The sinking of the Canadian Navy

A maritime nation has let its naval fleet fall apart. Here’s how a once-proud force fell into such an embarrassing state of disrepair

(Andrew Vaughan/CP)

After being damaged in a storm, HMCS Athabaskan is no longer seaworthy. (Andrew Vaughan/CP)

This October, NATO is launching Trident Juncture, its largest and most ambitious military exercise in a decade. The massive land, sea and air exercise will be held in the Mediterranean and will include 36,000 troops from 30 nations. Its goal will be to help the fictitious country of Sorotan, “a non-NATO member torn by internal strife and facing an armed threat from an opportunistic neighbour.” Not surprisingly, this is widely seen as an explicit response to Moscow’s increasingly belligerent pressure on the alliances’ eastern borders. The Canadian government, an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin and the invasion of Ukraine, had planned to send its flagship destroyer, HMCS Athabaskan, as “a strong signal to the Russians,” whose ships and aircraft have also been bumping up against Canada’s territorial claims in the Arctic.

But, last week, it was reported by the Ottawa Citizen that the 43-year-old Athabaskan was no longer seaworthy and is being sent back to Halifax for extensive repairs. Athabaskan is a fitting symbol of the overall state of the Navy: Its engines require an overhaul, the hull is cracked, the decks need replacing, and the weapon systems are questionable. Even Rear Admiral John Newton, commander of Maritime Forces Atlantic, describes his flagship as worn and tired.

In February, during a storm off the East Coast, Athabaskan was damaged and a number of engines failed. After that, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) decided it was no longer capable of weathering the heavy seas of the North Atlantic, so it was sent south for calmer seas. Nonetheless, its engines broke down in Florida, then again in placid Caribbean waters.

“It was garbage. Everything was always breaking,” says Jason Brown, who served as an electrician and technician on Athabaskan for seven years, ending in 2010. “We did 150 to 300 corrective maintenances a month.” Although Brown praises the ship’s crew, he often spent 20-hour days trying to fix equipment. “The two main engines didn’t like to play nice together. It was 4½ years before that issue got fixed.”

Related: Peter C. Newman on his naval career and the ‘bad joke’ of our fleet

Ken Hansen, a research fellow at Dalhousie University’s Centre for Foreign Policy Studies and a former naval officer himself, believes the ship will never leave port again. “The problem is that you couldn’t send Athabaskan anywhere and reliably expect her to get there, or to get home again.”

Until very recently, Athabaskan had two sister ships that could have replaced it at the Trident Juncture exercise. But, in May and June of this year, these were decommissioned as no longer seaworthy. After years of neglect, budget cuts and delays, our maritime forces have no more destroyers. Hansen believes the only message now being sent to Moscow is: “Canada’s Navy has crapped out and they [the Russians] don’t have to be worried.”


Louis S. St.-Laurent in Nunavut in 2008. (Jonathan Hayward/CP)

Compared to its allies, the Canadian Navy is now only one-third the size it should be, given our GDP, and can only play smaller and smaller roles. Stanley Weeks of the U.S. Naval War College, a former U.S. admiral who follows NATO closely, is dismayed at the decline of the RCN. “[Canadian politicians] need more seriousness. Canada is an inherently maritime nation, dependent on overseas markets, especially in Asia Pacific, and, therefore, it has to be a contributing stakeholder, militarily and diplomatically.” He believes American military leaders in the Pentagon have not yet grasped the serious implications of losing the Canadian destroyers. Regardless, “Canadians should worry more about this than Washington.”

Pirates off the coast of Africa? Assisting migrant refugees in the Mediterranean? Evacuating Canadian nationals from a foreign war or disaster? Responding to the growing military tension in the South China Sea? Supporting a United Nations peacekeeping mission? The Canadian Navy is no longer capable of mounting any of these missions without significant help from others.

Even some domestic missions within sight of shore may be beyond the Navy’s ability. For most of the year, Canadian icebreakers would be unable to respond to a Russian challenge of our Arctic sovereignty. The outcome of a major maritime accident, such as a ferry sinking off Vancouver or Saint John, N.B., would depend on how much the American Coast Guard was able to assist. Illegal fishing? People smuggling? An effective response to any of this requires a navy with more assets than we have now.

(Dirk Meissner/CP)

(Dirk Meissner/CP)

Canada is a maritime nation. To the north, east and west, there are oceans, and to the south, the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway. We have more coastline than any nation on Earth; and the largest maritime territory—approximately the same size as the continent of Australia. Yet, inexplicably, we have allowed our Navy to rot so badly, it is now ranked with the maritime forces of Bangladesh.

