House of Commons Hansard #148 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rouge.


Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


John Duncan Conservative Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that we see the clock at 5:30 p.m.

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Is that agreed?

Veterans Hiring ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed from October 20 consideration of the motion.

Care for VeteransPrivate Member'S Business

5:25 p.m.


David Sweet Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to address the House. I am pleased to speak tonight to Motion No. 532, care for veterans, put forward by my colleague, the hon. member for Edmonton Centre.

This motion calls on the government to examine all possible options to ensure a fully unified “continuum of care” approach is in place to serve Canada's men and women in uniform and veterans so as to eliminate all unnecessary bureaucratic processes within and between departments related to service delivery; eliminate duplication and overlap in the delivery of available services and supports; further improve care and support, particularly for seriously injured veterans; provide continuous support for the families of veterans during and after service; and strengthen the connections between the Canadian Armed Forces, the Department of National Defence, and Veterans Affairs Canada.

We owe the Canadians who have given so much to our country nothing less than this.

To emphasize this point, I want to take members back a month to the last week of October.

On behalf of a shocked nation, the Prime Minister attended the funeral of Corporal Nathan Cirillo in Hamilton. As this was taking place in my hometown of Hamilton, it was a privilege and an honour for me to attend with the Prime Minister.

There were a lot of tears and tributes on that day. I remember it well. I parked my car about a kilometre and a half outside of the perimeter the police had made for security and walked down to the church where the funeral was taking place. People were three and four deep on the streets. I and many of the media estimated that there must have been 50,000 to 60,000 people standing on the street waiting for the funeral march from Bayfront Park up to the church.

I remember being struck by the silence of the crowd of people who were there in reverence to the price that Corporal Cirillo paid. After the funeral, which was about an hour long, what really moved me when I left the church was that they had not moved at all, because they were so overwhelmed by what had happened. That, to me, epitomizes what we mean when we say our women and men in uniform and our veterans deserve no less. It epitomizes what the hon. member for Edmonton Centre is trying to do with this motion. It is what the people who lined the streets of Hamilton that day would want us to do in support of our armed forces personnel and veterans.

In speaking to this motion, and as a member of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs from 2006 to 2010, I would like to highlight some of the ways our government has already improved care and services to veterans and to those members of the armed forces who were injured in the course of their service to Canada.

I would first note that our government has helped those members of the Canadian Armed Forces who were injured, mentally or physically, in the line of duty to continue to serve their country, which is unprecedented. As we are well aware, injuries to members of the Canadian Armed Forces in the course of their duties are a risk they always face. Some of the work they undertake is dangerous, and while much is done to try to mitigate the risks, there is always the potential for something to go wrong. When it does, the Canadian Armed Forces is there to help.

One example of this is Captain Simon Mailloux. Captain Mailloux was injured in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in November 2007. He was in command of a combat team that had left its patrol base to conduct a night operation. Shortly after the team left the compound to conduct the operation, the command vehicle was hit by an lED. Because of the injuries Captain Mailloux sustained from the blast, his left leg was amputated below the knee.

Mailloux's story does not end there, though. With the support of his fellow brothers in arms, he pushed himself through rehabilitation. He returned to service as the aide-de-camp to the Governor General and eventually redeployed to Afghanistan as a combatant for a second tour.

Captain Mailloux is a great example of the success of rehabilitation and the possibilities that exist for Canadian Armed Forces members who are injured in the line of duty to return to active duty. Granted, this will not always be the case, but it can happen, and the successes should be noted. As I mentioned before, this really is unprecedented.

However, injuries are not all physical. Some of our personnel are injured in mind. Those who have suffered physical injuries and those who have not can also face the challenge of post-traumatic stress disorder. I would like to highlight an example of a success in that area as well.

Master Warrant Officer Clarke tells the story of his challenges with PTSD in his own words on the Canadian Armed Forces website, but I will paraphrase it here because time is limited.

Master Warrant Officer Clarke was a member of the forces in 1989 when his Hercules aircraft crashed in Alaska. Eight of his comrades were killed in the crash. Around the same time in his life, a close friend of his took his own life and Master Warrant Officer Clarke suffered an accident. These issues began to take a toll on him.

Due to the combination of these events and a serious accident that happened to him during a tour in Bosnia, his life began to spiral out of control. Alcohol abuse, divorce, and financial difficulties ensued. Initially, he was reluctant to come forward and admit he was struggling mentally. He wanted to be a strong soldier and he used to tell his younger recruits that his feelings had been removed, although Master Warrant Officer Clarke admits that was not actually true.

Eventually, Master Warrant Officer Clarke decided to seek help, and he states that when he did, his chain of command and the Canadian Forces supported him. In the article I am referencing from, which was posted February 28, 2014, Master Warrant Officer Clarke states:

The Canadian Forces has given me help through my chain of command, they have supported me, given me my case manager, my psychiatrist, my psychologist, my addictions counsellor. They have all supported me and got me to where I am today.

These are great examples of how Canadian Armed Forces members, injured in mind and body, have recuperated and returned to active duty. There will always be more to do and more ways we can support them, but these successes need highlighting as much as the cases in which challenges remain.

