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

Sponsor

Kent Hehr  Liberal

Status

Second reading (House), as of March 24, 2016

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-12.

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, among other things,

(a) replace “permanent impairment allowance” with “career impact allowance”;

(b) replace “totally and permanently incapacitated” with “diminished earning capacity”;

(c) increase the percentage in the formula used to calculate the earnings loss benefit;

(d) specify when a disability award becomes payable and clarify the formula used to calculate the amount of a disability award;

(e) increase the amounts of a disability award; and

(f) increase the amount of a death benefit.

In addition, it contains transitional provisions that provide, among other things, that the Minister of Veterans Affairs must pay, to a person who received a disability award or a death benefit under that Act before April 1, 2017, an amount that represents the increase in the amount of the disability award or the death benefit, as the case may be.

It also makes consequential amendments to the Children of Deceased Veterans Education Assistance Act, the Pension Act and the Income Tax Act.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1Government Orders

June 10th, 2016 / 10:35 a.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I just want to thank my hon. Liberal colleague for splitting his time with me, although we will probably take some different approaches on our views on Bill C-15.

Bill C-15, the budget implementation bill, is, as I have heard some Liberal members of Parliament say, where the rubber meets the road for a government's budgetary policy. The NDP has examined some aspects of Bill C-15, and we do agree that there are some positive measures that the NDP has fought for, so we will acknowledge that there are some good things in the bill. However, it is nowhere near what the Liberals promised and it is not what is necessary to strengthen our economy and combat inequality.

For example, one of the major things that I campaigned on and on which I received feedback from my constituents was child care spaces. It is one thing to increase the child benefit, but when families are struggling to even find spaces or they have wait-lists that go on longer than a year, that will not really help two-income families try to find that space so that one parent can have the freedom to find work.

The other major glaring omission is with employment insurance. There was a real opportunity in the bill to make some profound changes to the Employment Insurance Act, to how it operates for Canadians on an equal basis from coast to coast to coast, and that is what was lacking.

In conclusion to my introduction, we will be opposing Bill C-15 because of its content, but also because of the fact that it is an omnibus bill.

The Liberal government has studied a few Conservative tactics from the previous government. The bill has been rushed through. We have had time allocation. The committee meetings that were held were also rushed. We have an act that spans 179 pages. It changes over 30 different statutes that fall under nine different ministries. There are a few things that we argued should have been split off to give proper study, but the committee, when it was studying Bill C-15, had six meetings. Only two had witnesses and the amendments that were proposed by the opposition were all rejected.

The Liberals make a big deal about how they reach across the aisle and they want the opposition to work with them, but when over 35 amendments are proposed by the opposition and all of them are rejected by the Liberals, I do not see that as working together.

It brings to mind the quote from the movie, Jerry Maguire, “Help me help you”. If the Liberals want the opposition to truly work with them, then I think some deference has to be paid to the propositions we are putting forward and not have them rejected out of hand. Those are a few of the reasons.

In terms of the time to adequately review the different components of the legislation, when the Liberals were in opposition and on the campaign trail, I remember they talked about how undemocratic omnibus bills were. They said during the campaign that they would not resort to legislative tricks to avoid the scrutiny of their bills. I think we will see the history of the previous six months shows completely the opposite.

The Liberals promised to change the Standing Orders of the House to bring an end to this undemocratic process of omnibus bills. I just truly feel that if we are to study an omnibus bill that is changing a few different pieces of legislation, it has to be given the proper time and scrutiny. I believe all Canadians and expert witnesses deserve to have their say in things like this.

I will devote a little time to just going over a few of the good things, with the caveat that there will be a few criticisms as well. The NDP proposed in the last Parliament that we would remove taxes on feminine hygiene products because that costs women $36 million a year, so we are happy to see that mentioned in the bill.

We are also happy to see the Liberals recommit to returning the old age security and GIS eligibility back to age 65. I heard my previous Liberal colleague talk about the GIS and what a wonderful thing it was that it would be increased by 10%. Let me provide a bit more of a factual basis to that claim.

The guaranteed income supplement is going to be increased for people in the income range of $4,600 to $8,400. A person with an income of $4,600 per year or less would get an increase of $947 per year, which is less than $100 per month. GIS benefits will be phased out completely at $8,400. Rather than increasing the GIS by 10% across the board for every senior who is eligible for it, the Liberals are targeting a narrow bandwidth. It is important to illustrate that fact because it gets lost in all of the hyperbole about how great the Liberal government is and how it is helping our low-income seniors. We must always read the fine print.