When he became Prime Minister in 2006, Stephen Harper pledged to end what he called a “decade of darkness” for the Canadian Forces. The outgoing Liberal government was castigated for bungling critical procurement projects and cutting spending. Ironically, after 10 years of Conservative management, Canada effectively no longer has a blue-water navy (a force capable of operating across the deep waters of open oceans).

Losing all our destroyers was bad, but not as bad as losing our supply ships. Canada has relied on only two auxiliary replenishment vessels for over a decade, HMCS Protecteur on the West Coast, and HMCS Preserver on the East. These ships were the backbone of the Navy, ensuring the fleet could travel long distances and, once there, remain on station.

Last year, Protecteur caught fire and broke down off the Hawaiian coast. Backup generators failed and the crew was forced to fight the blaze through the night in darkness. Eventually, the U.S. Navy towed the ship to safety, but only after 20 sailors were injured.

(Hugh Gentry/Reuters)

(Hugh Gentry/Reuters)

Given their critical importance, Navy mechanics worked hard to keep these ships afloat, but they were so old, the manufacturers had long since stopped producing spare parts. Eventually, sailors resorted to scouring eBay, but to no avail. In May of this year, Protecteur was finally decommissioned and Preserver is being stripped out in harbour, leaving Canada’s Navy with no supply-and-refuelling capability.

Related: As the fate of the Protecteur shows, the Navy’s future is dead in the water

In desperation, Ottawa has turned to the Chilean and Spanish governments to lease supply ships that will permit the RCN to at least conduct exercises and maintain proficiency. Keep in mind that, not long ago, Spanish and Canadian navies faced each other in the Turbot War off the Grand Banks. Perhaps recognizing the delicacy of relying on Iberian goodwill, last month, the government announced it intends to sole-source a contract to Davie Shipyards in Lévis, Que., to retrofit a commercial tanker for naval resupply and refuelling. Even this stopgap measure would not be ready until 2017 at the earliest. It is hoped that the long-promised and long-delayed replacements for the supply ships will begin sea trials in 2019. But the new ships are only in the design phase.

Defence Minister Jason Kenney skipped Protecteur’s decommissioning ceremony, but, four short weeks later, he, Justice Minister Peter MacKay and Public Works and Government Services Minister Diane Finley found time to fly out to Halifax to pose for a photo op with a Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone, the military’s replacement for its infamous Sea King helicopters.

The Sea Kings are even older than the Navy’s supply ships. Various governments have been promising to replace them for 30 years. More than a third of the fleet has crashed, killing eight crew and injuring many more. When the Conservatives came to office, there was already a contract to replace the helicopters by 2008.

 (Tim Krochak/CP)

(Tim Krochak/CP)

One would think that, after an additional seven-year delay, Kenney and his colleagues would be somewhat embarrassed to bring attention to yet another procurement failure. But this is election season, so the ministers smiled and posed in front of the helicopter, glossing over the fact that this was actually just an interim test aircraft, that the fully operational helicopters will not arrive for some time, and that the Sea Kings will, unbelievably, need to stay in service for at least another two years.

Related: Military procurement is a national disgrace

What actually remains of Canada’s naval forces? The bulk of it consists of 12 Halifax-class frigates. The now-retired destroyers had crews of around 280, carried two helicopters, were armed with long-range radar and missiles to protect the whole fleet, and contained extensive command centres. The frigates are smaller, have a crew compliment of 220 sailors, carry one helicopter, have shorter-range radar, less firepower and far less capable command abilities. They are more than 20 years old, and are going through an extensive refit and modernization that is expected to be completed by 2017. It’s hoped they’ll remain in service for another 10 to 15 years.

By that time, the Navy plans to have launched a new fleet of up to 15 “Canadian surface combatants.” These ships are intended to replace both the existing frigates and destroyers. But, like the new supply ships, construction is still years away, and they will not enter service until 2025.

Canada also has four submarines, purchased second-hand 20 years ago from the British navy. After a long series of accidents, including a deadly fire—and expenses twice their purchase price on necessary repairs and updates—the vessels did not become fully operational until February of this year. In a recent interview, the commander of the RCN, Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, described their capability as “fragile.” Like the supply vessels, the submarines are so old, finding spare parts can be extremely difficult.

For coastal defence, there are twelve Kingston-class maritime coastal defence vessels. These ships are a fifth the size of the frigates, have about 35 crew, and their primary role is coastal surveillance, search and rescue, fisheries patrols, and training. They are also 20 years old and suffer from chronic engine trouble and must be continually rotated in and out of service. Because of their slow speed and small size, there are plans to replace them with a new class of “Arctic/offshore patrol vessels.” They will be twice the size of the Kingston-class ships, and perform a similar role. Construction on these began only last month at Irving Shipyards, which were paid $288 million just to design the ships. (A similar Norwegian vessel was designed and built for one-third that cost.) The first one is not expected to be completed until 2018.

