References: Disposal of Department of National Defence Surplus Infrastructure

Since the early part of the 20thcentury, operational requirements stemming from the First World War and the Second World War have been key drivers in the acquisition of land by the Department of National Defence (DND); for example, Canadian Force Base (CFB) Borden opened as Camp Borden during the First World War. The Cold War years then led to additional requirements for training a large peacetime army, as well as fighter air defence bases and radar stations; it is those requirements that led, for example, to the organization of CFB Gagetown.

Today, Canada’s federal and provincial governments own a total of 89per cent of the country’s land mass. DND owns approximately 47per cent of all owned federal buildings and 7per cent of all federal owned, leased or licensed land. DND is the second largest organization in terms of land area behind the Parks Canada Agency; second largest organization behind Public Works and Government Services Canada in terms of floor area, and the first in terms of number of buildings and works (such as roads and/or water and waste treatment)1. DND also has the largest portfolio of operational heritage buildings within the federal government; including 26National Historic Sites and a National Wildlife area.

DND’s holdings represent:

  • some 21 000 buildings;
  • 2.25 million hectares of land (almost four times the landmass of Prince Edward Island);
  • 5500 km of roads (roughly the distance between Calgary and Halifax); and
  • 3000 km of water, storm, and sewer pipes (roughly the distance between Ottawa and Saskatoon).

Land and/or buildings that are no longer required for Canadian Forces’ operations are declared surplus and disposed of by DND. This is a standard process undertaken for many sites across the country every year in accordance with the Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property and the Directive on the Sale or Transfer of Surplus Real Property.

Many factors influence whether land and real property should be declared surplus, including performance, necessity, functionality, and usage. This can be done on an entire property or on a portion of property owned by DND, in order to constantly ensure that the Department has the right infrastructure, in the right place, for the right purpose at the right time.

As a good steward of public money, in 2005 DND concluded a 10per cent reduction of its infrastructure holdings, and continues to routinely reassess its property portfolio to ensure that its holdings remain consistent with operational requirements. It also continuously examines new and innovative business practices to assess the potential benefits that can be generated from unused space and savings, and aims to invest sustainably in the maintenance and repair of its infrastructure.

Once a real property asset has been declared surplus, DND determines whether a strategic or routine disposal process will be used to divest the land in accordance with Treasury Board policy.

Routine disposals are the most common as they are used for disposals which are straightforward in nature; many of these disposal processes are undertaken and completed every year. These lower value properties can be sold relatively easily. Routine disposals are also normally sold in their “as is” state on the open market through Public Works and Government Services Canada. These properties are first offered for sale on a priority basis to other federal departments, agent Crown corporations, and provincial and municipal governments.

By comparison, the strategic disposal process is applied to real property assets which are more complex in nature due to a variety of factors, including:

  • size or value of the property or group of properties;
  • possible impact on the local real estate market;
  • possible partnership with another level of government or the private sector; or
  • other socio-economic considerations.

These disposals are undertaken in collaboration with the Treasury Board Secretariat and Canada Lands Company CLC Limited, the Crown Corporation which acts as the government’s disposal agent for disposing of these selected surplus properties. In these instances, interest of other federal departments and other government departments in strategic properties is sought and taken into consideration in an assessment phase.

Follow-up steps also include the following analysis and evaluations:

  • legal risks;
  • conditions of the property;
  • possible heritage and archaeological findings;
  • risk to wildlife habitat; and
  • market value of the property.

Since 2009 DND has completed three strategic disposals: CFB Rockcliffe in Ottawa, a housing site in Oakville, and the former Denison Armoury lands in Toronto.

For more information on the Treasury Board Policy on Management of Real Property, please visit:

For more information on the Treasury Board Directive on the Sale or Transfer of Surplus Real Property, please visit:

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