I am also happy to see that the government has committed to enhancing the Canada pension plan. This pension model survived the recession very well. It is a model for the world to see how well managed a pension plan can be. Our interest is in making sure that every worker who pays into the CPP can retire with an adequate income.

One of the biggest broken promises comes with respect to small businesses. Page 10 of the Liberal fiscal plan in the 2015 election specifically mentioned that the Liberals were going to reduce the small business tax rate to 9% from the current 11%. Not going ahead with this reduction is going to cost the small business sector $2.2 billion. It is going to cost $125 million in the next fiscal year, $475 million in the year after that, $770 million by 2019-20, and $825 million by 2021. This is according to both the finance ministry and the parliamentary budget officer.

What am I supposed to tell entrepreneurs in my riding, when I tell them there will be personal income tax cuts that mean income earners in my range will get a reduction but they will not see that? Furthermore, small business owners usually pay themselves a small amount of money to keep their business afloat so they are going to get hit twice. Their business rate is not going to be reduced and their personal income tax rates are not going to be affected. That is a shameful broken promise.

Bill C-15 swallows what was Bill C-12, which dealt with veterans. We were happy to see the changes in Bill C-12 because we agreed with them, but we believe that Bill C-12 should have been made a stand-alone bill so that we could have proposed different changes to make it better. Swallowing Bill C-12 into Bill C-15 creates an omnibus bill and avoids proper scrutiny. The Liberal government's record with veterans right now is absolutely shameful. It has broken a solemn promise that was made during the campaign. The Liberals agreed during the election campaign that the government has a sacred obligation, a social covenant, and now they are taking veterans to court. I would like to see the government take some firm action and stand up for our veterans for once and not use them as campaign props to get votes.

In terms of employment insurance, I suggested to the Minister of Employment that one of the great things the Liberals could do would be to set up the employment insurance fund as a stand-alone fund so that it would be protected from raiding by future governments. Right now, those premiums, which are paid by workers in the event that they might end up unemployed one day, simply get raided as a cash cow. It would set something meaningful up for workers if we put that up as a stand-alone fund. Again the Liberals have taken no significant action on that and we still have an employment insurance system where six out of 10 Canadians will not qualify.

To help my Liberal colleagues understand why we oppose the legislation, it is always helpful to read quotes that Liberals have given in the past. The current Minister of Public Services and Procurement and the member of Parliament for Bonavista—Burin—Trinity said something in 2014 that really sums it up. She said:

...there is so much contained in this omnibus budget bill that it really does not give parliamentarians the opportunity they need to act on behalf of the people they represent. We do not get to scrutinize the legislation.... At the end of the day, we end up voting on a bill that we have had little time to digest.

I could not have said it better myself.

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1Government Orders

June 7th, 2016 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my Liberal colleague across the way a question specifically about veterans.

As he may know, Bill C-12 was on the Order Paper. It dealt with increasing compensation to veterans. That is something the NDP supports. The budget implementation bill would swallow Bill C-12 and incorporate it among the many different acts that would be changed by this giant omnibus legislation.

In light of the recent horrible news coverage the Liberals have been getting with respect to veterans, veterans groups have been tossing out words like “disgrace” and “shameful betrayal”. In light of those facts, why did the Liberal government not leave Bill C-12 alone so it could at least have gone to the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs for further study? The committee would have heard from expert witnesses, and we could have debated things like increasing mental health support services and increasing support for veterans' spouses? Why was Bill C-12 swallowed up by this omnibus bill?

Why are veterans not getting the proper care and treatment they need?

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1Government Orders

June 6th, 2016 / 6:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to stand today in regards to Bill C-15, the 2016 proposed Liberal budget. I am beginning, actually, by expressing my disappointment and confusion as to why Bill C-12, an act to amend the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act was initially tabled in this House to deal separately with budget items that specifically apply to veterans, only later to be pulled from debate and buried in Bill C-15. Veterans were so pleased to learn about Bill C-12, encouraged to see that the government appeared to be committed to responding in a timely and inclusive way to improvements in their financial needs.

With the current attention in the media and within the veterans' community to the unfairness of the decrease from the lower corporal rate to the highest private rate as the base salary benchmark for the earnings loss benefit, perhaps the intent was to have less focus on the inappropriateness of this change that cast such a dark shadow over what was to be a victory for better care for our veterans, an increase of the earnings loss benefit from 75% to 90% of military pay prior to release.

