Support for Veterans and Their Families Act

An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

Sponsor

Erin O'Toole  Conservative

Status

Second reading (House), as of March 30, 2015
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act to

(a) add a purpose statement to the Act;

(b) improve the transition process of Canadian Forces members and veterans to civilian life by allowing the Minister of Veterans Affairs to make decisions in respect of applications made by those members for services, assistance and compensation under the Act before their release from the Canadian Forces and to provide members and veterans with information and guidance before and after their release;

(c) establish the retirement income security benefit to provide eligible veterans and survivors with a continued financial benefit after the age of 65 years;

(d) establish the critical injury benefit to provide eligible Canadian Forces members and veterans with lump-sum compensation for severe, sudden and traumatic injuries or acute diseases that are service related, regardless of whether they result in permanent disability; and

(e) establish the family caregiver relief benefit to provide eligible veterans who require a high level of ongoing care from an informal caregiver with an annual grant to recognize that caregiver’s support.

The enactment also amends the Veterans Review and Appeal Board Act as a consequence of the establishment of the critical injury benefit.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 15th, 2018 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is an important debate brought by my colleague today, because it highlights one of our most important duties as parliamentarians. As I have said in debates in this place, before Canada sends our men and women into harm's way, whether it is fighting ISIS or in other deployments, decisions related to the Canadian Armed Forces, those Canadians who serve us, are perhaps the most important decisions, debates, and questions we have as parliamentarians.

We should be very deliberative and thoughtful in our decisions with respect to deploying our military. We need to apply that same deliberate, compassionate, and honest approach in how we treat those men and women who come back with a variety of service injuries.

Unfortunately, in the last decade-plus, there has been a lot of rhetoric with respect to veterans' issues and veterans' care, but very little deliberate language trying to explain and understand how we best provide for our men and women. They are often used as political tools and I want to see that end, so I am going to devote most of the time I have for my remarks today to setting the record straight. Even some of the language I see from the minister's office shows he does not understand how programs and services are delivered to the people he serves, the same with people in his office. I hope they are tuning in.

I am also going to try to take a balanced look at the new veterans charter, and why, as minister, I tried to improve it, fix the problems, fill in the gaps, as opposed to making irresponsible promises that the Prime Minister and the Liberal Party, in the last campaign, either did not understand, did not cost, or did not care whether they fulfilled them. I certainly hope it is not the last one of those reasons. I certainly hope not. I think, at a bare minimum, all politicians, when talking about care for those who serve us, have to have honesty and respect underlying all of our comments, all of our promises, and all of our commitments.

We hear a lot about quotes from our past with respect to our obligation. I have often talked about the Royal Canadian Legion, and once a Liberal member mocked me for suggesting the Legion has a role, but the Legion has been serving veterans far longer than Veterans Affairs Canada. In fact, they were given a mandate to help veterans and help commemoration through an act of Parliament in this place in 1926. They still, in many ways, are at the forefront in their 1,400 locations across the country, where each branch has a veterans' service officer.

I want to start my remarks by saying, veterans started taking care of veterans first, and they still do. I spoke with many of them on the Hill today, because they are trying to take care of their comrades and in some cases, themselves. As I said, we owe them honesty and respect. That is why we are having this debate today. The Prime Minister has not provided honesty or respect in all of his commitments with respect to veteran pensions and veteran care.

We saw that first-hand two weeks ago in Edmonton, where an injured veteran asked him about his commitments, and the Prime Minister told that veteran that he was, in many ways, asking for more than the government could give. However, he was only asking for the Prime Minister to live up to his promise.

Let us talk about this pension for life charade from Christmastime. Even in the minister's own remarks, he suggests building upon programs in place. That was one of his responses. Many of the programs put in place where put in place by ministers of the Paul Martin government, when they started the new veterans charter. Then under the Harper government, we modified and enhanced benefits, including in my time.

When I introduced Bill C-58 in the last Parliament, which outlined a number of new enhancements, new benefits for veterans after direct consultation with veterans, I embedded into that legislation language with respect to the just and appreciation and the obligation we had to our veterans. This comes from a 1917 quote from Sir Robert Borden given to our men overseas who were injured in and around the campaigns of 1917.

Yesterday, Liberal members voted down a private member's bill put forward by my colleague from Barrie to enshrine that sacred obligation, that enhanced social covenant, that we owe to our citizens who we ask to serve with the risk of unlimited liability. That is why our veterans are in court. That is why they are asking for such a covenant. Their comrades in the United Kingdom have it. I is talked about it in Bill C-58.

One of the members from British Columbia brought forward an opposition day motion on it in the last Parliament. I am quite sure the Prime Minister voted for it then as third party leader. He whipped his members to vote against it yesterday, even though I know a lot of those members deeply care, including some who are in the House now. I wish their voices would be heard in their caucus, because right now veterans do not feel they are getting honesty and respect from the Liberal government.

We often quote Sir Robert Borden, who happens to have been my favourite prime minister because of his leadership during the Great War and the toll it took on him.

Here is a quote from a veteran who died 100 years ago, Talbot Papineau. Ironically the Prime Minister is also the member of Parliament for Papineau, but he is referred to as Prime Minister because he leads the government. Everyone in the House has a right to speak as members of Parliament.

The Papineau family, going back to Talbot Papineau's grandfather, has been so important for Quebec life that the Prime Minister now represents a riding named after the Papineau family. The Prime Minister also played Talbot Papineau, the Great War soldier, on television, so there is a direct connection there.

What did Talbot Papineau say to his troops days before he died in the Battle of Passchendaele? He said, “For those who have been disabled, who cannot carry on the good fight — it is certainly for us to see that they want for nothing.” He died on the day his regiment lost six of its junior officers on one of the worst days of fighting in Passchendaele. We honour Passchendaele. I know the parliamentary secretary was in Passchendaele.

