Evidence of meeting #37 for Veterans Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was transformation.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Guy Parent  Veterans Ombudsman, Chief Warrant Officer (Retired), Office of the Veterans Ombudsman
  • Keith Hillier  Assistant Deputy Minister, Service Delivery, Department of Veterans Affairs

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Thank you.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

Thank you very much.

Mr. Lizon, for four minutes, please.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I would like to join my colleagues in thanking you gentlemen for appearing this afternoon before the committee, and I thank you and congratulate you on the great work you do for our deserving veterans.

Mr. Chair, if I may, I would like to direct the first question to Mr. Parent, and maybe Mr. Hillier would comment.

In your presentation, you used a quote from a member of your advisory committee, Mr. Gollner. I am not going to read the quote because you know what I'm talking about. In your opinion, would you say that the current transformation the department is doing addresses the issue that's contained in the quote? Or do you have some other view that something else should be done in that respect?

4:50 p.m.

Veterans Ombudsman, Chief Warrant Officer (Retired), Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Guy Parent

No. Thank you. It's a very good question, Mr. Chair.

In fact, I think it goes back to what Mr. Harris was saying before. Eventually over the years the programs become complex. The administration of the programs become so complex that changes are made to facilitate the administration of the program. In the end, we spend more money on administering than we're spending on people. This has to do a lot with the streamlining aspect of the transformation. The department, in looking at it in that perspective, is going in the right direction.

4:50 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Service Delivery, Department of Veterans Affairs

Keith Hillier

Mr. Chair, I would agree that as we got into the re-engineering—and we're still doing it, it's not done—we did find things of unnecessary complexity in the system, multiple control points. There has to be balancing. When you have a budget of $3.6 billion, there has to be adequate financial control to make sure that the money is going where it should be. You can go a little bit overboard over time and find that you have someone doing the work, then you have a checker, and then you have a checker checking the checker.

It's not that people made bad decisions. They made informed decisions at a point in time, Mr. Chair, but now with new technology and so on, there are ways that we can achieve the same controls without the same amount of human oversight.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Thank you very much.

I'll continue, Mr. Parent, on your presentation on sustaining the new Veterans Charter. You mentioned the department should do more to proactively educate the veteran community about the full spectrum of benefits available so that one can believe that there will be better options in the future than remaining in the present.

Now, do you have any specific recommendations? We have heard in our travel and doing our committee work that there is a problem with the information, the right information, getting to veterans. We understand there is a lot of work in this respect done by the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs. What else should be done to get that information to veterans?

I will ask Mr. Hillier, of course, to comment on this as well.

4:50 p.m.

Veterans Ombudsman, Chief Warrant Officer (Retired), Office of the Veterans Ombudsman

Guy Parent

Thank you. It's another good question.

Obviously, over the years the program was never well explained. It's a new concept to go from dependency to transition without barriers to psycho-social and medical.... It's a new concept and very hard to understand. People have had a tendency over the years to pick one aspect of the program and to argue that particular aspect without looking at the full spectrum. This was from not understanding the program. Communications were weak from the start, and communications need even now to improve so that people understand what it's all about from start to finish.

Another confusing thing about the new Veterans Charter is that there are programs that are available on both sides of the fence, from DND and from Veterans Affairs Canada. In a lot of cases there is no harmonization of those programs. Very often, there's confusion as to which program should be beneficial to the individuals. Should it start before he leaves the forces? Or should it start after he becomes a veteran? All these confusing aspects of the program are also leading to misinformation for the veteran.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

Thank you very much.

That is the time. I know we have a little business. I want to just explain where we're going in a minute. I do want to thank our witnesses very much. It was very informative. I appreciate it. You get along great, and everything worked very well. Thank you very much for being with us.

Having said that, we're just going to do a little business, then we'll try to wrap up. Say a quick goodbye, then we're going to deal with a little business here, please.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

For the next two weeks, by the way, we have witnesses set up. We're looking at maybe not having meetings the last week, unless we really push it. I want you to think about that for next week. Certainly the last Thursday before we wrap up, we don't want to have a meeting.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Do you know what day we're going to rise?

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

No, I don't. All I'm saying is that it may or may not be the Thursday. I wouldn't want to count on it is all I'm saying.

Mr. Storseth, I think you had your hand up.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Chair, I'd like to inform the committee of a motion that I'd like to put forward. The motion reads:

That the Committee recognize and commend the recent decision by the Government of Canada, particularly the Ministers of National Defence and Veterans Affairs to not appeal the Federal Court's May 1, 2012 decision regarding the offset of Pension Act disability benefits from the Service Income Security Insurance Plan (SISIP); and that the Committee commend the Government for demonstrating its continued commitment to serving members and veterans by also taking action to harmonize disability benefits at Veterans Affairs to reflect the planned changes to SISIP; and that this be reported to the house.

Mr. Chairman, I'd like to seek unanimous approval from the committee to move forward with this motion.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

There's a notice of motion. Is there unanimous approval?

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

It's my understanding that if we have unanimous consent, we could pass this motion right now.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

Okay, hands up.