, including the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

We are pleased to report that the support we have received has been remarkable. It is our understanding that dozens and dozens of MPs and senators from all parties and regions of the country, including several members of this committee, have written to the Minister of Finance and the Prime Minister in support of the following budgetary expenditure: $350 million to replace those vessels that need to be replaced now, and $160 million in increased spending annually to meet the Coast Guard's current operational replacement.

Our National President, Michael Wing, recently appeared before the House of Commons Finance Committee during the pre-budget consultations. We are pleased to report that his efforts resulted in the following recommendation in the committee report to the government:

The government should provide the funds immediately needed to re-capitalize the Canadian Coast Guard, as well as annual, secure, stable funding for future Coast Guard operations.

As organized labour, we at UCTE recognize the importance of working together with the government to find realistic solutions to shared challenges. For that reason, our funding proposal for the recapitalization of the Coast Guard fleet and operational spending was arrived at after working constructively with officials from DFO. In fact, the figures contained in our proposal have been used publicly by DFO officials in response to questions about the needs of the Coast Guard.

We feel strongly that this is the year that the government will finally begin to reverse the sad treatment of the Canadian Coast Guard. To that end, we ask that all honourable senators on this committee who have not done so already to use their considerable expertise on the Canadian Coast Guard to make the appropriate representations to the Minister of Finance and the Cabinet in support of our efforts.

To summarize, UCTE members are proud of our organization's ability to adapt to serve the needs of Canadians. If the government decides in all its wisdom that the Coast Guard should play a greater role in the security of our coastlines and waterways, then our members will accept that challenge with vigour. All we would insist on is that we are given the proper resources to do so.

Thank you for the honour of appearing before you today.

Senator Atkins: Welcome, gentlemen. We have had the pleasure of meeting with you before and it is a pleasure to see you again.

My first question is: Was it the right decision to put the Coast Guard under the Department Fisheries and Oceans or should it have been put under some other ministry?

Mr. Dempsey: That is a difficult question to answer. When the Canadian Coast Guard was with Transport Canada the politics at the time wanted to see the Coast Guard and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans put together because there was, in fact, two fleets operating, the fisheries fleet and the Coast Guard fleet. At that time putting the Coast Guard under the Department of Fisheries and Oceans seemed to be a marriage of convenience. Time has passed and the fact that the Canadian Coast Guard has become a special operating agency within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, one can question whether it was a good idea. For the most part, the people that we represent really have not seen any change; they go about doing their jobs the same as they did when they were with transport. I think it would be a mistake if one was to now take the position that it would be alright to move the Coast Guard out of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and move it back to Transport.

The people of the Coast Guard need to get on with their jobs and do not need to become involved with this to and fro between Transport Canada and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. All they are asking to do is to do their jobs and have the proper funding to do their jobs. The decisions with regard to moving are really political decisions that are beyond the Canadian Coast Guard people.

Senator Atkins: Mr. Dempsey, you are the one who said, "Much could be said about how our organization would like to see the Coast Guard evolve over the next 10 years.''

If it is under that department, does it not restrict what might become a different or a broader role for the Coast Guard?

Mr. Dempsey: You are asking me to answer a question in the future. I thought that when it went to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that we would see a change, but we have not seen a change at DFO. So, if it was now considered that it would go to the Department of Transport, I do not know what the Coast Guard would look like 10 years from now.

Mr. John Fox, Member, Union of Canadian Transportation Employees (UCTE): If you look at what has happened to us since the merger, we were a little cash cow that came along and we have lost significant funding. We became one of 17 other programs. If you look at the study that was done on Canada's fleets, it gave a clear indication that the Coast Guard should be as the premier civilian fleet for Canada.

We felt we certainly took a hard right turn in 1995 when the decision was made to put us with DFO. Obviously, they looked at ships and ships and there must have been some similarities. In fact, our cultures were totally different, our clients were totally different. We had already provided service to DFO by taking fisheries officers to where they needed to go. In our opinion, it was a poor decision. We were encouraged by the recent Privy Council direction to make us into a special operating agency, but we have sincere concerns about the umbilical to DFO, and we do not know what that picture is going to look like after April 1. We do not know how finances will work down through the department, and we have concerns in that area. Whether we belong to any other department, we certainly worked much better under Transport Canada and we shared security interests for marine ports. What Transport Canada has is a responsibility with air and some surface responsibilities. Perhaps it would make sense to go back there.

