House of Commons Hansard #140 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was businesses.


Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:20 a.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member may be correct that we have the most positions per capita, but having a position and actually having that position filled are two different things. We know that there is a need to have the positions filled.

There are avenues the government could use to recruit. I have seen first-hand where individuals are provided incentives to enter the forces in selected professions and trades. There are educational programs, financial incentives, and so forth. It is not that different from a provincial department of health looking for specialty doctors. We do what we can. We have not seen an aggressive proactive approach coming from government to fill those vacancies. Therefore, he may like to say that we have the positions, but if the positions are unfilled it is somewhat misleading.

In earlier comments, the member made reference to the unanimous report. There was a great deal of goodwill in the report from the Liberal member who wanted to ensure that veterans were put first, as well as members from the government in coming up with the actual report. I even made reference to that in my comments.

Even though the report is here, there is a lot now that needs to be acted on within the report, which would make a profoundly positive difference for our vets if we are prepared to put the necessary resources and time commitment into making it happen.

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.


Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I sat on the veterans affairs committee several years ago and veterans are near and dear to my heart and to constituents across our community and across the country. All my colleagues will be at the cenotaph, not only November 11 but throughout the next week.

I know the University of British Columbia Okanagan will be attending a Remembrance Day ceremony with our Legion members of all ages. It is important that we continue to reflect upon the sacrifices that men and women have given and those who are serving today.

We can look at the changes and the positive addition of almost $5 billion that has been earmarked over the eight years since our 2006 budget. We have invested in reorganization of the veterans affairs portfolio. As alluded to, there are 14 recommendations and there is all-party consensus on the committee moving forward.

One of the areas was the veterans independence program. I know for constituents, a spouse of a veteran applying for the program was not eligible if the veteran passed away. We made that positive change so the widow was eligible and the neighbours were eligible based on means. Another area is that they do not have to submit a $35 fee and wait six weeks for an application form and take it down to the office.

Does my hon. colleague think those are some of the positive recommendations, or should we go back to the old way of having to submit the forms in person and not having the money up front for our veterans?

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, during the early eighties I had the privilege, as a member of the Canadian Forces, to walk outside in the frigid weather in November. Among the people I marched with were war veterans. After marching in memory, we would go to local facilities where there would be an exchange of many stories.

I understand and I appreciate, through listening, the important role that Veterans Affairs has to play in providing for our vets, and where we can make improvements we should. Hopefully, in many ways, it can be done with unanimous support. However, where there are shortcomings it is important that opposition parties raise those shortcomings.

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:25 a.m.

Durham Ontario


Erin O'Toole ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I have the distinct honour to rise in the House, with regularity, on issues relating to the Canadian Forces and our veterans. This is an important part of the reason why I ran for Parliament.

The most formative part of my life to date, my 41 years, were the 12 years I spent in uniform for Canada. I joined the military at 18, after graduating from Bowmanville High School. I attended the Royal Military College of Canada and served with the RCAF. I then transitioned to the reserves when I went to law school.

I have previously said in the House that when I left my military family and hung up that uniform, that transition was a difficult time. The decisions that flow around this are extremely stressful. In most cases, our young men and women joined around the same age I did, at 18. I did not have to write another resume until I left law school. I never had to apply for other jobs.

However, the difference between us being 18 or in our 30s, or even later when we leave, is we now have family, children and we will often be in a province that is different from where we enrolled, so our life has changed radically. It has changed for the better because I think almost every person who leaves the military finds it to be a rewarding experience and something that he or she feels proud of for life.

The reason why the new veterans charter was created was to help our men and women with that transition.

I share the concern of my friend from Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, that how in recent years the debate in this place has been lowered by using veterans and programs like the new veterans charter for political gain. In part, it is shameful because the entire House supported the new veterans charter, including my friend from Sackville—Eastern Shore, who is one of the few who has been here and worked on veterans issues all of those years. Several other members of the Liberal Party voted for it. It was a Liberal project. However, the parties came together because they saw the need to modernize the transition of our men and women out of uniform. The intention of the new veterans charter was to ensure there was access to skills training, education and faster health care so the transition to civilian life was smoother. That is why every sitting member of the House voted for it under the Martin Liberal government.

The new veterans charter has been implemented over the course of our government. The intention of that document was for it to be a living document to ensure it could be reviewed from time to time. Our government has already acted. We increased the permanent impairment allowance supplement for some of our most critically wounded soldiers from Afghanistan. Why? Because those who are most critically wounded have the most difficult time transitioning due to their injuries. They have a hard time finding permanent civilian employment after they leave the military. Our government has already moved swiftly to address that major issue.

I had the honour of sitting on the veterans affairs committee during my first year in Parliament. That committee was charged by the current Minister of Veterans Affairs with reviewing all aspects of the new veterans charter. I still meet World War II and Korean War veterans around the country who complain about the system that was in place before the new veterans charter and how records were lost, how they could not provide support for claims and how claims were rejected. We have been listening and the new veterans charter was an attempt by the previous government, and increasingly by our government, to improve that transition period.

We have also made good changes to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, such as putting more veterans on the VRAB to review these sorts of claims.

I will use a few moments of time in the House to speak again about veterans' issues. I urge some of my colleagues in here, who use it as a wedge, to learn about the issues a little more, because I have been profoundly disappointed by the low level of knowledge. People are quick to complain, but very slow to actually research.

I have one main quote from the report by the veterans affairs committee on the new veterans charter. Two parts of its report are critical for the House to consider, especially the New Democrats who have brought this concurrence debate to the floor today.

The all-party committee thankfully removed most of the politics from its operations. The members of the committee heard from over 50 witnesses: veterans, veterans' advocates, people with experience in mental health and in veterans care. They put together a series of 14 recommendations, about which I will talk a little. What is important is that they unanimously agreed that the principles of the new veterans charter should be upheld, but that improvements to the charter were critical.