The Liberals claimed that they are now increasing the earnings loss benefit; however, lowering the minimum benefit threshold to a senior private salary instead of a basic corporal salary will result in a significant reduction in the benefits received by the most vulnerable injured veterans. The increase in this benefit for permanently disabled veterans will be minimal for those who make the least, but as much as a 20% hike for the higher ranks.

The proposed increase to the earnings loss benefit will still be applied unequally to the detriment of those seriously injured former members of our Canadian Armed Forces who were at the low end of the pay scale or who were discharged decades ago, before military salaries climbed. This is discriminatory toward veterans who are unable to work because of their disabilities and who had to leave the forces at a young age before they had the opportunity to earn an ongoing living wage. It keeps them at a low income level until they reach the age of 65.

At the same time, those who were able to stay in the forces longer will receive more under the benefit, with bigger increases, a higher percentage increase than those who receive less.

Some disabled veterans have been making more than 75% of their pre-release salary through the earnings loss benefit because those salaries were so low that the previous Conservative government acknowledged the veterans were not getting enough to meet their basic needs.

In 2011, our Conservative government saw how inappropriate this was and adjusted the benefit so that no one would receive less than $40,000 annually, which was then, at that time, 75% of the salary of a basic corporal.

With the new Liberal minimum base, the end result is that those whose benefits rose under the Conservatives will now get only small increases when changes take place in October. They include those who were injured in places such as Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda, and Yugoslavia, and those who were discharged before the government approved significant military raises in the late 1990s and over the past decade.

Meanwhile, those former members of the Armed Forces who were discharged at salaries higher than $49,449 that is currently paid to a senior private, such as majors, colonels, generals, and even high-ranking non-commissioned officers, will not be affected by a rank change and could see their benefits rise by tens of thousands of dollars.

This leads me to wonder how many high-ranked members of the Armed Forces have been discharged due to injury or disability in comparison to our lower-ranked soldiers who, I would think, are far more likely to be the ones in larger numbers facing the potential of high-risk situations where they could be injured severely, either physically or mentally, to require them to willingly, or unwillingly, be discharged from service.

Of the millions allocated by the government to earnings loss benefits in this budget, how many of those dollars will actually be spent on these most vulnerable injured soldiers who are unable to provide for themselves and their families because their injuries took away their commitment to serving in the military, fighting for and protecting the freedoms and lifestyles of all other Canadians?

Will there be unspent funds in this portion of the budget because of fewer claims by those in the higher income backet who do not leave prematurely due to injury? If so, why were these funds not implemented into other election promises made, such as the promised $100 million for more family caregiver benefits, or the post-secondary education benefit for all veterans, or the $20 million for two centres of excellence, or opening operational stress injury clinics where none exist for veterans needing mental health services?

The details of the budget in relation to veterans were only added to the Veterans Affairs website on May 9, after it was brought to the attention of the House that none of the details were available online for veterans and their families. Now that it is there, I would like to quote the following from the website: “In the interest of fairness, the increase is based on a Senior Private's salary. To do otherwise would mean that some Veterans receiving the benefit could be making more than their comrades on active duty.”

I cannot help wondering why, then, the approach was not used for a formula that provided a ceiling for those who could have ended up making more than their comrades on active duty under the existing basic corporal salary, rather than penalizing those on the low end of the benefit scale where the increase to 90% of the new senior private's salary will be as low as $100 a month. On the website, the government shared a slightly better bottom line example, stating, “a Veteran who was a corporal in 1996 could receive up to $2,000 more each year because of this proposed enhancement [or a total of $166.67 a month].

The veterans who needed the increase the most feel betrayed by this unfair approach to the earnings loss benefit in the budget. The retroactive increases in the lump sum disability award does improve on the original award set out by the last Liberal government. I believe the amount of $3.7 billion under financial support for veterans on page 193 of the budget, table 5.2, reflects the retroactive payments that need to go out to cover some 70,000 veterans who have been eligible since 2006 and were promised this retroactive payment.

That being said, it is important to note that with this $3.7 billion payout, that leaves $400 million per year budgeted for the disability award, and changes to the earnings loss benefit for each of the next four years, with a total commitment of $5.6 billion over these next six years.

We are all very aware that the budget is being presented as a deficit investment, which is an oxymoron and already a broken promise at best. This greatly concerns our veterans and Canadians who see a formidable future of debt repayment for their children and grandchildren.