Although they belong to the Royal Canadian Air Force, the search and rescue aircraft, which are responsible for patrolling Canada’s seven million sq. km of ocean, should be taken into account. Some of these are now 50 years old. There have been plans to replace them since 2002. Thirteen years later, the government only released the request for proposals in March.

For Arctic waters, the Canadian Coast Guard has 13 icebreakers. However, only six are strong enough to be considered capable of truly polar operations, and none is able to travel in the far North during the winter. Of these, CCGS Louis S. St-Laurent is the oldest, at 49. It was originally scheduled for decommissioning in 2000, but it has been necessary to keep it in service with two major refits. During his first press conference as Prime Minister, Harper promised three new heavy polar-class icebreakers to buttress this underpowered and over-aged fleet. This was eventually downgraded to one, CCGS John G. Diefenbaker. Originally estimated to cost $720 million, the budget has since doubled. Its final price will not be known for years, as work has not even begun. It was scheduled to be launched in 2017, but this will likely now be pushed back another five years.

When Diefenbaker is finally commissioned, it will not have an Arctic base from which to operate. Eight years ago, Harper personally announced that Canada would build a deep-water port in Nanisivik, Nunavut. Four years after, due to budget constraints, the Navy downgraded the base to just a refuelling station that will only operate during the summer. With luck, the station may be open three years from now.

(Chad Hipolito/CP)

HMCS Algonquin in port in B.C. (Chad Hipolito/CP)

According to retired officers and naval experts, the RCN has objectively deteriorated to its lowest capability in over 40 years. But the dire state of what remains of Canada’s Navy is not fully apparent until one compares it to other nations. Last fall, Ken Hansen published an analysis in the Canadian Naval Review that did exactly that. In it, Hansen noted that, without destroyers and replenishment ships, the RCN had been dealt a crippling blow.

The loss of the destroyers means the Navy can no longer defend a formation against long-range threats, nor can it provide effective command and control. Without replenishment ships, it’s now impossible to sustain the fleet with the necessary supplies, ammunition and fuel over any distance. This, Hansen pointed out, means the RCN can no longer be considered a “medium global force projection navy.”

Naval forces can be ranked on a nine-point scale called the Todd/Lindberg classification system. At Rank 1 is the United States, whose navy is capable of “global-reach power projection.” The Canadian Forces has long aimed to maintain itself at Rank 3, which the Department of National Defence, in its planning document “Leadmark: The Navy’s Strategy for 2020,” describes as “navies that may not possess the full range of capabilities, but have a credible capacity in certain of them, and consistently demonstrate a determination to exercise them at some distance from home waters.” Without the two key abilities to provide command and control, and resupply, the RCN no longer meets this description. It is no longer a blue-water navy.

So where does the RCN rank? According to Hansen’s analysis, it is now a Rank 5 navy, only capable of “offshore territorial defence.” Other navies that share this capacity include Bangladesh and Indonesia. Both are developing nations, poor enough to be long-term recipients of Canadian aid.

Who is to blame for reducing the Canadian Navy to such dire straits? There’s a long list of culprits, and it’s difficult to single out any one, given that the gradual decline of the Navy can be traced back over decades and through multiple governments.

Many observers point the finger at the Department of Public Works and, to a lesser extent, the Department of National Defence itself. Jointly, they have presided over a procurement system that a recently retired Canadian general describes to Maclean’s as “divorced from reality.” Procurement funds are not allocated on an ongoing basis, preventing regular fleet renewal. (Imagine if FedEx waited until all its delivery trucks broke down, and only then began shopping for replacements.) The bureaucrats’ procurement failures are not limited to the Navy. None of the five major defence purchasing projects in the government’s 2008 Canada First Defence Strategy has been completed.

The military leadership also deserves to shoulder some blame. As Canada’s naval assets relentlessly rusted out to failure, admirals repeatedly assured their minister they would figure out a way to get by. In his recent testimony to the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence, Admiral Newton, with diplomatic understatement, acknowledged that the loss of the supply ships “presents a challenge,” but, in the very next sentence, promised the Navy would be able to “preserve, to some degree, our freedom of manoeuvre across the vast distances of the North Atlantic and in the European theatre.” In the long term, this can-do attitude and unwillingness to speak painful truth to power only made it easier for the political class to squeeze out more and more cuts.

