The Canadian military is searching for ways to remove or modify restrictions prohibiting retired Canadian Armed Forces members from collecting their military pensions while serving full-time and receiving pay cheques in the reserves.
The plan has the preliminary endorsement of the Liberal government, pending final details.
Reference to the idea was buried deep in the latest defence policy released in June.
The proposal is still very much in the nascent stage, but if successful it would effectively reverse regulatory changes — made last year and in 2012 — that set strict limits on double-dipping by soldiers.
It is an important tool in retaining experienced members and “top talent,” Lt.-Gen. Chuck Lamarre, the chief of military personnel, told CBC News.
“I think you have a compelling argument in terms of the talent,” he said in an interview.
“You’ve spent a lot of money training [people]. So, we’re hoping to be able to convince folks with our proposals.”
MPs reviewed double-dipping in 2010
The issue of whether ex-soldiers, with highly sought-after combat or technical skills, should be allowed to double dip preoccupied Parliament for three years during the war in Afghanistan; the practice annoyed the Conservative government of the day.
At the time there was a spike in the number of soldiers, aircrew or sailors who would retire and return the next day as civilian contractors, or reservists, doing the same job.
‘They should be allowed to collect their pension. They’ve done their time. They’ve made an incredible contribution and fulfilled their obligation’
– NDP veterans affairs critic Irene Mathyssen
That led to scrutiny by the all-party Commons defence committee in the spring of 2010. One of Lamarre’s predecessors told MPs the Afghan war created the demand to keep those positions filled.
The hearings led to a set of regulatory changes that strictly limited the practice. The last of those changes only came into effect in June 2016.
Under that new system, a retired member of the military can serve as a reservist full-time for only 364 days while collecting a military pension. After that period has passed they must decide whether or not to return to the regular force, pushing “pause” on their pension cheques.
Part-time reservists are not affected.
But the pressing policy issue today is rebuilding the reserve force, which the auditor general last year described as being in dire shape.