Members from all parties recognized that the new veterans charter provided a “solid foundation” for transition from military life to civilian life. There are aspects of the new veterans charter that need to be improved and updated, but the members of the committee unanimously agreed that the principles behind it in assisting that transition were sound. It is just that their execution needed to be done better.

I said earlier that the origins of the new veterans charter were in submissions by many veterans, including some veterans' groups that are now providing input on how we improve it. However, a lot were asking for more upfront transition support for men and women of the forces, including for those with injuries. That is what the new veterans charter tried to do. It also tried to ensure that health care was part of the transition mix for people leaving uniform quickly, and it still what it does that.

I have heard a few members of the House ask about the $4.7 billion that has been discussed. I hope some of them are listening now. A good portion of those funds will go to benefits for soldiers injured in Afghanistan, having enhanced benefits through the changes we already made as a government with the permanent impairment allowance and permanent impairment allowance supplement. A good portion of it is for that. However, on a basic funding level, Veterans Affairs Canada has a budget that is about $800 million higher per year than it was when we formed government.

I hear it said that this government is cutting from veterans. However, it is actually one of the few areas, while we have been trying to get back to a balanced budget, a principle that is important to our government, that has been largely spared. What I like most as a veteran, having worked after leaving uniform on veterans' issues passionately for many years, is our government is not stuck in the 1950s on how we care for our veterans.

Some people still talk about the Veterans Affairs offices in the House. They clearly do not understand how veterans are served. Those offices were opened around the country at a time when there was no national health care in the country. The only offices the Government of Canada had around the country were the post offices. There was no network of services and there was no health care. Offices were needed to administer to the entire generation that served and that needed care, and in some cases needed direct relationships with physicians who were private operators.

Let us fast-forward to today and to our veterans who are in some cases leaving in their twenties and who have never had a bank book. They want to access not just their banking information, but their veteran's account on their smartphone or on their tablet. I have said in the House a few times that we have to provide services that support our veterans in their nineties and in their twenties. To do that, we cannot sit still. We have to provide a range of services.

What has changed from the 1950s to today is a network of almost 700 offices across Canada called “Service Canada” that were not there before. We now also have health care administered through the provinces, and care for veterans can be accomplished through transfers and relationships with the provinces, including some of the facilities that the federal government used to own but transferred to the provinces.

We all now know from the debates in the House that provinces administer the health care systems in their province or territory, so the federal government now has a partnering relationship. There is still some exceptional work going on at Camp Hill, Sunnybrook, some of the veterans hospitals, but they are part of the provincial health regimes and they work with Veterans Affairs for care for our veterans. That is what has changed.

It is critical to remind Canadians that Veterans Affairs offices, the brick and mortar offices, did not deliver any services. They were administrative centres. Now that same level of administrative support can be offered at the network of 700 Service Canada offices, which did not exist post World War II but do now.

My area of Durham and the region at large, with 500,000 people, never had a Veterans Affairs office. People would have to travel to Toronto. Now with Service Canada, that same level of administrative support can be obtained at five Service Canada offices in and around the edges of the Durham region. That is smart governance, and anyone who says it is not is playing games.

Some of the offices that were closed had less than 10 people in them a day. In most cases, there is a Service Canada office that can offer the same level of support in the same building or down the street. As a veteran, it disappoints me that we actually took the advice of one veteran who had been highly critical of this. He said that the person in the Sydney Service Canada office would not have experience with veterans. We listened to him last October. I went to the minister personally. We ensured that when the Veterans Affairs office closed in Sydney, an experienced veteran case worker was transferred to the Service Canada office. With a caseload of about 10 to 12 people a day, one is appropriate to provide the same level of administrative support and guidance.

At the same time, over 15,000 veterans have signed up for the My VAC account, to manage their own Veterans Affairs accounts online. Most of them are the younger cohorts who I have talked about, in their twenties and thirties. Serving veterans is not about standing still. It is about doing things better and ensuring we can serve more people. We are committed to that.

I am proud of the uniting feature of the Conservative Party and this government. I am proud to serve in Parliament alongside members who have served in the army, the navy, the air force. We ensure this is a priority. There are 30,000 more survivors now taking part in the veterans independence program under our changes than before we took office. I think all MPs know veterans in their constituencies who benefit from the VIP, an appropriately named program, to help them stay in their homes.

With changes, not only have we allowed more people to qualify for that, we have made it easier. Therefore, instead of the administrative burden that families were telling us about of constantly having to submit receipts, mainly the children of veterans, there is now a case where they can be approved for such service and it can be done in advance. I have heard directly from people who say how much easier that is.

We have supported great programs that have popped up in recent years, like the work Wounded Warriors has done with service dogs, like the work the group of physicians and scholars at the University of British Columbia have done with the veterans transition program and the Veterans Transition Network, dealing with veterans with OSIs or PTSD. This has been funded by our government to try to take that great work UBC has done for about 20 years, since the Medak Pocket of Yugoslavia, and take it nationally.

We have increased and modernized the Last Post Fund, increasing both the amounts covered by the fund and extending it to modern veterans, not to ensure every veteran has a funeral paid for by his or her country, because I know most do not want that, I certainly do not, but all veterans want to know that indigent veterans and those who have fallen through the cracks will have those services provided. The Last Post Fund has done that for 100 years. Now will do it for the post-Korean War generation of veterans.

We have the veterans hiring act, where we are putting veterans as the top priority in hiring in the civil service. We know this will not apply to every veteran, because they still have to be eligible for that post within the federal government, but it sends a message when Canada's Parliament has an act and puts veterans in top priority position. We are sending a message to employers across the country that hiring a veteran is not just the right thing to do; it is actually accretive to the bottom line. It would be hiring people with a track record of being able to work well on a team and take to training, and most people who join the military are inherently loyal; they want to affiliate with a uniform or a regiment. Therefore, in an age where companies are spending millions of dollars on retraining and recruiting in the fast turnover parts of our economy, hiring a loyal person can save money in the long term.