I would also like to highlight the lack of public awareness around the award available to seriously ill and injured veterans.

For a seriously ill or injured veteran, there exists an award from Veterans Affairs Canada of up to $300,000. In addition to this, there exists a benefit through the SISIP program that most Canadian Armed Forces personnel pay into. This award is around $250,000. For those seriously injured as a result of their service, there exists more than half a million dollars in tax-free awards. These awards can be paid out in a lump sum or over the lifetime of the service member or veteran. This is in addition to the earnings loss benefit and permanent impairment allowance that veterans are eligible for as well.

As the mission in Afghanistan wound down, the issues of post traumatic stress disorder and mental health more broadly have come up. With more than 40,000 Canadian Armed Forces members having served in Afghanistan and having engaged in a very intense combat mission there for six years, a number of armed forced personnel and veterans have struggled with PTSD and mental health. Our government has acted in the face of this issue and has created the joint personnel support unit, with eight regional commands across the country and satellite offices at more than 30 locations throughout Canada.

In fact, as the Minister of Justice often used to say when he was the Minister of National Defence, there is such a demand for mental health workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychotherapists in the Canadian Armed Forces that there is in fact a shortfall in the private sector.

I would contend that as part of our effort to improve services to our veterans further, we should have a constructive dialogue with mental health professionals to see how we could better meet demand and ensure that mental health professionals going to work for the armed forces have all the specializations they need to be as effective at their work as possible.

I would also like to highlight another element of the efforts being made at improving mental health for our armed forces. Just this past Sunday, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, the Minister of National Defence, and the Minister of Justice announced in Halifax an investment of more than $200 million over six years in improvements to mental health care for Canadian Armed Forces personnel, veterans, and their families.

Let me conclude with these words. We must improve care and support to seriously ill and injured veterans. This is our collective duty to Canadians. We must ensure that continuous support during and after military service is provided to the families of those who serve Canada. The recent announcement in Halifax takes significant steps to improving this care, but more will always remain to be done.

Finally, we must strengthen the connections between the Canadian Armed Forces, the Department of National Defence, and Veterans Affairs Canada. The transition by a Canadian Armed Forces member from the care of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence to the care of Veterans Affairs Canada must be seamless. While this transition has been greatly improved, it could still be better. Work remains for us to do on that.

I believe that if the House adoptes Motion No. 532, we will be expressing our support for further enhancing and improving care for members of the Canadian Armed Forces and our veterans. Those who have given so much to Canada deserve nothing less than the best. I wholeheartedly urge all members to support Motion No. 532 to ensure that our veterans receive the best care that they can get.

Care for VeteransPrivate Member'S Business

5:35 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today. I think it is very timely that this particular motion is before us, as we have had Canada's Auditor General bring down a fairly condemning report on the government's actions, or lack thereof, in regard to our veterans.

In question period today, the leader of the Liberal Party said it quite well. I would like to repeat the actual question. It highlights the deficiencies of the current government and the need for it to acknowledge that there is room for improvement on the veterans file.

This is the first question my leader posed to the Prime Minister earlier today. He said, “we have a sacred obligation to our veterans, but too many are struggling, alone, against mental illness. The Auditor General has concluded that the current government is failing them. Since 2006, there are 128 veterans who have waited three to seven years to find out if they even qualify for mental health benefits. How could the Prime Minister let this happen?”

In the second question my leader put forward, again to the Prime Minister, he said, “in the past decade, we have lost more men and women in uniform to suicide than we did in Afghanistan. The Auditor General's report said that mental health support for our veterans is very slow, complex, poorly communicated, not tracked, and not comprehensive enough. Why would the Prime Minister deliberately underspend over a billion dollars in veterans funding?”

These are two statements that we, as an opposition party, levelled at the Prime Minister today. If people want to get an understanding of the response we got from the Prime Minister, they only need to read Hansard.

The government is in complete denial in terms of the disservice to our veterans by not maintaining its commitment through budgetary means.

I believe that as a caucus, eight of our nine questions dealt with this very important issue today during question period, which followed the Auditor General's report.

Veterans are seeking long-term mental health support, but they are not being given that support in a timely fashion. Access to the programs and services veterans need are of critical importance, yet the government is not giving the type of response that is necessary. Far too many veterans are forced to wait in excess of eight months to access benefits.

As my colleague, the critic for Veterans Affairs, has pointed out, virtually one in five, which is 20% of our veterans, are having to wait months on end. That is just not acceptable. With what we ask our military personnel to do, it is not acceptable for us to deliver that kind of service.

The report concluded that Veterans Affairs is largely unconcerned with how well veterans are being served and whether programs are even making a difference in their lives. The Conservative government has been unable to establish the effectiveness of mental health services for veterans. Current funding for veterans' mental health is stretched and widely insufficient.

We have consistently asked that the government invest more resources in terms of mental illness among our veterans. There is so much more we could be doing.

The government says that it has record numbers of positions, but if those positions are not not filled, there is no record number. There is record high demand for services that the government has not been able to meet.

Consider that $1.13 billion, some hundreds of millions of dollars, has been left unspent since 2006. At the same time, the Conservatives spent $740 million on, I would ultimately argue, political, self-serving advertising. They are indeed selling our veterans short.

