Message from the Ombudsman (January 8, 2016)

Ombudsman Visits 5 Wing Goose Bay

This past March, I travelled with my staff to 5 Wing Goose Bay, Labrador, on an engagement visit as part of our efforts to make our services more readily available to the Defence community and to gather a first-hand understanding of the issues and challenges our constituents face.

During our time there, two important issues were brought to our attention:

Civilian Classification Review

We heard a number of concerns regarding delays of civilian job classification reviews at the Wing. Some work descriptions have not been reviewed in over 14 years. This is a reoccurring issue that has been brought to my attention in other engagement visits during the past year.

I brought forth these concerns to Susan Harrison, the Acting Assistant Deputy Minister of the Department of National Defence (DND) Civilian Human Resources, who informed me that  her group had successfully implemented a service centre portal called E-Class through which they now offer streamlined and accelerated classification services. Ms. Harrison reported that recent e-classification services delivered at 5 Wing Goose Bay were being completed within a two week timeframe. This is a positive development as it is critically important that civilian DND jobs are properly classified. 

Civilian Human Resources is actively reminding departmental managers of their responsibility to provide complete and accurate information related to their organizational requirements. Managers can obtain updates on their classification requests simply by contacting their Human Resource Officer (HRO) by sending their query through the E-Class portal mailbox.

Housing

Overall, we heard positive feedback on residential housing in Goose Bay. One concern raised by members and their families living in Residential Housing Units (RHUs) was the high cost associated with heating the units (up to $600 per month is some cases). We also heard concerns with regards to the decision to exclude “bump out” additions from recapitalization plans of RHUs. These small extension additions are seen as a major improvement to quality of life for people in Goose Bay.

Residents also raised concerns about access to contractors for repairs to their homes. We were told the response time is longer than is acceptable because of the challenge of attracting qualified contractors to Goose Bay. 

I approached the Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Forces Housing Agency (CFHA) with these concerns. The Agency stated that while the quality of life enhancements are important, it aims to address the portfolio’s housing units which no longer meet contemporary standards.

Although the condition of the aging portfolio has marginally improved, an estimated $400M is required to replace the nation-wide housing components that have exceeded their life cycle.

As a result, all major quality of life changes, ‘bump-out’s and additions to the RHUs are currently under review. I will continue to monitor the development of the recapitalization program and the Agency’s longer-term portfolio strategy to address the RHUs much needed renovations.

Conclusion

I appreciate the time and the openness with which we were met by military personnel, civilian employees, non-public fund employees, caregivers and military family members at 5 Wing Goose Bay. I am eager to follow up on the progress with the resolution of these issues and to continue to work towards long-lasting, positive changes for the Defence community.

We stand ready to help. 

Gary Walbourne
Ombudsman

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