Budget 2016 only partially addresses four of the 15 directives in the Minister of Veterans Affairs's mandate letter, and the earnings loss benefit falls short of what was expected for our most vulnerable wounded. Still to come are lifelong pensions, promised; guaranteed four years of post-secondary education, promised; two new centres of excellence, promised; improved education, counselling, and training for families, promised; increased survivor pensions, medical benefits for spouses married after the age of 60, and development of mental health and suicide prevention strategies. There are many, many promises.

Did the Liberal Party members who made these promises actually study and forecast the implications of their promises? Did they make them with true intent to keep them if elected, or were they made without adequate consultation?

In closing, I have deep concerns that the promises that were translated into new measures in the budget, coupled with the increased deficit spending over the remaining mandate of the Liberal government, will not be sustainable on a long-term basis.

VeteransAdjournment Proceedings

June 2nd, 2016 / 6:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Exactly, Mr. Speaker, we want to work together.

I always thought that veterans affairs should not be a partisan issue. That is why I was pleased to see that the minister treated it separately in Bill C-12. However, that is no longer the case.

I would like to say to my colleague from Kanata—Carleton that unfortunately, she did not answer my question, which was on the amount of money that will be allocated retroactively to 2006 for hearing loss. The reason I want to know this sum is that Canadians are wondering if that was the right thing to do. Instead of making this retroactive payment, the government could have used this $3.7 billion implementing a lifetime disability pension effective immediately.

The concerns my colleague is talking about are indeed those of interest groups representing veterans. However, the veterans I meet in person talk to me about the lifetime disability pension option and not the disability benefits for hearing loss.

VeteransAdjournment Proceedings

June 2nd, 2016 / 6:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to participate in the adjournment debate, or what is known in parliamentary jargon as the late show, for the first time. I will learn how this works in the next few minutes.

I am also pleased to see that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, the hon. member for Kanata—Carleton, is here. I hope that she will be able to give me some answers.

I am here to share some concerns that have been expressed by Canadians in general, not just veterans. The House will understand why. Recently, the minister introduced new financial benefits for veterans under Bill C-12, which unfortunately no longer exists because those measures have now been inserted into omnibus Bill C-15.

These amendments include increasing the disability award, expanding access to the higher grades of the permanent impairment allowance, and increasing the earnings loss benefit. Veterans tell me that these improved benefits are worthwhile, but that the government could have made a better decision. For example, veterans would have liked the government to invest more in mental health clinics, provide more assistance for families, such as military spouses, and improve help for the transition from military to civilian life.

This evening, I will talk about the fact that the disability award was increased and that the increase is retroactive to 2006. We are talking about approximately $3.7 billion that will be spent on these retroactive payments. This expenditure is highly questionable.

I am going to tell a story that explains why I think that we need to ask questions in that regard. One of my constituents came to see me. She earns about $100,000 a year. She was a soldier and she has hearing problems. Although she will not do so, if she were to apply for a disability award from the Department of Veterans Affairs, she would be eligible to receive a cheque for between $5,000 and $10,000. I think that everyone here will agree that this person, who earns $100,000 a year, does not need that money and that her loss of hearing does not prevent her from working.

Imagine how many cases like that there are in Canada and how many people, in the coming months, without thinking of their fellow soldiers, will apply for disability awards for physical injuries that do not necessarily prevent them from working. Under the law, they are eligible for that money and it is good that the government is trying to help them. However, when it comes to veterans, there are urgent needs in many other areas, including those I talked about earlier.

My question for my colleague from Kanata—Carleton is very simple. According to her estimates, how much money will be paid out retroactively to 2006 for hearing-related injuries?

May 31st, 2016 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

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

We could have drawn more attention to this aspect if the amendments had been included in Bill C-12, as was intended. The matter would then have been studied independently. When a committee studies a stand-alone bill, it can spend more time assessing the concerns that are very often raised. Unfortunately, the government has chosen to include these amendments in a bill that is 179 pages long, meaning that the committee can devote less attention to matters of that kind.

Ms. McIntyre, thank you for being here. I would like to ask you a question.

If the amendment were passed, what would the consequences be? Would this benefit provide greater protection? Would there be an effect on the act?

May 31st, 2016 / 12:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Chair, first of all, I'd like to express for the record that the official Conservative opposition was prepared to support Bill C-12, the veterans budget, when presented as a stand-alone bill in the House, a bill which we applauded, which the veterans deeply recognized as timely, and which would have been very effective in ensuring that the funds allotted to them would have been out the door sooner.