The Prime Minister needs to do more than just act in the form of Talbot Papineau. He needs to live up to those words. This debate is about that. The fact that he whipped his members to vote against this concept yesterday is troubling.

We do owe a special, a sacred, a profound obligation to those who are injured while serving us. That is why the Conservative Party has brought this opposition day forward today. Veterans heard the Prime Minister of Canada, in my view, disrespect a veteran with his response in Edmonton because that veteran was asking the Prime Minister to live up to his promises.

Where did the Liberal government go wrong with veterans in its first two years? It boils down to two central pledges in the Liberal campaign. I was still veterans affairs minister during the campaign. During the 2015 campaign, unions were paying people to protest in front of my office. I was still trying to help veterans in need.

I remember very well when the Prime Minister, then third party leader, leader of the Liberal Party, had a rally not far from CFB Trenton in Belleville. The party flew in its star veteran candidates. The Minister of National Defence was there. The parliamentary secretary for U.S. relations was there. The parliamentary secretary for transport was there, all wearing medals, all behind the Prime Minister. It was very impressive form, very impressive people individually..

The Prime Minister said two things in those remarks that day. He said that he would never allow a circumstance where the Government of Canada forced veterans into court to be heard in their fight for benefits. He also made a commitment that day to return to the Pension Act, not make up a modified pension for life, which even the minister admits only 10% or so of people will see any enhancement whatsoever. He made a commitment to return to what veterans know as the old system, the Pension Act, where everyone got a pension for life.

I never made that promise as minister because the old act had inherent problems with it. Many people forgot that. My old friend, Peter Stoffer, the long-time critic for the NDP, agreed with me that the old system had problems and we had to fix the new system, the new veterans charter, because it was based on overall wellness of the veterans and their families. Honesty is not making a promise one will likely not keep.

Then there was the court decision. I have not told the House this before, but I will inform members of it today. I think the people involved with Equitas would be okay with my talking about this level of disclosure.

The previous Government of Canada, and I was minister at the time, and the Equitas veterans, who were in court because of their frustration, built a level of trust. As a veteran myself and with veterans on my team, I hired a new lawyer. I replaced the Department of Justice lawyer who had brought an argument suggesting in a pretrial motion that the Government of Canada owed no special duty to our veterans. I found that repugnant as a lawyer, as a parliamentarian, and as a veteran. We learned from the Equitas veterans. The family caregiver benefit, the retirement income security benefit, all the benefits the Liberals are now renaming and trying to claim as their own, a lot of them came from advice I received, and we virtually had Equitas settled. Why was it not settled? Because the Liberals dangled the promise of a return to the old Pension Act.

I said that if that was indeed the promise, I could not meet it. I asked whether we could turn our settlement into an abeyance agreement, or at least call time out on the litigation. I told the veterans that if they trusted the Liberals and wanted to go with that deal, as their friend now and not just as minister, I would respect that. I had told Prime Minister Harper at the time that we were close to settling Equitas. I looked at it as a failing of mine. Why did it fail? Because a promise was made, a deception was sown, and the Liberals need to take accountability for it.

I would much rather the Minister of Veterans Affairs admit that the Liberals have broken their promise than to dress it up in a press conference a few days before Christmas. It was shameful. They should step up and say they cannot meet their promise.

The Prime Minister in his town hall in Edmonton basically admitted the government could not afford it. Why did he promise it? We are looking at a return to the old system, a cost to the federal government of somewhere between $20 billion and $35 billion. That is because the old system wanted veterans to just quickly go on a pension. It was not about wellness. It was not about transition. If veterans had an operational stress injuries under the old system and because with mental health injuries they could have good times and bad times and they could respond to treatment, they did not get a permanent disability of 100% a lot of the time. If they were assessed at a 40% disability, they had a pension for life that committed them to poverty, or addiction, or family break-up or homelessness.

That is why the old system does not work. We need to focus on the wellness. For those who cannot transition, because of physical or mental injuries, give them lifetime financial support. I did that as minister, with the retirement income security benefit, with the critical injury benefit, with enhancements to PIA, all the things the Liberals are building on now, to ensure the moderate to severely injured, who could not transition, were supported for life. All Canadians want to see that.

Here is what is wrong with the Liberal system. The Liberals throw this number around, which I know they do not even understand. They said they spent $10 billion on veterans. That is not true. Some of that is accrual accounting, and they are not even forthright on it. It is not a cash accounting spend. It is an accrual. It is a commitment of the federal government to maintain a lifelong benefit. I would like them to break that $10 billion down into how much is in accrual accounting and how much is cash out the door. We will know in a couple of years when lapses in public accounts come in. The reckoning is coming. Why can they not just be forthright?

Here is what was not smart about the government's first act. The retroactive top-up of the disability award was very bad public policy. Every dollar I had from the treasury, working with Prime Minister Harper at the time, I wanted to go to the moderately to severely injured and their families, those who were struggling. The vast majority of the $2 billion or so the Liberals spent retroactively topping up the lump sum went to people with disability assessments in the 13% range. They spent at least a billion dollars on hearing loss. If they were more forthright, I would know exactly how much. Those funds should have put toward families.

Expand the permanent impairment allowance and give family caregiver benefits to everyone on PIA. That is where I was going. That would be sound policy because those are the people who have had trouble transitioning. Those are the people Talbot Papineau, 100 years ago, said, “it is certainly for us to see that they want for nothing.”

I know veterans with lower level injuries, such as musculoskeletal and hearing. Some of them go on to work on Bay Street, or in government, or are deputy ministers. Do they need the transitional support? Generally, not. Therefore, any funds should go to the ones who need it.