It is interesting when Conservatives try to give the impression that they have done our veterans a service by closing down service centres across Canada. After all, the member implied that those were not being utilized and that there are Legions where veterans can go to get the service they might require.

That is just wrong. The outreach service centres that were opened in communities like Brandon and others in different regions of our country were providing a very valuable service to Canadians.

When the Conservatives tried to give the impression that they needed to do that to save costs, among other things, only for us to then find out that they had underspent by hundreds of millions of dollars, it was fairly tough to understand and appreciate.

The Conservatives have fallen short in delivering the critical services our veterans require. At the same time, they have not been able to spend the money that was allocated. Those nine VAC centres were closed, yet we are still aware of many veterans who are still waiting for case workers. As the leader of the Liberal Party pointed out, we have a sacred obligation to our veterans. I have heard that consistently, whether from the critic of the Liberal Party or the leader of the Liberal Party and others. On Remembrance Day when we had individuals from each political party stand in their place, the member for Guelph in particular talked about that sacred obligation and the sacrifices that are being made.

The Conservatives are not upholding that covenant that we have with our men and women of the Canadian Forces. My colleague has already had the opportunity to put some words on the record, indicating that in principle we support what is being talked about in the motion, but it would be wrong for us not to recognize the many inefficiencies of the government in delivering the critically important services our veterans deserve.

We are hoping in this debate that when it comes to a vote, the government members will reflect on what has taken place over the last couple of years. When the government comes up with a couple of hundred million dollars, it is just too little, too late, and there is so much more that we could have and should have been doing.

I appreciate and thank you for the opportunity to say a few words, Mr. Speaker.

Care for VeteransPrivate Member'S Business

5:45 p.m.


Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, all the members who have spoken to this point have basically said the same thing. Yes, we really need to support our veterans, regardless of what combat zone or war they fought in or what service they rendered. It is important to do that. That is why the motion moved by the member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant is of the utmost importance.

Too often it takes a sad event to remind us just how important it is to take proper care of the men and women who served or are still serving our country. It is up to the legislators to ensure that absolutely every effort is made to respond to the claims of veterans and soldiers.

In my riding, there are veterans from Afghanistan, the Korean War and even half a dozen World War II veterans. Some of them participated in the recent Remembrance Day ceremonies. They are all very proud of what they accomplished. They all recognize how important it is for Canada to keep its commitments and to provide adequate services, whether it be health care or other services.

During the last parliamentary recess, I was honoured and proud to participate in many Remembrance Day activities. Over 15 such events were held in the riding of Compton—Stanstead. I attended nine of them. It is always an honour to meet with veterans because they gave so much to our country.

Where is the sense of humanity, compassion and honour that sometimes seems to be lacking in the debate here in the House and in what is done for our constituents and especially our veterans?

Today, we have before us a motion that says:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should examine all possible options to ensure a fully unified “continuum of care” approach is in place to serve Canada's men and women in uniform and veterans...

A “continuum of care” means that they receive health care services when they are being treated for an illness or injury and also after they have been treated as they carry on with their lives. There are always services that can be requested by veterans, modern veterans and soldiers. For that reason, those services must be in place. When a person is up against a bureaucracy, it can be upsetting, and extremely disappointing things can happen. This motion seeks to eliminate all of the red tape within and between departments with regard to service delivery.

It is very difficult for our brave veterans of the Second World War who are still with us. It causes a lot of hassle, especially when they request a service and are told they need to adjust to new technology. Veterans who are 89, 90 or 92 are being asked to turn on a computer, go on the Internet and access services online. That is an insult. That even happened at a Service Canada office; Service Canada is now taking over from the veterans' service centres. A 92-year-old veteran was placed in front of a computer and given a quick demonstration, so that he could access his services online from now on. That is insulting.

We want to prevent those types of situations. We want veteran care and services to be on a par with the service they gave our country. We also want to support the families of veterans. Once again, those who fought in the Second World War are about 90 or 92.

In recent years, I became aware of a couple, both veterans, married for over 60 years. It was impossible to navigate the administrative maze to ensure that the wife would receive the care she needed, and the husband, who also needed care, told me that he was forced to abandon his wife, who suffered from dementia and Alzheimer's, to her own devices and hospital care.

That couple lived together for over 60 years. They spent their lives together. The veteran told me that his life was over because he could find no way to get the services he needed to continue his relationship with his wife even though she was no longer the same person because of her illness. He said he wanted to spend his last days with his wife but that it was impossible. That is extremely sad.

There are situations like that all over Canada, even among young veterans who went to Afghanistan, who participated in other more recent wars or who were deployed to Sarajevo. Those veterans have been abandoned.

In the Eastern Townships, a dozen or so veterans get together regularly. They told me that they are the only people they can relate to and that they meet as friends to talk about their lives without judgment. They are trying to figure out how they ended up in this situation, why Canada abandoned them. That is a sad thing to hear, especially when we know what they have done and how proud they are to have served our country. A country like ours, a modern country, should provide these men and women with the services they need.

The Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs tabled a report on improving the new veterans' charter. In its response, the government decided not to invest new funding. Instead, it returned close to $1 billion to the Treasury Board. One billion dollars was not spent on veterans and was returned to the Treasury Board, when veterans are in need of services all across Canada.

The NDP stood up and said that the loss of veterans' service centres would be very harmful for the public and for soldiers. These service centres were a point of contact for them. They received service from other human beings. When a veteran went to one of these centres, he saw a human being who answered his questions and provided a service, no matter how young or old.

The only thing the veteran wanted was to be served by a person, not an answering machine that often asks us to press four, press two or press five and then makes us wait. A veteran told me that he once waited for more than 90 minutes and the call was disconnected when the time was up. This is unacceptable for our veterans.

That is why this motion is so important. We want to do more than just support the motion. We want something tangible to be done to prove to these veterans of every battle and every unit that we are proud of them and that we will honour their service by taking good care of them.

Care for VeteransPrivate Member'S Business

November 25th, 2014 / 5:55 p.m.


Greg Kerr Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to enter the discussion this evening in support of the motion put forward by my colleague from Edmonton Centre.

I will start off by pointing out that, as chair of the veterans affairs committee, I certainly was pleased that we had unanimous consent and support from all members of the committee to proceed with the report. One of the important recommendations within the report is one that my colleague and friend has been promoting for some time. I think we have all been promoting it.

We sometimes get a little carried away in this place, and I was pleased that did not happen at committee stage. We focused on improving services to veterans and picking up on some of the gaps. We committed ourselves to moving forward. All of us on the committee agreed that there are a lot of great services available to our veterans, as there should be. Are there opportunities to improve? Absolutely. Are there challenges? Of course, there are. We have to focus on where we are going.

To unnecessarily upset veterans is unfortunate, but it does happen, and I realize that this is the political climate. I would like to focus on where we are and where we are going moving forward. We will never get everything done that we think should be done, but that is the nature of the kind of services that we need to provide to our veterans.

The motion refers to one of the things that we have seen and heard for some time is a challenge, and that is the fact that many veterans have slipped through the cracks in getting service in a timely manner. I have heard members from all sides refer to this as incredibly important, and it was the committee's number one recommendation.

Veterans are often transitioned out of DND, and they end up in Veterans Affairs. There can be gaps of time in getting the appropriate services that they deserve. We all agree that is an important challenge to face. We do not know what these two departments do together or how united they become in the end result, but we are absolutely committed to making sure that when somebody leaves DND and enters veterans services that they are entering a seamless and absolutely supportive system. We are committed to making sure that they do not have to spend months waiting to go from one department to another, one bureaucracy to another bureaucracy.

I spoke to one lady during the committee process who had gone through the system. She was a medical person, and even with her knowledge she waited for over 12 months to be transitioned from DND to Veterans Affairs.

Part of the problem that these individuals face is the interpretation of the degree of the problem, or the medical challenge that they face, the recognition by Veterans Affairs that if they left DND with some serious challenges, they should automatically be accepted by Veterans Affairs. Unfortunately, for some reason that has become a problem for many of our veterans.

People with medical challenges who have done their service feel that they are alone, that there are not enough services available to them, even though there are all kinds of terrific services. The problem they face is accessing those services. That is the critical entry point. My friend and colleague's motion says that we should keep the pressure on, that we need to keep focusing on where we are going.

There were 14 major recommendations that the committee felt the government should focus on. Most of the organizations and groups agreed that these recommendations are the timely and important ones. The ombudsman said they are important, and he wants to make sure that we continue to be focused on them. The government has accepted some of the recommendations up front, and it continues to add its support and acceptance of the recommendations. As we continue down this road, our job is to make sure that all of the recommendations are enacted and supported. Our veterans deserve that. We all agree that it is the right thing to do.

It is important, as well, that we do not unnecessarily confuse or alarm our veterans. Many veterans get great service, and they are happy to get it. However, there is no question that there are those who are going to be difficult. There are also those who will probably never be happy with what we do, but that should never stop us or get us off course in doing what is right for our veterans.

Doing what is right for our veterans is consulting with them, listening to them and then acting in the best possible way on behalf of them and the taxpayers to deliver services that look after their needs for many years to come.

I know that when we finished the committee report, and when we presented it to the government, there was a great feeling that it was a huge step forward. For those who are asking why are they not done, some of these things require us to go back and consult with the veterans' organizations on implementation. We cannot force them. For instance, the family resource centres are being looked at. How do we engage them more? We cannot go out and tell a separate organization that this is what it is going to do. We are here to help, we want to help and organizations should let us know the best way to proceed.

In some cases these things happen quickly and in some cases it takes months of discussion, always with the sense that we must do it, we must complete it, we must get there together to benefit all our veterans. We are absolutely convinced that that is under way and will happen.

For those who are impatient, I would just ask them to look deeper than the lines that are being thrown out here. They should talk to veterans and ask them if they want it done correctly or quickly. They will tell people that of course they would like to have it quickly and correctly, but correctly is far more important. The veterans want long-term support and long-term delivery, and we want to ensure we do it in the right manner to benefit them.

