Changes to a cost-of-living benefit left many members feeling ‘undervalued’ — Brig.-Gen. Guy BélisleMilitary chaplains are seeing an increasing number of soldiers, sailors and aircrew who — squeezed by the high cost of living and stuck in a system that forces them to relocate — are in financial distress and seeking assistance.
That disturbing assessment is found in the latest report to Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre from Canadian Forces Chaplain General Brig.-Gen. Guy Bélisle. A copy of the report was obtained by CBC News.The report found that military morale is flagging for a variety of reasons.
“The past six months have been very difficult for many CAF members and their families as they struggle to find a way forward through the economic, social and cultural realities and changes that are confronting all Canadians in these uncertain times,” said the July 26, 2023 briefing note from Bélisle.
The assessment zeros in on recent changes to the Post Living Differential (PLD) — which helps military members offset the cost of living and frequent moves — as the biggest factor in discontent within the ranks.
“Though unintended, these changes, concurrent with CAF efforts to reconstitute the Force, has resulted in many CAF leaders and members feeling more undervalued and underappreciated than at any point in recent memory,” said the briefing note, written just weeks after the changes to the PLD came into effect.
“The morale of members across the CAF was assessed by chaplains in this reporting period to be notably lower than during the last few reporting periods, due to several key factors and realities … changes to PLD, the increasing lack of affordable housing, the rising cost of living, and staff shortages all contributed to exacerbating the tensions and challenges being experienced by members and their families.”
The new PLD policy was a work-in-progress for almost a decade and a half. It took effect in July and was meant to help lower-ranking members cope with steep housing costs in Canadian cities.But several thousand high-ranking members who had been receiving the housing offset now face the prospect of being cut off from the benefit.
Bélisle’s report says chaplains at bases across the country are hearing from those members, who say “the end of PLD will have a significant negative impact on them financially and will also be a determining factor in their decision to seek advancement, postings, or remain in the CAF.