Feds short hundreds of million in repair, maintenance of defence infrastructure

image.jpg

The federal government has been chronically underspending on the repair and maintenance of Canada's defence infrastructure for years, leaving officials to play catch-up on maintaining aging roads, runways, jetties and thousands of buildings across the country.

The Defence Department has the largest infrastructure portfolio of all federal departments, with 20,000 buildings, 5,500 kilometres of roads and 3,000 kilometres of sewers and pipes for water and heat, most of it located on military bases across Canada.

The department is supposed to invest 1.4 per cent of the replacement value of the portfolio in maintenance and repair each year, which works out to around $364 million based on the current $26-billion replacement value.

Yet reports and figures from the Defence Department and the federal auditor general show the target has not been hit since at least 2010 and that the cumulative shortfall since 2015-16 alone is $247 million.

Rob Chambers, the Defence Department official responsible for infrastructure, says his priority is ensuring the health and safety of service members and that military training and operations are not disrupted.

At the same time, Chambers says a decision in 2016 to centralize the management of all military infrastructure in his office is adding much-needed flexibility and optimism over how the portfolio is handled.