I would also point out that it is important, as we carry through, we keep the dialogue going with the veterans to ask them how we are making out. There are a lot of organizations out there, perhaps there are too many organizations. It is one of those things we have to discuss with them to ensure we hear clear messages as to progress and results. That will continue to happen.

I am delighted that Walt Natynczyk is now the new deputy minister of Veterans Affairs. He was the former chief of the defence staff. He was the head honcho there. For him to be in Veterans Affairs, I really believe the motion that our colleague has raised will becomes a reality even more efficiently and more quickly, perhaps because he gets it. He understands this issues of appropriate transitions, appropriate delivery of service and appropriate follow-up for the veterans.

He has now seen both sides of the table, and he will help the progress along a great deal. It was a good move on behalf of the government to appoint him as the deputy minister of Veterans Affairs.

I do not think anybody from any party would question the logic of having him as the deputy minister in this transition period. He will understand the departments, the veterans and he will help us on this course as we move down the road.

It has been frustrating for many of us when we get into this discussion, but I really believe all members, regardless of party, care about and are concerned about veterans. There is no doubt in my mind. Sometimes we get caught up in some misinformation, occasionally. It is not a deliberate thing to misinform, but sometimes that happens. We must be careful that we are unnecessarily confusing the veterans or giving them the wrong information, and I am talking about all sides, all parties.

I am glad my colleague raised the motion. It reminds us there is work to be done. It reminds us that veterans are a top priority. It reminds us that we are making progress. It also reminds us that we must stay vigilant, focused and committed to ensuring we deliver the very best service we can to our veterans.

Care for VeteransPrivate Member'S Business

6:05 p.m.


Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to salute all the veterans living in my riding. They can count on the fact that I will work in this place on their behalf at all times, and to the best of my ability, not just by speaking to the motion moved today, but also by helping them with any problem they may face. My riding office is always open to them. They are always welcome to come in, so that together we can find the best solutions as quickly as possible.

I must say that it is November 25 and it was not so long ago that, no matter our political affiliation, we were all preparing to participate in Remembrance Day ceremonies in our respective ridings. There is no doubt in my mind that there was more than just a consensus, that members of Parliament were actually unanimous in recognizing the importance of what we were doing. We were recognizing the duty to remember our veterans every year.

However, this duty to remember should not take place just once a year, as part of an event we celebrate. We have to carry it deep within ourselves, 365 days a year, to ensure that those who did so much for the country can in turn receive what they need.

Even though I support this motion, as my party does, I nevertheless have to point out my concerns with respect to the development and delivery of services. I will guarantee that the services are provided as quickly and consistently as possible.

I would first like to talk about the red tape involved in delivering veterans' services. At present, our veterans have to fill out a mountain of paperwork and go through a lot of red tape in the hope of receiving services and benefits.

The Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs suggested that the government implement a unified payment system that would result in a single monthly payment to the veteran. This measure would simplify things, it would be easy to implement and it would be efficient, because it would prevent mistakes arising from the multitude of administrative forms, mistakes that delay veterans' access to the benefits they are waiting for.

The government's promise in response to this recommendation was nothing but empty words. It did not truly commit to easing the administrative burden for our veterans. The Conservatives did not stop there, and I will share some other examples.

One example is the duplication of programs. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces contribute to the life insurance plan included in the service income security insurance plan. However, Veterans Affairs Canada already offers several programs under this plan. That is why the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs and the Veterans Ombudsman jointly recommended that VAC no longer offer SISIP programs.

The Veterans Ombudsman called for the Minister of Veterans Affairs to work with the Minister of National Defence on an independent review to determine whether it was efficient to have duplicate programs. I must point out that what we are all looking for is the most efficient way to provide services as quickly as possible to those who have already rendered the service we asked of them.

Since enlightenment comes when ideas collide, the government's response reflects the meeting of these two great minds—the two ministers I just mentioned. I would like to share a quote to illustrate the concerns I still have:

The Government agrees in principle with this proposal and will explore options for addressing the recommendation.

I read that many times, in one form or another, in the government's responses to the reports. All too often the answer is “yes, but” or “yes, however” or “yes, but later”, when what we need is meaningful action right now.

While government action is going into hibernation, our veterans feel as though they are being abandoned once they leave the Canadian Armed Forces. They are suffering from the lack of support and assistance when it comes to health care. That is why the committee suggested that the government should be more proactive by ensuring that health care is provided to all military personnel before they leave the Canadian Armed Forces.

Military personnel leaving the armed forces to become veterans need to be supported by a continuum of care, because many illnesses can emerge years after they have left the forces. I am thinking of illnesses related to mental health in particular, such as PTSD, which can emerge much later and can adversely affect the health of our veterans, as well as the health of the people around them. Also, the closing of the last hospital dedicated to veterans is not helping matters in terms of the problems they face every day with their families.

To make matters worse, modern veterans are excluded from the long-term care program offered to those who fought in the Second World War and the Korean War.

More generally speaking, the statistics published by the Veterans Ombudsman are extremely alarming. A total of 1,428 veterans out of 76,446 Canadian Forces veteran clients were assessed by Veterans Affairs Canada to be totally and permanently incapacitated.

