Pole: There’s No Life Like It
October 1, 2007 By Ken Pole
The Canadian Forces' erstwhile recruiting slogan, "there's no life like
it", has taken a dark turn in recent years, thanks to budget cuts that
contributed to a significant degradation of that lifestyle. But a
military career remains, at least for many in Air Command, the best way
to get paid for doing something they love despite ageing and downsized
fleets, some of which are being upgraded as others are replaced. That's
why, despite the proliferation of operators in the airline industry in
recent years and a significant outflow of pilots from the CF, an
equally significant number stayed in air force blue.
pilots and others such as maintenance officers who opted to remain in a
CF uniform have been hard-pressed to meet their tasking thanks to a
problematic shortfall in their ranks. The situation has become so
serious that the CF is on the hunt for more than a few good men and
women. In fact, more than 1,000 pilots are needed if the Department of
National Defence is to continue fulfilling its domestic and overseas
The last time this happened was in the late
1990s, when the private sector was aggressively headhunting. So, in
1998, DND offered a retention bonus of $15,000 annually over five
years. Some two-thirds of the eligible pilots opted in and the
hemorrhage was partly blocked. However, that bonus ran out this summer
and Canadian Forces was scrambling to find fresh incentives.
bonus "has built a great expectation in the pilot community for a
follow-on program and there could be major implications if a
replacement program does not materialize," according to an internal DND
memorandum. "When the CF loses these individuals, it loses a 10-20 year
investment which … forces the CF to fill their intermediate and
senior positions with individuals lacking the … skills or experience
necessary to do the job."
This potentially worrisome development
coincided with the latest round of layoffs by Air Canada and other
operators forced to cut operating costs as traffic continued to slump.
Some of those pilots went to smaller operators (and smaller pay
cheques) while others sought opportunities overseas. Although an exact
tally isn't readily available, more than 30 were drawn back last year
to military careers.