House of Commons Hansard #144 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was veterans.

Topics

Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture)

moved that Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act and the Pension Act, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak on this important day, because from now on our veterans will receive a positive response from a government that wants to help them.

We believe it is important to protect our modern-day veterans, for example, those who are returning wounded from Afghanistan. We must ensure that they and their families do not have any financial difficulties if they have the misfortune of being wounded during a mission, either in Afghanistan or elsewhere in the world.

It is also an important time for me because just over a year ago, I was named Minister of Veterans Affairs and I had no idea of the magnitude of the task ahead of me. Why am I bringing this up? When I started to listen to our veterans, our modern-day veterans, and realized the difficulties they were experiencing, I understood that we would have to make some changes and do so quickly.

What actually happened? Why, all of a sudden, did our modern-day veterans start publicly talking about and sharing their suffering, pain and financial difficulties?

Here in the House, in 2005, parliamentarians voted unanimously to create the new veterans charter. We said it would be a living charter that would reflect today's reality. When our modern-day veterans, who often are 20, 25 or 30 years old, come back injured, they do not wish to go home and wait and see what will happen. They want to return to their communities and be active members of society. They want to go on with their lives. Naturally, if they have any disability whatsoever, we must help them return to civilian life.

The new veterans charter is entirely focused on rehabilitation. When veterans are in a rehabilitation program, we must ensure that, financially, we do the right thing so that they are able to support their families and get through this difficult stage.

We realized that the new veterans charter had some shortcomings. So, we listened to the interested parties. We went to Valcartier and other military bases. We met with members of the Royal Canadian Legion and representatives of the seven associations. We attended their national convention and consulted them in order to identify the priorities we should emphasize to support our modern-day veterans. Almost everyone agreed that we had to take action on three fronts.

This is the first. If soldiers return injured, from Afghanistan for example, and go into a rehabilitation program, from now on, for the duration of the rehabilitation—whether it takes two, three, five or eight years—they will receive a minimum of 75% of their salary, or at least $40,000.

The second change concerns those who cannot return to work, those whose injuries are too serious. Once Bill C-55 has been passed by the Senate, they will receive a minimum of $58,000 a year. That is the minimum that a member of our military will receive if he or she is unable to return to work.

In addition, when our veterans are injured, they will also receive what is known as a permanent monthly allowance. This allowance—which is similar to the measure in the old system—is paid to them each month for life. The amount can vary from $543 to $1,631 per month for life. Bill C-55 also provides for an additional $1,000, which means that someone who cannot return to work will receive at least $58,000 per year.

There will be a third change to the new veterans charter. Essentially, Bill C-55 has added a whole new chapter to the new veterans charter that was passed in the House in 2005.

The other constant criticism that we have been getting is about offering a lump sum payment as compensation for pain and suffering.

This lump sum payment could be as much as $285,000. After having done some research, we found that the problem was that many of the people who suffered from psychological wounds, mental health issues or PTSD, for example, spent their money inappropriately.

It is our responsibility to protect those who could encounter difficulties. Through Bill C-55, people will be able to receive a cash payment or spread the payment over a certain number of years, be it 10, 15 or 20 years, depending on what they choose. They can also choose a combination of the two, meaning that they could receive part of it in cash and part of it spread out over time.

That means that each individual will need to talk to his or her spouse or family to determine the best decision for their particular situation.

There are three interconnected elements. There is rehabilitation, for which they will receive $40,000 per year, in addition to the lump sum payment. If they cannot return to work, they will receive $58,000 per year, in addition to the lump sum payment. On top of that, of course, there is a permanent monthly allowance of between $543 and $1,631 per month for life.

We cannot put a price on the cost of losing one or more limbs. There is nothing we can do when that happens. However, we can financially support those who are injured, in order to ensure that they and their immediate families do not experience financial difficulties. That is why the changes we are proposing are a step in that direction. We must help our modern-day veterans who, unfortunately, may come back wounded from a mission.