To say I am profoundly disappointed to be having to debate this here today is an understatement. As I stated at the outset, the two things that veterans deserve are honesty and respect. They did not get that.

If the Prime Minister wants to show those things, he should admit he did not understand the cost of his pension promise, instead of suggesting the veteran in Edmonton was asking for too much. The Prime Minister did not know what he promised. That is shameful. He should admit that.

The other thing he should do is meet with the Equitas veterans. They are wonderful people. They have served us. I know a lot of the Liberal MPs have met them and like them. Why is he forcing them to go to the Supreme Court of Canada? I agreed with his promise. Veterans should not have to face off against their government in court. He is making them do that. The lawyers from the Justice Department, who I removed from the case, he reappointed. They went back to their old argument that we had stopped them from making.

This is about owning leadership. Leadership is not just photographs, or as the Prime Minister suggested to the Ethics Commissioner, he is like a networker-in-chief for Canada. He owes it to the veterans of our country to tell them why he has broken his promises on a return to a pension for all injured, and for returning Equitas veterans to court. Until I see responsibility from the Prime Minister and the minister, the Conservatives will continue to fight in this place for those who serve us.

June 13th, 2016 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

As an Individual

Walter Callaghan

The initial part works out to $2,050 a month, 75% of the old deemed salary of $2,700. That's coming from SISIP. The increase as a result of Bill C-58 brought reservists up to the equivalent of corporal basic, the base minimum that regular force personnel get. There was an argument between SISIP and Veterans Affairs over who would handle that. SISIP refused. VAC decided, okay, you guys are now eligible for ELB, on top of your SISIP, to top you up to this amount.

There's some really funny stuff going with the numbers. It's a problem also for reservists and it's been going on, and I just mentioned the deemed salary aspect. I do not know a single reservist who is getting paid the rank equivalency. All of us are being paid, regardless of our rank, as corporal basic, which in some cases can be a difference of thousands of dollars per month.

June 13th, 2016 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

As an Individual

Walter Callaghan

Sometimes it's yearly, sometimes it's every few years. Because I'm a reservist, this is a whole other complicated ball game that I don't know if I'll have time to get into, the way that our benefits are done. Because I was permanently injured, I'm still on SISIP, but because of the changes that occurred last year with Bill C-58 and Bill C-59 , I'm also receiving financial benefits from VAC. Because I was deemed permanently injured, the provision of stuff like psychotherapy or the approval for psychotherapy, massage therapy, physiotherapy, all those go through VAC. So I'm receiving annual documents from SISIP, much like Paul Franklin being told that he must prove he has no legs anymore. In my case, I'm having to prove that I still have a demon haunting every living moment, and my back injury is still here.

With VAC, the package I got this morning contained the documents for the two-year mandatory review of permanent status. My original classification as permanently disabled with VAC occurred in 2012-13, so it's not even two years. There's a discrepancy on when they're sending out documents, but because I was removed from the rehab program, to maintain my weekly massage therapy and physiotherapy, both of which are used for pain management, and the biweekly psychotherapy, we're having to submit documents every four to six months saying I'm still injured, I still need this help. It is getting ridiculous.

May 12th, 2016 / 11:55 a.m.
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Director, Canadian Caregivers Brigade

Kimberly Davis

Well, that's the question. If you go back and look at the list, how many of us have been witness to these meetings? How many more meetings do we have to be witness to?

Last year, I was flown up there. I sat in front of the committee and told them my story. I told them the stories of families that were going through situations similar to the ones my family was going through, if not worse ones. What are we supposed to do?

Then I was asked to comment on Bill C-58 for the committee. I drew up a report and submitted it electronically to the committee. I never heard anything about it. I never heard why it wasn't considered. Why did we still end up getting the $7,200 family caregiver relief benefit when it was broken down? Why are we doing algebraic equations for a retirement income security benefit?

You are asking veterans, some of whom can't fill out applications because just reading one question sets them off, to calculate an algebraic equation as to what they are going to get when they are 65. How does that make sense?

That's not to mention my algebraic equation if my husband passes, and what I might get. Well, first you have to calculate 75% of this, minus this, plus this, and oh, then divided by this. Really? It doesn't make sense. Why can we not make this stuff simple? It is not rocket science. It is not brain surgery. It is taking care of the veterans that this country sent overseas to give us our rights and freedoms. Why does it have to be so difficult?

Dana was talking about her 10, 20, and 80 sessions. I go through that every 20 sessions with my husband. His physiotherapist, his chiropractor, his massage therapist.... This is all for pain management. The pain is never going away. It is management. He goes through his granted 20 sessions in the first part of the year. He is going to two to three appointments a week. Well, how long do 20 sessions last if you are going to two to three appointments a week? They might last seven to 10 weeks in a 52-week period. The providers have to complete five to eight extension requests in order to properly treat their veteran.

A year ago, I asked the department to review my husband's paramedicine file, look at how many physiotherapy, chiropractic, and massage therapy sessions he has gone through in the last three years, and please grant him the amount that would help him manage his pain instead of having this break in treatment.

I know exactly what Dana is going through, because I go through this frustration with my husband every seven to 10 weeks.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

June 15th, 2015 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, in order to allow more of my colleagues to speak out loud and clear in the House and to give a voice to the people of their respective ridings, I will be sharing my time with the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine.

Indeed, we have to share our time, because once again the Conservatives are resorting to two of their old habits, which are both equally atrocious, namely gag orders and omnibus bills in which they put absolutely anything and everything.

By introducing Bill C-59 as an omnibus bill, they are forcing us to answer yes or no to a whole series of measures that are often unrelated to one another. For example, I could say that I support the home renovation tax credit, which is in this budget, but at the same time, how could I possibly say yes to income splitting, which is tailor-made for the rich? Both of those examples deal with measures related to the economy and have their place in a budget, I think.

