Plans to expand the ranks of the Canadian Forces by up to 5,000 new troops are likely to be hampered by the fact that the army is running out of boots. According to the National Post, the military is running out of combat boots for its new recruits, even before the widely anticipated announcement of additional soldiers.

An unclassified ‘CanForGen’ message, a directive from the head of the army to all supply depots, says several common sizes of the Canadian Forces’ black high-topped combat boots are out of stock and several others ‘are at critical levels’. The army quartermasters are ordered to issue instead ‘substitute boots’ such as the heavier all-weather combat boots or older, used footwear. ‘It is our hope that we will be able to at least ensure all new recruits have at least one pair of boots.’

Critics say the boot shortage makes a mockery of the Liberal government’s pledge, made during last summer’s federal election campaign, to bolster the ranks of the Canadian Forces by 5,000 new troops and to add another 3,000 part-time soldiers to the reserves. Gordon O’Connor, the Conservative defence critic, said the fact the army does not have enough boots for the new recruits speaks volumes about the government’s defence policy.

A spokeswoman for the Department of National Defence, however, said the government had placed an order for more than 50,000 pairs of ‘Boots, combat Mark III’. Elizabeth Hodges said the $4.5 million contract with a southern Ontario shoe manufacturer specified that the additional boots were to be finished by the end of February but she did not know if the delivery was on schedule.