Earlier, I said we consulted soldiers. I even went to Afghanistan to hear what our soldiers there had to say. I am pleased to share with the House what the president of the Royal Canadian Legion, Patricia Varga, said:

This bill, as a first step, makes great strides in improving the New Veterans Charter and encompasses many of the recommendations made by the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group and the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs.

I would like to thank parliamentarians for their support. We know there are rumours of an election in the air, but we must vote on this bill before the upcoming budget. We hope to have as much co-operation as possible from the Senate to ensure that any of our soldiers who unfortunately face such a situation are properly protected. We must also ensure that these corrective measures come into force as soon as possible and avoid delaying everything for another year.

I would also like to tell the members of this House that I am the only minister who, in an economic recession, managed to get $2 billion from the government in order to correct the shortcomings in the new veterans charter. Who will benefit from that $2 billion? Our veterans, their families and modern-day veterans who have particular needs because of the work they do to protect our values and our country and to defend oppressed nations.

I truly believe that this is a step in the right direction. It is our responsibility to support our soldiers, the people who defend our values. Thus, I would like to thank all parliamentarians for supporting our desire to help those in need.

Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I want to congratulate the minister. It is not often that we congratulate ministers.

He has answered some of the questions from our veterans. I have spoken with a number of veterans in my riding and there are still a number of other questions I would like the minister to answer.

I have no problem with adjusting the compensation amounts and the amounts to which people with psychological or social problems are entitled. Nevertheless, we know that our veterans are increasingly younger. A clause has been included whereby the sums will be indexed over time. The cost of living never stops increasing and veterans are a bit concerned about that. The sums are adequate for now, but will they be indexed in 5 or 10 years?

Until now, World War II veterans have received services from health care facilities. Modern-day veterans want to know whether those services will be maintained. Will health care institutions be provided for them? Will widows and wives of those who are no longer independent also have access to the services?

Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question.

I can say yes, the payments are indexed. For example, a few months ago, the lump sum payment was $276,000. It has just been indexed and is now $285,000. The same goes for our permanent monthly allocations. These sums have been indexed.

As far as the families are concerned, we must also ensure that the necessary facilities are available so that individuals who return injured and disabled can take part in a transition program. This allows our soldiers to go to the right place for their overall rehabilitation. It will be a kind of residence, adapted to their needs while they follow their transition plan.

What is more, if a seriously injured veteran cannot return to work and the spouse wants to take a training program, they can do that as part of the services we are offering. The spouse could take training, acquire new skills and provide additional support to the family. These things exist. It is indeed important that we provide this type of support to our veterans who need it.

Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to commend the minister for bringing forward Bill C-55. Anything we can do to continue to help our veterans is something I know all members of Parliament greatly appreciate.

I have many veterans in my riding who come into my office to talk about some of the issues they are having in relation to getting the compensation. It is great to hear about the new compensation and some of the things the minister was talking about earlier, such as indexing, but it is the veterans who are being denied for whom we have to advocate.

Is there anything in this bill that will actually do something to help alleviate what veterans are having to go through right now in terms of being denied their claims when they legitimately have claims, and the processes that are there? Is this something the bill will address?

Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to clarify that until Bill C-55 comes into force, the amounts I mentioned will not be available. We are still operating under the charter that was adopted in 2005. As soon as Bill C-55 is in place, as soon as it is passed by the Senate, it will be five or six months before it takes effect. There are also measures for when a veteran contacts our department. We have just added 20 new case managers to respond more quickly to requests from our modern-day veterans.

We are significantly improving our department. We are reducing our processing times, improving our efficiency and decreasing red tape for our veterans and modern-day veterans. All of this is in the process of being implemented. We obviously had to set some priorities. Our priorities are the following: find ways to reorganize the fiscal or financial support we give these people with all of the necessary facilities for both physical and psychological problems. Now, other priorities will be determined in the future, since other changes still need to be made. But we are listening to their needs and the department is there to help them.

Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak on third reading of Bill C-55, An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act and the Pension Act.

