Ombudsman Releases Findings of an Examination of Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake

Ottawa, July 9, 2013 – The Ombudsman for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces, Mr. Pierre Daigle, today released the results of a special investigation into cost of living and housing issues affecting Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake, Alberta.
 

An Examination of Canadian Forces Base Cold Lake (4 Wing) details findings and recommendations from a comprehensive investigation launched last November after 30 complaints by Canadian Forces members, DND civilians and their families were lodged with the Ombudsman during his outreach visit to the base in May 2012. The office of the Ombudsman also received 21 complaints from CFB Cold Lake personnel between 2009 and 2012.
 

In recent years, the cost of living in Cold Lake has increased significantly – driven largely by growth in the region’s oil and gas industry. Rising costs have had a ripple effect on the Cold Lake Defence community.
 

Findings

Second jobs and releases from military

  • A large number of CFB Cold Lake personnel have second jobs to help make ends meet. Estimates range from 10 to 35% (35% confirmed in one Squadron).
     
  • CFB Cold Lake has a high military release rate (8.33% in 2012; on track to be 12-13% in 2013). 
     
  • Some CF personnel are opting to retire in order to avoid Cold Lake postings.
     

Military housing

  • The City of Cold Lake and region has a housing rental availability rate of just 1 percent.
     
  • Forty four percent of CF members live on base at Cold Lake (compared to 15-18 % nationally).
     
  • Military housing rents in Cold Lake are roughly double that of comparable Air Force bases in Greenwood, Nova Scotia and Bagotville, Quebec.
     
  • Military homes at CFB Cold Lake were mostly built 60 years ago.
     
  • Only 18 of 853 of military homes (Residential Housing Units) are assessed as being in good condition; 486 in fair condition; 349 in poor condition.
     
    • 828 homes have warnings of possible asbestos (in vermiculite insulation) in sealed-off attics.
       
    • 640 homes have ungrounded electrical outlets. 
       
    • 250 homes have running water throughout the winter to prevent freezingpipes.
       

Post Living Differential Allowance (PLD)

PLD is a taxable allowance introduced on April 1, 2000, to provide a mechanism to stabilize regional differences in the cost of living for Canadian Forces members and their families while serving in Canada. PLD was first applied to Cold Lake in 2007. PLD rates across the CF are currently frozen at 2009 levels. The Cold Lake PLD rate is $319 per month, roughly half of the rate received by Edmonton-based personnel ($684). The cost of living in Cold Lake has increased significantly over the past four years.
 

Access to specialist medical care

Cold Lake has limited medical resources so most specialist appointments require families to travel to Edmonton (292km) or elsewhere.
 

Recommendations:

  • Immediately re-establish a Post Living Differential allowance which reflects the Cold Lake economic environment.
     
  • Make CFB Cold Lake a priority in the military housing strategy.
     
  • Establish an effective recapitalization program for Cold Lake military homes.
     
  • Give the chain of command a greater role in decision making regarding priorities, rent levels, housing standards and reinvestment.
     
  • Review the creation of a rent increase ceiling/cap tied to improvements of individual housing units.
     
  • Synchronize housing rent changes with PLD changes.
     
  • Increase transparency regarding the manner in which PLD is calculated - using plain language.
     
  • Review and clarify benefits for medical care associated with semi-isolated and isolated locations.
     
  • Establish a policy framework that enables the use of public resources to improve support to Canadian Forces members and families posted to semi-isolated and isolated units.
     

For additional information, please contact:
Jamie Robertson
Director of Communications and Parliamentary Affairs
Office of the National Defence and Canadian Forces Ombudsman
Tel.: (613) 992-6962

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