At the end of the day, I could take stock, weigh the pros and cons, and then decide. However, I will provide a few other examples to give us a taste and allow those watching us to understand the inconsistencies of such an approach.

For example, I could very easily say yes to the lower tax rate for SMEs in the budget. What is more, that measure is based on one that was proposed by the NDP, although it extends over a longer period of time. We wanted to do things more quickly, knowing that small and medium size businesses were the backbone of the Canadian economy and that the sooner we supported them, the sooner we would promote job creation. However, voting in favour of this measure in Bill C-59 would also mean voting in favour of hijacking the bargaining process with public servants, which is also included in the bill. I simply cannot do that.

I could certainly vote in favour of the new veterans charter, which had its own bill number, Bill C-58, if memory serves me correctly. Why are we not voting on Bill C-58 and Bill C-59 separately? If this is not playing politics, then I do not know what is. In order to vote in favour of the new veterans charter, I would have to also vote for retroactive changes to access to information legislation.

None of these things—veterans, the Access to Information Act, or the bargaining process with public servants—have anything to do with the budgetary process.

As I said earlier, Bill C-59 contains a few positive measures. For example, it improves support for caregivers. However, this measure comes in response to many concerns that were raised by the NDP, again, during this Parliament and the previous Parliament. Except for a few miserly measures, this budget does nothing for the Canadian economy. Budget 2015 ignores the middle class and posts a false surplus at the expense of the most vulnerable and our public services.

The Minister of Finance boasted that because the government is a good economic manager, it was posting a surplus of $1.4 billion. The surplus is nothing more than an accounting trick. In reality, the Conservatives helped themselves to $2 billion from the employment insurance fund, dipped into the federal fund for natural disasters and sold its General Motors shares at bargain basement prices. Thus, this election budget comes at the expense of unemployed workers and other Canadians.

As I mentioned, the 2015 budget forgets all about middle-class workers and is detrimental to the Canadian economy. Let us start with the budget's tax measures. More and more studies by well-known economists show that income-splitting and increasing the TFSA contribution limit are unfair and ineffective policies.

For those watching who are not familiar with income splitting, a couple could split up to $50,000 in income thereby reducing their total income and rate of taxation.

With that in mind, let us take the example of single-parent families, which represent one in three families in Quebec. Whom do these families split their income with? We can see right away that this measure becomes less and less attractive.

According to the economists at the C. D. Howe Institute, which, I imagine, must be a very left-leaning organization, only 15% of families could take advantage of this program. Which 15%? The families where there is a huge difference in the income of the spouses. The income gap between rich and poor continues to widen, and this measure would really benefit those families where one spouse has a substantially higher income than the other. Some studies have shown that this might be an incentive for the other spouse not to work outside the home. More often than not, the woman is the person who stays home.

I remind members that the former finance minister was highly critical of this idea and recommended that it not be supported. What is the cost of this tax measure? It will cost the federal government $2 billion a year.

How will the Minister of Finance recover that $2 billion? The answer is quite simple, and members need only take a look at the EI fund to see that the $2 billion given to the wealthiest Canadians has been taken out of the EI premiums paid by workers and employers.

Since the Conservatives are nothing if not consistent as managers and insist on making this a budget for the wealthy, this budget increases the TFSA limit to $10,000. Most of my constituents have a hard time maxing out their RRSP. Imagine putting $5,000 in a TFSA.

The measure in itself is not a bad one. However, the people who benefit when we double the limit are those who have very good incomes and who are among the wealthiest of our society. Furthermore, the financial cost of this increase will double over the next four years and reach $13.5 billion by 2030.

Of course we had concerns about the impact of that financial burden on future generations. The Minister of Finance may also have given a moment's thought to future generations when he made the following statement.

He simply said, “Why don't we leave that to [the] Prime Minister['s] granddaughter to solve that problem?” Let us just keep shovelling the pile forward until we hit a wall.

I could go on and on about employment insurance. If barely 39% of the people who contribute manage to collect benefits when bad luck strikes, that means there is a problem with the way the employment insurance fund is managed.

The NDP proposed measures that should be in the budget but are not: getting rid of income splitting, which costs us $2 billion; developing a comprehensive strategy to tackle structural youth unemployment and underemployment; offering a hiring and training tax credit to help businesses create jobs for Canadian youth; and abolishing the appalling employment insurance reform. I could go on.

The New Democratic Party's proposals will be in its platform and will enable all Canadians to choose a better government that listens to their needs and has a clear vision for development that will leave no member of society behind. That will happen on October 19.

Between now and then, I invite the majority of MPs in the House of Commons to vote against this way of doing business that involves repeated use of time allocation and omnibus bills that purport to fix all of the world's problems with a single yes or no.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

June 15th, 2015 / 4:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure today to rise in the House to speak at third reading stage of Bill C-59, economic action plan 2015 act, No. 1.

At the outset, I would like to congratulate the Minister of Finance, the hon. member for Eglinton—Lawrence, on his first budget, a very comprehensive budget, one that I am very proud to be a member of a team and a government to support in the House. I wish him well for many more balanced and successful budgets in the future.

This bill would legislate key elements of economic action plan 2015, which include measures to support jobs and growth, help communities prosper and ensure the security of Canadians. The bill also includes the measures that were contained in Bill C-57, the support for families act, and Bill C-58, the support for veterans and their families act.

However, perhaps the most significant part of the bill is that it would return Canada to a balanced budget and would enshrine in law balanced budget legislation reflecting our government's responsible fiscal management policy, which is creating jobs and putting more money back in the pockets of Canadians. A balanced budget allows the Government of Canada to cut taxes further for Canadian families, individuals and businesses.

