Mr. Speaker, Bill C-27, the veterans hiring act, would be another meaningful way for us to create new opportunities for eligible veterans and still-serving members to continue serving Canada through the federal public service. It would do this by giving veterans and still-serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces regular access to rewarding jobs in the federal public service.
First and foremost, it would create a statutory priority entitlement for those eligible men and women who were medically released from the military because of a service-related injury. These deserving men and women would be moved to the front of the hiring line in recognition of their service and sacrifice on behalf of Canada. It would assure us continued access to the talent of these men and women that Canada helped to train and develop in the first place.
I had an opportunity to live a portion of my father's 36-year career for 17 years before leaving home and I was fortunate to witness his exceptional leadership, management, problem solving and public speaking skills to some small extent. My older sister, also in the military, excelled in many areas, including purchasing and asset management, to name but a few. Her husband was an air frame technician for 20 years, while my youngest sister became fluent in the Russian language and used her knowledge to the benefit of Canada in postings to Alert on a couple of occasions.
All of these skills are transferrable not only to the private sector but also to the public sector. All of my family transferred to the private sector, with the exception of my father who retired.
As a further testament to the skills learned, I want to provide a quote from Wayne Mac Culloch from the Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping. He said: “My own experience highlights the value that disabled veterans continue to be able to contribute to the public service and Canadians. I was medically released from the Canadian Armed Forces for service-related injuries in October 2008. Although I did not enjoy the level of priority being proposed in C-27, I was fortunate to turn my regulatory priority into an intermediate appointment in January 2011 and I have continued to rise in authority, accountability and responsibility. My knowledge, experience, ability to focus on priority issues, analytical excellence and agility in action, accrued through a wide variety of employment, are seen as having particular importance in today's government business operations. Re-engaging with a familiar workplace and pursuing meaningful employment has greatly increased my quality of life, while providing continued value to government and the Canadian public”.
The bottom line is that Bill C-27 would be a win-win for our men and women in uniform, as well as the country they served so proudly.
Of course, the legislation would also build upon our government's extraordinary record of action on behalf of veterans, still-serving members and their families.
In fact, since 2006, our government has invested in a cumulative total of almost $4.7 billion in new funding to enhance veterans' benefits, programs and services.
As the member for Edmonton Centre said during second reading of the bill, our government has been single-minded in doing everything it can to ensure veterans and their families have the care and support they need, when and where they need it. This included implementing the new veterans charter, with its immediate and long-term financial benefits for injured and ill veterans, as well as comprehensive medical, psychosocial and vocational rehabilitation services, health care benefits, mental health services and one-on-one case management for those who required such help.
It also means being there to help veterans with everything from the shovelling of their driveways in the winter and the cutting of their grass in the summer, to assisting them with housekeeping services year-round.
The program is necessary in order for my own mother to continue to live independently. On her behalf, I would like to thank Veterans Affairs and the veterans' independence program for their support. Part of the reasons for these programs are so individuals can live in their homes longer and are not a strain on the system.
In fact, the range of services available to veterans and their families extends from benefits and supports for modern day veterans and their families to long-term care and the funeral and burial program. It also includes our delivering on what all the available research tells us: a successful transition from the military often depends upon finding satisfying and rewarding new employment.
After all, the average age of a member releasing from the Canadian Armed Forces today is 37 years. These young men and women do not just want to start new careers, they also need to find new careers. That is why we have developed a flexible new approach to our vocational rehabilitation services to provide up to $75,800 for eligible veterans to pursue the new training they may need to gain employment when their time in uniform is complete. That is why we contributed $150,000 to the Helmets to Hardhats Canada program, which is helping veterans find good paying jobs in the trades and construction industry. That is why we are actively encouraging employers across the country to place priority on hiring veterans. That is why we are working more closely than ever before with blue-chip partners, like the True Patriot Love Foundation and corporate Canada generally, to find innovative new ways to improve the transition process for veterans and their families.
For business leaders, the military world may seem difficult to understand and a little intimidating. That is why organizations such as True Patriot Love, the Treble Victor Group, Wounded Warriors Canada, and Veterans Affairs provide effective support to help facilitate understanding and to connect talented veterans with employers.