Some elements of the Coast Guard were moved in December; navigable waters protection, boating safety, and some elements of RCR. We do not know what their thinking was concerning those issues. We have heard rumours that maybe we could go under Anne McLellan's new department. We do not know. We know that before we go anywhere or do anything we need to have adequate funding to manage our own programs. I do not feel that it was a good move.

Senator Atkins: What kind of a Coast Guard does Canada need now and in the future?

Mr. Fagan: We need the resources to fulfil our current mandate under the Oceans Act. I think we have the platform, and we have the experienced mariners. We have the ability, and we can adapt. We have rescue specialists here in Newfoundland. Inside the 200-mile limit we have people trained in armed boarding. Here in Newfoundland, we have some 60 people trained. These personnel have been to Regina and completed the RCMP training; they are navy trained in the 50-calibre gun and they have performed armed boarding. For those reason we feel that it is not a big leap to take on the security portfolio. At the present time we do not even have the resources to meet our current mandate and that is what we need to take care of first.

I know we are on the eve of a budget and I ask this committee to use its influence wherever possible to help us to meet our mandate with adequate funds.

Senator Atkins: Funding is an important element in the future of the Coast Guard. It is obvious that the Coast Guard has taken some reductions in funding, which has affected the fleet.

How critical is the fleet in terms of "rust out?''

Mr. Fox: In relation to economies of scale we are out there. We are there anyway doing search and rescue. We are Canada's premier civilian fleet, so, to give us new responsibilities is not a major leap.

Concerning the status of the Coast Guard, I will use the Maritimes region as an example: We have only two major workhorses covering the American border. These two 1100 series vessels, which are primarily tasked for SAR, are beyond their mid-life in age right now. These vessels patrol right to the tip of northern New Brunswick, one east, one west, doing buoy programs, doing fisheries patrol et cetera. It took us five years just to design these vessels and to have them built. When they go into refits they are scheduled for four weeks, they are in for eight or 10 weeks. In the summertime, we had to put the Louis St. Laurent and the Terry Fox on search and rescue standby when one of those vessels was tied down. This is impractical; it is not a good solution.

The 47-footers that we bought are not designed for major offshore operations in the North Atlantic. Our crews and even the employers tell us they are overextended because of the lack of larger vessels to respond.

We have real concerns about the types of vessels that are being built for the sake of economy rather than for dedicated service. The fleet "rust out,'' call it whatever you want, is in a serious state of affairs and action needs to be taken soon. We need to design a ship built for Canadian needs. We should not buy somebody else's problems, such as bargain or fire sale ships to replace vessels that need to perform such functions as light ice breakers, search and rescue operations and any number of other functions. If security is going to be added to those functions then we need a new vessel design that reflects what the Canadian Government expects of the Coast Guard.

Mr. Dempsey: The Canadian Coast Guard started a process of operating its vessels on what they referred to as "10, two and one'' systems; 10 months of operation, two months of refit, and a month where they were out of service.

The Great Lakes trade had a great year this year and they are expecting another great year next year. The mandate of the Canadian Coast Guard is broad and extends to buoy tending, search and rescue, and auxiliary vessels. Now we are talking about marine security issues that will broaden that mandate.

The Coast Guard is now in a position that it may have to use a resource, a vessel, for 11 months out of the year without a refit. And that is going to come home to roost. If it does come home to roost, it means that ships might be tied up for a considerable period of time in refit.

At the opposite end of that spectrum, and honourable senators understand this, it takes a very long time to build a new ship once the decision has been made to do so. It does not matter to what purpose you want that ship to be built, it takes a long time from the time that the keel is laid before that vessel is actually in service and operational within the Canadian Coast Guard. There is a long lead time.

Senator Atkins: Are we talking about an all-purpose ship or are we talking about maybe two different types of ships, one for the coast and one for inland waters?