The supply ship HMCS Preserver sits in a dry dock at the Halifax Shipyard in Halifax, Nova Scotia. (Paul Darrow/Reuters)

The supply ship HMCS Preserver sits in a dry dock at the Halifax Shipyard in Halifax, Nova Scotia. (Paul Darrow/Reuters)

Nonetheless, as Newton explained to the committee, “the size of the Canadian Navy is established by governments,” not by officers. When prime minister Jean Chrétien’s Liberal government took office, Canada had 21,400 sailors (including reservists). When the Liberals departed 13 years later, there were only 16,000 left. The military cuts during that period “badly undermined the foundation” of the Navy, as one retired admiral explained. In 2001, when Operation Apollo was launched in the Persian Gulf, the Navy was forced to scrape together crews from its schools and reserves.

The Conservative government let the Navy shrink further. While new ships were announced and re-announced, nothing was actually built. Worse, while failing to replace the aging ships, the government has quietly cut the money that would be needed to actually renew and maintain the fleet. According to parliamentary budget officer Jean-Denis Fréchette, the next government will need to find between $33 billion and $42 billion to put Canada’s military as a whole back on a sustainable footing. By his calculations, at current budget levels, the Canadian Forces can only maintain a military around the size it had in 1999.

Does anyone have a plan to refloat the Canadian Navy? Liberal candidate Andrew Leslie, a retired lieutenant-general and the co-chair of Justin Trudeau’s International Affairs Council, told Maclean’s the situation is a crisis, and claims that fixing the Navy would be “just about the top priority” for a Liberal government. NDP Defence Critic Jack Harris told Maclean’s “the Conservatives had known for years that HMCS Protecteur and HMCS Preserver needed replacing. Yet they delayed, and now the Navy is left scrambling to fill the gap.” Harris promised that improving Canada’s Navy would be a priority of an NDP government. The office of Minister Kenney did not return calls from Maclean’s.

Many Canadians know that, at the end of the Second World War, the Canadian Navy was the fifth-largest in the world. Fewer realize that it has been so badly neglected for so long, it’s now effectively reduced to a coastal defence. Our rusting fleet sits out of sight of most Canadians, over the horizon, but not too far from shore; the sailors aboard struggling to keep the aging ships afloat; the admirals ashore juggling to constantly do more with less. And no one is proposing to fill the massive funding gaps. And replacement vessels remain nothing but unreliable plans on paper.

Meanwhile, in the upcoming election, like they did 10 years ago, the politicians will pose in front of shipyards, talk passionately about Arctic sovereignty and the proud reputation of the Royal Canadian Navy, and re-announce long-promised ships with ever receding launch dates.

—with Meagan Campbell

Note: An earlier version stated the RCN is now classified as a Rank 6 on the Todd/Lindberg Scale, it is in fact a Rank 5.



The sinking of the Canadian Navy

  1. So much for Harper’s bellicose militant jingoism. All mouth, no navy. He’s making Canada the object of international mockery.

    Bring on Oct 19.

  2. Just imagine 10 years in power, and not a keel of a ship on the chocks, unless it’s under repair, it reminds me of that song by Johnny Cash, ” I’ll build it one piece at time, so it don’t cost me a dime “. Steve Harper, ‘ He is just not ready ‘. Putin sends a Nuclear Ice breaker to the north pole, not the magnetic north pole, but the true north pole, and Harper can’t even send a punt a punt up there, and don’t get me started on the F-35s, and them helicopters.

  3. The root cause is obvious, yet didn’t seem to merit inclusion in this article: Canadians largely do not support defense spending, and they do not perceive the existence of security threats. There’s little political upside related to defense spending, and massive political risks. If you don’t have anti-military political elements howling about how it’s taking money from the mouths of children or the health care services of seniors, you’ll have companies lobbying against your procurement decisions because they didn’t get a cut of the contract. We elect our governments democratically, and if people don’t care about military spending, there won’t be military spending.

  4. Canada doesn’t need a Navy. We need a coast guard and ice-breakers.

    • And we don’t really even have those, anymore.

      • Why such concern? Canada can always count on the US Navy and Coast Guard. Can they? They have for years.

        • The US can’t defend itself, much less a country larger than themselves

    • George Wrote:
      “The root cause is obvious, yet didn’t seem to merit inclusion in this article: Canadians largely do not support defense spending, and they do not perceive the existence of security threats”

      followed immediately by EmilyOne proving his point with:

      “Canada doesn’t need a Navy. We need a coast guard and ice-breakers.”

      George, another problem is that Canada won’t buy “off the shelf” from another nation capable of building such ships. Imagine the outrage (particularly in Quebec) if Harper simply called South Korea and placed an order. (South Korea known for quickly building large ships capably)

      Politics, and apathy did our Navy in…………..

      • Root causes? Why would any reasonable person EVER consider something as stooopid as root causes, eh James?