We created the veterans ombudsman position. I have the good fortune to speak to Mr. Parent regularly on these issues. He came from an amazing life as a search and rescue technician, one of our most dedicated and brave members of the Air Force who save Canadians. Now he is applying his passion to serving our veterans as the ombudsman. We take his reports very seriously as direct input that he is providing to the discussion on veterans care.

On top of our changes to the VIP, we have eliminated more than two million forms of red tape that were burdening our veterans, as a way of streamlining things. In some cases, our older veterans were having issues and falling behind on paperwork, or it was falling to their children to administer. We want to make it easier.

There are important commemorative things we have done. I still meet Korean War veterans who thank us for, a year ago, making it the Year of the Korean War Veteran to recognize the 60th anniversary of the conclusion of that war. That war has been described as the forgotten war because it came so close after World War II and was a UN-mandated mission. Our work on that and, frankly, the work of the Korean government recognizing our veterans as well, has been empowering for many of our veterans. I am sure next week members of the House will have the honour of providing 75th anniversary commemorative pins to veterans of World War II. These are important symbols that veterans like to have for Remembrance Week, to hand to their grandchildren, or as part of their family memory of service.

We also recognized Bomber Command with a bar for the decorations. It was posthumous as well, so families could complete the service medal set of their grandparent by adding the Bomber Command bar. That was important because Bomber Command actually had the highest casualty rates of World War II, and the young men who flew on those missions were courageous. After the war, because of the nature of those missions, Bomber Command was not talked about, and the men were not properly recognized. There was a lovely exhibit in London, England, that many of those veterans attended, and the Bomber Command bar is a way we can commemorate that as well.

As I said in my remarks before in the House, when I brought up the important role the Legion plays in the care of our veterans, on a political program, I was mocked for that position. The only thing that predates the post-World War II bricks and mortar offices, is the Legion. Its network of 1,300 veteran services officers since the 1930s has been helping our veterans directly, and its mandate comes from an act of Parliament in 1926.

There are 14 recommendations from the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs on modernizing and evolving the new veterans charter. We have already acted on four of those, the most important of which is to make sure veterans are stable medically before they are transitioned out of the Canadian Armed Forces and to make sure they are briefed on Veterans Affairs and their caseworker.

I think most MPs would find that is usually the gap where a problem to the service or benefits of a veteran happens, because they leave one institution, the Canadian Armed Forces, which some joined at age 18, and they transition to an entirely new department. We are now making it mandatory that they are stable and they have the Veterans Affairs training.

The other parts of the recommendations we are reviewing and will act upon, because we are passionately committed to our veterans.

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:45 a.m.


John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a moment to thank this member for his service to our country, and for his continued service to our country as a member of Parliament.

He is right in many of the things he says, in particular about the ability of the all-party veterans affairs committee to get along and move forward to help veterans. We have all worked on that, and there was unanimous support.

I will be speaking shortly in this debate, and I hope the member will listen closely as I talk about some of the facts and figures he mentioned.

The member talked about the 700 service points, the 625-ish or so Service Canada points, where service is now available to veterans. I can speak to him later about a particular veteran who did not receive proper service at Service Canada in my riding. Could the member outline for the House, just very briefly, the sort of training that is going on in each of those Service Canada centres to ensure that veterans are getting the right service?

I understand there is about an hour and a half of video training that goes on in those service centres. Could the member either confirm that or illustrate to us a little better what the training is for all of those employees in each of those service centres?

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:50 a.m.


Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know the member's community was impacted as one of the nine centres where there was an office closure. He knows there is a Service Canada office nearby. In the case of Thunder Bay, I think it is about two kilometres away.

That is a good question. For those offices, and that one in particular, where there was a closure, there is a transferred Veterans Affairs caseworker who is fully knowledgeable and experienced in working specifically with veterans, including the demeanour and empathy required to help them on an administrative level.

As for the rest of the Service Canada network, that is a great question. The rest of the network has received what is considered level one training, which is training on the overview of veterans' benefits, the types of forms, and the types of queries that would come in on a daily basis. Most of the queries, about 80%, tend to be the same types of questions about benefits, including survivor benefits.

There is an intention to also do another level of training. I know that is being looked at, so that those caseworkers will have a good summary of the full body of knowledge to assist veterans when they go to a Service Canada office.

As I said in my remarks, veterans do not just have to live near a Veterans Affairs office. They can actually use the Service Canada offices or the 1,300 veteran service officers at the Legion. Their district Legion veteran service officer has a direct line of access into Veterans Affairs.

If anyone is falling through the cracks, we have to remedy that. This is about serving more and serving a wider cross-section.

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:50 a.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.


Cathy McLeod ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and for Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, I am very glad we are talking about this important issue as we come toward Remembrance Day.

I also looked at the report that was done by the veterans affairs committee, and I really want to congratulate the members on having a report that had the consensus of all parties.

The government, of course, responded to that report, and it is taking some immediate action on a number of the recommendations. It is also important to point out that some of the recommendations have a little more complexity, so it will take a little more work before we can actually move forward.

I would like the hon. member to talk about some of the action that has been taken already in terms of moving those important recommendations forward, and also a little about what the future is for some of the other recommendations.

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:50 a.m.


Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for the question. I know of her passion for our veterans and on these issues.

As I said in my remarks, the report that came before the last session of Parliament ended, in the spring, produced 14 unanimous recommendations. Many of them are good ones. Many came from the more than 50 witnesses who appeared from across the country at the veterans affairs committee.

We have already moved on four of them. I spoke about the most important one, which is to make sure that a medical condition is stabilized and some basic veteran case management setup is done before someone is transitioned out of uniform.

However, there are other important ones. We have already indicated that we will move forward on adding a construction clause and bill of rights into the new veterans charter, in terms of a veterans bill of rights. We are already looking to harmonize the new veterans charter and SISIP and to do that better. That would eliminate some duplication and probably provide more benefits to more veterans.

