Want to know keep up-to-date on what's happening in Victoria? Subscribe to our daily newsletter:
General Wayne Eyre spoke on national security, housing for military families, Ukraine, mental health, and more
Canada’s top soldier made a brief appearance this week in Esquimalt, spending a night on HMCS Ottawa and meeting service members at CFB Esquimalt before speaking to a full theatre audience on what Canada’s military needs to do to meet the challenges of tomorrow.
Gen. Wayne Eyre’s speech at the Colliers Theatre at Work Point Barracks Wednesday was attended by over 100 people, including many current and former military members in attendance. The event was organized by the Canadian International Council’s Victoria branch.
Eyre spent nearly an hour afterwards answering wide-ranging questions from the audience, including Northern security, submarine procurements, the war in Ukraine, Canada’s military industrial capacity, retention strategies, as well as mental health in the armed forces.
Regarding the balloon incidents earlier this year, Eyre said the successful downing of a flying object over Yukon by American F-22s under his command was NORAD’s first kinetic engagement since 1958.
Geopolitical tensions are heating up since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and recent revelations from leaked Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) documents about suspected Chinese state interference in Canadian elections. On Friday, a CSIS spokesperson told CBC News that foreign interference, particularly from the Chinese Communist Party, is the greatest strategic threat currently facing Canada’s national security.
Eyre, who visited Ukraine earlier this month, also spoke at length about impending threats from Russia and China as well as his concerns with increasing polarization and climate change at home and abroad. The military must modernize and do better in retention in order to meet this threat, he said.
“We’ve got a $30 billion deficit in defense infrastructure, $7 billion in just routine upkeep, and then $23 billion in recapitalization,” Eyre said. “That’s a lot of money, but that speaks to decades of underinvestment.”
Eyre signalled that the Canadian Armed Forces would soon be ready to announce a housing allowance as well as a pay raise. The military’s cost of living allowance designed to account for postings in higher-cost cities has been frozen since 2009, according to CityNews.
Greater Victoria has 709 units for military members and families, and more than 745 local households are waiting for military housing, per the Times Colonist. Many military members live in civilian communities such as Esquimalt proper, in increasingly tight and expensive housing markets.
Last month Premier David Eby spoke to PM Justin Trudeau about the idea of housing them, and relieving some pressure on the civilian markets, by densifying housing at CFB ESquimalt and on other federally owned military land. The Department of National Defense confirmed shortly after that it intends to build an 84-unit apartment complex within CFB Esquimalt.
Retired Gen. Cam Ross, who was in the audience, commended Eyre on his willingness to engage and connect with Canadians in events such as these.
“That’s exactly the direction I’ve given senior leadership: get out there,” Eyre said in response. “We’re coming out of the pandemic. We can get out there and engage again.”