    • Then I’d say the time is ripe for the US to invade and annex Canada like we tried back in the late 18th century time frame. Only problem with that plan is that Canada now has so many socialists hooked to the teat of big government that the annexed population would be a net drain on the expanded US

      Bottom line, any nation that doesn’t maintain a defense force adequate to defend its land and its people is like an unarmed person only surviving because the criminal hasn’t yet chosen to target them. The US can only defend so many other nations who have chosen to let their own defense forces wither on the vine. Canada is just one on a long list of such nations. We might decide that Canada is worth defending over European nations because we share a border…or we may not. Prioritization of available resources may mean that Canada will be sacrificed because US military resources are needed more urgently elsewhere. Pick up a gun and defend your own soil Canadians; we Americans will probably be busy elsewhere the day the wolf or bear comes knocking at your door. When that day comes, you go to war with the military you actually have, not the military you belatedly realize that you really need. Good luck spinning up an adequate military force in your time of need..

  5. Anybody with even mild interest (and half a brain) should have noticed that the government a couple of years ago announced a long-term policy to rectify the situation described. The assigned shipyards are only now getting their butts off the ground and starting construction. One of the serious problems, that of production continuity in shipyards, goes right back to Trudeau the first and Chretien. For both of the the services had zero priority so don’t dump the bucket on Harper – also the period you are talking about Harper was pulling us out of a deep recession when even his supporters understood that there are priorities and the priorities then which centered on the automakers. As I said the reason the navy and the RCAF is behind the curve is that Trudeau I and Chretien for years placed national defence at the bottom their priorities. And major re-equipment is a very long term process, due in part to Supply and services and the civilians in national defence. Finally, during the spat in Afghanistan the Army had priority for new equipment as the sorry state of their vehicles allowed IED to penetrate the bottom of the vehicles, a fact which put many a soldier into hospital or the graveyard./ So much for the uneducated opinions on this thread, quite a part from Emily who is always negative on the issue. As for making making a Canada a mockery in defence circles, the Libs had years of practice at it pushing the “peacekeeping” operations as if they were of any use.

    • Emily is realistic. Tank-counting is useless

      • Good luck defending your nation with spitballs and slingshots

    • Blacktop, you should know by now that no matter what Harper does….he will be criticized for it.

      1. He bought “heavy lift” aircraft and it cost a few billion…result, both the NDP and Libs attacked him as a warmongering spendthrift.

      2. He contracted for the construction of warships…and again castigated as a waster of money…and warmonger….Oh…and he should have done it sooner.

      Can’t win with military procurement……..

  6. The primary reason the navy has been (properly) allowed to deteriorate is that since the end of the Soviet Union there has been no real defence reason to have most of it. Modern navies are primarily for war against other modern navies. That hasn’t happened since 1945- nuclear weapons deterring the general wars the Canadian navy was and is designed for. It’s current missions are optional and appear largely designed to give it something to do while anachronistic thinking about “the defence of Canada” keeps the tax dollars rolling in.

    The NSBP is on track to be the largest boondoggle in Canadian history. If it provides half the ships called for at only double the cost we’ll be lucky. Ironically the NSBP may be a bigger threat to Canada than whatever threat is used to justify the ships.

  7. Actually there are 252 crew onboard a frigate with four “command” frigates taking 262. They are plagued with problems such a generator failures, air conditioning system incapable of cooling all the new equipment outdated and totally unfixable air conditioning control systems,even toilets that are being replaced with toilets as per a penitentiary. Main cruise diesel engine is 30 years old, main gas turbines 1970 tech

  8. I want to know what idiot picked the Cyclone for a replacement.
    The thing is incapable of floating on water.
    A helicopter with a gearbox that can’t meet the 30 minute run dry time and somebody at NDHQ thinks that the Cyclone is an appropriate helicopter to replace the Sea King.
    I wish I could waste money like the Department of National Defence.

    • the best helicpoter was the one proposed by Brian Mulroney…the EH101.

      As a maritime helo, it had three engines and longer endurance. It could maintain a hover while doing Anti-submarine warfare if an engine failed. Two engine helo’s like the Sea King or cyclone will simply ditch in the water if they lose power in one of their engines.

      Want someone to blame for not having the proper helo’s? Again….it was the Liberals. They have always been opposed to spending money on the military….unless of course, they could find some way to get their “cut” either through brown envelopes or political benefit. Liberals never change.