Another important thing is that we will provide more direct financial support and training for home-based caregivers. These are usually the partners of the veterans. I have seen them first-hand, become the primary support both mentally and physically for veterans who are recovering. There will be more financial support for the families in that regard.

We have said, clearly, that we will review the disability award process to make sure it is robust and provides what is needed. The one thing that is often overlooked in terms of the disability award upfront is the fact that a lot of people do not talk about the suites of benefits that also follow, in some cases, for life. We have to look at the care of veterans over their lifetime. This is not comparing someone's situation to a workplace accident or a car accident. There is a suite of care for our veterans, so there is an upfront payment to help with that transition, but we have to look at the totality.

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:55 a.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech, which I listened to with great intent.

What the public generally sees from the House of Commons and elected officials is the great deal of conflict that goes on between us. Some of it is feigned and some of it is quite sincere about different policy options and choices that the government makes and the opposition opposes, as is the nature of our system.

Around veterans, I would argue that there is a possibility to find more common ground more often than we have in the past, simply because we acknowledge, regardless of our political affiliations, the service that has been paid to this country by so many veterans over so many generations.

Our challenge is when the government comes forward with new policies, as it did with the veterans charter and others, in which it tries to apply a one-size-fits-all approach. We talked about the benefits and payments coming out as a lump sum, and many veterans resisted that. Many veterans told the government that at the committee. They said this is not a program that would work for them over the length of their disability.

What needs to happen is a little water in the wine when it comes to veterans' services from the government, to avoid the conflicts that keep happening with veterans groups themselves. It is not from people in the opposition benches, but people who have gone through the veterans system, and people who have been pushed out of the military too early, before they could qualify for disability. We have had those cases, and the government is aware of them.

We need to improve this system. I think we can all agree on that and that it is not providing the full service that it could.

As we head toward Remembrance Day, this is a topic that needs to be a topic all year round. A concern that many veterans have come to me about regarding this new model of Service Canada treatment is whether, with the effects of PTSD—some of which are still unknown as we learn about the true injuries that happen that are not seen—we are always bringing people to that service who are qualified enough to handle the complexity of something like psychological disabilities. Are they qualified enough to handle injuries that have happened that are not perceived on the body but are having a huge and detrimental effect not only on the veteran, but on that veteran's family and community?

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:55 a.m.


Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley for his intervention and for his suggestion. I do think there is more common ground. I think the veterans affairs committee demonstrated that.

Something that I will note is that even he fell into the mistake that some made when he talked about Service Canada and treatment at Service Canada for people. “Treatment” is the wrong word. It is not providing the front-line treatment, but is helping the veterans access the range of treatments.

Our veterans affairs committee heard from two veterans who I have known for many years and admire. Both happen to be from the member's province, British Columbia. They are Chris Linford and Tim Laidler. Both are involved in programs directed at operational stress injuries. Tim Laidler is at the Veterans Transition Network, and Chris Linford and his wife are running the COPE program, which is for families.

What our government has realized in recent years, particularly on mental health, is that there is not one single solution that fits the needs of all veterans. We are finding in some cases that they need the equine therapy that Can Praxis and others are offering, the Veterans Transition Network peer counselling, or the family-based COPE program. We need a variety of options for our veterans, and most of the time that is going outside of Veterans Affairs to providers in health care or in veterans' advocacy fields.

We have tried increasingly to fund these programs, either on a pilot or a permanent basis, to make sure there is a variety of programs to help the diverse needs of our veterans with mental health concerns.

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

11:55 a.m.


John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be part of this debate today.

The previous speakers have all been correct, including speakers on our side, that this was a unanimous report to the Minister of Veterans Affairs. The response was disappointing but not disappointing in all aspects. There were 14 recommendations and the government has indicated that it is already working on the majority of them and that it will come to some resolution in the future, perhaps the near future for some of them. However, the minister is not prepared to act on some of the recommendations and they all have a commonality, which I will talk about in a second.

There are recommendations in our report, and I say our report because I am a member of the veterans affairs committee, that would require, in some cases, a substantial increase in financial and human resources. I do not believe the government is right when it says that it can do these changes and meet these challenges within the existing budgets of veterans affairs.

I am going to outline four recommendations that the government is not prepared to act on or at least it says it will have further study on. The thing that is the same among all of them is that they will cost money. That is the commonality. The other recommendations are simply ways to cut some red tape and ensure there is some smooth transition, all good recommendations. We are pleased that the minister thinks that these recommendations can be acted upon fairly quickly. It is interesting to note that the recommendations that are going to be further studied all involve money.

We heard this morning one member of the government say that there is $4.7 billion in extra spending. The member who just spoke talked about 800 million new dollars every year, which eventually comes to the $4.7 billion. That is how the government comes up with that figure. I do have real figures from the ministry and I will talk about those in a second, too.

I will read the recommendations. Members will see the ones that the government is not prepared to act upon right now and they will see that they all involve money.

First, recommendation 3 is that the most seriously disabled veterans receive financial benefits for life of which an appropriate portion should be transferrable to his or her spouse in the event of death. Witnesses at committee felt that this was critical. The government is going to further study this particular recommendation.

Second, recommendation 4 concerns the earnings lost benefit, that it be non-taxable. There is some confusion here and I hope it is going to be sorted out by the ministry.

Third, recommendation 5 is that all veterans with service-related disabilities and their families be entitled to the same benefits and support as part of their rehabilitation program whether they are former members of the reserve force or the regular force. This is an important recommendation that we put forward in committee and the minister is going to study it but will not act on it right away.

Fourth, recommendation 6 is that the Canadian Forces work with Veterans Affairs Canada to make military family resource centres available to veterans and their families in order to support them in their transition to civilian life. I am not sure why this one needs more study but I suppose there are some funding issues, so money will be spent again.

