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House of Commons Hansard #89 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was literacy.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:25 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. friend for an amendment to this motion. I would hope that the members of the Conservative Party and all members of this House would now see that this motion should be passed.

The hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore has, as other members have mentioned, been a stalwart defender of the rights of veterans. All of us are very concerned that declining veterans benefits, declining to care properly for our veterans, is a growing national scandal.

I would love to see this amendment pass. I would ask my hon. friend who has moved this motion if he believes that, with this amendment, the motion can have the unanimous consent of this House?

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm NDP Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, the amendment is only intended to hold the government at its word.

Members opposite, including the minister, have spent some time today talking about how the cuts will not affect programs and services for veterans but that they will go forward with the cuts but do it through cuts to red tape and somehow mysteriously finding some savings.

All I want to do, and I think members in this chamber would agree, is ensure that we hold the government's feet to the fire. If it finds, through its operational strategic review, savings, it should ensure it goes directly to the programs and services for veterans so they are not affected.

Members opposite should put their money where their mouth is and get this done. We could then have a unanimous passage of the amendment.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

March 5th, 2012 / 4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville.

Canadians recognize that the RCMP is Canada's largest police force with a strength of over 20,000 members. In addition to those still serving, there are approximately 15,000 former members of the force who have commenced retirement. We should never forget that these proud men and women have served our country both domestically and internationally with distinction, whether on special assignments in traditional police functions and to protect and to serve Canadians be it at home or abroad.

How do we provide appropriate care for these officers and retired veterans of the RCMP? What is available to this group as they age and are in greater need of long-term or complex continuing care? Programs in place today allow for benefits for current and retired RCMP regular and civilian members who have sustained permanent work-related illnesses or injury. These benefits are similar to those provided under the Canadian provincial-territorial workmen's compensation regimes administered through Veterans Affairs Canada.

Since 2002, Veterans Affairs Canada has administered the RCMP's disability program that applies to all serving and retired RCMP regular and civilian members, their dependants and survivors. Through this administrative arrangement, Veterans Affairs Canada performs an initial assessment to determine if a disability can be attributed to the RCMP service. Veterans Affairs offers a form of redress for denied claims and serves to analyze applications made for subsequent disabilities and/or a deterioration of an original pension condition.

The RCMP disability pension is designed to compensate a member and/or their dependants if they become disabled or, in the extreme, a member pays the ultimate sacrifice and is killed while on duty. This financial support is in the form of a monthly, tax free, lifetime, indexed payment. Payment can also be granted for pain and suffering, as well as for the loss of life, dependent upon the mitigating circumstances.

Under normal circumstances, a single disability pensioner will receive a smaller monetary benefit than a disability pensioner with dependants. This recognizes that a disability not only affects the individual officer but the financial well-being of the entire family.

Other allowances are available for disability pensioners who require specialty clothing, an amputation or to incorporate a prosthetic limb. Aid is made available for disability pensioners who face challenges performing their daily activities and require assistance to support feeding, bathing, dressing, medication administration and various other day-to-day activities that we take for granted.

The RCMP disability pension provides a wide range of financial support as a pensioner's condition worsens or as they age, deteriorate physically or mentally. The amount of financial benefit paid varies based on the extent of the helplessness, pain, discomfort, loss of enjoyment of life and shortened life expectancy of the pensioner.

We also provide many services to disabled pensioners, including program counselling, case management and assistance referrals to name just a few. The goal is to ensure that these deserving Canadians get the assistance they need.

Basic health care for an RCMP officer is similar to provincial health care coverage and the RCMP supplemental health care is similar to extra coverage that Canadians purchase through their employer or on their own.

When an RCMP member with a work-related disability leaves the force, he or she is no longer covered by the RCMP health regime. The care for the disability condition falls to Veterans Affairs. Former regular member disability pensioners and civilian members, while serving or not, will both receive a VAC health care card indicating the type of treatment specifically tailored to each disability pensioner.

