Stephen Harper pledges expansion of military reserves
Conservative leader announces series of proposals to boost military reserves in Fredericton campaign stop
Conservative Leader Stephen Harper unveiled a plan to boost the number of military reservists to 30,000 in the next four years during a campaign stop in Fredericton on Monday.
Under the proposal, the Conservatives would accelerate the expansion of the primary reserve from 24,000 personnel within their next mandate, if re-elected, instead of by 2028 as previously announced under the Canada First Defence Strategy.
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The plans include streamlining and shortening the recruiting process and training reserve personnel from Central Canada on the Great Lakes region closer to their homes.
Harper also pledged predictable, sufficient and sustainable budgets for reserve units, and improved training for reservists to respond to domestic emergencies, such as floods and forest fires.
He appeared with Fredericton Conservative candidate Keith Ashfield on Monday morning at the Fredericton Inn, where he announced six new measures to assist reservists or help more Canadians participate in the Canadian Armed Forces reserves.
A larger primary reserve will significantly augment the "surge capacity" of the CAF in emergencies and give it a broader capacity to assist in the protection of Canada's sovereignty, respond to national emergencies such as floods and forest fires, to and better protect Canada's coastal and offshore waters, Harper said in a statement.
"These measures will provide the Canadian Armed Forces with the strategic depth they need to respond to varied and sometimes multiple, national and international emergencies and challenges."
The Conservatives are also promising to expand the role of reserve units in ceremonial and other public duties, and to invest in reserve infrastructure and regional armouries.
"These initiatives will permit the Canadian Armed Forces to draw on the varied skillsets possessed by Canadians in the private sector who are anxious to serve their country through service in the military," Harper's statement said, citing "cyber capability" as one example.
The Conservative leader made the announcement in Fredericton, a riding that includes the 5th Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown.
CFB Gagetown is the second largest military base in Canada and the largest military facility in Eastern Canada.
Keith Ashfield has held the Fredericton riding since 2008. He is a former provincial MLA and cabinet minister, and he also served as Harper's fisheries minister.
When the federal election was called, the Conservatives held eight of New Brunswick's 10 seats.
Harper declined to answer any questions about his former chief of staff, Nigel Wright, who is being cross-examined today at the Mike Duffy trial, saying he only wanted to talk about the security of the country and the economy.
Duffy has pleaded not guilty to 31 charges of fraud, breach of trust and bribery related to expenses he claimed in 2013 as a senator and later repaid with money from Wright.
In the evening, Harper and his wife Laureen celebrated India's independence with a visit to BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, a Hindu temple in Toronto.
Harper touted the Conservatives' record on immigration and improved relations with India to a crowd of 600 people.
He was accompanied by Chris Alexander, the Conservative incumbent for Ajax, Ont., and at least nine other candidates running for election in the Greater Toronto Area.
Since the beginning of the campaign, Harper has made five trips to the GTA, a vote-rich area he hopes will propel his party to another victory.
With files from CBC's Hannah Thibedeau