According to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, Bill C-55 is only the first step to addressing the concerns of veterans. However, we agree that it is a good first step and we congratulate the initiative.

The proposed legislation is a small step forward. We have supported the bill because our veterans need urgent help now and because the minister assures us that further changes will come. We hope this represents a significant change in thinking, in acting, that will address other gaps.

I would like to acknowledge our critic on veterans affairs, the member for Etobicoke North. In the short time that she has been in the House, she has earned admiration from all sides for her diligent and very capable work. She is passionate about the issue of veterans. She has travelled extensively and met with veterans. One only needs to chat with her to understand how seriously, deeply and personally she connects with our veterans.

Just before Christmas she was in Nova Scotia speaking in the town hall on veterans' issues with the member for Halifax West. I had a chance to have her meet with some of my constituents. I remember sitting at a Starbucks, chatting with Bruce Grainger, who many people in the House would know. I am sure the members for Sackville—Eastern Shore and Halifax West would know Bruce. Bruce is a veteran who served our country with distinction. Now his concern is for other veterans. He has put forward some ideas for the minister that perhaps we need to bring more veterans into Veterans Affairs and on the review and appeal boards. We need to respect that kind of passion from Canada's veterans.

What we owe our men and women who have put the uniform on is to honour our sacred trust and to be there for them when they come home. That means working to improve their pay and benefits so they feel secure knowing their families will be looked after. That means working to improve care for wounded warriors, especially those with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries. What we owe them is to provide the care they need until the end of their lives, for example, ensuring long-term care so no veteran should have to suffer dementia and PTSD in a facility not equipped to meeting his or her needs.

Sadly, instead of trying to repay our obligation, we have let them down on many issues. For example, too many veterans go untreated for PTSD, too many veterans have nowhere safe to sleep at night, too many veterans suffer traumatic brain injury. It was shameful when a 92-year old veteran in Edmonton said, “There's a long road to go to make this right and you must not give up speaking to us because we never did”, speaking of himself and his colleagues.

The minister tabled Bill C-55 on November 17, 2010. The proposed legislation brought together several of the fall announcements and would make changes to the new veterans charter, as called for by several veterans organizations, including the Royal Canadian Legion, and would introduce changes to the administration of the lump sum disability award. Specifically, Bill C-55 would amend parts 1 to 3 of the new veterans charter as well as part IV of the Pension Act.

There are important changes in the proposed legislation: at least $58,000 per year for seriously wounded or ill veterans, those too injured to return to the workforce; a minimum of $40,000 per year no matter what the salary when serving in the CF for those receiving the monthly earnings loss benefit; an additional monthly payment of $1,000 for life to help our most seriously wounded veterans who are no longer able to work; and improved access to the permanent impairment allowance and the exceptional incapacity allowance, which will include 3,500 more veterans.

On behalf of veterans, I must ask why the government waited four years to propose any change to the new veterans charter, which has been hailed as a living document, a work in progress that would be continually adapted to meet the changing needs of veterans.

I must also ask why Veterans Affairs Canada did not live up to its 2006 commitment to review lump-sum awards for a disability pension within two years.

While the minister promised new improvements to the lump sum payment, the government merely divided up the payment differently, for example, as a partial lump sum and partial annual payments over any number of years the recipient chooses, or as a single lump sum payment.

Despite this, parties came together to ensure the passage of Bill C-55 and its extra support for veterans because our veterans need urgent help now and because veterans organizations across the country, including the Gulf War Veterans Association of Canada, the Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping and the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association have asked us to do so.

I come from an area with a rich military history. We recently lost retired Brigadier-General Ned Amy, who had served with such distinction. We have had many giants in Nova Scotia in military history. One of the great giants was a diminutive man who barely cracked five feet tall but made such a difference.