With regard to this first amendment, the Liberal government has changed the formula for the earnings loss benefit from 75% of a corporal's salary as the minimum to 90% of a senior private's salary. This could result in lower payout for veterans. While the Liberals are claiming that they are increasing the earnings loss benefit, lowering the minimum benefit threshold to a senior private's salary instead of a basic corporal's salary will result in a significant reduction in the benefits received by the most vulnerable injured veterans. This amendment would safeguard the financial support from the earnings loss benefit to ensure that it could not be lowered for any veteran.

The earnings loss benefit is an important source of support for our veterans who were injured through their service to Canada. It's important that the Liberal government's budget not in real effect reduce this benefit to veterans who served in the lower ranks of the Canadian Armed Forces. Just recently, the veterans website was updated with the budget information. The rationale there was that they had to make this change because otherwise some veterans would be receiving more income than serving armed forces members, yet at the same time we are penalizing the lowest-income veterans, who are the most vulnerable.

This amendment would basically ensure that it would “not have the effect of reducing the imputed income to an amount less than the amount that would have been determined before the coming into force of section 82”.

May 17th, 2016 / 1:55 p.m.
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NDP

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

I'm told that the wording of the motion is out of order, so I would like to withdraw it. Nevertheless, I want to be clear that I still have concerns about the form of this bill.

We debated at length about whether this is an omnibus bill. I think it is. It has all the features of an omnibus bill. For example, it includes measures that, though they appear in the budget, should be studied by other committees.

One of those measures is Bill C-12 on veterans' compensation. It was introduced and was supposed to have been studied separately not by the Standing Committee on Finance, but by the Veterans Affairs committee. I think that is the clearest indicator that this is an omnibus bill. We would have liked the government to show some good judgment when introducing this bill by separating the parts that would have been better studied by other committees.

It seems that will not happen, and that is a great shame. I hope this government will not make a habit of doing this with future budget bills. Clearly, Parliament and the House of Commons will be at a disadvantage if they cannot study these bills in depth. I will now withdraw my motion.

May 17th, 2016 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

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

Thank you.

Mr. Parent, you spoke about the challenges of evaluating the fairness of the measures and compensation promised in the bill. You're well aware that before, the bill was separate and was known as Bill C-12. It's now integrated into Bill C-15.

These are exactly the kind of questions we could have asked and could have gotten answered if experts had appeared before the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, to which Bill C-12 would have been referred. If we could have heard what came out of a study by the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs on this bill, it would have been better than integrating the bill into another bill that also requires discussions with venture-capital representatives, restaurant owners, and retirees, for example.

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1Government Orders

May 10th, 2016 / 4:55 p.m.
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NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Madam Speaker, I would first like to take this opportunity to send my thoughts to the people of Fort McMurray. A close friend of my husband lives there, and we all watched in terror as this happened, worrying about the well-being of all the people who were fleeing. It is moments like this that remind us to be grateful for all those we hold dear. It is a reminder of the privilege it is to give when the need arises, and to receive when the hard parts of life happen. I thank all those who have given during this painful time.

Today, the House stands to debate Bill C-15. Budgets are about setting priorities and confirming commitments made, and today I want to discuss some serious concerns I have about the budget.

Bill C-15 is 179 pages long. It amends more than 30 statutes and contains another bill, Bill C-12, which is on the Order Paper before the House of Commons. Now, the time of debate has been shortened. A promise of the Liberal government was transparency and openness. The bill before us has multiple complexities, which include repealing an entire act, retroactive legislation changes, and much more. This alone lessens the capacity for focused discussion in the House, and with a shortened timeline, there is less time for discussion of these important issues.

The people of North Island—Powell River have shared with me their concerns with omnibus bills, and with Bill C-15, the government is going in a direction that concerns many Canadians. I hope this is not what real change looks like.

I know that many people in my riding will feel some relief with the child tax benefit. It is a start; however, I also know that many of my constituents are looking for a real child care strategy.

When I travel in my riding, I am sad to hear the stories of many women who have had to leave their work, because they cannot afford day care. They shared with me their concern that they would miss out on opportunities for their careers. One woman said to me that she just wanted to feel she had a choice in the matter. She loves her children, wants to spend meaningful time with them, and wants to have a career that promises a future for her family. However, the budget does not provide any support for the affordability of child care, nor does it address the reality that there are few day care spaces available.

I talk with single parents who are stranded without the supports for the child care they desperately need. More money in their pocket would provide some support, but if there are no child care spaces available, that is not a solution. Canadians are looking for a comprehensive strategy around child care, and the budget before us does not give it to them.