My riding of Mississauga—Streetsville has the second highest number of families with children living at home in all of Canada. That is why our government's family tax cut and benefits plan really hits home in my community.

Our government will increase the universal child care benefit for children 6 and under to $160 per month, and extend the benefit for children aged 7 to 17 by $60 per month. This initiative puts thousands of dollars a year back into the pockets of families in my riding, and allows parents to make their choices for their children on how that money will be spent. It is important to note that the increase to the UCCB is retroactive to January 1, 2015 and that the new benefit will start to flow for families this July.

Further, our government is instituting a family income-splitting program that would allow a higher income spouse to, in effect, transfer $50,000 of taxable income to a spouse in a lower tax bracket, effective for the 2014 tax year. Some families would save as much as $2,000 a year in total family tax paid, yet another example of how we are putting more money back into the pockets of hard-working Canadian families.

Economic action plan 2015 would also increases the child care expense deduction dollar limits by $1,000, effective for the 2015 tax year. The maximum amounts that can be claimed will increase to $8,000 from $7,000 for children under age 7, to $5,000 from $4,000 for children aged 7 to 16, and up to $11,000 from $10,000 for children who are eligible for the disability tax credit.

Millions of Canadians have taken advantage of the very popular tax-free savings account. TFSAs are an excellent way for Canadians to save tax free and have that money available in the future for their personal needs. Many Canadians have maxed out at the old $5,500 a year limit, and many would contribute more if allowed. I am very pleased to report that economic action plan 2015 would raise the maximum contribution limit to $10,000, effective in 2015 and subsequent years.

Bill C-59 would also reduce the minimum withdrawal factors for registered retirement income funds to permit seniors to preserve more of their retirement savings to better support their retirement income needs.

The bill would also create the home accessibility tax credit to assist seniors and disabled Canadians offset renovation costs to make their homes safer and more accessible so they could live independently and remain in their homes.

Mississauga—Streetsville is home to many seniors who tell me they want to age gracefully in place, remain in their cherished home as long as possible and be able to make modifications to improve their living conditions. The home accessibility tax credit is welcome news in my community.

Branch 139 of the Royal Canadian Legion is located in the village of Streetsville. I am a member and I visit the legion regularly to support its initiatives. I have met with veterans there and I was honoured to present World War II “V” pins to dozens of these brave Canadians. That is why I am pleased economic action plan 2015 would ensure that veterans and their families receive the support they need by providing a new retirement income security benefit to moderately and severely disabled veterans. It would expand access to the permanent impairment allowance for disabled veterans and would create a new tax-free family caregiver relief benefit to recognize the very important role of caregivers.

This government values and supports the brave women and men who have served in our Canadian Forces and we will ensure that our veterans get the full support they need and deserve.

During pre-budget consultations and meetings, I had the opportunity to meet with groups like ALS Society of Canada, the MS Society of Canada and others about the compassionate care benefit provided under the employment insurance system.

Bill C-59 would extend compassionate care benefits from the current six weeks of coverage to six months to better support Canadians caring for gravely ill and dying family members. This change would benefit thousands of families across Canada when they need the financial and emotional support the most.

The bill would also implement very important measures for supporting jobs and growth. Our government would reduce the small business tax rate to 9% by 2019, lowering taxes for job-creating small businesses and their owners by $2.7 billion between now and 2019-20. This is very good news for members of the Streetsville Business Improvement Association and other companies operating in Mississauga—Streetsville. Predictable lower taxes each and every year is an important signal to the small business community.

Recently, I have had the opportunity to announce several investments in Mississauga, through the Federal Economic Development Corporation of Southern Ontario. These strategic investments assist leading edge companies grow and expand, create new high-wage jobs, and contribute to research and innovation.

Economic action plan 2015 would see the budget deficit reduced from $55.6 billion during the height of the recession and now with a $1.4 billion projected surplus. All Canadians should be thanked and should be proud for their hard work and their support of this government as we return Canada to balanced budgets.

I ask all members of the House to carefully read Bill C-59 and the important initiatives contained within it, and to rise to support the bill so we can continue to ensure Canada is strong, proud and free.

May 26th, 2015 / 7:25 p.m.
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Dominion Secretary, Dominion Command, Royal Canadian Legion

Bradley K. White

I, too, grew up with veterans. My grandfather was a company commander in Dieppe. He served with Lieutenant-Colonel Merritt, who received the Victoria Cross for his actions in Pourville. I knew Mr. Merritt when I was a young lieutenant, and I listened to his stories, so I know them well.

We all hope that what we're doing here is serving our veterans and making their lives better. That's why we do this. We're not politicians. That's why when we address you, we address you collectively as the government, regardless of what party you belong to.

As was mentioned, Robert Borden said years ago that it's the obligation of the government to look after those they send away to serve. We in the legion believe very much that it's the government's obligation to do that. You are all government to us. So our position is to advocate on behalf of those veterans to make sure that after they've served, they're looked after, to make sure that they have a healthy and productive life after they've been injured. That is our aim.

Is it incremental? Yes, it's incremental. But remember, 2006 and Bill C-55 in 2011 were the first steps to improve and breathe some life into the charter. We now have some more incremental steps in Bill C-58, which have been incorporated into Bill C-59, to do that again. We won't stop pushing. We said that in our statement.

May 26th, 2015 / 7:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Bryan Hayes Conservative Sault Ste. Marie, ON

When the minister appeared at this committee, and direct questions were directed on Bill C-58, that information is available on a link. I think it was very pertinent because all members of all parties asked some very tough questions, and I thought the minister's answers were extremely good.

Do any of you make that information available to your members or, again, are you expecting that it's the role of the government?

I'll ask that of Mr. Mac Culloch first.