If we keep in mind the figures that were thrown around a bit earlier, $4.7 billion in new spending, and clarified further by the previous speaker as $800 million a year, which adds up to $4.7 billion. Here are the actual numbers, and I have two sets of numbers here.

Let me talk about the nine service branches that were closed. They were located in Charlottetown, Corner Brook, Sydney, Windsor, Thunder Bay, Kelowna, Prince George, Saskatoon and Brandon. I will not go through all the figures on how much those offices cost over the last number of years but it ranges for all of those offices altogether. Let me talk about Thunder Bay in particular and it will give members an idea.

The Thunder Bay branch comes in around the $650,000 range a year to run. Therefore, we are talking about a considerable amount of money for these offices if we extrapolate that amount with the others.

By the way, I do not have figures for Prince George, because those numbers were not specific and were sort of spread out over the province. However, I do have figures for the rest of them, which I will talk about. For example, in 2013, it took $156,000 to keep the Brandon office open. However, the most expensive one was just a little over $1 million, which was in Sydney.

There was considerable expense involved for these offices, but I was concerned when they were closed. Previous members mentioned that veterans now have 600 and some odd points of service instead, but I did have a question on training and I remain concerned about that.

We have a further list of allotments and expenditures for Veterans Affairs each year, from 2004 to the end of 2013. However, I had also asked what the amount and percentage of all lapsed spending was in the department, broken down over those years, which is very enlightening. While we are talking about these four recommendations that I outlined, which would all cost money to Veterans Affairs, it is interesting to see the money that was lapsed. I would like to go through the years, starting in 2006.

The total allotment in 2006 in Veterans Affairs was $3.2 billion. However, the actual expenditure in that fiscal year was $3 billion. In other words, 8.21% of the money allotted to Veterans Affairs was left unspent, which amounts to $270 million that was lapsed and given back to the government.

When we talk about closing offices and changing the way things are done in Veterans Affairs, I think it is curious to note how much money was lapsed and given back to the government in each of these years.

In 2007-08, the allotment was $3.4 billion for Veterans Affairs, and almost $3.2 billion was actually spent in that fiscal year. Therefore, $246 million lapsed in that year from Veterans Affairs. It was left unspent and ended up going back into the government kitty. In 2008-09, the allotment was $3.4 billion, and $3.3 billion was actually spent, of which $115 million was lapsed and given back to the government in that year.

In 2009-10, the allotment was $3.5 billion, and $3.4 billion was actually spent. There was a lapsed spending amount of $118 million in that fiscal year that was given back to the government. In 2010-11, the allotment was $3.5 billion. The expenditures were actually close to that amount and the lapsed spending amount in 2010-11 was $41 million, which was sent back to the government.

In 2011-12, the allotment was $3.6 billion. Almost $3.5 billion was actually spent with $171 million that was lapsed and given back to the government. In 2012-13, the allotment was $3.6 billion, and $3.48 billion was actually spent. In that year, which is the last year I have figures for as we do not have the new ones yet, the lapsed spending amount was $172 million.

If we extrapolate for this year, we can assume, particularly with the way the government has put lapsed money in all sorts of departments and put it back into the kitty to try to meet whatever its deadlines are to reduce the amount of money that Canadians owe, if we add these up, the lapsed spending since the government took power from Veterans Affairs is in excess of $1 billion.

Over that course of time there was a certain amount of money allotted each year to Veterans Affairs. Money was spent, and the money that was left over the course of the government's tenure so far is in excess of $1 billion given back to the government.

When we talk about closing offices and cutting corners in other areas, it seems pretty clear to me that the argument the government uses of trying to get down the deficit, and so on, is being done, in Veterans Affairs and perhaps in other departments, on the backs of some veterans and perhaps with money that needs to be spent on veterans.

The other thing I would point out is the allotments, and perhaps it is also important to talk about the expenditures for this year. The exact numbers, the actual allotment for 2006 and 2007 was $3,298,686,739. I would call that $3.3 billion, just as a round figure. There were some various increases each year, and these are the government figures, by the way. These figures are signed off by the parliamentary secretary and the minister. It is interesting that in 2013, the actual allotment was $3.6 billion to $3.7 billion.

We are looking at an increase, and we could be generous, if I do some quick calculating, of under $400 million, which has been the increase over these years. It is important to point out that there has been an increase over the years, but the increase is not nearly as much as the government members who have been speaking today seem to think it is. Therefore, we are looking at a little less than a $400 million increase from 2006-07 through 2012-13.

Let me remind the House and those who may be watching at home that today we have heard from government members that there is $4.7 billion in new funding. They will see that does not really make much sense, because the most that has ever been spent in the allotments was in 2011-12, when $3.5 billion was spent by Veterans Affairs. I fail to see where the $4.7 billion in new funding is. If the government is pretty clear on that number of $4.7 billion in new funding, we should be looking at this fiscal year of expenditures over the course of the years as somewhere in the neighbourhood of over $8 billion that Veterans Affairs has spent. The numbers do not bear that out.

The previous member who spoke talked about $800 million a year in extra funding. Let me just indicate what the ministry has sent me in terms of actual numbers. In 2006-07, $3.3 billion was the allotment. Less was spent. In 2007-08, $3.4 billion was allotted. Again, money was lapsed. In 2008-09, $3.4 billion was allotted. In 2009-10, $3.5 billion was the allotment. In 2010-11, $3.5 billion was the allotment. In 2011-12, $3.6 billion was the allotment, and 2012-13, it was $3.6 billion. Again, that was actually a little less than it was in the previous year of 2011-12.

There are two things in play here. One is that the numbers do not make any sense. In fact, there has never actually been, in any year, $4.7 billion in old funding, much less $4.7 billion in new funding in any given year. I stand to be corrected if the government can explain to this House and to Canadians where that $4.7 billion in new funding is.