Veterans Affairs' treatment allowance benefits and services are made available to specifically address conditions for which a disability pension has been rendered. These benefits and services include: daily living aids, such as walkers, canes, et cetera, to improve mobility; ambulance services; audio or hearing devices; in- and out-patient hospital services; nursing services which are critical to their well-being; prescription drugs; related health care services, such as psychological therapy or physiotherapy; special equipment, such as bath lifts, chair lifts, et cetera; and vision care. These services are critical for disability pensioners who have left the force.

I would also like to add that the RCMP has worked closely with the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada with respect to the development of a joint network for operational stress injuries. The RCMP has collaborated with Veterans Affairs and the Canadian Forces in the establishment of sharing of access to operational stress injury clinics right across Canada. This service helps our members who have served our country domestically and internationally.

To clarify what an operational stress injury is exactly, I will provide the definition that an operational stress injury is any persistent psychological difficulty resulting from service related duties performed by a Canadian Forces member or occupational duties for an RCMP member. This includes, but is not limited to, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety disorders.

This co-operation allows the RCMP members to receive care from these very specialized clinics. We are taking care of our people and recognize the impact their duty to their country can have on their well-being.

The RCMP also recognizes that our police officers need additional support when facing personal challenges. Daily, police officers face stressful situations and often see horrific sights. The RCMP has a proactive peer-based employee assistance program. They are a group of trained employees who assist fellow RCMP officers and their families during difficult and stressful times. The RCMP family also takes care of its own when they have passed on by providing some financial support for costs associated with members' funerals.

As an organization, the RCMP continues to review its programs and practices while working closely with Veterans Affairs Canada to ensure that our employees and disability pensioners receive appropriate care.

I thank the House for allowing me the opportunity to outline how the RCMP and Veterans Affairs Canada work together to provide care for disability pensioners of our national police force.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob NDP Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, our international allies, including the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States, have made a clear commitment to protect veterans against cuts to programs and services in any governmental strategic reviews. Will this Conservative government do the same, yes or no?

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will respond to the member's question in this way.

We currently are finding savings within the administration of all of the Government of Canada, including every department, including Veterans Affairs.

We are not cutting back on actual services as the opposition infers. As a matter of fact, in one of our budgets, we committed the largest lump sum commitment to veterans services in recent memory. I believe the amount is in the area of $2 billion, or in excess of $2 billion. We did that because our veterans deserve no less. We will continue as a government to provide those kinds of services that our veterans of the Canadian armed forces and the RCMP deserve.

For the member and his cohorts to get up and suggest that we are cutting back is somewhat less than factual.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, veterans across the country want real change. One veteran told me that because the compensatory reward was initially withheld, he ended up homeless.

Here are a few more comments from our country's extraordinary heroes in their desperation: “We're all suffering and we need help. It's not only the guys we lose overseas, it's the guys we lose here to suicide. They might as well have died overseas. We've all contemplated it; the thoughts are relentless. When I contemplate suicide, it is relief. It means stopping the pain. No more fights. Telling me my appointment is in one month when I've got two barrels loaded doesn't really do a damn thing, does it?”

Does the hon. member think our veterans need more services and more supports, not less, or a reduction in red tape?

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has asked me questions before. We are not cutting back on services to veterans as previous Liberal governments did.

However, let me say something about issues surrounding mental health of people who gave their all for this country. We have opened up in the Canadian armed forces special clinics right across this country. We have increased the services for those members and their families who suffer from the stress of separation and the stress of having a member back in their midst, a loved one. Our hearts go out to them. We have brought in special programming, and I mentioned it with regard to the RCMP, specifically designed to treat veterans who are experiencing these problems and more so to have their peers and their supervisors see when their mental health is brought into question before they themselves may even realize it.

We are not cutting back, nor have we cut back, on those services. As I have just said, we have increased those services.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Dan Harris NDP Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his speech on the RCMP. My grandfather, George Harris, had the honour and pleasure of being part of the RCMP's musical ride when he served many years ago. Like many other family members, they received services from Veterans Affairs and were well taken care of by Canada. I am proud as a Canadian to say that we did that.

