‘I need people’: Canadian Navy, coast guard need hundreds to man new ships

It’s been billed as the largest-ever investment in the Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Coast Guard during a time of peace.

Over the next decade, the federal government will invest tens of billions of dollars into new science ships, icebreakers, supply vessels and warships.

Yet as they prepare to welcome those new ships with open arms, given the age of their current fleets, top officials at both the navy and coast guard are wrestling with a difficult but critical question: Who will sail the vessels?

That is because the Royal Canadian Navy and Canadian Coast Guard need hundreds more sailors between them. And while the situation isn’t critical yet, it has become one of the top priorities for both services.

“It’s good to get all those resources, all this new technology and new ships,” Canadian Coast Guard Commissioner Mario Pelletier said in a recent interview. “But without people, I’m not going to be able to operate or to support or to manage the operations. So I need people.”

The coast guard says up to 15 per cent of its positions are currently vacant, representing a shortfall of roughly 1,000 people. While that alone is cause for concern, the organization released a business plan last year that noted the workforce is also getting older.

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