  9. History repeating itself as usual. Canada had next to nothing as a military before we answered the call of duty in WW1. Many lives were lost early in the war due to a lack of equipment training and personnel. We became a nation during that period. Once WW1 was over, “Oh well, we don’t need as much military…Cut back time! By the time WW2 came around and again, Canada answered the call of duty, many lives were lost due to a lack of equipment, training and personnel Again! After WW2…Cut back time! What frustrates the hell out of me, is that the Military has been used and abused as a political pion by various political parties in parliament for decades, and the fact that many Canadian citizens believe that “The Americans are there to look after us” And they think the US will do it at a bargain price? Wake up and smell the coffee Canada! Freedom and sovereignty comes at a price! Start being time we show our politicians that Defense spending is not a waste of money. It has to be considered as insurance for the sovereignty of our country! The more it drags on, the more expensive it gets…Upkeep is always cheaper than fixing neglect.

    • Save us from who? The only country that’s ever attacked us is the US!

      And we didn’t ‘answer any call’…..the Brits ordered us to war. We didn’t have to go, but we did.

      However…..WWII is long over….. The Navy is outdated. Time to move on. .

    • History doesn’t repeat itself. Every situation is unique. Realizing that Stalin wasn’t Hitler allowed the US to win the Cold War instead of fighting a hot one.

      Having a larger and better trained military would have cost Canada lives in both world wars. The army and air force would have been deployed earlier with poorer gear and without benefiting from British experience. The result would have higher casualties. MacKenzie King realized this which is why he did whatever he could to keep the army out of major battles for as long as he could.

  10. a sad story……a once-proud maritime nation reduced to the naval equivalent of beggary….with such a vast seacoast, Canada needs to invest far more money in its navy….other nations are watching, and will not hesitate to violate its territory if push comes to shove in the contest for resources….already there are commentators in the US who complain that Canada is getting a free ride on defense

    • I’m always curious how the “steal our resources” action would play out. Do the bad guys sneak in at night and establish a gold mine? Do they set up an oil rig without anyone noticing? How does the profit from whatever they steal offset sanctions and the cost of war? Would all this extra cash needed to steal resources not get more by simply buying them?

      The “armed robbery” motive for general war hasn’t made sense since at least the mid 1800s but without pretending it’s at least possible there’s very little reason for the navy and much of the rest of the CF.

  11. This is disheartening – I didn’t really think it could get so much worse when I used to receive letters from my then spouse, writing about a quiet night standing watch aboard ship in some foreign port, listening to the rivets popping out of the deck… This is utterly appalling, and as a nation with so very much coastline, it’s an embarrassment.

    And speaking of embarrassment, Maclean’s, some editing is required… ships don’t have a ‘compliment’ of crew. They have a ‘complement.’ You can look that up.

  12. The problem isn’t the Conservatives, it is the media (you guys). Everytime the government tries to make a big military procurement it gets treated as a public works project. The media and the opposition parties want a formal bidding process and contracts to be tendered… The government will pick someone, but you media people, who happen to actually be the smartest people in the world and foremost experts in all things, do half and hour of research and publicly destroy the governments decision. The government then starts the process over… and this goes on for years. Finally when a Canadian company finally passes you experts after 20 years or so, it is discovered that they don’t have the infrastructure, let alone sufficient personel with the right skills, to get the job done. As a result, the government usually ends up paying the company to build the infrastructure, and hire the appropriate people to get the job done and the costs go through the roof (this is happening with the navy right now). Why do we operate like this? We operate like this because our self annointed media experts (you guys) get writing your articles, and get people riled up about things you don’t understand (F35s for example). It would be great if you guys would stop and realise that the lack of equipment really hurts the men/women in uniform. Check your egos, and go beat up on something else to get your promotion. We should be electing you guys every 4 years.

  13. This article, and Scott Gilmore’s others, made me feel like… screaming, crying and vomiting. Anger at all thoses who did little or nothing, crying because I can’t see anyone currently in power doing anything about it and throwing-up because I believe in that old saying – ‘There will always be a military in your country; if not yours, then somebody elses.’ With luck who ever takes us ‘under’ their wing will be nice to us.

    • The CF has never been bigger, relatively when compared to our main allies and “opponents”. They all cut far more when the Cold War ended.

      The CF was much much smaller in the past (before 1914) when the threat of invasion was far more realistic and we didn’t get “somebody elses military”. The CF has since the 1940’s, been primarily for overseas operations not the defence of Canada. Even NORAD exists to stop Soviet/ Russian retaliation to a US first strike and not to stop a “sneak attack”.

      We could (and should) cut defence spending another 15-20% and cut 15,000 regulars and no one outside of car dealers, tattoo shops and restaurateurs near bases would notice. It certainly wouldn’t make us less secure.

  14. Things are always more complex than they appear.

    The reality is, Canada does not have the manpower to defend it self against the likes of a China.

    If China felt that they wanted to “discover” this “new world” as the Europeans did with North and South America just a few hundred years ago, what could we really do to stop them?