My question for the member is, if there are no cutbacks coming, then why the harm in supporting the motion?

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, having served 30 years in a deployed police force, I can appreciate the member's family connection to the RCMP and his appreciation for police officers.

People ask why not support this and why not support that. As I have said before, we are going to find ways to improve efficiency right across the breadth of this government, as Canadians expect us to, and that includes every department, including Veterans Affairs.

As the minister stated and as member after member of the government has stated, we are not going to cut back services to veterans. As a matter of fact, we have done just the opposite.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in this debate for several reasons. The motion before us involves an issue of particular importance since it concerns the fate of Canadian Forces veterans and former members of the RCMP. The motion provides us with the opportunity to discuss a subject that our government takes very seriously. It also allows us to illustrate the measures already in place that ensure the well-being of those brave men and women who wear a uniform.

By tabling the motion, the member is implying that our government has been neglecting our responsibilities with respect to our veterans and their families. Nothing is further from the truth. Many other members of our government have talked about the wide array of programs and supports available to veterans and how we continue to increase spending in this area, but so far, no one has touched on the issue of mental health support. I would like to focus my remarks on this topic as I feel it is the area in which we have provided exceptional programs and services to Canada's veterans.

Veterans Affairs Canada, in collaboration with the Department of National Defence, has created a network of 17 mental health clinics across the country to offer specialized services to veterans, and Canadian Forces and RCMP members suffering from operational stress injuries caused by their service. There are currently ten such clinics administered by Veterans Affairs Canada, nine of which are out-patient clinics located in Fredericton, Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa, London, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver. The tenth is the Residential Treatment Clinic for Operational Stress Injuries at Ste. Anne’s Hospital. I will take a moment to talk about how these operational stress injuries, OSI, clinics work.

While continuing to live in their communities, veterans attend appointments at the OSI clinics. They are offered a clinical assessment and a variety of treatment options, including individual therapy, group sessions, psycho-educational sessions, and other resources. The clinics' teams are made up of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, mental health nurses, and other specialized clinicians who understand the experiences and needs of veterans. Loved ones can be involved in the treatment and eligible family members can also receive services. Treatment approaches in OSI clinics are based on best practices and are tailored to meet each client's needs. The team works closely with other health care or community organizations to ensure appropriate follow-up as needed. A referral to other centres may be part of the treatment process depending on the needs of the client. When there are difficulties with addiction or substance abuse, these centres provide specialized treatment.

Telehealth services help ensure that veterans are provided with easier access to emotional support when they need it. Coast to coast support is available to help these brave men and women overcome challenges of complex mental health injuries.

I know the Canadian Forces offers similar support as well through its seven operational trauma and stress support centres.

These new services significantly enhanced the country's support to veterans and their families living with mental health conditions. Today there are more services and programs available than ever before to support them. There are also more front-line health specialists than ever before to ensure the support is effective.

Integrated personnel support centres located on 24 bases and wings give staff from Veterans Affairs Canada and DND the opportunity to offer early intervention and support. Working side by side, the front-line employees from Veterans Affairs Canada and DND develop personalized case plans for each individual veteran to support his or her re-establishment into civilian life.

The two organizations have also created a very successful peer support network called the operational stress injury social support program. Specially trained peer support coordinators who have first-hand experience with operational stress injuries and the loss of loved ones provide vital personal support to Canadian Forces members, veterans and their families.

For those in distress, assistance is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through the VAC assistance service line. Veterans and their families can access counselling and referral services, including support for mental and emotional health concerns. In addition, more than 4,000 community mental health providers are registered to provide care, support and professional counselling services in veterans' communities.

