Mr. Speaker, what has been committed is in fact an act of hypocrisy on the part of the Liberal Party. that is not the question we were given.
I will answer the question we were given, which was with regard to the government's record on supporting our veterans, and particularly the announcement of an ex-gratia payment related to agent orange testing at CFB Gagetown in the summers of 1966 and 1967.
Before I do so, I will set the record straight for all members. Agent orange testing was not conducted at CFB Gagetown for 28 years, as the hon. member suggested in the question he really should have asked. It occurred in the summers of 1966 and 1967, for a total of seven days.
He further claims in his question, which he should have asked, that 150,000 veterans were exposed to herbicide testing. It would indeed be interesting to learn how the hon. member came to that conclusion.
However, before we are so informed, let me address the proud record of achievement the government has established in meeting its commitment to our veterans.
In our first two budgets we increased spending in veterans programs and services by over $523 million, or half a billion dollars more than the Liberals spent in their last budget.
We have introduced the veterans bill of rights.
We have introduced the new veterans charter to meet the immediate and long-term needs of soldiers transitioning to civilian life.
We have announced an $18.5 million investment in the veterans job placement program.
We are committed to paying $9 million a year to set up five more operational stress injury clinics.
We have appointed the first veterans ombudsman, Colonel Patrick Stogran, a decorated veteran and head of Canada's first deployment to Afghanistan.
We are committed to paying $1 million a year to support the families of Canadian Forces members and an additional $13.7 million to improve veterans services with respect to the standards set out in the veterans bill of rights.
Those are our commitments and accomplishments.
It is one of accountability to those who have served and those who continue to serve our country today.
Speaking of accountability, we have kept our promise to respond to concerns raised by members of our military, veterans and area residents about the possible health effects of herbicides used at CFB Gagetown.
Unlike previous governments, which sidestepped or ignored this issue for years, I am proud of the remarkable leadership the Minister of Veterans Affairs has demonstrated on this file.
In September, after research led by the Department of National Defence, our government announced a one-time, tax-free ex gratia payment of $20,000 to eligible recipients connected to the testing of unregistered U.S. military herbicides, including agent orange, at CFB Gagetown in 1966 and 1967. We have started delivering on that commitment and cheques are starting to go out. That is five weeks after the announcement.
Eligible recipients could include those who worked or trained at CFB Gagetown or who lived in a community any part of which was within five kilometres of the base when agent orange was tested in 1966 and 1967.
This has been a complex file that has demanded patience, resolve, understanding and commitment. The government has responded with fairness and compassion, with a plan that is principled and transparent and that reflects our open and transparent government.
We are committed to serving and protecting those who served and continue to serve and protect us. That is the right thing to do and our solution for the agent orange file is the right thing to do. As a veteran, I appreciate that.