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The Canadian Navy Says It Has A Critical Shortage Of Civilian Staff

Internal documents warn that civilian staffing "is at or below the minimum levels" needed.

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After years of cuts, the Royal Canadian Navy says it's struggling to meet its basic mandate because of a shortage in cash and personnel.

Andrew Vaughan / The Canadian Press

Maritime Forces Pacific, or MARPAC, warned military headquarters last year its greatest risk is insufficient funding after years of "unrelenting reductions."

This warning is found in a three-year business plan obtained by BuzzFeed Canada in an access to information request.

"MARPAC, as a result of (cuts), is now at or below the minimum levels of military and civilian personnel to deliver the required services," reads the business plan.

The biggest shortage appears to be in civilian workers. Over several years of cuts, former Defence Minister Peter MacKay said he was targeting the back-end bureaucracy instead of frontline troops.

In fact, in 2011 then Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie, now a Liberal MP, called for the military to have "more teeth and less tail" in a sweeping review.

But it wasn't just bureaucrats who were cut.

The reductions have led to key shortages in critical areas of support operations, according to the documents. Roles ranging from engineers to janitors are in short supply. Without these back-end jobs, from working warehouses to fixing equipment, the navy isn't able to send ships out to sea.

And with a wave of baby boomers continuing to retire, just filling existing roles is a struggle.

Maritime Forces Base Esquimalt was singled out as being particularly hard-hit. Civilian personnel fell from 920 to 708, a reduction of one quarter.

Chad Hipolito / The Canadian Press

The report says the Conservative government set a target in 2012 of getting down to 24,000 civilian personnel across the entire Armed Forces, but reductions went even further. As of last year, there were only 22,900.

Adding further pressure is that the navy has more vessels to deal with. Canada's submarine fleet is functional after years of delays and the Halifax-class frigates are coming out of upgrade work.

MARPAC's total budget this year is about $360 million.

The report was prepared under the Conservative government but it now falls in the lap of Liberal Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

The Liberal government has some room to maneuver because it has not promised immediate balanced budgets as the Conservatives did. But both opposition parties and experts are skeptical that the Liberals will even be able to meet their more modest target of a $10 billion deficit this year.

BuzzFeed Canada has reached out to Sajjan's office and will update this story if we receive a reply.

Paul McLeod is a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC.

Contact Paul McLeod at

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