Mr. Dempsey: If you are talking about marine security as well as the ships ability, to be used as platforms to provide services to Department of National Defence, the RCMP, or the Ontario Provincial Police, then they would have to have the capability to do the job properly with the properly trained people trained on board. You cannot build a single ship to do a single job; it must have multi-tasking capabilities.

Senator Atkins: I know that you have not opposed the idea of arming ships personnel as long as the personnel have been properly trained. Has your opinion changed at all or are you still of the same view?

Mr. Fagan: We are still of the same view, however, it seems to me that there is a senior management focus that has clouded the issue of armed boarding. This is nothing new to us; our ship crews and officers perform this function already. We have armed boarding allowances in our collective agreements.

I do not think it is going to be a big cultural change for us, because we have people trained to do the work. They attend the quarterly RCMP recertification and they support RCMP operations and fisheries officers today.

Mr. Fox: We have also told our members some of whom may have expressed concerns, that they must be psychologically and physically fit, well trained and prepared to do the work.

On separate occasions we have told the committee that within the next five years we will experience a major change due to employee retirement. This situation presents an opportunity for new hires. If we should be given that mandate, then we would begin to select and train people who want to do that type of work. And as for our past activities we have never had any problems. We put ships in at Burnt Church, New Brunswick, when there was gunfire and we did not have any problems with that operation.

The Chairman: In Halifax we were advised by the leadership of the Coast Guard that you folks were adamantly opposed to it and so we wanted to hear from you just how opposed you were and we heard, so, thank you.

Senator Cordy: Just before the meeting started, two Nova Scotians always chat together, so Mr. Fox and I were having a conversation, and he said that listening to the search and rescue people who were here before us this morning, that, indeed, he could have reiterated a lot of the things that they were saying about resources, and, certainly, we have heard those kinds of things.

Is there anything else that you wanted to add in terms of assets and resources that the Coast Guard should have? You spoke about the condition of your ships deteriorating. Is there anything else that you want to add?

Mr. Fox: We feel that everything is based on risk management which, to us, is unacceptable. Even though our crews are trained and qualified the vessels that are sent out are not the best vessels in all operations, and we know that they are being overextended.

Has the service been diminished? I cannot really say that. I think that the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Coast Guard does an excellent job through the rescue coordination centres. We are told that sometimes they are more dependent on U.S. resources where they can to move in to help with rescues because maybe we do not have an 1100 in service near the area. Those are concerns that we feel are real and need to be addressed.

Mr. Mark Boucher, National Secretary-Treasurer, Canadian Merchant Service Guild: Each Coast Guard region is facing a tremendous challenge to meet its current responsibilities, and we do not want to see an expanded mandate without the commitment for the necessary financial resources, training and vessels and equipment that would go along with that mandate.

We are here today about marine security, but this applies to ocean mapping or sovereignty or any other issue that would be obvious fits for the skill set of the personnel at the Coast Guard. We are more aware what it is that the personnel at Coast Guard do rather than the age of the equipment that they are forced to deal with.

Senator Cordy: Mr. Fagan you said that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is using the facts and figures that you have provided for them; that is the first step. Other than using the facts and figures in public documents, what else is the department doing?

Has DFO lead you to believe that additional funding is going to be provided to the Coast Guard?

Mr. Fagan: Many MPs have told us to wait for the budget, and we all know that things can change the day prior to the budget. We are keeping our fingers crossed. We hope that through your efforts and the efforts of different parliamentarians that there will be enough pressure to finally support the financial needs of the Coast Guard.

Senator Cordy: Have you met with the minister?

Mr. Fagan: Yes we have.

Senator Cordy: When we met with Michael Wing in Halifax, he talked about the Swiss Air disaster in Halifax and how it really highlighted the lack of resources available for that mission.

Have there been any changes made since 2003?

Mr. Fox: We are in a worse state today than in 2003. We had a very hard time responding to the Swiss Air disaster. We had to pull in assets from all over the country to deal with that situation. It took the efforts of the RCMP, the Department of National Defence, and the Canadian Coast Guard to manage that effort. Based on the report of that disaster, I think, that if we met a similar disaster today, we would be in an even worse state than we were during the Swiss Air disaster.