May 26th, 2015 / 6:55 p.m.
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Dominion Secretary, Dominion Command, Royal Canadian Legion

Bradley K. White

I suppose we'll start it off. Thank you for the question.

I'll answer in English.

One of the issues we have is that in 2006, when the new Veterans Charter came in, it came in as a living document. We didn't see any life in the document until 2011, when we had Bill C-55. When it came in it actually put something back into the new Veterans Charter. That was a start.

Bill C-58, now incorporated in this Bill C-59, is another start, we believe, in making the changes necessary to the new Veterans Charter, to make it a document that's alive, that's living, that's meeting the needs of the veterans at this time.

There will be more needs for veterans as we go down into the future. Bill C-59 does not fix all the issues or gaps in the new Veterans Charter right now. It's a start, and we're positive that this start will keep going. We want to see more. The new Veterans Charter has to continue to evolve to meet the needs of the veterans.

Wayne has indicated that PTSD is the tip of the iceberg at this stage of the game. It is the tip of the iceberg. Latent onset of PTSD is going to happen. We have not seen the full extent of what's going to happen with the mental illness problems we have out there on the street right now. We're going to have to take the steps necessary to address those in the future.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

May 15th, 2015 / 12:20 p.m.
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Minister of Veterans Affairs, CPC

Erin O'Toole

Mr. Speaker, I made a commitment to veterans and their families over the last four months, as we have rolled out new benefits, new improvements, many of which members like the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore recommended as part of the standing committee last year. When these benefits were rolled out, they were criticized, suggesting there would be delays on it. Therefore, we are moving to ensure I keep my commitment by putting it in the budget implementation act.

When the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore asked for unanimous consent of Bill C-58, it was after the budget implementation act had already been earmarked to go before the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs for debate. Unfortunately, that member and the NDP continue to be several steps behind and continue to play a little politics on these issues.

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May 15th, 2015 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Jamie Nicholls NDP Vaudreuil—Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his service to the Canadian Armed Forces. He said that he would like to pass this before Parliament rose and yet he had an opportunity to do so just last week when the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore asked for unanimous consent to pass Bill C-58 several times, which roughly covers the same ground.

It is hard to listen to the member talk about us putting obstacles in the way of veterans' benefits when the member was not willing to pass it right away. Our veterans need real support. Veterans Affairs runs just one hospital close to my riding, which is known as Ste. Anne's Hospital. Sean Bruyea, a veterans advocate, says that it is essential to have such hospitals because they understand that the needs of veterans are unique.

Supporting our troops needs to be more than just a bumper sticker slogan. We need true support for our troops and support for the families of veterans. Will the member undertake to take Bill C-58 out of the omnibus budget bill and pass it right away, right here, right now?

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act, No. 1Government Orders

May 15th, 2015 / 12:10 p.m.
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Erin O'Toole Minister of Veterans Affairs, CPC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in the House, in two capacities, to speak on the budget implementation act.

I am very honoured to represent my home town in Parliament as the member of Parliament for Durham and the communities of Clarington, Scugog and Uxbridge. I will speak to some of the great elements of economic action plan 2015 that concerns my constituents in my riding and issues for which I have advocated.

I also have the tremendous honour to sit in the House of Commons as the Minister of Veterans Affairs. As someone who has served in the Canadian Armed Forces for 12 years and had worked on these issues before joining this Parliament, it is a profound honour that I take seriously. There are some amazing new benefits and programs in the budget implementation act for veterans and their families, which I have made a pledge to pass before Parliament rises for the summer. It is why it is in the budget implementation act itself.

First, as the member of Parliament for Durham, I am very proud of this budget and what we would implement with it, because this is the culmination of four years of dedicated and strategic work by the Prime Minister and by our government.

Budgets do not balance themselves. Governments need to set priorities. They need to plan and they need to ensure they set an environment for job creation and economic growth, without taxing Canadians and small businesses too much, so we can stimulate an active economy and really see job creation and participation in our economy by young people, families and through seniors in their working and retirement years.

First, this budget is a balanced budget. We made a commitment to reach balance in 2015. We did that while raising transfer payments, in my case, to Ontario by over 80% for health and education. We did not take the route the Liberals did to balance a budget by slashing transfers to the provinces and making premiers cut hospitals and nurses. We have been increasing steadily that commitment. We have balanced the budget through growing the economy and by slowing the growth of government to core and strategic areas.

We told Canadians that once we achieved balance, we would offer tax relief for families with young children, seniors who were on fixed incomes and to continue to stimulate our economy. I am proud to say we have done that.

On the universal child care benefit, it is key to recognize that it is universal. Families with children will receive support, and then they can make their own decisions on what best works for their family. Whether one parent steps away from the workforce for a few years, whether one reduces and goes part time, whether they use live-in care, whether they use daycare, whether they use a parent or an aunt to look after the kids, parents make their choices and we empower that through our universal child care benefit. This has been very well received in my riding of Durham.

Now we are increasing it to $160 per month for children under six, which will be almost $2,000 a year for families to make their decisions with respect to child care. We are also enhancing it beyond the age of six, recognizing that there is after-school care. Schools get out 3 p.m. and parents need flexibility. Therefore, there will be almost $720 in a new extension of the universal child care benefit for children 6 to 17. We are increasing the child care expense deduction by $1,000 to allow people who use child care services to have more tax deductibility for that.

With our family tax cut, we are allowing income splitting on a limited basis for families in particular where mom or dad decides to step out of the workplace for a few years or reduce their hours. We are allowing that family unit to be taxed as more of a single unit, because parents are making decisions as a unit when they are raising families. All families do. I see that daily in my area of Courtice, Ontario. Therefore, while they are raising their children, this will allow them to smooth off that income and save up to $2,000 as part of our family tax cut.