Those statistics are alarming, but a lack of statistics in other areas is even more worrisome. Veterans Affairs Canada does not even have any statistics about the rate of suicide among veterans, despite the recommendations of the National Defence and Canadian Forces Ombudsman and the Veterans Ombudsman. That gives us an idea of the work that still needs to be done in this file, work that cannot be done fast enough, given the existing needs.

The government does not have a stellar track record financially speaking either. A total of $1.1 billion was not used for its intended purpose and was returned to the government treasury. Recently, the government announced a $200 million program. We are not going to say no to that money, but veterans need both that $200 million and the $1.1 billion.

I digress. After the committee recommended that Veterans Affairs Canada increase the level of compensation, the government showed, yet again, a “great interest” in the recommendation. Here is a another quote, as noteworthy as the first:

The Government agrees in principle with this proposal and will explore options for addressing the recommendation.

That is a perfect example of bureaucratese, of language void of all meaning. This government has become a master in the art of deciding to think about exploring its options. That is the kind of effective government responses that are being proposed. We on this side of the House, both sides of the House even, and especially veterans, are expecting something far more effective than that.

While the government is meditating on this, the NDP is proposing meaningful and effective solutions to modernize the new veterans charter in its entirety. Speaking of the new charter, if we were to look at the time it took to implement it, I am not even sure it could be called a “new charter”. In this case, “new” more likely means the latest on the list.

Since I am quickly running out of time, I will skip over a few remarks and jump right to my conclusion. The NDP supports this motion because, as I said, there is more than just a consensus; everyone in this House unanimously agrees that we should give our veterans their due. More than ever, by supporting this motion, the NDP is reiterating its support for our veterans, in terms of medical and financial assistance, as well as support for their families, who are too often marginalized.

I hope we can set aside our partisan differences and I hope all members of this House will support this motion in recognition of the sacred duty that all responsible governments have towards their veterans.

Care for VeteransPrivate Member'S Business

6:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

There being no further debate, accordingly, we will invite the hon. member for Edmonton Centre for his right of reply. The hon. member has up to five minutes.

The hon. member for Edmonton Centre.

Care for VeteransPrivate Member'S Business

6:15 p.m.


Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise again and wrap up this debate. I am not going to bother going over the text of private member's Motion No. 532. It has been alluded to a number of times. Suffice it to say, it will provide a significant step toward closing the gaps in the service transition between the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs. There are gaps that exist, which we know about.

I appreciate the support. I know it is going to be passed—I assume unanimously. Notwithstanding the rhetoric we have heard today and heard the last time, which is a completely false narrative, we have acknowledged that there are issues. We have always acknowledged the issues. I have lived through some of those issues as a veteran. However, the narrative we heard today and the last time is very false.

The thing I like about private member's Motion No. 532, other than that it is mine, is that it really is in lock step with the 14 recommendations in the Veterans Affairs committee report tabled in June of this year.

The first one, and my colleague from the Maritimes mentioned it earlier, is not letting someone leave uniform until they are completely holding hands with Veterans Affairs, that everything has been adjudicated, the caseworkers have been identified, that the services are ready when they walk in the door, and that there is a whole bunch of other things covered in there.

The announcements made a couple of days ago addressed three of those recommendations, and there are more to come. This is progress and that is what this is about, making progress in what really is a never-ending quest to give veterans what they need. That process is not immediate. People ask why it is not happening right now. No government can ignore the legal, regulatory, and statutory process that is in place. We would all like it to go faster. That is just not reality; every government has to follow that procedure.

The previous speaker mentioned that we were using bafflegab. No, we have to engage. Sometimes we have to engage with the Department of Finance. We have to engage with DND and VAC. We have to engage with Treasury Board. There are a lot of things that, by law, have to be done and we have to get that right.

The Auditor General's report in fact relates to my private member's motion. He addresses a lot of legitimate things. They are covered by that, but also covered by the 14 recommendations in the committee's report.

The Auditor General's report is not all negative, despite the rhetoric we hear from the opposition and the media, who will never talk about anything good. They will always talk about the negative, because that is what the opposition and media do. One of these days it would be nice to see some more honest balance, but I will not hold my breath.

The Auditor General praised the department for a number of things, such as mental health rehab timelines and the mental health support programs that are in place, and there are many. Eighty-four per cent of eligibility decisions in the rehab program were made within the two-week service standard. That is not bad. The majority of case plans were prepared within 45 days. That is pretty good.

There are legitimate criticisms in the AG's report and we accept those. A lot of those relate directly to the recommendations that we made. Those issues have been ongoing. We did not just start doing this a couple of days ago. Frankly, it has been ongoing for years and will continue. Therefore, to suggest that this is in reaction to something else is simply false.

Was the Auditor General's report a failure? No, it was not. Did it say that more could be done? Yes, absolutely, and we agree with that. Motion No. 532 goes a step in that direction. We are working with Veterans Affairs and the Legions and most, but not all, veterans groups out there, because there are some that simply do not want to work in a productive, rational manner.