I think of sitting at the Battle of the Atlantic dinner with Murray Knowles, Earle Wagner and some of the great heroes who have served our country, many of whom went across the cold North Atlantic in the corvettes, the last one of which is HMCS Sackville, which is nearing the end of its useful life in the water and has to come ashore. One way the government could support what veterans want in recognition of what they have done for us is put money into the proposal to bring HMCS Sackville ashore in Halifax.

Dominion president Pat Varga spoke of this bill, saying:

This bill, as a first step, makes great strides in improving the New Veterans Charter and encompasses many of the recommendations made by the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group and the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. The Legion considers that further improvements are needed to the Charter on which we look forward to continue the ongoing dialogue with [the] Minister...

Many things have been brought forward by the legion. In the future, the Royal Canadian Legion would still like the department to address the amount of the lump sum payment, the $276,000. In Canada, disabled workers receive, on average, $329,000, Australian service members received about $325,000. British service members receive many times that figure. The legion feels those injured, while serving their country, should expect to receive at least the same amount awarded to civilian workers whose lives have been drastically changed by circumstances beyond their control.

This is a bill that parliamentarians from all parties are happy to come together and speak in favour of.

I want to talk about where we are in Canada today.

It is no secret that Parliament is facing a volatile time. There are serious issues being discussed in the chamber that go to the heart of our traditions and customs. There is a hardening of opinion on all sides and the stakes are high, indeed. It is a tense time and yet a delicate time and I do not think anybody knows for sure where this will end up.

It is happening in Parliament where the people of Canada have a voice. In Canada, we use words and not swords and we determine who governs our nation by using ballots and not bullets. However, privilege did not come by default. It was not inevitable. It is the dividend of the blood and sacrifice of those who left their homes and families, went to lands many never heard of before and put their lives on the line. Some never came home, and it happens to this day.

As we pass Bill C-55 and parliamentarians consider their responsibilities, let us remember the men and women who have given up the opportunities they had so we could do this in a free country. It is appropriate in this tumultuous time in Canadian democracy to remember that the veterans have brought us all and Parliament together. Once again, it is the men and women who have fought for Canada who have showed us how democracy should work. We can do much more to honour that sacrifice. I hope today is just the start.

Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Jonquière—Alma, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his support, and take this opportunity to elaborate on an important point that must be taken into consideration.

Injured soldiers are still employees of the Department of National Defence when they return home. In compensation for their injuries, the Department of National Defence will pay them an amount of up to $250,000. Then, when they are no longer employed by DND, they will be under the jurisdiction of the Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition to the $250,000 from the Department of National Defence, they will also receive another lump sum payment that can reach up to $285,000 plus the amounts I mentioned. A veteran participating in a rehabilitation program will receive $40,000 per year. If they do not participate in a rehabilitation program because their injuries are too serious and they cannot return to work, they will receive a minimum of $58,000 a year.

Thus, there is an initial amount of $250,000 from the Department of National Defence; a second amount of up to $285,000, depending on the extent of the injuries, from the Department of Veterans Affairs; and the other measures that I just mentioned.

I know that no amount of money can compensate for the loss of a limb or another injury, but our responsibility is to ensure that veterans and their families are at least financially stable. For that reason, I urge all members to support Bill C-55 and thus improve the situation of our modern-day veterans.

Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, the point is when people serve in the Canadian Forces, that is their employer. The Canadian government is not only their employer, but also provides other benefits, just as it does to other people who get benefits from their employers and still are entitled to benefits from the Government of Canada. There is an awful lot of veterans in our country who are not receiving benefits, or cannot get benefits or have trouble getting benefits and they end up in the offices of parliamentarians. We can do a lot better.

Any time the minister has been in Halifax, he has been very gracious in ensuring that parliamentarians of all stripes are brought forward at meetings, commendation ceremonies and things like that. That does not happen with departments. It has been my experience that, as minister, he has been gracious in ensuring the veterans issue is as non-partisan as possible.

While we all support Bill C-55, any MP who meets with veterans in his or her office, and I meet with a lot of them, knows we need to do a lot more. This needs to be the start and not the end of the journey.

Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to correct my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour on one thing. In committee a senior department official told us that over 3,500 veterans would benefit from Bill C-55 over five years. That is actually incorrect. Careful research by the Parliamentary Library indicates that only 500 veterans would benefit from these changes. A possible 2,320 veterans would be subject to enhanced benefits from regulatory changes, not legislative changes. The government did not need to introduce legislation to make changes to the regulations to assist more veterans.

In fact, the minister said that this would be a $2 billion enhancement. That is like telling a guy who plans on working for 40 years and is making $30,000 a year that he is going to make $1 million. The reality is $2 billion will be spread over an incredibly long period of time. The average cost of Bill C-55 would be $50 million a year. We thank the minister for that very tiny increase.

My question for my colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour is this. Why did the government not take a bigger lead in enhancing benefits—

Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Dartmouth--Cole Harbour.

Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore is a very passionate defender of veterans and veterans rights.

Last Friday I met with somebody who had been employed in the military in Gagetown. This individual had medical evidence indicating he had been afflicted with a disease that he contracted from serving in Gagetown. Because he finished his service a few months before the deadline of 1960 to 1970, he does not qualify. These arbitrary deadlines of who qualifies for programs and who does not leave a lot of veterans at home. They leave a lot of veterans without any support.

I do not dispute the number mentioned by the member. We were told at committee that the number was supposed to be 2,500. If it is less than that, then that is wrong.

Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to debate Bill C-55. As the daughter of a soldier who served for six years in the last world war, I completely agree with the demands of our soldiers who return from the front. Their needs must be taken into consideration. When soldiers are at the front, everyone sings their praises and speaks about them with great enthusiasm. Everyone says how important their work is and how various countries would never achieve freedom if they were not there.

When our soldiers, both male and female, are at the front—there are more and more women enlisting—they are always being praised. However, when they return, we thank those who went to war for their efforts and then often we forget about them. But, their injuries are not just physical injuries; often they are injuries to the soul. These injuries may not be apparent, at least not when the soldiers first return from combat. Sometimes it takes them a number of years to discover just how much they have been affected by combat and the atrocities they witnessed on the ground. They do not want to talk to anyone about it because soldiers do not want to be seen as weak. Female soldiers have also been taught to be strong in order to defend people in various troubled countries.

My mother married my father in 1949. He was returning from war, where he fought from 1939 to 1945. He was a scout throughout the entire war. He participated in the campaigns in Italy, Poland, England and Africa. He slept in the trenches for six years, eating monkey meat, as he called it. He did that for six years—not six or eight months—before returning to Quebec, resting and returning to the front lines six months later. For six years non-stop, he was on the front lines. When he returned in 1949, he suffered from chronic bronchitis. He was told that it was not a result of the war and he was refused a pension.

My mother fought from 1949 to 1987 to for my father to receive something. It took 38 years for my father to finally get recognition from his country for what he had done. After 38 years, still today, we see men and women fighting to be recognized for what they have done for their country. They are not recognized. Now, the government will give $1,000 a month to wounded soldiers who cannot work for the rest of their lives, but that $1,000 is taxable. Big deal.

They will receive their lump sum payments, even though we know very well that when people get a lot of money all at once they spend it. Life is expensive. Soldiers return home from the war and their families are affected because these soldiers have gone to and from Afghanistan or other theatres of war several times. They see the most terrible things, such as seeing their fellow soldiers killed in front of them or blown up by a bomb. And we think that those scars are not permanent? Psychological wounds may not look as frightening, but they are permanent. And they are not adequately taken into account.

The people who evaluate returning soldiers work for the government. But the government wants to pay out as little as possible. That has been the case for years. They are giving less to our military personnel who are coming back from combat. Are they worth less because they are coming back from combat and are older? Is that it? When they are in combat, they are taken care of and are paid well, but as soon as they come back, it is a different story.