Veterans are also being shortchanged by the lack of mental health support, and there is nothing for suicide prevention. Veterans affairs have been badly mishandled by the past Conservative and Liberal governments. Pensions have been clawed back, and front-line service cuts have increased wait times for help and access to quality home care, while long-term care is shrinking. Soldiers with PTSD face months of delays before even getting referred for help, and even then, that help is hard to get.

A man from my riding, Dan Thomas, came to see me several weeks ago. A retired soldier with severe PTSD, he talked about how invisible he felt with his long-term issues. He shared with me the helplessness of not being able to receive the support he so desperately requires for his day-to-day life. When people serve their country, they should not feel invisible.

Bill C-12 was tabled in the House of Commons on March 24. The way veterans were treated by the previous government was indeed shameful. They deserve to have this legislation that would affect them discussed in the House, and not a unilateral decision by the current government. By killing Bill C-12 and incorporating it in this omnibus bill, the Liberals have chosen not to make space to listen to veterans' grievances and are playing politics.

Opening the service centres is one step, but it is not the only step required. What concerns me is that Bill C-12 largely fails to provide much-needed supports for mental health or increase support for spouses or caregivers of injured veterans.

We owe it to the men and women who have served our country courageously and honourably to ensure a proper study of these benefit changes to make sure they will address the needs of our veterans. We do not want to see veterans continue to be forced to prove that the leg they lost has not grown back.

This omnibus bill should be split up so that the changes to veterans' benefits receive proper study by Parliament. It is important that we serve those people who have served us so well.

After nearly a decade of Conservative economic mismanagement, middle-class families are working harder than ever yet falling further and further behind. At at time when Canada needs a government that will combat rising inequality, the Liberals' first budget is inadequate.

The Liberals are breaking their promise to reduce the tax rate for small and medium-sized enterprises, the biggest job creators in Canada. They are cancelling the legislation that allowed for any subsequent reductions provided in the bill. However, they made a commitment to lower the rate to 9% by 2019. New Democrats have been fighting for a long time for tax cuts for small businesses, which are the real job creators in Canada.

The Liberals have rejected our proposals to cap transaction fees for credit cards, and are doing nothing to facilitate the transfer of family businesses between generations. This is a direct betrayal of small business owners and will significantly reduce job creation in Canada. The parliamentary budget officer estimates that this cancellation would cost SMEs more than $2.1 billion over the next four years. Meanwhile, consecutive Liberal and Conservative governments have given massive tax giveaways to Canada's most profitable corporations. The Liberals should keep their promise to small businesses by withdrawing the proposal to cancel legislated reductions in the small business tax rate.

More than a quarter of seniors are living in poverty, and some Canadians are wondering whether they will have a secure income when they retire. We welcome the Liberals' recommitment to returning the age of eligibility for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement to 65. We also welcome their recommitment to increase the GIS for single seniors. However, we are disappointed that seniors have to wait until July, despite the Liberals' promise to help them immediately.

This is a useful start, but more can be done. Increasing the GIS by 10% for all seniors would lift nearly 150,000 additional people out of poverty. Income data shows that the median income for single seniors without employer pension income is below $20,000. With the low income measure for a single senior at $22,000 per year, this is unacceptable. I can tell members that there are many seniors in my riding who are living well below $20,000 a year. I have seniors in my riding who, in January, debate whether to purchase medication or keep their heat on. That is not a good debate for seniors who have worked so hard to create this beautiful country we have. These changes should be closely studied to see how we can improve them to help even more seniors, not pushed through in an omnibus bill. The government needs to keep its promise to immediately enhance the CPP.

Last week in this House I spoke to Bill C-14, medical assistance in dying. The bill refers to palliative care in its preamble, yet while introducing this bill the government made no new commitments to palliative care. We have a critically important opportunity to enhance services across the country, yet the government was missing in action on palliative care in the budget, even after promising $3 billion for home care during the campaign. Holding the government to account on the promise of that motion remains one of our top priorities as we assist in the legislative response to the Carter decision.

In my riding, there are many seniors. Home care and palliative care are of huge concern. Seniors living in remote communities want to hear from the government that they matter, that staying in their home is a priority. Many constituents have shared stories of feeling pushed to leave not only their home but their community for health concerns. Accessible services in my remote communities are important.

I cannot support this budget. It does not fulfill the promises made to Canadians. It has some positive steps, but leaves out too many key concerns that would make the lives of my constituents better. Whether it be actual dollars or respecting the process, this budget fails to follow through.