For seniors, we are continuing to build on recognizing that seniors built the country, they are on fixed incomes in their pension retirement years and they need our support. Costs are going up.

We introduced pension income splitting a few years ago to allow seniors to be taxed as a unit while on a fixed income. In this budget, we have provided more flexibility so less withdrawals from RRIFs have to occur to allow for more savings. We have increased the tax-free savings account to $10,000 to allow financial planning and certainty for seniors and all families, and to encourage a saving culture.

I am also very proud that this government has listened to the MPs who hear from seniors in their ridings who want to stay in their homes and, in some cases, need modifications made to stay there. We have the home accessibility tax credit of up to $1,500, which would allow seniors to make modifications so they could stay in their own homes.

We are delivering for families and seniors with a balanced budget, as we promised.

Small businesses are the majority of employers across Canada. We have been cultivating the small business sector with over 30% lower taxes for it, allowing small businesses to invest with tax measures and encouraging them to hire in recent years with a new-hire tax credit. I am very proud our government is lowering the small business tax credit in this budget, from 11% to 9%. That allows small businesses to hire a few more people, to invest in their operations, to be competitive and grow. It is about jobs across the country, including in my riding of Durham.

This is how governments should work. It makes a plan, sets priorities, articulates that to Canadians, and then has the leadership that this Prime Minister has shown to deliver on that plan. This budget and the implementation of it recognizes that we are delivering exactly what we said when we reached a balance budget: support for families with young children, support for seniors, and stimulating economic growth and job creation in communities across the country.

In the remainder of my time, I will speak as the Minister of Veterans Affairs. I am very happy that the budget implementation act has some tremendous new benefits for veterans and their families, building on the work of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs last year. The new veterans charter needed to be updated and amended to address our most seriously injured, those who have the most difficult time transitioning from their careers in the Canadian Armed Forces, and some of the gaps in the new veterans charter brought in by the Liberal government, implemented by our government, and voted on by all members in the House. With fixes contained in this budget implementation act, we will get to a veterans charter that will serve more than just most veterans. It will serve all veterans.

The retirement income security benefit addresses the issue of post-65 income for seriously injured veterans, when their earning loss benefit ends at 65 and they hit those retirement years. Under the old system, they would have seen a big drop in income at 65. We fixed that. We are guaranteeing them a predictable level of income post- 65, along with a permanent impairment allowance, another lifetime benefit, which over time I want to see streamlined into a single pension for the most seriously injured. With the retirement income security benefit, the RISB, contained in this implementation act, we will give peace of mind to veterans, who are moderately to severely injured in service to Canada, and their families.

Also in this implementation act is a critical injury benefit, a benefit that recognizes and compensates for the pain and suffering that servicemen and women will go through if they are critically injured in service to their country, an acute injury that leads to hospitalization, intensive care, surgical intervention. In the past, if they recovered, they would get a disability award based on the recovery without recognizing all the pain and suffering of that recovery time. The critical injury benefit would do that.

As well, there is the family caregiver relief benefit for the most seriously injured, which will provide over $7,000 tax free to a family to provide more flexibility. If we know a spouse or adult child is an added caregiver, Veterans Affairs will provide contracted care in the home. However, the home will be changed if someone is seriously injured. We are providing more flexibility, recognizing the critical role of family in the wellness of veterans.

These types of new benefits for the most seriously injured veterans and their families are items for which all parties have asked. They were contained in Bill C-58, but after six weeks of delay, intentional or not, six weeks of criticism of the very reforms that some members of the House asked for last year, I have included all of these provisions alongside our purpose statement of obligation in the budget implementation act.

It is a great act not just as the MP for Durham and the support for families and businesses, but I am profoundly proud of what it would do for veterans and their families.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act No. 1Government Orders

May 15th, 2015 / 10:10 a.m.
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Conservative

Pierre Lemieux Conservative Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, do members see what I mean by political games? The measures contained in Bill C-58 are in the budget implementation act, and the budget implementation act is here in debate and is going to committee right after the break week.

My opposition colleagues will have the opportunity to vote in favour of these tangible, credible, and real benefits for veterans, serving Canadian Armed Forces members, and their families, but they choose not to. Instead, they throw up a smokescreen and chaff, saying that it is not being done the way they want it to be done.

I say to put those political games aside and instead focus on the benefits that would be delivered to our veterans, serving members, and their families and vote them into law. They should join the government in serving our veterans and serving Canadian Armed Forces members, our men and women in uniform.

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act No. 1Government Orders

May 15th, 2015 / 10:10 a.m.
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NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the parliamentary secretary said, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore made two attempts to send Bill C-58, which is about veterans, directly to committee after second reading in the House. Both times, the Conservatives refused to do it.

It is clear that this is a political game the Conservatives are playing because Bill C-59, the budget implementation bill, which we are discussing now, would not be disrupted if we were to agree to the motion moved by the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore simply because the provisions in Bill C-59 could be withdrawn in committee if they became redundant.

Knowing that, can the parliamentary secretary explain why the Conservatives are against our proposal to send Bill C-58 to committee and pass it quickly? Why are they using these stalling tactics?

Economic Action Plan 2015 Act No. 1Government Orders

May 15th, 2015 / 10 a.m.
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Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Lemieux ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the budget implementation act, such an important piece of legislation for veterans.

As Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, I am pleased to say that the Minister of Veterans Affairs tabled in this House Bill C-58, support for veterans and their families. The provisions contained in the bill are so important for veterans that they are contained within the budget implementation act itself.

The budget implementation act is a major step forward in our work for our Armed Forces members, for veterans, and for their families. With the bill, our government would address unintended gaps in the new veterans charter.

