Letter to Wing Commander: visit to 19 Wing Comox

12 January 2016


Colonel Tom Dunne
Wing Commander
19 Wing Comox
P.O. Box 1000, Station Main
Lazo, British Columbia
V0R 2K0


Dear Colonel Dunne,

I am writing to follow up on our visit to 19 Wing Comox from November 2-6, 2015. During this visit, my staff and I were pleased to meet with and listen to concerns and positive feedback from military personnel, civilian employees, Non-Public Funds / Personnel Support Program employees, caregivers and military family members. We left with valuable information about how it is to serve, work and live in Comox. We appreciated the time and openness with which we were met.

I would like to personally thank you and Lieutenant (Navy) Vincent for the hospitality and access offered to my staff and I.

This letter is to expand upon the end of visit debrief I provided to you, on November 5, and highlight some of the concerns that we heard during our visit. I recognize that you and your staff are aware of these issues, but I thought it would be helpful to detail them nonetheless and to offer you our assistance should you wish to follow up on any of these matters. I am a firm believer that collaboration and sharing best practices lead to long-lasting positive changes.

Civilian employees – Staffing and Classification

The issues raised regarding civilian employees in Comox echo the complaints we have heard across the Department of National Defence, they were related to classification and compensation services. At our town hall, it was mentioned that some work descriptions have not been reviewed in many years and managers struggle to access adequate guidance from their Human Resource Officers. Regarding pay services, we heard a number of concerns regarding the lack of responsiveness of the Public Service Pay Centre and the inability for managers to resolve the issues even when escalated. As a consequence, they are unable to provide relevant updates to their employees, leading to frustrations on both sides. Managers reported staffing difficulties they feel are exacerbated by an insufficient number of positions as a result of the Deficit Reduction Action Plan / Strategic Review.

Post Living Differential (PLD)

In Comox, like our previous engagements across the country, we heard concerns at all levels regarding the freezing of this benefit over multiple years. I had multiple engagements with Canadian Armed Forces and Departmental officials over the past two years with regard to this program, in which I flagged the chronic need to address the deficiencies.

Intended Place of Residence (IPR) Benefit

My team and I heard from many members who felt the IPR benefit changes were unfair. The concerns were variously expressed, but can be distilled to two issues: the restrictions regarding local moves and the shorter time limit to exercise the IPR move. The frustration was voiced at each of the town halls attended by CAF members. I am even more concerned about the negative effects these changes have on certain ill and injured members. A released member undergoing a 24-month post-release vocational rehabilitation, even with the discretionary one-year extension, is disadvantaged because the end of the vocational rehabilitation coincides with the expiry of the period to complete the move to the IPR. This simultaneous expiry means that the member must make all decisions, preparations for transition to civilian employment and move during the same period of vocational rehabilitation or risk losing the IPR benefit entirely. In reality, the reduced time to elect and complete the IPR since 2014 is unfairly limiting ill and injured members from benefiting from the programs specifically in place for them. I have raised this issue with the Chief of the Defence Staff.

Relocation and Home Equity Assistance (HEA)

Members and families in Comox expressed their concerns regarding the difficulty to relocate within the timelines required in the Relocation Directive. One of their major concerns was that rental vacancies in Comox were under one per cent and very few rentals are accepting pets, adding to the stressors of a move.

The topic of the HEA benefit was also brought to my attention. Members were concerned about the funding cap of $15,000 from core which remains unchanged since 2003, more than 13 years ago. They believe the reimbursable amount is no longer representative of current housing values.

Integrated Personnel Support Centre (IPSC)

We met your dedicated ISPC team and heard praises from those who benefit from their services. “I cannot say I would be here talking to you if it wasn’t for them (IPSC Staff)”, said one of the members transitioning to civilian life. The issues we heard were never related to the lack of dedication from the team but rather to the lack of flexibility of policies for ill and injured members. For example, the differences in medical coverage under Spectrum of Care and Veterans Affairs Canada coverage and the time limit to complete the move to IPR, raised earlier.

One recurring concern we hear from medically releasing members, including Comox, is the difficulty understanding applicable benefits after release. The uncertainty and the lack of information is a major stressor during this already challenging period of their lives.

Mandatory license fees

During civilian and military town halls, a concern was raised that some mandatory license fees for certification required for employment were not covered by their employer.

CAF action on inappropriate sexual behavior (Operation HONOUR)

Concerns were raised regarding the lack of detail regarding the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre (SMRC). Specifically there was uncertainty about who can use it and about how the response centre will work.

Psychosocial services, Mental Health, Spiritual Services and Special Needs

During our visit, limited specialists’ resources in Comox Valley appeared to be a challenge for psychosocial, mental health, spiritual services and special needs support. Staff expressed the need for training to better support both CAF members and families.

Some topics of interest are addictions, teen mental health, personality disorders, etc. As resources are limited, families find themselves having to go to Vancouver, Nanaimo or Victoria for services.

In closing, I would like to thank you and your staff for your help in the organization and implementation of a very successful constituent engagement visit. In particular, please extend my appreciation to Lieutenant (Navy) Dale Vincent, Mental Health Services Manager, who went above and beyond to facilitate our visit and arrange an evening meeting and presentation on very short notice.



Gary Walbourne



c.c.:     Lieutenant-General M.J. Hood
            Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force

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