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  • 1. Holder’s Happenings www.edholdermp.ca In this issue I want to speak strongly in support of London’s and Canada’s Veterans. For those who know me, you are aware I come from a family of veterans – my Dad with the New Brunswick Rangers, and my uncle with the 48th Highlanders of Cape Breton both served in World War II and were proud Veterans. My other uncle with the New Brunswick Rangers, is buried in Belgium, dying in battle in 1944. It is because of their service that I wanted to make a contribution, so I joined the Legion - Byron Springbank Legion Branch 533. Before joining the Legion, I recall once going there to ask for some poppies so I could put them on a cross that my family had made to honour my Dad when he died. The Legion was fantastic to us. You may know that Legions have always been there to assist and support Veterans in various ways. In many communities, the Legion has been the initial and often the primary point of contact between a Veteran and a service provider, including Veterans Affairs. It is out of respect for Veterans that it is time to offer a serious pushback to those who claim that Veterans have been disadvantaged by this Government. In fact, and I will use facts, the opposite is true. As an underlying comment, let me say that no country can ever do enough to say thank you to those who put their lives on the line in defence of our freedoms, and no one can ever offer enough gratitude to those families whose son, daughter or parent made the ultimate sacrifice…we will remember them. Yet lately, there has been much in the media describing how poorly Veterans are treated. That is just not true. Look, can there be circumstances where someone doesn’t receive an appropriate entitlement or thoughtful treatment? I’m sure that can happen. Yet from all of my experience with Veterans, which has grown considerably in this role, the Government offers Canada’s Veterans with the greatest financial support and services in the history of Canada’s military. In terms of new monies, since the Conservatives were elected, the amount of NEW MONIES allocated towards Veterans care and benefits is at $4.7 billion. Let me explain how I think this all started. First, Veterans Affairs announced it was closing 8 of its offices across Canada. A huge cry from Opposition members and members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada went out that by closing these offices, the Government was showing contempt for our Veterans. What a ridiculous thing to contemplate – even a stupid politician would never show that kind of disrespect for our Veterans. So why did Veterans Affairs make the call to close some offices? Was it meant to show complete disregard for our Veterans? How dumb would that be? Was it done to save money? I think that’s fair, insofar as the offices that were closed, case loads had fallen to a very small number of Veterans being served. Some offices had fallen to a few visits a day, and in many cases that was simply to drop off paperwork. Of those 8 offices, 5 of the Veterans Affairs offices have a Service Canada office in the same building – Charlottetown, Cornerbrook, Saskatoon, Brandon and Kelowna. So what happened? Staff relocated to the Service Canada Office. In Sydney (Cape Breton) and Windsor the distance to the Service Canada office is less than 1 km. In Thunder Bay the distance to the Service Canada office is 4 km. Here’s the financial argument - the simple answer was to close less-efficient Veterans Affairs offices and
  • 2. move staff support to the Service Canada Office. Further, the commitment was made to serve more Veterans out of the other 650 Service Canada offices. In those instances when a Veteran is unable to go to one of these locations, the Government has made the commitment that a representative will go directly to a Veteran's home to provide needed assistance. So it just makes sense to expand service to all geographic regions across Canada, and offer service through Service Canada offices. It was never intended to cut services to Veterans. People who say otherwise, and here I draw a line, are totally and simply playing politics. Let me add that my staff and I have always helped Veterans who have issues dealing with Veterans Affairs Canada. I know that every Member of Parliament in Canada does the same - that represents more than 308 offices across Canada who assist Veterans as some MPs have more than one constituency office. I even received acknowledgment in the last 2 weeks from two Veterans for providing help in them getting into Parkwood Hospital – that’s our job. In addition to MP offices and existing Veterans Affairs Canada offices, there are also 1,461 Legions across Canada who do a phenomenal job where Veterans help Veterans. Furthermore, I have been proud to vote for budget after budget that improves services for Veterans. Over 90 per cent of this funding goes directly towards programs and services for veterans and their families. At a time when the government was asking for a 10 per cent budget reduction from all departments, Veterans Affairs took the lowest reduction at 1.9 per cent and those cuts were aimed at inefficiencies not at programs and services. Veterans Affairs has done many things to improve services and the quality of life for veterans, such as directly providing cash to Veterans for such things as snow removal, lawn mowing and household chores through the Veterans Independence Program. The Permanent Impairment Assistance Program provides Canadian Armed Forces' most injured members with lifelong compensation for economic losses due to severe impairment and financial assistance and is available while Veterans are receiving rehabilitative care through Veterans Affairs. This allows injured Veterans to concentrate on what matters most, their families and their wellness. As well, all Veterans now have access to career transition services which assist eligible Veterans seeking to obtain civilian employment by paying for, or reimbursing them for career training. So what is really going on? PSAC, or the Public Service Alliance of Canada, is a major union representing thousands of public servants across Canada. It is this group who acknowledged they flew veterans to Ottawa for the purposes of confronting the Minister of Veterans Affairs. Part of the backdrop of this is that Treasury Board is bringing changes that would align public sector compensation with that of the private sector. These changes will save Canadian taxpayers billions of dollars and are understandingly unpopular with this union. The question is, I wonder whose interest PSAC is really concerned about. Are they looking after the interests of our Veterans or exploiting an opportunity to push their own agenda? I understand the union has its role and so does the federal government, which we see as respecting our Veterans and respecting taxpayers’ dollars. The key is to always find the proper balance, which is sometimes more an art than a science. If you are interested in seeing the specific areas of financial support for Veterans’ services, please let me know and I would be happy to share that information with you.

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