In addition, the bill would satisfy recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. Last June, the committee issued a report with recommendations to improve the new veterans charter. That report was based on input from over 50 veterans and veterans organizations that appeared at the committee. The report was unanimously accepted by all members of all parties on that committee.

Here is the problem for the Liberal and NDP members of Parliament. The measures in the budget implementation act address recommendations presented by the Veterans Ombudsman, by the veterans affairs committee, and by veterans and veterans organizations, yet for some incomprehensible reason, the opposition is fighting these initiatives, initiatives that would benefit our veterans and their families, instead of helping to pass them into law.

The Minister of Veterans Affairs is serving veterans extremely well. He has held a high number of consultations. He has reached out to veterans and veterans organizations, and over the last number of months, he has announced many significant initiatives for which veterans have been asking.

Within the first few weeks, the minister laid out his priorities for Veterans Affairs: having a focus on caring, compassion, and respect; having a veteran-centred service attitude; ensuring a seamless transition from the Armed Forces into Veterans Affairs; and providing service excellence. It is these priorities that have borne tangible fruit. There have been major announcements to improve government services and benefits for serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces, for veterans, and for their families.

I would like to briefly highlight some of those significant and important announcements, which are contained in the budget implementation act.

The retirement income security benefit would provide moderately and seriously injured veterans with continued assistance in the form of monthly income support payments, beginning at the age of 65. This was a direct response to the Veterans Ombudsman's recommendation. In fact, when the minister made this announcement, the Ombudsman said, “I encourage all Parliamentarians to pass this new pension benefit without delay”.

The minister also announced that the earnings loss benefit would now be calculated the same way for reserve force members as it is for regular force members. With this announcement, reservists would now receive earnings loss benefits equal to those of their regular force counterparts.

Alice Aiken, the director of the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research, said:

This really speaks loudly and clearly to the reservist veterans that the minister in fact does have their 'six', and is willing to go to bat for them, and take care of them.

This is another announcement that was supported by the Veterans Ombudsman.

Building on this momentum, the minister then announced that the eligibility criteria for the permanent impairment allowance would be expanded to allow more veterans to benefit. More seriously injured veterans would now be eligible for more financial support.

Another significant and important announcement the minister made that is also contained in the budget implementation act was the new family caregiver relief benefit. Our government recognizes the vital contribution of caregivers, often the spouse or another family member, to the health and well-being of seriously injured veterans. This new benefit would provide an annual tax-free grant of over $7,000 per year to allow caregivers to take a well-deserved break while ensuring that their loved ones continued to receive the support they needed.

So far, I have been speaking of benefits and initiatives that were a direct response to the recommendations made at the veterans affairs committee. In other words, they are benefits and initiatives that the Liberal and NDP members of Parliament should have no hesitation voting in favour of.

However, the Minister of Veterans Affairs took the opportunity to offer a new benefit that went beyond what the committee and others had asked for, and of course, I am speaking of the critical injury benefit. The critical injury benefit would provide $70,000, tax free, to the most severely injured and ill Canadian Armed Forces members and veterans. This benefit is intended to address the immediate impact of severe and traumatic service-related injuries or diseases sustained by our Armed Forces members and veterans.

I think Mr. Phil Ralph, the program director of Wounded Warriors Canada, said it best when he said:

Any time you have a benefit that is going to add to the suite of benefits for veterans, it's a good thing. And the minister has done a good job at filling a whole bunch of gaps in the last couple of weeks.

These announcements are about respect for serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces, respect for veterans, and respect for their families. Our government recognizes its obligation to our Canadian Armed Forces members and veterans and is determined to enact and implement these measures as soon as possible. The purpose of these measures, which is contained in the budget implementation act is:

...to recognize and fulfill the obligation of the people and Government of Canada to show just and due appreciation to members and veterans for their service to Canada.

The Minister of Veterans Affairs has made a commitment to veterans that these initiatives, benefits recommended in an all-party report from the veterans affairs committee, would pass through the House before the end of this session. To fulfill our obligation, we have included these new benefits in the budget implementation act to ensure that they pass and can be implemented as soon as possible. I certainly look forward to bringing them into force so that serving members and veterans can actually benefit from them.

However, it is most unfortunate that the Liberals and the NDP are playing political games with our armed forces members, veterans, and their families regarding these new benefits. Earlier this week, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore attempted to move a motion to send Bill C-58 to the committee, which would actually have disrupted the passage of the budget implementation act and the bringing into force of these important benefits I am speaking of this morning.

Here is the dilemma. There are real and significant financial benefits contained in this budget implementation act that would improve the lives of serving Canadian Armed Forces members, veterans, and their families. They are benefits that the opposition has asked for and has said it supports, yet when it comes time to vote on them and actually move them into law and make them a reality, the Liberal and NDP members of Parliament say that they will not vote for them.

As I said, it is shameful that the NDP and Liberals are playing these political games to the detriment of our veterans and their families. It is important to highlight to those watching this debate that the NDP and Liberal MPs will not just stand by while we move these benefits into law but will actively vote against them. Think about that for a moment. Opposition MPs are going to actively try to defeat these initiatives for veterans that are contained within the budget implementation act. They would rather that veterans and their families get nothing at all than receive these new benefits. It makes no sense at all, and it would disadvantage our veterans for the opposition's own partisan purposes.

Men and women in uniform and veterans have confidence that our Conservative government would not only propose these key benefits but would also do everything possible to ensure that they are actually brought into effect. They know that they can count on us to bring this through to a successful conclusion.

In closing, I would say to my Liberal and NDP colleagues that veterans, members of the Canadian Armed Forces, and their families are watching closely. With this in mind, I would ask my opposition colleagues to reverse their current position and to instead vote in favour of the key new initiatives contained in the budget implementation act. They are initiatives that would benefit our serving members, veterans, and their families.