    What protects Canada from this reality is the fact that there is most likely an “understanding” with the U.S. that the Americans will not allow any harm to be done to us. And in return, we pretty much run our country in a manner that is most beneficial to the U.S., and at the same time allows Canadians to live quite comfortably, considering the massive amount of resources Canada possess while being virtually unpopulated.

    Signing off on the TPP is another way that we will continue to pay rents to America for their intellectual property while these “rights” slowly lose their ability to cross borders as globalization as we know it comes to an end.

    If any country needed to have nuclear weapons to protect itself from an attack by another country that overwhelms it by sheer numbers, Canada is it.

    The Russians have made it very clear that they would not be reluctant to use their nuclear weapons if anyone (China) ever considered doing anything foolish.

    It is impossible for Canada to build up an armed forces and military complex large enough to defend ourselves against the likes of a China.

    If any country needs a nuclear option, Canada is it. But with that not being a possibility, an “arrangement” with the U.S. is our best option.

    So, I’m sure that Canada will somehow either buy a couple hundred billion dollars of military hardware from the U.S. (a kind of protection money but given in a manner that makes it all appears above board).

    Building the ships needed for our navy could be a great fiscal stimulus project (and fiscal stimulus is going to be massive once we enter this upcoming recession), but with the current rules of globalization, the reality is, the contract would be won by some other country that can produce these ships at a much lower cost than they could be built by Canadians. So, it might be more “effective” to just find a way to give the money to the U.S. and thank them for protecting this massive land mass for us (and them).

    • NAFTA already ensures that Canada cannot use any of its natural resource advantages for its own benefit because we must ensure that whatever price is charged to Canadians for these resources must be the same price charged to Americans.

      • Scott,

        I would love to know your thoughts in regards to the above comments I’ve posted.


  15. Canada should pull at least some of its weight defending the shores of and the Oceans bordering North America…

    None of the naval procurement and operations budgets that have been approved by any of Canada’s govts 1995 to 2015 have come close to meeting 25% of this objective!!

    Because of their consecutive grievous inadequacies these budgets have resulted in the de-toothed, shamefully impotent RCN of today…

    Instead of planning to build surface combatants that will be dangerously under-armed, exceedingly poorly defended and lacking in versatility…. basing ships on a designed in Canada hull and as-cheap-as-possible weapons, radars and combat systems…

    … Canada should be joining the US’s new DDG 51 AMDR surface combatant procurement programme…. and building versions of these ships- under license- in Canada ….

    With their ultra high sensitivity AMDR radars for 21st century AAW; world-beating sonars and ASW combat systems… and significant NSF/Land Attack capabilities, the new, AMDR equipped DDG 51s are the surface combatants Canada needs in order to honorably and equitably assist the US defending North America, and collaborating with NATO allies on the world stage…

    US Navy DDG-51 and DDG-1000 Destroyer Programs:



    • With the DDG51 class, you would get parts commonality with US forces, and have at your disposal, a workforce and technical support resources with 25 years experience with the class, which has been in steady production and evolution since the start of the 1990’s.
      The DDG-1000 class is likely to be a showboat, a surface analogue of the Seawolf class submarine; which the builders jokingly refer to as the “Pierwolf” since that’s where it spends most of it’s time.

  16. Amazing that Mr. Gilmore mentions Conservative mismanagement of the Navy fleet. However, what about the Liberal mismanagement? Or are they among the “too many to blame?”

    It was the Conservatives, 20 years ago, who agreed to purchase replacement helicopters. Cretien then came into office and backed out of the deal, at great cost to the Canadian people. He then proceeded to dessimate Naval assets and personnel. It’s been a cleanup effort ever since. In fact, it’s nice we finally have new helicopters! It’s about time.

  17. Stop wasting tax payers’ money to sustain jobs that have no future!!! The current assets procurement philosophy of lasting our ships over 2 generations worth of life span is not doing any favours or offering any future for our younger generations.

    Either outsource it like the British are doing, or sell our ships on the used market after a few years like a very small country like Neatherland is doing; Neaderland by the way is one of the largest world ship builders of the world, and which all 2nd and 3rd world countries of buying from them their used ships. Have you see the navy from the south-american countries!?

    No wonder we are using the Chilean Navy to replace our supply ships (Protector etc.). How can Chile, a country a fourth our size GDP and otherwise, can afford this incredible Navy they have right now?

  18. Wait a minute…if it’s so bad why did all senior naval staff officers and admirals told successive ministers of defense that everything was fine, sailors were happy and everybody got promoted????