I suppose that if I wanted to be generous, I could suggest that maybe it came from other departments and was not actually spent by Veterans Affairs. I think it would certainly be beneficial for all of us and for all Canadians to know exactly where that money came from if, in fact, that is the case when we talk about $4.7 billion.

I think it was important to stand to refute those numbers. Again I emphasize that the numbers I am using come directly from the Veterans Affairs ministry.

It is more important for the discussions here to be talking about recommendations put forward by the committee. Other speakers are absolutely right that it was a unanimous report, and all of us understand that the new veterans charter is a living document that we need to continue to improve. One of our mandates in Veterans Affairs will be to continue looking at the new veterans charter and ways to improve it.

However, when we look at those four recommendations that I outlined at the beginning of my speech, we see that they are all the ones that require financial commitments from the government. They are all recommendations that require the government to spend money.

I cannot emphasize this point enough. The lapsed spending in each of these years when the money went back into the government kitty from Veterans Affairs amounts to over $1 billion from 2006 to 2013. As I said, we do not know yet about 2014, but that will add to the total. I am sure that money has been lapsed again, unless the government thinks that it suddenly spent $4.7 billion in 2014. That remains to be seen. We shall see in due course whether that is correct.

Clearly it is unfair of the government to suggest that there is no money and that the recommendations that cost money require further study and another look before the money is spent. The reality is that money was left unspent every year in Veterans Affairs and went back into the general coffers.

I would urge the minister to look again at these recommendations in question. He perhaps could speak to his parliamentary secretary and others involved in the ministry and say, “Listen, it's pretty clear that we did give money back every year from Veterans Affairs and that it went into the general kitty. Surely we can work on these recommendations.”

These were unanimous recommendations, all-party recommendations, and when we are dealing with veterans and their families, it is obviously critical that these things not get delayed.

What we are left with is that the recommendations from the report will be looked at again and studied at a later date. We know that 2015 is just around the corner, so I have to ask when this will be done. When will decisions be made? Will it be before the next election?

We know the next election will be in October of 2015 and perhaps even sooner. Who knows? My fear is that these very valuable recommendations that we in the committee put forward and that all parties agreed upon unanimously will not be dealt with before the next election. I certainly hope they will be.

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.


Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I heard the member speak yesterday about how his grandfathers both participated in the war effort in different ways. I spoke earlier today about my two grandfathers, both veterans as well.

When I was on the national defence committee, we had a study on the care of the ill and injured soldier. We heard from Dr. Alice Aiken. I understand she also met with the veterans affairs committee as a representative of a different organization, but when we heard from her, it was as the director of the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research. At that time, she indicated, based on a comprehensive study the institute had done, that 99% of veterans were probably better off financially under the new veterans charter than under the old disability pension system.

Obviously the 1% who do not find themselves in that category would have a great concern, but she indicated that her research said veterans were better off under this system. Perhaps that is why the NDP, the Liberals, and the Conservatives unanimously endorsed the new veterans charter when it was tabled in the House. It was a Liberal project that was enacted under our government.

I am hoping the hon. member could address the point that an independent analysis shows that 99% of veterans are better off under the new veterans charter. Does he not agree that it is a great basis to work on going forward, and that we can make improvements to make sure that we get that—

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River.

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.


John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary is absolutely right. There certainly have been improvements, and when we look at what veterans need in our country, we can see that over the years it is very different. As a previous member pointed out in his speech, it is very different from what it was 50 or 60 years ago, and it is more complicated.

If I understand the question from the member correctly, he is referring to the lump sum payment. I do not know if that is exactly what he is referring to, but one of the things we recommended was that an either-or approach is better. Let us give veterans a choice. Offering a lump sum payment or money monthly or yearly for life is one of the important things. That was one of the concerns brought to our committee by a number of veterans, and it certainly was addressed.

Do not get me wrong: we have made improvements. However, I am concerned about those things that I outlined earlier.

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.


Tyrone Benskin NDP Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to the debate this morning with very keen interest. I am hearing a lot of numbers thrown around about how we have done this or that and have spent more money than in the history of universe on one subject or another, but my colleague brought up the very interesting fact that some of this money has not been spent.

Whether it is a lump sum payment or a series of payments, what I am hearing from veterans is more about the access to care that is available to them, particularly when dealing with PTSD. Veterans are not getting that service. They are not getting the help they need. I do not think any amount of money in their pockets is going to help if they are not able to function. I wonder if my colleague would care to comment on the lack of availability of services for our veterans, especially in health care.

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

November 6th, 2014 / 12:20 p.m.


John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, it certainly is a concern as we talk about PTSD. Fifty or 60 years ago, it was not even a conversation that was going on in our country.

Part of the problem, and the reason we are so concerned on the veterans affairs committee and so concerned about the ministry as it moves forward, is that people will fall through the cracks. Many veterans will not access veterans affairs services for 10, 15, 20, or 30 years. Perhaps they ignore warning signs that they may be suffering from PTSD and will need services in the future. That is why it is critical for veterans affairs to have the tools and financing it needs to ensure that no one falls through the cracks and everyone has an opportunity to access services.

That is why I would like to ask for unanimous consent to table the responses by the government, signed by the Minister of Veterans Affairs and tabled March 2014 in both official languages, to my order paper questions Q-171 and Q-173. These are figures I have been looking at and talking about in the House. I am hoping we could find unanimous consent to do that.

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent?

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.


Rob Clarke Conservative Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River, SK

Mr. Speaker, the previous question is totally false. I come from an RCMP background. I utilize Veterans Affairs services all the time. I have PTSD, so I know what is available, but I hear individuals up here trying to talk as though they know something about what people experience with PTSD and the services available through Veterans Affairs.

We are seeing an amalgamation of services whereby Veterans Affairs is now available over the entire country. I come from northern Saskatchewan, and the nearest Veterans Affairs office was in Saskatoon. Now we have availability in northern Saskatchewan, either in La Ronge or in Meadow Lake.

