• By: Dan Donovan

The disgusting attack on General Andrew Leslie is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Lieutenant-General Andrew Brooke Leslie, CMM, MSC, MSM, CD is a retired Canadian Forces general officer who served with distinction and in harm’s way in many theatres in his career including Yugoslavia and Afghanistan. Among his military accomplishments and commands, he was assigned as a Canadian officer to the UN force in Yugoslavia as Chief for Sector South before becoming Chief of Staff and Deputy Commander of the United Nations Confidence Restoration Operation in Croatia. He was the Area Chief of Staff during the Manitoba floods in 1997. Later in 1997, he became the commander of  1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group which was sent to the South shore of Montreal to help with disaster relief operations. He served as Deputy Commander of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan in 2003 and then became Assistant Chief of the Land Staff in 2004. In June 2006 he was Commander of the Canadian Army. Possessing extraordinary ability, many assumed General Leslie might end his career as the Chief of the Defence Staff. Nonetheless, his final command was as Chief of Transformation for the Canadian Forces where he wrote a groundbreaking report that was focused, honest and blunt about the steps needed to make DND and the Canadian Forces more effective and efficient in a post-Afghanistan environment. It was controversial, even within the military. Unfortunately, the Harper government decided to bury it.  

Anyone who knows Andrew “Andy” Leslie knows him as a person of honour and integrity. His life has been about service to his country. A patriot, his family’s lineage of military service dates back to the beginning of the Canadian Forces in World War 1.  His father was Brigadier General Edward Murray Dalziel (McNaughton) Leslie, commander of 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (1 RCHA) during the Korean War. He is a grandson of former Chief of the General Staff and Minister of National Defence General Andrew McNaughton, as well as of former Canadian Minister of National Defence, Brooke Claxton.

How can it be that such a distinguished soldier and person who served Canada with such merit for 35 years and who often put himself in harm’s way is now brazenly attacked by the very people who put him and his troops in harm’s way? It was General Leslie who often got the call and had to make calls to parents when our soldiers died in theatre. It is sadly ironic that the very people who claimed to trust his judgment and ability, Mr. Nicholson, Royal Galipeau, et al., would go along with this charade and try to smear General Leslie’s reputation because he is advising Justin Trudeau and may run for Parliament with, God forbid, another political party.

Andy Leslie and the Canadian Forces deserve better.  Given Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino‘s recent fiasco with Canadian Forces veterans,  now the Defence Minister (and a former Justice Minister) uses his pulpit to smear one of Canada’s finest through willful ignorance or, possibly, by deliberate falsehood? Nicholson knows or should know, that the ”Intended Place of Residence” program has been in place for over 25 years and is open to anyone in the Canadian Forces or RCMP who serves the required number of years to qualify. The Government will pay for one last move to anywhere in Canada; no restrictions. You can move to Vancouver, or you can move next door. The intent is to fairly compensate military and RCMP personnel for the numerous moves they are required to make in service of our nation.

In many cases, soldiers will move from 12 to 18 times over a 30 or 35-year career.  This program makes the last move easier knowing you don’t have to try and figure out, years in advance, where your final home is going to be, and hope that your final assignment coincides with where you have chosen to reside upon completion of your service to Canada.

The reality, in the military, is that you never know where you might end up. It is the government of the day that makes that call. The short notice for which military families are often required to move is can be an extremely difficult experience for the spouses and children involved. Hence, the “Intended Place of Residence“ program which is open to all retiring military personnel; from the lowest to the highest rank, and with no difference in terms of the service, funding or support one receives. It is managed by the Treasury Board and the soldiers who avail themselves of the service have little say in either the selection of movers or the final cost. It is the Treasury Board that has full responsibility for the program.  The Treasury Board and DND coordinate the packing, shipping, real estate negotiations and fees, and legal fees for these moves. Payment is made by DND to the various agents involved in the move with no input from the soldiers. The majority of the expense for these final moves is found in the real estate fees. 

Rob Nicholson knows this full well. A departmental inquiry is not required. If General Leslie invested in a home (which he apparently did) during his 35-year career and then at the end of it sold his home in a strong Ottawa market to buy a new home, the real estate fees on that alone could very well be $40,000. So really, moving expenses with fees and taxes for General Leslie's move came to about  $30,000; which is entirely reasonable and within acceptable market prices for such a family move. This is a sham! It is cynical in the extreme and the only thing worse than the reporters who "broke" this yellow journalism "story" without providing the proper context and facts, are the Harper Government Minister and the Conservative MP from Ottawa Orleans who went along with it. Some thanks,  after first sending General  Leslie and his fellow soldiers into harm’s way. Shame on all of you! Mr. Nicholson should apologize to General Leslie and all members of the Canadian Forces for this betrayal. And Ottawa Orleans Conservative MP Royal Galipeau should send a personal apology forthwith or risk being tossed out by voters in the next election. We have truly descended into the gutter in politics. I’d like to believe Prime Minister Harper is bigger than this. Time will tell…but our soldiers deserve better.