Senator Cordy: We always hate disasters, but you always hope that as a result of the disaster, that good things are going to happen. As I understand the disaster, this has not been the case.

Mr. Fox: It is risk management by whoever makes the decision. We have other concerns, such as safety and security. LORAN-C is an example. We put so much into DGPS that we do not have a failsafe mechanism. LORAN-C is a failsafe mechanism.

The Chairman: Please explain those initials.

Mr. Fagan: LORAN-C is a communications system. The Coast Guard has put all of its monies into the GPS. The Americans are investing in this system, and in terms of security, LORAN-C is a low cost system that is failsafe and is a back-up for the system that we have. I think it carries a two-million-dollar-a-year price tag. The Americans are investing in LORAN-C and we hope to do the same.

Senator Banks: Please explain the initials.

Mr. Fox: LORAN-C is a tower-based shore navigation system that you can use as pinpoints to navigate through. DGPS, the global positioning system, uses satellites and signals back and forth to help to guide you on your course.

We have aging birds up there; that is a well known fact. Should one or two be taken out by meteors or whatever, what would we have to depend on if we lost part of the service? We would have to go back to the compass and we do not feel that is adequate for our needs. LORAN-C was brought out years ago to give an enhanced method of navigating.

Mr. Dempsey: LORAN-C was a navigational fix for ships to be able to mark their positions through instruments that are based both ashore and on board the vessels.

Senator Banks: Do you mean just triangulation?

Mr. Dempsey: That is correct, and the new system is called "DGPS'' or differential global positioning system.

Mr. Chairman: I am sorry, colleagues. We have about five minutes left and perhaps if we could get this information in writing.

Senator Cordy: A few years ago, there was an overturned ship off the coast of British Columbia, and the Coast Guard were the first people to arrive. At that time it was not within the Coast Guard's mandate to do the rescue so search and rescue had to come in. Has that changed? I thought it had, but do you know anything about the mandate?

Mr. Dempsey: Are you referring to the Cap Rouge 11 issue where divers were kept from diving on board the vessel and the possible saving of life situation?

Senator Cordy: Yes.

Mr. Dempsey: I would hesitate to comment on that because that is a policy that is the purview of the Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard and the Minister of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Mr. Fox: I would say there has been a change. I believe the policy was reimplemented. They can dive now on these wrecks under certain circumstances, but you should also note that that diving service is only in British Columbia. It does not exist in any other Coast Guard region. There was also an issue concerning the availability of hovercraft, and I believe efforts have been made to ensure that vessel is made available to the Coast Guard.

I cannot comment further than that.

Senator Cordy: Do you have enough resources?

I know the Canadian Coast Guard College is in Nova Scotia and they train the new personnel. Are there enough resources to train existing personnel to keep them up to date?

You made reference to the personnel that is about to retire within the next five years. Has your enrolment increased to make up for the impending retirements?

Mr. Fox: I believe they stopped taking cadets in for one year's program. I think it was last year or perhaps this year.The enrolment is not like it used to be. The college used to be a full-going concern. Since the merger, the college has suffered severe financial problems and it has basically had to go and seek work elsewhere. We train other Coast Guards. We do other work, and I would say that the college is utilized as much as it can be.

Mr. Boucher: Our organization represents the instructors at the Canadian Coast Guard College as well as the officers on the ships. The college, which has a tremendous capacity, is not being fully utilized. The training could be ramped up very easily.

Canada brings in many foreign students that graduate from the institution fully trained in the marine industry. These graduates are recognized as having studied in a first-class facility with a lot of resources and equipment and very highly qualified instructors. Our instructors are used to teach very large classes of students from foreign countries, and as a result, there is little room for expansion for the training of Canadians in the Canadian Coast Guard.

Mr. Fox: You should know that when we first merged, it was put under Human Resources of DFO. It has been since moved back under the Coast Guard, with which we are very pleased.

The Chairman: Thank you very much for coming and appearing before us gentlemen. We expect to see you again in the future. As we all know, this issue is not going to resolve itself overnight, but your input and your advice and counsel is valued by the committee and we appreciate learning from you and getting a better understanding of the issues that we are addressing. We look forward to seeing you again.

The committee adjourned.