  19. I read this article of the Navy being in very bad shape and it is true. I have sailed with the destroyer HMCS Terra Nova in the 80`S and it is very sad to see the way the Armed Forces have been treated over the years. The Conservatives and the Liberals are to blame for this mess. Every time the goverment either the PC`S or Liberals come to power they publish a White Paper on defence it is a big fanfare and nothing is done about it.I served 20 years in the military(15 regular-5reseves) and it the same thing over again. Prime example Afghanistan Soldiers were sent with barely anything( Green Combat Clothing to start——Sticking lie a SORE THUMB because the PC`S sold the Desert Uniforms a year before 9/11 they were deemed unisesary for the soldiers , not enough AMMO that the soldiers had to borrow AMMO from the British. The Goverment in the 80`S was asked by U.S if they could buy 10 years old destroyers (15) at a cheap price until the DND get new ships and the refit would be done in San Diego and the PC`S refused. These are some of the examples and there are more, but going further into it i would have to type all week long. So HURRAY for the Defence Minister it is another HOGWASH for the goverment either Liberals or Conservatives in the next election.

  20. Here are my thoughts on what our Future Canadian Naval Fleet should look like:
    (B=1 Billion dollars):
    12 X Type 216 SSK’S (6 Per Coast) (1)—————————————————$20B
    15 X BAE TYPE 26 FRIGATES (8 East/7 West)-(2)———————————-$40B
    3 X QUEENSTON CLASS AOR’S (2 East/1West)—————————————-$5B
    2 X RESOLVE CLASS INTERIM AOR’S (1 Per Coast)——————————-$1.4B
    4 X JUAN CARLOS SEA-LIFT LHD’s (2 East/2 West) (3)—————————–$3B
    2 X TRIESTE CLASS SEA-LIFT LHA’s (1 Per Coast) (3)—————————-$3.2B
    8 X ARTIC OFF-SHORE PATROL SHIPS (4 PER Coast)—————————–$6.4B
    Total estimated costs would be around $79B for this new Fleet. These costs are close to the “New” costs pegged for the Ship Procurement Stratagy. Actual cost’s for Canada’s Future Navy are probably closer to the $100B mark over the next 25-30 yrs.

    1. The German Type 216 SSK’S have double hulls and are equipped with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) systems, giving it similar capabilities as a Nuclear Submarine Able to remain under water for weeks IOT reach crisis areas. Like an SSN, it has the ability, to launch Cruise Missiles, to deploy Special Forces with under-water delivery vehicles and un-manned under-water vehicles. The Class is designed to be extremely quiet due to it’s propulsion system and, through the use of sound absorbing coating on the hull. More Submariners would have to be recruited as well. These Submarines are a “game-changer” for Canada’s future National Defense. Nuclear Submarines would be ideal for our Northern Defense, but politically a non-starter.

    2. The Type 26 Frigate is simply the best fit for Canada’s Main Fleet Navy. The ship exceeds Canada’s high-level requirements, and will be deployable worldwide for extended periods, undertaking a wide range of roles from high intensity conflict to humanitarian assistance, including anti-submarine warfare and air defence. The Type 26 is flexible, versatile and highly survivable with an extremely low acoustic signature. It meets all Canadian requirements and accommodates Canada-specific modular design sub-systems and open systems architecture. The same features will minimize ownership costs and facilitate Canadian industry playing a major role in through-life support and upgrades, delivering long term economic benefit to Canada. It’s low acoustic signature, crucial in evading detection from submarines, will translate into safety and survivability of the crew, and the ability of the ship to successfully complete its mission. No other ship design compares for Canada’s requirements, including the FREMM Class and the German Type 125/MKS 180. The Type 26 CSC will be the right solution for Canada.

    3. The Spanish Juan Carlos/Italian Trieste Class LHD’s/LHA’s will be utilized as Command & Control Ships. The Austrailian Navy have procured 2 Juan Carlos Class LHD’s, already operational in their Navy. These ships are fitted with up to 4 x LCM’s each and will carry, at a minimum, at least one Canadian Army regiment with room for up to 46 Leopard II Tanks per ship. They both can carry LAV lll’s and all support vehicles. Each carries a minimum of 6-8 Chinook Heavy Lift Helicopters, and/or up to 15 Attack/Reccon Helos with up to 24 VSTOL Aircraft (8A Harrier/F35B), with a significant UAV capability. They have substantial Triage Hospitals with room for up to 30-40 patients along with X-Ray and Dental facilities. A significant Disaster Relief & Humanitarian Capability with the ability to carry large containers. These ships will give Canada a potent Sealift Capability. Canada however, must have enough Naval Personnal to man these ships. Recruitment of more sailors into the Navy, possibly bringing up Naval Strength by at least 3000, would be essential. SPANISH JUAN CARLOS CLASS LHD ITALIAN TRIESTE CLASS LHA
    26,000 Tons-Length-230.8m 32,000 Tons-Length-245m

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