I have to say something about lapsing because that has been brought up many times. It has been completely falsely reported. If we think of it as a line of credit, VAC gets a line of credit from the government every year and it can spend as much as it wants. If it has to go over that amount, it can get more. The fact is, it depends on who asks for what. If the demand is not there, the money is not spent. The line of credit then gets refilled for the next year and on and on. It is completely false to say that $1.13 billion was ripped out of veterans programs. They know it is false. I will not use the word “deliberate”, but it does cross my mind that it is definitely misleading.

Walt Natynczyk is a brilliant appointment. I know him well. He talked about a continuum of care from a different perspective. I want to end here with this point. He talked about five stages: there is triage after a blast from an IED; then there is diagnosis; then treatment; then family and peer support; and finally, there is individual ownership of their own life. That is the aim of all Veterans Affairs programs, so people can take control of their own lives when the time comes. Motion No. 532 facilitates that.

I appreciate folks' support, and I look forward to this bill passing. It would be one more step in the continuum of care for veterans that they deserve.

Care for VeteransPrivate Member'S Business

6:20 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Care for VeteransPrivate Member'S Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members



Care for VeteransPrivate Member'S Business

6:20 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Care for VeteransPrivate Member'S Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


Care for VeteransPrivate Member'S Business

6:20 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Care for VeteransPrivate Member'S Business

6:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


Care for VeteransPrivate Member'S Business

6:20 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, November 26, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.


Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, on October 29, I asked the minister about homelessness in Canada, about homelessness strategies that the government was not employing and the fact that homelessness was getting worse, not better, under the government. The minister's answer was somewhat glib and somewhat non-specific to what has become a crisis in our country.

Homelessness costs Canadians $7 billion. Beyond that, there is a critical housing shortage.

When my colleague presented Bill C-400 in the House last year, the Conservatives voted against it because they that said it would cost $6.2 billion. The purpose of that bill was to find a way to ensure that everyone in our country had a home. The $6.2 billion is less than $7 billion, so it would have been cheaper for the government to have adopted Bill C-400.

In my riding of York South—Weston, close to half the residents are renters and of those, more than 36% spend more than 30% of their income on housing, which is the standard by which the government and the banks determine when people are spending too much. Almost 90% of the renters living in those big concrete towers, which is 45% of my riding, have some form of insecurity attached to their housing, yet the government says that everything is fine.

Close to one-third of those renters are in critical risk of homelessness. They have four or more aspects of their housing that is on the edge, that is either insufficient for the number of people in their household or is costing way too much for them. If they miss one paycheque, they and their children will be out on the street, and nobody wants to see that happen.

In the past few years, the government has signalled that it will not renew some 600,000 affordable housing units that are provided through the co-ops that have agreements with CMHC, with the government. These are coming to an end over the coming years. Many of those co-ops will be unable to continue. They have huge bills that have mounted up over the years because they have been living on the edge and they will be unable to continue once that funding ends.

It is almost criminal for the government to suggest that the funding will end, that the money will return to the treasury and that everything will be rosy when in fact, it has admitted, through its responses on Bill C-400, there is a $6.2 billion gap in the housing in our country, a $6.2 billion need for housing. There are 1.2 million households that have some kind of housing need. Those households have an average of $4,779 of need and the government has decided it will not provide it. It is not going to talk about it because it does not want to know. That is no way to address a real problem.

Some answers have been given to us by those who have written the “State of Homelessness in Canada 2014” report. I would like the government to at least consider these recommendations: a new framework agreement that sets clear priorities and requires local planning between the federal, provincial and municipal governments; increased housing first investments that target chronic and episodic homelessness through an expansion of the homelessness partnering strategy; direct investment in affordable housing programs, specifically, federal funding for social housing, co-ops, non-profits, as operating agreements wind down; a housing benefit for those who face a severe affordability problem; a new affordable housing tax credit; and a review and expand involvement in aboriginal housing both on and off reserve.

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley Nova Scotia


Scott Armstrong ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand here today to address the hon. member's question. The hon. member for York South—Weston has asked the government to explain its position on the issue of long-term funding for affordable housing in Canada, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond to this question today.

Let me begin by stating very clearly that my colleagues and I share the hon. member's concern for the well-being of people who find themselves in need of housing.

Our government has made unprecedented investments in affordable housing. We have made those investments over the past number of years, and we will continue to do so. Since 2006, our government, through CMHC, has invested more than $16.5 billion in housing. These investments have benefited more than 900,000 Canadian individuals and families. Again, this year, the government will provide $2 billion in housing investments right across this country.

As for the longer term, I am sure that all hon. members of the House will recall that in economic action plan 2013, we renewed the investment in affordable housing until 2019, with $1.25 billion in funding over five years. Further to that, in recognition of the distinctive needs of northern Canada, our government also announced $100 million over two years to support the construction of new and affordable housing in Nunavut.

The renewal of the investment in affordable housing ensures continuity of federal funding for housing programs across Canada, and I am pleased to say that renewal agreements have now been signed with most provinces and territories, and remaining agreements should be in place very shortly. An important component of these agreements is that provinces and territories match the federal investment in their jurisdictions. They are also responsible for designing and delivering affordable housing programs that meet their local housing needs and priorities.

Hon. members should know that the investment in affordable housing, which of course, was introduced by our government in 2011, is making a huge difference in communities all across Canada. As of September 30, over 200,000 households have benefited from this initiative.