Second ReadingBudget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1.Government Orders

May 10th, 2016 / 1:40 p.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by speaking about the aspects of the budget bill that are contained in Bill C-12. I am really disappointed that members of the House were not given the opportunity for debate and study in committee of Bill C-12 to make it a better bill. Veterans have been shuffled aside for so long, but apparently, according to the Liberal government, not long enough. Veterans and their families are in despair. We hear it every day in the veterans affairs committee. Too many are absolutely desolate.

It is no secret that Veterans Affairs Canada has been badly mismanaged by past Conservative and Liberal governments. Pensions have been clawed back, front-line services have been cut, and the result has been increased wait times for desperately needed help. Quality home care is simply not as available as it should be and we all know that long-term care services are shrinking. Soldiers with PTSD face months of delays before even being referred for help and then that help is hard to get.

The changes in the bill to the earnings lost benefit and the disability award for veterans are good first steps. I hope the changes will result in more veterans qualifying for benefits and that those heroes of our country see a positive improvement to their quality of life.

However, this omnibus bill lacks the full support that veterans need.

First, there is no support for mental health in the budget, and this is a huge concern. Many veterans are suffering from the trauma of combat, the stress of their service to Canada. Yet there is a lack of support for veterans and their families to recognize and care for mental health issues that result from their experiences in the field and beyond on behalf of their country. Let us not ever forget that the government asked them to do their duty and they did not fail, and we must not fail.

Sadly and unacceptably, the budget bill would not increase support for spouses or caregivers of injured veterans. Partners of CF members are often required to leave their own jobs to care for the injured veteran. Those caregivers are provided with little training and very little support. This not only impacts the current income of caregivers, but it impacts their own pensions down the road.

Every member of the House knows that pension benefits are largely based on the earnings of an individual's years of employment. Therefore, caregivers who give up employment pay are at a terrible disadvantage. They pay a terrible price in their senior years because their pensions are simply inadequate.

When Canada sends its women and men in uniform into conflict, they and their families accept unlimited liability, and there is the very real possibility that what they are ordered to do could cost them their lives. As a country, we have nothing less than a sacred duty to our veterans to care for them when they return. It is time for a new era in the government's relationship with veterans, one based on respect that ensures dignity, financial security, and quality of life.

If the government is serious about repairing the damage at Veterans Affairs Canada, it should take immediate action and ensure all veterans have the income support they need. We are calling on the government to prove this in a new era by working with veterans and to immediately review, update, and improve the new veterans charter, including addressing the issue of lump sum payments, those payments currently offered to seriously injured veterans.

It is crucial that the government develop a one veteran one standard policy that would ensure all veterans would be treated equally, regardless of when or where they served.

It is time to end the unfair service pension clawback for retired and disabled Canadian Forces and RCMP veterans and show good faith by increasing the survivor's pension of veterans.

It is time to remove the archaic marriage clause restricting benefits for marriages that occur after age 60. Imagine in this day and age calling older spouses who marry, love, and care for veterans “gold diggers”. What a ludicrous and petty label.

The government should provide timely accessible care for veterans' health and well-being. We as a nation must improve and expand PTSD and mental health supports for veterans to ensure they get the care they need, and get that care quickly without barriers, without harmful delays.

The government should reverse the cuts to long-term care for veterans, and expand the veterans independence program to allow seriously injured and elderly Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP veterans to continue to live at home. It should not put that burden of care on partners, on spouses, on caregivers. The government must make sure that the veterans independence program is there, in addition to what caregivers and spouses provide.

I have spoken to this House about post-Korean vets who served Canada in times of great danger only to be turned away from long-term care in their time of need. It is disgraceful to say to a veteran that his or her contribution was less because it occurred after 1954.

Even though the wounds may not have been obvious at the time of release or active duty, they are wounds that come from dedicated service to Canada. Those who suffer those wounds must be respected. They deserve long-term care in a veterans hospital, if that is what they wish.

There must be increased supports for veterans' families and caregivers who are often the main support for veterans.

We have an absolute obligation to ensure that services are delivered with a veterans-first approach. This can be done by establishing a formal covenant for veterans' care that recognizes the government's moral, social, legal, and fiduciary obligation to care for Canada's veterans.

I submit it is also important that we eliminate the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, which is staffed by government appointees who have too often been unresponsive to the realities faced by veterans seeking disability benefits. It is time to replace the old VRAB with a medically focused review process for appeals.

Unlike WSIB, the court cannot overturn a Veterans Review and Appeal Board refusal. The court can only refer the issue back to the same people who decided against the veteran in the first place. How can this result in fairness for veterans? It would seem to me that the appearance of arm's-length non-interference in the VRAB from government is actually a refusal of government to take responsibility. It is politics at its worst.