When I make a phone call to Veterans Affairs, someone picks up the phone and asks if I am okay. Then the person asks what service I need. At times I ask for someone for counselling, and that is available. I just wonder if my colleague across the aisle realizes how easy it is to pick up the phone and dial the number for Veterans Affairs. Has he ever tried picking up the phone and phoning Veterans Affairs himself?

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.


John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, in answer to that question, let me just relate a recent case in Thunder Bay.

As members know, that office has been closed. There was a Second World War veteran who went to Service Canada. He stood in line for a fairly lengthy time. When he finally got to the person who was going to help him, her only response was, “There's nothing we can do for you here. Why don't you talk to your local Legion?”

That story is horrendous. I would like to think that story is not repeated across the country. We heard from a previous speaker that after the nine offices were closed, there were dedicated Veterans Affairs staff, one from each of those offices, who moved into the Service Canada points. However, that is nine service points.

My concern is that the government is not going to follow through on proper training for at least one point person in each of those Service Canada offices to ensure that the services are there. When veterans wait in line and are told to go talk to their local Legion if they need some financial help, there is something wrong.

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from Thunder Bay for his story. I also thank the previous Conservative member and former RCMP individual for his comment.

We have had a number of people through my office and in my experience who have come out of the RCMP in particular and have long been advocating for some sort of equal understanding and acknowledgement that the services that the police and emergency services have provided on our behalf sometimes result in some of the same injuries that have been happening among our veterans.

To this point, the transition from the Veterans Affairs offices to these Service Canada outlets where we go to register different licences that we need through the federal government or to apply for employment insurance does not seem to be going well. The front-line people those veterans meet in those offices do not yet seem to be trained in doing proper referrals, and these are sensitive issues.

My question for my friend is this. With such a sensitive topic as this, did the government seem to have a coherent plan for serving our veterans and getting them the services and referrals they need when it was shutting those Veterans Affairs offices and moving to the Service Canada model?

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.


John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is what the concern is. For many Canadians, the closing of these offices came out of the blue. The concern that one naturally has is about the transition. On one hand, the Conservatives say that we now have 600-odd service points and it is even easier for veterans to access services, or so they say.

However, it appears to me from speaking to veterans that the transition has not been good. I have to ask the government when the transition to the point where everybody is knowledgeable in these service centres will happen. Also, is the money coming out of a different account? Members have heard my own description of the accounts.

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Brampton—Springdale Ontario


Parm Gill ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to have an opportunity to stand in this House and deliver my remarks.

Before I deliver my remarks on this particular motion, I want to say that it is a very significant day today in the Sikh community. It is the birthday of one of our gurus, Guru Nanak Dev Ji. I want to take this opportunity to offer best wishes to every single Sikh around the world who is celebrating the birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and some of his teachings. The first one is to always remember God throughout the day. The second one is to earn a livelihood through hard work and honest means, and the third one is to selflessly serve and share with others, especially the ones who are less fortunate than oneself.

Obviously, I belong to the Sikh religion. I am a proud Sikh, and once again, I want to offer best wishes to every single Sikh around the world who is celebrating the birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji.

As I mentioned, I appreciate the opportunity to join in this important debate today. One of the great honours in my life, as I mentioned, is the opportunity to rise in this House and provide my input in the heart of this country's democracy. In so many ways, this place represents what generations of courageous Canadians have served to defend.

I am also extremely proud to be part of a government that has demonstrated, at every turn, its deepest and most profound commitment to the men and women and families who have served our country and who continue to do so today.

I am also proud to have served on the veterans affairs committee and to have played a role in this remarkable, unanimous committee report that was put forward by the committee. Members from all different parties played an important role. Few committees are able to arrive at a unanimous recommendation or unanimous report. The bipartisan nature of this committee is a remarkable demonstration of respect for our veterans. I encourage all members to check their politics at the door when dealing with this issue. Our veterans deserve far better. As our committee led the way in a bipartisan manner, I encourage everyone here to follow suit.

I have said this a number of times, but it is worth repeating. I have had the distinct honour and privilege of meeting and working alongside many remarkable Canadian veterans and serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces. Each time, I have been impressed by the passion and honour with which they have worn our nation's uniform.

I am proud of every opportunity I get to pay tribute to their extraordinary service and sacrifice, because I have seen for myself some of the things they have done for our country. I have seen how dedicated, professional, and courageous our Canadian men and women have been in defending our great country and the values we all hold dear.

Sadly, I have also seen the devastating impact their service can have on them and their loved ones. I am painfully aware of how their lives, and the lives of their families, can be forever changed in a heartbeat. In these tragic instances, I have been humbled and inspired by their commitment and determination to rise above the challenges they face. They are truly Canadian heroes.

Our government is equally committed to our mission to provide exemplary service to Canadian veterans and their families.

Our government believes that legislation related to veterans programming should be clear and consistent with respect to our commitment to these brave men and women and their families. We want to ensure that we provide the best support possible, the best care, and the best programs for those who have been injured in service to Canada. That is why we believe that the most seriously injured veterans, whether they are regular force members or reservists, should receive the monthly financial benefits they need to support them and their families. That is why we believe that injured veterans should only leave the military when rehabilitation professionals have been identified to support them in civilian life and when they have medically stabilized from their injuries.

We believe that families of veterans with operational stress injuries should receive caregiver training and that more psychological support should be provided. We believe that veterans and their families deserve less red tape as they are making the transition between National Defence and Veterans Affairs.

Those are just some of the fundamental principles that guide our government in everything we do to enhance the veterans benefits, services, and programs we provide.

As all members of the House know, one of the first decisions made by the Minister of Veterans Affairs last year was to ask for a comprehensive parliamentary review of the new veterans charter. The new veterans charter, which was passed unanimously by Parliament in 2005, is a modern approach to ensuring that veterans and their families have the support they need, when they need it.

