Politics

Conservatives grill Sajjan over departure of sixth military vice-chief since 2015

The Canadian military is back in the market for a second-in-command. Lt.-Gen. Jean-Marc Lanthier announced Thursday that he will retire this summer, less than a year after being installed as the vice chief of the defence staff.

Lt.-Gen. Jean-Marc Lanthier is retiring after less than a year on the job

Brigadier General Jean-Marc Lanthier attends a ceremony honouring soldiers who participated in the war in Afghanistan, Friday May 9, 2014 at CFB Valcartier. Canada's military is searching for its sixth second-in-command in under four years following Lanthier's surprise decision to retire this summer. (Clement Allard/The Canadian Press)

The Canadian military is back in the market for a second-in-command.

Lt.-Gen. Jean-Marc Lanthier announced Thursday that he will retire this summer, less than a year after being installed as the vice-chief of the defence staff.

He is the sixth vice-chief to serve in the post since 2015 under Gen. Jonathan Vance, the military's top commander. The Conservative opposition says that's cause for concern.

Lanthier's departure surprised many within the Department of National Defence because he was seen as a possible successor to Vance.

His resignation was first reported Thursday by Postmedia. In a statement released later in the day to CBC News, Lanthier said he's had a "long, challenging and fulfilling career" but he is ready to spend more time with his family.

His replacement has not yet been named.

Conservative defence critic James Bezan opened a House of Commons committee hearing on Thursday, in Lanthier's presence, by expressing dismay about the revolving door in his office.

"What's going on here that we have such a high turnover?" he asked. "Is it political leadership? Is it military leadership? What's the issue?"

Lanthier's departure, Bezan said, is "not providing a morale boost to our troops."

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan skirted the question and said the vice-chief is one member of a well-trained, well-supported team.

Lanthier replaced former lieutenant-general Paul Wynnyk, who resigned abruptly following a dispute with Vance.

Wynnyk was one of a series of top officers who filled the second-in-command job while the criminal case against former vice-admiral Mark Norman played out.

After a breach of trust charge was withdrawn against Norman last May, Vance indicated he was prepared to re-appoint Norman to the vice chief's post. The former admiral chose to resign instead.

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