Finally, Canadians wish very much to show all veterans that they respect them and that these veterans deserve our support. This can be accomplished by a government prepared to expand eligibility and increase funding for the Last Post Fund to ensure that all veterans can be guaranteed a dignified funeral.

New Democrats value the work and sacrifice of our Canadian Forces and RCMP veterans and personnel currently serving, whether they served at home, in war, or in peacekeeping missions. We call on the government to repair our country's relationship to one that is based on that respect, rather than on the current state of neglect.

We must ensure that our veterans and their families are well cared for from the moment they sign up to the moment they pass away, including that dignified funeral and burial I talked about.

Bill C-12 and the same measures covered in this budget bill do not come close to fully addressing the needs of our veterans. The manner in which we honour and care for our veterans and their families is a reflection of the integrity of this country. When we ask people to put their lives on the line for Canada, we must ensure that their sacrifices are recognized and their losses, monetary, physical, and emotional, are compensated, and that their service is recognized with grateful acknowledgement.

If we leave one single veteran living in poverty, one single veteran homeless, one single veteran suffering the agony of post-traumatic stress, or one single dependant of that veteran unsupported and out in the cold, we will have failed in fulfilling our sacred covenant.

I know we can do better. I have faith, hope, and optimism. I believe that we need, and can work towards creating, a system of comprehensive support for our veterans. This budget bill could have addressed the gaps we face in fulfilling our covenant to veterans, but sadly, it has missed the mark. We are capable of better. We cannot let anyone tell us it cannot be done.

May 10th, 2016 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

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

Do you think that, when Bill C-12 was tabled, it was supposed to be studied by the Standing Committee on Finance or another House of Commons committee?

May 10th, 2016 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

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

My first question is the following.

Ms. McIntyre, you don't work for the Department of Finance but for the Department of Veterans Affairs, isn't that right?

Bill C-12 was submitted by the government initially. Is this the same bill? No changes have been made since it was tabled, isn't that right?

May 10th, 2016 / 11:55 a.m.
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NDP

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

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

First, I would like to thank the officials for being here, as well as the individuals who will appear later.

The briefing was indeed interesting and useful, even with these delays, but it raises other questions. Obviously, I will not ask all of you to comment on what I'm going to say.

Although the government denies that this is an omnibus bill, it is clear to us that this is, indeed, what we have once again.

This bill is 179 pages long, amends 35 acts and affects nine departments. It also contains Bill C-12, which had been tabled by the government. In fact, it was included in Bill C-15, which implements certain provisions of the budget. It also retroactively repeals the Federal Balanced Budget Act. I say “retroactively”, given that the government would have committed an offence under this act as of June 1, 2016. Lastly, the bill amends the act to make it as if it had never existed, even if there was an offence. But it is contrary to law.

Furthermore, it includes other extremely important elements. I will have an opportunity to come back to many issues relating to the recapitalization of banks. A large number of officials are going to speak about many topics.

In fact, when Bill C-12 was tabled, it was clear that it would be studied by the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, but in the end it's the Standing Committee on Finance that's looking at it. I think this clearly shows that even if a provision or line is announced in the budget, it shouldn't necessarily be studied in the context of the budget. It should be studied by the appropriate committees. Bill C-12 is a patent case of that.

Having said that, I would like to move a motion. I am fully willing to discuss it at the end of this presentation. I will even do the committee a favour by not reading it, since it is rather long.

I'll simply say that the purpose of this motion is to return to the House of Commons Bill C-15, which implemented certain provisions of the budget, so that clauses relating to the re-establishment and compensation of Canadian Forces members and veterans—from Bill C-12, which was inserted—to bank bail-ins and the bank recapitalization regime, to the Old Age Security Act, and to the Employment Insurance Act. The motion also proposes separate bills so that they can be studied by their respective committee.

I won't read the motion because it takes up a full page. But we will be able to discuss it in committee.

Budget Implementation Act, 2016, No. 1Government Orders

May 6th, 2016 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I share my colleague's indignation at the fact that Bill C-12 was put into an omnibus bill. However, I would like to remind him that the Conservatives also introduced undemocratic bills like this one that evince disrespect for Parliament.

Also under the Conservatives, wounded veterans were forced to prove, year after year, that the legs they lost in the line of duty had not magically reappeared. That is utterly unacceptable, and it literally adds insult to injury. Unfortunately, that practice will not change under the new government.

Is the member concerned about the fact that this bill fails to ensure that practice will end?