The bean counters with the Royal Canadian Navy are no doubt still figuring out the impact of postponed military capital spending announced in last week’s federal budget.
What the Conservative government’s decision means in the short term for the Pacific fleet and its multitude of local suppliers is still anyone’s guess. But it could well change the way our West Coast navy does business.
As they move to balance the budget next year before the federal election, the Conservatives have planned on delaying by three years, or longer, such major expenditures as replacement of the navy’s supply ships – Esquimalt-based HMCS Protecteur is one of two in Canada – and our aging Sea King helicopters.
Some national defence experts believe all branches of the Canadian military will be tightening their belts on operations in an attempt to convince the feds to restore some of the funding down the road.
Our region counts on the military to provide a boost to the local economy. Any reductions in discretionary spending by the navy, the army reserve unit based at Bay Street Armoury and the air force helicopter squadron at Victoria International Airport could have a significant effect on Capital Region businesses.
We worry that the remaining technical upgrades on our naval frigates – work being done by Victoria Shipyards – might be in jeopardy. We also wonder whether our frigates will make fewer trips abroad, for which they need initial provisioning locally.
Similarly, our Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels, six of which are stationed at Esquimalt, could potentially be deployed less, meaning decreased part-time wages for local naval reservists.
The trickle-down economic effect may take time to materialize in Greater Victoria, but we shouldn’t be surprised if it comes to pass.
We don’t doubt political motivation is playing a role in the feds’ aim to balance the budget by 2015-16. With that in mind, and with no Conservative member of parliament to plead our economic case, the chances of the feds altering course on the military budget move appear slim.