OTTAWA - Military budget cuts are leaving cadets out in the cold, with a freeze on the purchase of parkas just as winter kicks in.
A $2-million chop to the outfitting budget also means some of Canada's 53,000 cadets will have to recycle and swap used uniforms, and to forgo military-issue gym gear.
The clothing crunch comes as the Canadian Forces are being ask to tuck and trim everywhere to help the Harper government slay the federal deficit by 2015.
Canada's cadets started the year with a $13-million budget for outfits but in the last few weeks were told to give back $2 million.
Expensive parkas were the first item of kit to be banned, even as a post-holiday surge of recruits is expected in January.
Cadets are being told to acquire their own parkas, as well as their own gym shorts, T-shirts and other workout clothing.
"Regrettably you will have to wear your personal parka over your uniform if the weather conditions warrant it," says a Dec. 13 order from Col. Conrad Namiesniowski, director for cadets and junior rangers.
The Canadian Forces remain committed to ensuring that every cadet gets one basic uniform — though now it may be a used one, borrowed from others.
"I also urge all Cadets to dig into their closets for uniforms that they no longer wear and to seek out those uniform pieces that friends no longer with the program may have," says the order.
A spokeswoman for the cadet program says there was little warning about the budgetary gear-grab.
"It came from left field," Capt. Kimberley Caron said in an interview. "We've suspended the ordering of parkas, just because they're really costly."
"We do not expect parents and or cadets to purchase any of the uniforms."
Cadets often have more than one uniform, for ceremonial and other uses. Caron said the military can now promise only one uniform for each cadet.
"We want to ensure that when the new kid wants to join, that we actually have a uniform of some form," she said.
"It's a pride thing. They want to feel like they belong."
The Canadian Forces have been undergoing a wrenching period of cuts big and small, including to equipment. Last week, the chief of defence staff announced the army would not proceed with a long-planned purchase of armoured vehicles, saving $2 billion.
Among other measures to save dollars: trucks and other vehicles in the existing fleets have been mothballed, potted plants have been banned at headquarters, and the army is doing more virtual training by computer, reducing use of ammunition.
Defence Minister Rob Nicholson announced Oct. 2 that the cadet program was undergoing a "five-year renewal" that will boost the numbers to 70,000 and increase resources.
The cadet program places youth ages 12 to 18 in navy, army and air force programs, with more intensive training in the summer months.