The Canada Company military employment transition, otherwise known as MET, brings together employers and veterans in an online marketplace and provides workshops about military culture, values, and structure in order to supply employers with an understanding of the applicability of military experience to the business world. The impact of MET, founded by Blake Goldring, chair and CEO of AGF Management Limited, can be seen through the experiences and results obtained by both Target Canada and Bell Canada.
Gabriel Granatstein, group manager and senior counsel of employee and labour relations at Target Canada, himself a veteran, secured the active support of senior management to establish Target Canada as a veteran friendly employer. A key step was to invite MET to hold workshops for Target Canada recruiters to help them understand the positive attributes skilled veterans bring to the workplace. Target Canada is now actively recruiting veterans and sponsoring MET workshops for other employers.
Kristine Emmett, vice president of organizational development at Bell, champions the value that veterans bring to Bell's business and sees MET workshops as an excellent means of educating recruiters. Ms. Emmett views MET as a “great business partner” that has helped Bell recruiters better understand the value of hiring veterans and reservists. MET has already conducted two workshops for Bell recruiters, and Ms. Emmett said that the MET program also provides Bell with the opportunity to post jobs on MET's Hot Jobs communication channel, which goes directly out to MET members. Walmart, Cenovus, Toronto Hospital for Sick Children, Queen's University, and CN Rail, all of of which are veteran friendly employers.
That is why we introduced this important legislation, Bill C-27, because we are committed to leading by example. The merits of this legislation are well known and they have been repeated often. However, it is important that I remind the House what Bill C-27 proposes to do.
It would move eligible veterans to the front of the line for those jobs they are qualified to fill in the federal public service. This would be achieved by creating a five-year statutory priority entitlement for any members of the Canadian Armed Forces who would be releasing from the military because of a service-related injury or illness. Bill C-27 would also extend the existing priority entitlement period from two years to five years.
In addition, this legislation would create other hiring opportunities for honourably releasing veterans and still-serving members who want to start a new career in the federal public service. For example, if passed, this legislation would permit still-serving military personnel with at least three years of service, as well as veterans who are not employed full time in the public service, to compete for internally advertised positions within the federal public service. This eligibility would continue for a full five years after their honourable release from the Canadian Armed Forces.
Furthermore, Bill C-27 would also establish a hiring preference for veterans applying for externally advertised positions in the federal public service. This means is that if a veteran has been honourably released with at least three years of military service, and is equally qualified for the position at hand, he or she would be given hiring priority over all other eligible applicants.
These measures were designed to recognize that Canadian Armed Forces personnel and veterans who have served for three years have gained enough military knowledge and attributes to make them a clear asset to the federal public service. In addition, three years of military service demonstrates a sufficient commitment to Canada. It is consistent with the minimum commitment required of new recruits. It also demonstrates a real sense of purpose and a willingness to serve on the part of our veterans and still-serving members. At the same time, as others have noted, the five-year hiring preference for veterans would give them sufficient time, if needed, to further upgrade their education and skills before they seek a career in the federal public service.
Let me be very clear. While these measures greatly improve access for veterans and still-serving members to start rewarding new careers in the federal public service, this bill is not a blank cheque. Veterans and still-serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces must still be fully qualified to perform the work for which they are applying. This is an essential point to note. We are committed to building the best, most talented, and most professional public service in the world, and we will never compromise on that.
However, as I noted at the outset, we are also well aware of the experience and expertise our veterans can bring to the workplace. We know that they have the skill sets to succeed at anything they set their minds to, and we want to maintain our own access to this pool of high quality individuals.
The Minister of Veterans Affairs often says that Canada's veterans reflect the very best of what it means to be Canadian. Who would not want to hire them into the positions and jobs they are trained and fully qualified to perform? That is why I am urging all members of the House, through you, Mr. Speaker, to support this important piece of legislation.
I do believe that we will have unanimous support, judging from the work we did on the committee. Here I would like to take this opportunity, once again, to thank my fellow committee members on the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. We do work incredibly well together. We do have the hearts of our veterans in mind. Many of us have a strong military background and are on the committee because we really want to serve our veterans well. This is one piece of legislation that I think would absolutely do that in conjunction with others.
Now, more than ever, let us show our support for every Canadian who has proudly worn our nation's uniform. They deserve every opportunity that we can provide for them. Bill C-27 is a truly worthy piece of legislation whose time has come. Let us make it happen. Please support it and all the fine men and women it is designed to help.