There are over 200 clinical care managers registered across the country who are dedicated to providing intensive support, daily if required, to veterans with complex needs. There are health professionals, such as occupational therapists and mental health nurses, who build strong support relationships with veterans and their families. They help them follow through on their case treatment plans, help them link to the community resources they may need and connect them with health professionals who can help them and their families with recovery.

Nearly 15,000 veterans suffering from mental health problems receive some form of assistance or support from the department. Our government takes it very seriously. I want to assure veterans and all members of the chamber that we are fully aware of the importance of our responsibility in this regard. We are not neglecting our duty to these brave men and women. Their dedication throughout this country is a constant reminder that our government, in turn, must serve them with equal devotion.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, let us look at the situation as it currently stands. This government has increased costly tax measures, sometimes by tens and sometimes by hundreds of millions of dollars, for a total of billions of dollars. And that does not include cuts to the GST and corporate taxes. In total, tens of billions of dollars in taxpayers' money is wasted every year, which allows this government to create one artificial crisis after another. The treatment of veterans is an artificial crisis created by this government.

Considering the delays in processing veterans' claims and considering the current system's many shortcomings, will my colleague not vote with us to defend maintaining the current budget at least, if not possibly even increasing it? At the very least, the current budget needs to be maintained in order to avoid cuts.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to repeat what was said in the House many times before. There will be no cuts to services provided for veterans. This government has been increasing the quality of services for veterans. The hon. member may remember that the greatest cuts of services for veterans occurred in 1995 by the previous government. Some of those services were fully restored. Some are being restored by this government. We have been dedicated to providing and enhancing services for veterans. This is what we are doing now.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, who is also a member of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, for his remarks and interest on the mental health of veterans.

He rightly pointed out that there are 17 occupational stress injury clinics across the country. My question for the hon. member is this. Should we be satisfied with that? Is that enough? Is the problem of mental health within the veterans community fully and adequately served at that level?

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the answer is very simple. As to whether there is room for improvement, there is always room for improvement. The Minister of Veterans Affairs stated many times that the goal of this government is to improve services for veterans. Of course, there is room for improvement. We are working to improve services, provide more services and continue to provide more and better services to our great men and women in uniform who serve this country.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Lévis—Bellechasse Québec

Conservative

Steven Blaney ConservativeMinister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague for Mississauga East—Cooksville, who came to Canada from Poland, for his excellent speech and for pointing out how important it is to help our veterans who have mental health issues. For that reason, we have 17 clinics that serve 15,000 veterans and their family members. As the member said, we must continue to improve.

Have the veterans in his riding asked him if we should continue to improve our services, especially by reducing red tape? Should we stop burdening our veterans with a bureaucracy that draws out processing times and makes its procedures unwieldy? Have veterans in his riding asked him to cut down on bureaucracy and red tape in order to improve services?

I would also like to thank him for supporting our programs, such as the helmets to hard hats program. Unfortunately, we were not able to count on the support of the NDP. However, I would like to thank the member who supported our veterans.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, of course, I am in touch with veterans in my riding. All veterans are looking for services to be simplified. Cutting red tape is very important.

Many veterans are confused with some of the paperwork they have to fill out. Therefore, they have asked that the red tape be cut to simplify the procedures so that they can access their benefits faster. They do not want to spend a lot of time on bureaucracy. Enhancement of these services is required.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support the motion before the House this afternoon. I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Gatineau.

I would like to begin my comments today on the motion by thanking the member of Parliament for Sackville—Eastern Shore for his sponsorship of this motion and. more than that, for being an unwavering voice and a principled champion of our soldiers, our veterans and, of equal if not greater importance, their families. He already knows this but let me assure him and the House and those listening today that he is not a lone voice. Many of us on this side of the House will be speaking in support of the motion and in support of giving respect to our veterans and their families.

The motion and its call for an exemption of the Department of Veterans Affairs from cuts in the upcoming budget is nothing other than a call on the House to fulfill its part of a bargain made with this country's soldiers, veterans and their families.