As part of this comprehensive review, the minister specifically asked the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs to study, number one, how Canada cares for its most seriously injured veterans; number two, how it supports their families; and number three, how the department delivers its programs. The minister later asked the committee to expand its mandate and to recommend the best way for Canada, as a nation, to express its commitment to current and future veterans. The members of the parliamentary committee accepted their mission with great enthusiasm. One of the first conclusions they reached was that the new veterans charter is providing a sound foundation upon which to support those who have served our country, both at home and abroad.

For the record, I want to again read what was written in the introduction of the report entitled, “The New Veterans Charter: Moving Forward”. It states:

The Committee members unanimously agree that the principles of the NVC should be upheld and that these principles foster an approach that is well suited to today’s veterans.

Our commitment echoed the findings of a similar report from the other chamber last year, when members of the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs also concluded that the new veterans charter is serving the majority of Canadian Armed Forces personnel and veterans well.

Quite frankly, I believe that these two reports have laid to rest any debate about turning back the clock. The new veterans charter was and remains the right approach for serving and supporting Canada's veterans. That is not to say that it is perfect or that it cannot be improved. Of course it can.

As the Prime Minister said when we implemented the new veterans charter in April of 2006, and as previous ministers in this portfolio have also repeated over the years, we consider the new veterans charter a living document. It is meant to evolve with the complex and diverse needs of those who serve.

The Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs developed a series of unanimous recommendations on how we can continue to enhance the new veterans charter. The government's response was a sincere effort to move the yardstick forward. Our report offers a common path forward. As the House is aware, our government has tabled its formal response to that report. It was clear and unequivocal in its response, which I will repeat here. It stated:

We will indeed move forward immediately with several initiatives as we continue to improve veterans benefits and services while consultations are undertaken with the Veterans Ombudsman and veterans stakeholders on the more complex proposals.

Let there be no mistake. We are saying that we agree with the spirit and intent of the vast majority of the committee's recommendations.

Our formal response also outlines our plan to address those recommendations through a phased approach. Our government understands and accepts that we have no greater responsibility than to care for and support our injured Canadian veterans and serving members and their families. That is why we will leave no stone unturned as we continue to find innovative new ways to build upon the almost $4.7 billion in additional funding we have already invested in veterans programming since 2006. We will move forward immediately with improvements to help veterans and their families and to improve the continuum of care for those military members who are making the transition to civilian life.

The transition is tough for anyone. That is why we are going to make changes to make the transition smoother for injured veterans and their family members. We will also change our way of doing business to ensure that those who are medically released can be assigned a VAC case manager and assisted earlier in the process by someone from Veterans Affairs. We are determined to reduce the uncertainty in the transition process. In the first phase of our plan, we are determined to help veterans and their families focus on themselves, their well-being, and their quality of life.

The second part of our plan consists of closely examining the more complex recommendations of the committee that require further work and consultation. Throughout this phased approach, we will strive to update this House, veterans, and all Canadians on how the implementation is going.

We are building on a record and the investments we have made to date. Our government is committed to making the ongoing improvements that are needed. While we have made substantial investments in veterans programming since 2006, we agree that more can and must be done. Our government's formal response to the veterans affairs committee's report is by no means a final destination. It is the continuation of a steadfast and ongoing effort. That is why I expect that we will have more good news and more significant improvements to announce in the coming weeks and months. We will keep moving forward and taking positive steps to improve what we do for veterans and their families.

We are on the right track. We have taken further steps in the right direction. For this, I want to extend my heartfelt appreciation to all members of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs for their important and invaluable contributions. I also want to thank all those who participated in the parliamentary review: the many members of our veterans committee, their families, the ombudsman, the various veterans organizations and the individual Canadians who wanted to voice their gratitude and support for our men and women in uniform, both past and present.

Together we have moved the yardsticks forward. Together we will keep delivering for the men, women and families who have earned their place among our nation's truest heroes. They deserve our unending gratitude and our unwavering support, and they will always have it.

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, one of the questions we have faced today, as we talk about veterans and veterans services, is the transition that the government took veterans through with, in this case, no consultation at all. It was not a surprise to everybody, every veterans group and every veteran, when the government decided to close down veterans offices across Canada, offices that specialized in services for veterans, which I think we can all agree have become increasingly complex. The veteran services of 50 or 60 years ago have become more complicated and more complex because the issues that veterans face have become more complicated than they were a generation or two past.

However, when the transition came, the government trotted out the idea of more points of service at Service Canada outlets in malls in various communities across the country. There are more of them, but our question is whether veterans will receive better service, which is the entire point of any initiative if the government makes that claim.

The lack of training for the veterans service staff, because they were not from veterans services, they were meant to guide veterans to different places, was of great concern to us. The veteran walking in the door may be facing a number of barriers just to get to that point in the first place, particularly if the individual is dealing with an issue like PTSD, or any multi-faceted issue.

Would the government now admit that the transition from one specialized service centre this very broad centre that was not could have been done better, and still needs to be improved from what we see today in servicing our veterans across Canada?

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:45 p.m.


Parm Gill Conservative Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, I would like to point out that our government has a strong record when it comes to investing and providing benefits and services for Canada's veterans, because we appreciate the sacrifices they and their families have made, and the men and women in uniform continue to make. We have invested $4.7 billion, as I pointed out in my remarks, in additional funding because we believe veterans deserve those benefits and those services.

With regard to the office closures, we have to understand that most of these offices were used very little. Some of them had possibly two or three people show up throughout a day. The six centre points of service in Service Canada locations now provide assistance throughout the country.

For example, the riding I represent in Brampton did not have a district office. Veterans in many cities, neighbourhoods and regions had no district office. Where did they go before? They did not drive to a district office closest to them. They called Veterans Affairs Canada whereas now they have access to a Service Canada location where they can go and receive the necessary service.