By Scott Taylor
Last week Postmedia broke the story that Canada’s Vice Chief of the Defence Staff has been collecting benefits known as Imposed Restriction (IR) allowance for the past seven years.
Lieutenant-General Paul Wynnyk was first posted to Ottawa as the deputy commander of the army back in 2012. At that juncture in his long military career Wynnyk chose not to move his wife to Ottawa from Edmonton, and instead he made the choice to live and work on his own in the nation’s capital.
By keeping Edmonton as his primary residence, Wynnyk was entitled to collect $1600 in rent allowance per month and an additional $100 for parking in IR benefits. More importantly under this arrangement his wife could retain her job as associate clinical professor in the Department of Dentistry at the University of Alberta.
So far, so good. The policy of IR benefits is designed for exactly that purpose of avoiding the trauma and cost of uprooting entire families in the short term. However as Wynnyk’s career progressed, he was promoted and appointed to a series of positions, which were all based in Ottawa.
Thus the short term evolved into a full seven years and the tab for Wynnyk’s ongoing IR allowance is now over $140,000 in total.
For the record, the average timeframe for a service member to collect IR would be about six months, and the military admitted that it is extremely unusual for that allowance to be paid in excess of five years.
That was the gist of the news story. At no point was it ever even insinuated that Wynnyk had done anything illegal. It was simply noted that the general’s choice comes at a substantial cost to taxpayers.
What was bizarre was the statement issued by the Department of Natural Defence to justify Wynnyk’s extended IR benefits. “The bottom line is that LGen Wynnyk has graciously agreed, time after time, to support the Canadian Armed Forces in its Ottawa HQ so that we can all take benefit from his experience, guidance and leadership while serving well past his eligibility for a full pension at 35 years in the CAF. He has sacrificed his own needs to benefit the institution, for which we are grateful.”
This official statement makes it sound like Wynnyk was volunteering his time to serve Canada out of the goodness of his heart. For the record, a LGen makes in the neighborhood of $250,000 a year. Hardly chump change, and by not moving his wife to Ottawa she retained her job at the University. That was their personal choice.
As for noting that Wynnyk had served his maximum pension eligibility of 35 years, that is a bit of an attempt to mislead.
Service members accumulate their pension at a rate of 2% per year served to a maximum of 35, which equals 70%. That percentage is then based on the average annual salary for the service member’s five highest paid years. So while Wynnyk cannot increase his percentage, he can, and has, added to his actual pension payout by increasing that five best year average total.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have known Wynnyk for many years and consider him to be a highly capable and well-respected senior officer. That being said, the insinuation in DND’s statement is that the Canadian Armed Forces is depending upon Wynnyk’s expertise, guidance and leadership. The problem with that comment is that it does a disservice to the equally professional and equally talented 130 General Officers and Flag Officers currently serving. That’s correct folks, Canada has a total of 130 Generals and Admirals.
It should also be remembered that for the past year Wynnyk was serving as VCDS in place of the suspended Vice Admiral Mark Norman, another individual who embodied expertise, guidance and leadership, but I digress.
The simple truth of the Wynnyk story is that he followed an existing policy and stretched the rules without breaking them. If he had to make any sacrifice to his lifestyle this was purely due to his own personal choice. It was not like he was deployed on a seven year posting to Afghanistan and deprived of being with his family.
The military lifestyle is considered to be a nomadic one. It is also understood that extended separations from family are a hardship, and that is why benefits like IR exist.
Wynnyk played both sides of that coin at the taxpayers expensive and to his own benefit.