As well, this does not include the hundreds of thousands of Canadian households that benefit from the annual federal subsidy for existing social housing units, both on and off reserve. Provinces and territories also contribute to this funding. This is provided to low-income Canadians through long-term agreements with housing groups. These agreements span 25 to 50 years, and when they mature, the federal government funding will end, as it was always planned to end, because Canadians know that when the mortgage is paid off, they stop paying the bank.

The majority of non-profit and co-operative housing projects are expected to be financially viable and mortgage free at the end of the operating agreements. Housing providers will find themselves with valuable real estate assets and a decrease in operating expenses that can be used to continue to offer affordable housing to other Canadians who need it most.

For housing projects that may face financial difficulties when subsidies end, CMHC has been actively working to help them prepare for the end of their operating agreements. It is important to remember that provinces and territories can opt to use funds from the investment in affordable housing to support projects after their operating agreements have matured.

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Mike Sullivan NDP York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is quite typical of the government to claim credit for stuff that does not belong to it. The $1.7 billion that is currently in the co-op and other long-term agreements predated the current government. The almost $2 billion a year it has taken credit for over the last eight years was actually money Jack Layton negotiated with Paul Martin to have put into the budget, and the Conservatives voted against it. It is all very specious.

The fact of the matter is that there are 90,000 families in Toronto that are on a waiting list for affordable housing. Those 90,000 have not received a single nickel of this federal money and are not likely to, because there is not going to be enough building. At the rate we are building, which is about 5,000 units a year, it will take another 20 years before there is enough built to actually house those 90,000 families, and that is way too long to wait.

We need to act now. We need to take the money that maybe some of those long-term agreements do not need and reinvest it in building affordable housing for Canadians who need it.

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

6:30 p.m.


Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, we do agree on that. When the mortgages end and no longer need to be paid and they are operationally sufficient, we can take some of that money and use it for other projects, for some of the 90,000 people that the member opposite talked about who need housing.

I would like to remind the member that our government has invested heavily in housing, providing over $16.5 billion since 2006. This helps low-income families, seniors, people with disabilities, people in aboriginal communities, and other vulnerable groups across the country. Economic action plan 2014 confirmed that we will continue to work with the provincial and territorial levels of government, municipalities, and other stakeholders, to ensure the accessibility and sustainability of housing, including social housing for those who are most in need.

Our government is investing in those Canadians who need it most through our investment in affordable housing. This will provide federal funding of $2 billion from 2011 to 2019. This program alone represents an eight-year funding commitment, and is over and above the ongoing support for existing social housing on and off reserve.

In closing, these investments are producing real results, and our government stands by its record on housing.

The EnvironmentAdjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise this evening in adjournment proceedings to pursue a question that I asked earlier, in September of this year. It deals with the issue of Canada's greenhouse gas records: Are emissions rising, or are they falling?

These adjournment proceedings that give us more time do allow for something of a tutorial. I am going to start by reading my full question, and then the answer that I received. That gives us a framework to explain why I want to come back to this point. It is important, and I want to make it very clear that I believe that all members of this place want to get full information and to deal with numbers that are accurate.

I will paraphrase slightly what I asked initially. I said that in an answer in question period, before I asked my question on September 22, I heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment, a good friend whom I see is in the House tonight, say that greenhouse gas levels are falling. Then he said that it has led to a significant reduction in greenhouse gas levels. I said the following:

If the PMO had consulted the Environment Canada website, it would know that neither of those statements is correct. Greenhouse gas levels have been rising steadily since the end of the recession and are slated to end at 734 megatonnes by 2020, less than one half of one percent below the 2005 levels, when the Prime Minister committed to 17%.

I asked the parliamentary secretary to find out if the Prime Minister's Office would check Environment Canada's website before writing the talking points to be used by Conservative parliamentary secretaries and ministers.

My hon. colleague, the parliamentary secretary, said:

Since 2005, Canadian greenhouse gas emissions have decreased 5.1%, while the economy has grown by 10.6%.

Here is what I want to put to him. Both statements are correct. One is an attempt to explain, and one is an attempt to confuse. I believe that my statement was the one to explain, and the talking points from the Prime Minister's Office were designed to confuse.

Therefore, let me explain. Greenhouse gas levels in Canada fell to a low point during the recession. After the recession, in 2009, greenhouse gas levels fell below 700 megatonnes to 692 megatonnes. That is the lowest that they had been in some time. What happened was that as soon as the recession was over, greenhouse gas levels started rising. They have been rising ever since 2009. When I hear hon. colleagues say that they are falling, that is a statement that would lead Canadians to believe that they are currently falling.

In terms of the actions of the Conservative administration, I do not believe that the Prime Minister wants to take personal credit for the economic meltdown of 2008, nor do I believe that he had any responsibility for it. However, that is the reason that greenhouse gas levels went as low as they did in 2009. Ever since then, as the economy has recovered, greenhouse gas levels have been steadily rising. They are slated to go, from around 692 megatonnes, in 2009, as I said, to 734 megatonnes by 2020. That means that we will completely blow the so-called Copenhagen target.