Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the House that I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for Charlottetown.
I would like to commend my colleague from the other corner of this chamber, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, for bringing forward a very important to-do list for Parliament in relation to the needs of our veterans.
As we enter upon the remembrance period, with Veterans Week about to begin, the timing of this is very appropriate. My colleague has asked the House to consider five very important measures, each of which will have importance to our veterans.
Before I get into the particulars, I would like to not only commend our legions from coast to coast, but commend the 15 legions in my own riding of Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing that have carried the torch of remembrance on behalf of those who did not come home from wars and peacekeeping missions, past and present, and on behalf of those who came home injured and those who, thankfully, came home in better health. Regardless of how they returned from the wars, peacekeeping or peace time service, they all deserve our absolute and utmost respect now. They have provided and do provide a special service to our country and, without question, as we support our troops now we must support our retired troops, whether they were air, land or sea.
One of the things that I have learned in my years as a member of Parliament is that most of our veterans, when they first entered the service, were very young. Many of them were in their teens, even some in the early teens, but certainly late teens. If any of us remember back to our teen years, the last thing we thought about was what we would do when we retired from whatever our life's work would be. It was the last thing on our minds.
I am thinking of Tom Morrissette in Massey, Ontario, who turned 80 this past August. He injured a knee within a few weeks of basic training, which, for his whole life, has caused him difficulty. However, because he was only a teenager, he was afraid to go to the higher ups to report his injury. He was concerned that he would be picked out as being weaker than the rest, which he certainly was not. His injury was genuine and it happened during basic training. He was one of tens of thousands of young people who entered the service with a certain degree of naiveté. They were happy and honoured to serve their country and not really concerned about the long term. They left it up to the powers that be to ensure things would be there for them.
It is not just like taking a job at the local factory. Entering the military service for our country is a special undertaking. We owe it to our veterans to bring our minds back as much as possible to 50 and 60 years ago, and more if necessary for some of our older veterans, back to the days before Korea. Just a few years ago, before the conflicts in which our troops are now engaged, we could imagine what young people were concerned about. Most of them were concerned about what would happen to them if they got injured. That is our job.
I really appreciate the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore bringing forward this list of important measures that we are debating today. I will be supporting the motion when it comes to a vote because I think the veterans affairs committee, on behalf of the House, needs to and should do a very thorough study of every one of these measures. Some of the measures, as proposed in the motion, are easier to grapple than others but every one of them, regardless of that, needs to be grappled.
I have no dispute with the notion that the second wife of a veteran should qualify for a pension. Current measures are simply an anachronism. Who would not wish anything but a happy life for a veteran who decides to remarry? We simply need to do the analysis and get that right.
When it comes to the veterans independence program, we simply need go no further than to refer to the current Prime Minister's promise made during a campaign, and I think the word “immediately” was used, that a new Conservative government--which is what the Conservatives claim they are; I am not sure they are new, but they are a Conservative government--would immediately implement the VIP for all widows regardless of the date of death of a veteran.
We are ready to go. I urge my colleagues across the way to encourage the Prime Minister in caucus to get on this. The finance minister will be reporting his economic statement to the House I believe in the third week of November, after the recess week following Remembrance Day. I hope during that economic update he will introduce measures to immediately implement the VIP for all widows of veterans.
Indeed, there are a number of measures that he needs to institute to make up for the disaster of the income trust announcement a couple of days ago. It would be a good start, along with other measures he could announce and confirm toward making things better for senior veterans.
Who are our veterans? They are people who live among us and who deliberately put their lives at risk for us. Most of us here will never have to suffer the ravages of war. We really depend on them to carry that torch to make sure we never forget and we thank them. We thank our legions and veterans.
My good friend, the member for Cape Breton—Canso, who is a great advocate for veterans, always talks about one of his constituents, Mrs. Joyce Carter. She has been a constant reminder to all of us of the importance of getting on with the veterans independence program.
Our legions are not only local institutions which provide services to the community at large but individual veterans are among the greatest volunteers communities can have. The activities in my riding throughout the year, and I am sure all members in the House can relate to similar stories, whether they are remembrance activities or events in the community sponsored by the legion, are far too numerous to count. Their continued efforts on behalf of all of us are efforts for which we must be very grateful.
They not only gave their lives and put their lives in danger but they continue to do that in service to the country today. Many of them are very frail. Those of us who thought a few years ago that the legion and remembrance movement would diminish over time as our veterans passed away have thankfully been proven wrong. It has been my experience that the remembrance movement in northern Ontario, particularly in my riding and elsewhere, is extremely strong and is getting stronger. There are more events.
I was at a Korea vets dinner a couple of weeks ago in Elliot Lake. I will be at the legion branch dinner Saturday night. I will be at the remembrance ceremony in Kapuskasing on November 11 and then on to Hearst. I will get to many events across my riding. In fact, there are so many events I cannot get to them all, but thankfully our veterans are doing that for us.
But they are frail and they do need our attention, whether it is by increasing the survivors pension from 50% to 66% or dealing with the service income security insurance plan. We need to look at why there is a compromise to the benefits. We certainly need to look at the integration of the superannuation with the CPP, which occurred back in the 1960s. Let us review that. Let us make sure we have it right. Any clawback is not appropriate considering the special honour and special thanks we owe to our veterans.
We see the torch being passed on. I thank my colleagues and we thank our veterans.