Of course, the Bloc Québécois will support this bill despite its lack of a broad approach to help soldiers regain what they deserve, like the lifetime pension, for example. How could the government have taken that away? The last survivor of the first world war died recently. They do not need to take care of them anymore.

My mother is 82, soon to be 83. Last year she became entitled to help, despite the fact that she had taken care of my father for many years and her health was failing. She did not want outside help because she said she was capable of doing it herself. It was her husband and her duty. She felt that she was capable.

In 1971, before my father received anything from the government, he was decorated by England, Poland and Italy. Three governments recognized the work he had done to free them. Our government did nothing, absolutely nothing for us. He got hearing aids. Hearing bombs and constant explosions will obviously affect your hearing eventually. He got his hearing aids a few months before he died. And that could not be blamed on the war either. He could not hear a thing, but that was normal deterioration.

I do not know what to say to make my colleagues across the floor understand that this bill must be improved, that we need to bring back the lifetime pension, that our soldiers deserve a lifetime pension, that when soldiers return home after fighting on the front lines, they deserve the respect of their fellow citizens, but more importantly, the respect of the government and MPs. I still hope that people will remember, that the government will correct the situation in order to give our soldiers as much support as possible and stop being tight-fisted. The government is not skimping on the F-35s. It is not skimping on money for arms. It is not skimping on money for Afghanistan. So it should stop skimping on the money it gives to our soldiers. They are entitled to that money. Our men and women in uniform fought for us. When they return home, they deserve a minimum of respect and they need to know that their efforts are appreciated.

I find it very unfortunate that we are still discussing this in 2011. I would have thought that the government would understand by now. Every year, we commemorate the armistice. We lay wreaths on Remembrance Day for our fallen soldiers. We lay wreaths, and then we go about our business for the rest of the day. The legion is the only organization that continues to care about our soldiers, and legions have fewer and fewer volunteers because people are dying. People are dying and those still with us are less enthusiastic than in the past and less able to defend their rights. And those who are returning from the mission in Afghanistan are also not able to defend themselves. It takes months and years to get over that.

I remember that my father never wanted to talk about the war. In 1978, McGill University asked him to do a series of interviews over a period of six months during which he talked about what he experienced in the war. These interviews were confidential. We were not allowed to attend and they remained confidential. The research has remained confidential. After his death, we tried to obtain copies in order to find out what happened. We never were able to get a copy, but I know that when he started talking about what he experienced during the war, he would cry every time he watched the armistice commemoration on television.

For our soldiers, I am calling on the House—

Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I want to point out a number of things that have been accomplished under this government and under the leadership of the veterans affairs minister . Obviously, we have accomplished a number of significant things for veterans.

The member spoke about veterans quite a bit. We reintroduced the benefits for allied veterans, for example, under VIP, which had been terribly and shamefully stripped away under the previous Liberal government. We also extended VIP benefits to thousands and thousands of veterans who did not qualify under the Liberal government. We have done that.

The member seeks to impugn the government for our actions and our support for veterans, but in the death throes of the 38th Parliament, under the Liberal government, a bill was brought forward for the veterans charter. It was passed in the days just preceding the election with the unanimous approval of the House. Many of the things that member is complaining about and saying are unjust, her party voted unanimously in support of. I think all parties have come back and said that we should fix this, and there is goodwill on this.

Did the member support that veterans charter when it was brought in as the balance of her party did? I do not know if she was here in the 38th Parliament, but that was something that was enacted by a unanimous vote in Parliament.

Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act
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10:40 a.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, just because we made mistakes in the past, that does not mean we have to keep making them. That was a unanimous vote. The Conservatives, the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP voted in favour because they thought that was best for the soldiers.

When we realize that a bill is no good, we change it. The hon. member forgot to mention something. I did not say that the Minister of Veterans Affairs was not doing a good job. I said the government could do more for our soldiers. I did not say that the government was doing nothing for our soldiers. I said it could do more and better, but that will cost more. If they can afford corporate tax cuts and tax gifts for the oil and gas companies, then they can afford to do more for our soldiers.