The bargain I speak of is not an explicit one. It does not take the form of a legal contract. More important, the terms of the bargain were never even formulated as demands by our soldiers, our veterans and their families. Their part of the bargain was an offer, not a set of demands, to serve this country recognizing and fully cognizant of the fact that such an offer may ultimately cost them their lives.

To be clear, that is not a bargain just between our country and our soldiers. The family of the soldier, parents, spouse and children are all part of this bargain. The soldier's fate is his or her fate. The soldier's bargain, for better or worse, is his or her bargain.

I was reminded of this early in my tenure as a member of Parliament. I met with the president of a local community service organization in Beaches--East York to talk about the organization, what it does and the services it provides to our community. After that discussion, and recognizing that I was deputy critic of military procurement, he seemed to really want to talk to me about his family and his experience growing up. He lost his father in action in the second world war and his mother faced difficulties raising a family without the father around. He wanted to impress on me his desire that I bring to the House a respect for veterans. He wanted me to be an advocate for veterans to ensure that the spouses and families, the widows and widowers and families of veterans are respected and provided with the services and benefits they so deserve.

This issue of the family came home to me again when I spent four days aboard a frigate through the parliamentary program just this last summer. I had a lot of time to talk to the service members of the Royal Canadian Navy while onboard. The conversation that kept coming up was a personal one about their families. They talked about the difficulties of being a member of the forces and keeping a family together, keeping in touch with their children, keeping their relationships alive.

So, when we provide the uniform and we assume the authority to demand of our soldiers that they meet their part of the bargain and put themselves at risk on demand in the service of our country, we have sealed the bargain. It is up to us to now live up to our part of it.

A veteran is defined on the Canadian Veterans Advocacy web page as someone, whether on active duty, retired or reserve, who at one point in his or her life signed a blank cheque made payable to the people of Canada for an amount up to and including his or her life.

But it is not reasonable, fair or right to accept that offer and not also assume a responsibility on ourselves to firstly, ensure that we never take such an offer lightly or for granted by placing our soldiers in harm's way for anything other than the most critically necessary of circumstances.

Nor is it reasonable, fair or right to accept that offer without making our own promise in return to ensure that our soldiers will forever be treated with respect and will never want for care, and more important, to ensure that their families will forever be treated with respect and never want for care.

In this vein, the Royal Canadian Legion Dominion President, Patricia Varga, wrote a letter to the Prime Minister last fall, appealing for what we are appealing for today by way of this motion. In that letter she talked about our moral debt to our veterans and urged the Prime Minister not to reduce our financial deficit on the backs of our veterans.

More recently, Brian Forbes, chairman of the War Amps executive committee, wrote a letter to the Minister of Veterans Affairs expressing concerns about the combination of cuts emanating from the department's strategic operational review and the anticipated budgetary reductions. According to Forbes:

Should VAC’s budgetary capacity be impacted at this time, it is our considered opinion that the Department will be unable to fund crucial legislative improvements in order to fulfill its ongoing commitment to the overall veterans’ community.

In this letter he cites serious outstanding concerns with respect to the traditional veterans programs and the unfinished work and unfulfilled promises with respect to the modern-day veteran. He concludes:

Given these significant concerns, this is clearly no time to be suggesting any diminishment in the budget or resources of VAC. In our judgement, the financial responsibility and debt of gratitude that all Canadians owe to Traditional and Modern Day Veterans should now, and in the future, remain a paramount consideration in any evaluation of a Federal Deficit Reduction Plan.

We have both the Royal Canadian Legion and War Amps Canada saying this, and we have heard already about the position of the Veterans Ombudsman. Moreover, today this party here in this House is calling on the government to follow the lead of other allied nations, such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, and exempt Veterans Affairs Canada from cuts in the upcoming budget.

Virtually every day in this House in response to questions on the F-35s, members on the government side rise to accuse the NDP caucus of not supporting our veterans and our men and women in the services. Just today, the Associate Minister of National Defence responded to a question about the F-35s with this comment:

—the only emergency here is the NDP's desire not to help and support our military men and women.

