DND to 're-examine' cut to danger pay for troops in Afghanistan
Published Wednesday, April 10, 2013 1:48PM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, April 10, 2013 11:29PM EDT
The Defence Department will re-examine a recent decision to reduce the danger and hardship pay for Canadian troops who are still serving in Afghanistan, a junior defence minister said Wednesday.
The review follows news from Tuesday that starting April 15, soldiers deployed in Afghanistan for the first time would get $848 per month in hardship and risk allowances, down from $1,356.
Those who have been on previous tours would receive more money, depending on the length of their deployments.
About 930 Canadian military personnel are in Afghanistan on a training mission.
Conservative MP Chris Alexander, parliamentary secretary for the Defence Minister, said the government has concerns about the decision to reduce the troops’ pay.
“We will be asking officials to review that decision,” Alexander told CTV News on Wednesday.
Alexander blamed government bureaucrats, saying decisions are made by the arm’s length bodies that look at risk and hardship.
CTV’s Mercedes Stephenson reported Wednesday that the decision to reduce danger pay was based on the fact that Canadian soldiers serving in Afghanistan are based in Kabul, which is “not as dangerous” as Kandahar.
“But (the decision) was met with some pretty strong reaction from people saying, ‘This is a bit of shaving the ice cube, how many soldiers are really in Afghanistan to cut this money from, how much are you going to save?’” Stephenson said.
A Defence Department official said Tuesday that the change in hardship and risk pay is part of an annual review that reassesses how dangerous each mission abroad is.
The allowances for hardship and risk remain in place and are not subject to efficiencies identified in deficit reduction initiatives, the official told CTV News.
Operation Attention is Canada’s contribution to the NATO-led training mission in Afghanistan, whose goal is to bolster the war-ravaged country’s national security forces.
Those troops are also entitled to an “operations foreign service premium” of $759 per month and a tax relief benefit for the duration of their deployment.
The special monetary allocations add up to in excess of $14,000 over six months, the official said.
The military evaluates the hardship of each mission on a scale of zero to six (“very austere”), and assesses risk on a scale of zero to four (“high and constant risk”).
The Canadians’ current training mission in Afghanistan is not considered to be as dangerous as the combat mission, which ended in 2011.
Canada’s former Veterans Ombudsman, Col. Pat Strogran said cutting pay to soldiers is reckless.
“The Taliban will settle for nothing other than total defeat where we pack up and go home, so our guys are still a target,” Strogran told CTV News.
The Taliban hunt soldiers who venture into Kabul. In 2011, MCpl. Byron Greff was killed when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) blew up in a bus in the capital.
The Taliban also recruit Afghan troops for suicide missions inside the wire.
Another 50 troops are deployed in regional missions in the Middle East, but a DND spokesperson could not say by how much their hardship and risk allowances would change.
NDP Defence Critic Jack Harris said he was skeptical that the ruling Conservative government wasn’t already aware of the cuts.
“You don’t make decisions about this without the minister knowing that this is going to affect the troops, affect the morale of the troops,” he said.
With a report from CTV’s Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife and files from The Canadian Press
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