The "Decade of Darkness" was a roughly 10-year period in which the Liberal Party of Canada, under Prime Minister Jean Chretien and Finance Minister Paul Martin undertook massive and deep cuts to Canada's federal government.
The term was coined by Rick Hillier, former Canadian Forces Chief of Defence Staff, as a reflection of what the Canadian Forces went through from roughly 1995 to 2005. The decade saw major changes to the way the Canadian Forces operated and was viewed:
1. A significant reduction in the DND and CF budget;
2. A Force Reduction Plan (FRP), in which military members were offered a one-time payout to retire from the Canadian Forces (also known as "The Golden Handshake"). This resulted in significant brain drain as often the best, most experienced members retired in favour of private sector careers;
3. An unsupportive Canadian public in the wake of the Somalia Affair. Military members, particularly in the National Capital Region, were ordered not to wear their uniforms in public, for fear of protests, criticism, and danger to Canadian Forces members;
4. Massive base and air wing closures; and
5. Widespread scaling back of base operating budgets. This resulted in service contracts being cut and even some bases reducing costs by unscrewing light bulbs from their barracks and work spaces. Hillier noted this reached the apex when members, already working upwards of 6 days per week, were told they would also be responsible for cutting the grass and general base maintenance.
The "Decade of Darkness" more generally refers to the roughly 1995-2005 period in which the Liberals were in government.
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