My father was a veteran of the RCAF in the World War II, and although he never talked about his service voluntarily, his sons were incredibly proud of his service. When he died, we draped his coffin with the RCAF flag. We set upon it a picture of my father in his uniform. My father was just one of thousands of veterans who served this country and who should be so respected and honoured.

Today, the rubber hits the road for the government. It has failed already on several occasions but has another chance today to demonstrate in some really concrete and meaningful way that it is living up to its hyperbole, to walk the walk, as we say, and to ensure that the services and benefits of our veterans and their families are sheltered and held safe from the austerity the government is about to visit on this country.

In closing, I would like to add this. A constituent of mine this morning, an associate of the delegation that appeared before the veterans committee last week, requested the following, that if the government truly respects veterans and wants to honour veterans and their families, it remove the member for Calgary West from the veterans committee. He has shown incredible disrespect for the veterans community and undermined the work and effort of those who appeared before the committee to give voice to the serious concerns of the veterans community of this country.

With that, I am happy to answer any questions.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, over the course of the debate today we have heard government members, including the minister, imply that it is necessary to defeat the motion in order to tackle red tape, that if the motion passes, then veterans would be burdened by red tape.

In my respectful submission, this is nothing more than a red herring. It is entirely possible, in fact it is incumbent upon the government, to tackle red tape whether the motion passes or not.

I invite my hon. friend to offer comments on that observation.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, of course all of us here in this House have a responsibility to ensure that our government functions effectively and provides the services and benefits efficiently to the people who should be in receipt of those benefits.

To the extent there is red tape in Veterans Affairs, then of course I full support the removal of that red tape. To the extent that still exists in Veterans Affairs, I think it is quite an indictment of the government across the way. The Conservatives have had six years in government to remove red tape in that particular department and ensure that our veterans get the services and benefits they so deserve.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Mississauga—Brampton South Ontario

Conservative

Eve Adams ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, our government has put forward a very reasoned and balanced amendment to this motion. It is an amendment that would allow us to put our veterans front and centre.

Our Conservative government has already invested some $2 billion with the enhancements to the new veterans charter. These are enhancements that both opposition parties voted against funding.

Perhaps the opposition member could tell us why he will not accept our amendment that would put our veterans front and centre, instead of constantly putting big union bosses front and centre?

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not quite sure where the union bosses come into this debate.

Quite clearly the government has had a number of years to put veterans front and centre, and it has failed to do so. We have a number of validators of that, including the Veterans Ombudsman who talks about the challenge of getting benefits and services to the veterans of this country.

I think it is funny that we talk about a Conservative government that came to change Ottawa, but Ottawa has changed them. All we hear from that side of the House is this bureaucratic language about cuts and red tape, and the removal of such somehow providing benefits for our veterans.

It strains credibility that Veterans Affairs Canada, 90% of whose funds go to funding services and benefits for veterans, could survive cuts and still provide those benefits.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, there is a gentleman watching us from Kingston, Ontario, a former RCMP intelligence officer who is livid at the government, though I will not say what else he said.

His phone number, by the way, is 613-352-8765, because he wants the minister to call him. He wants to tell the Conservatives exactly how RCMP veterans are treated in the Department of Veterans Affairs. He has asked me to request that the minister do so.

Can my hon. colleague tell us why we have to raise these issues over and over again to get the attention of the government to help these men and women who have so greatly served our country?

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Kellway NDP Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for raising the issue of a citizen from Kingston, my home town. I would like to talk to him myself sometime.

As to the answer of why the government fails to respond to veterans and the opposition who supports the veterans, it is a matter of speculation but the government has had six years to do so and has failed miserably. That record of priorities speaks for itself.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I forgot to mention the gentleman's name. It is Eric Rebiere, at 613-352-8765.

Opposition Motion—Veterans AffairsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

That is really not a point of order. It is a matter of debate for the House.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Gatineau.