Sandra Song Strategic Reserve

The Canadian Reserves and the Uncertainties of Austerity

As countries around the world are affected by increasing austerity policies, governments are trying to apply budgetary restrictions to reduce debt. Consequently, militaries everywhere are being forced to operate with less money, including Canada.

Over the past year there have been discussions of looming budget cuts for the Canadian military.  There have been claims that the Canadian Reserves would experience the greatest backlash with what appears to be a 16 to 25 percent budget reduction from last year. Such financial drawbacks could translate to less growth in the Reserves, and less money distributed for training programs- none of which would be desirable situations for Reserves personnel.

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In February 2013, Minister of Defence Peter MacKay insisted that the Canadian Reserves would see growth despite the impending budgetary cuts. There were efforts to balance the defence budgets so the Reserve Force would not be the gravely affected by the looming cuts.  Mr. MacKay tried to reassure Canadians by saying, “We have no intention of reducing the readiness of our reservists. Just as we are going to prepare our regular force for whatever inevitabilities and whatever challenges may come. That has been the stated intent of our government.”

According to a recent report released by the Department of National Defence, the Canadian Reserve Force is expected to maintain roughly 27,000 members for the next three fiscal years with average pay strength.  It may not demonstrate significant growth, but it restores some confidence that the size of the Reserves is not expected to shrink along with the defence budgets. One concern however, is whether or not the Reserves’ stamina can withstand the effects of the budgetary drawbacks.

 In the coming months, Canadians may want to examine where the new defence budgets are directing the Reserve Force.  As of 1st April 2013, the new fiscal year has come into effect.  Only time will tell if Mr. MacKay’s projected course of action to balance military budgets and the Canadian Reserves’ growth will actualize during this period of austerity.

Sandra Song
Sandra is a Research Analyst at the NATO Association of Canada. She was the former Editor for the Canadian Armed Forces program, and she was previously a Junior Research Fellow for the Strategic Reserve Program in 2013. Sandra has a BA Bilingual Hons. in International Studies from Glendon College, York University. She recently completed her MA in International Conflict & Security at the University of Kent, Brussels School of International Studies. Her dissertation examined the political and legal perspectives of balancing security and liberty in the case of civilian aircraft hijackings that would be used as a weapon for terrorism. Prior to her time at the NAOC, Sandra was contracted as an Ocean Energy Plan Project Consultant for a non-profit organization in Belgium and the Netherlands.