House of Commons Hansard #349 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was affairs.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Service Standards for VeteransBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Shaun Chen Liberal Scarborough North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his passion in supporting our veterans.

I am on the same page with the member when it comes to ensuring that veterans receive the benefits and services they need. We already know that money is returned to consolidated revenue funds for quasi-statutory programming and used again in subsequent budget years. That is why we continue to make smart investments. In fact, our government has invested $10 billion. Ninety-three per cent of the department's budget goes directly to programs and benefits that help our veterans.

Our veterans have served and given so much to the peace and security of our country and we are working very hard to repair the damage that was done under the previous government. We opened nine offices that were previously closed and hired 470 new staff. That good work is going to ensure that veterans receive the programs and services they need for a successful life after the military.

Opposition Motion—Service Standards for VeteransBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Tracey Ramsey NDP Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am a bit stunned, because what I am hearing from the other side sounds like they will not support putting this $372 million in lapsed spending into programs to help our veterans.

I have a very simple question for the member. Will the Liberals support putting the money that was left on the table back into spending for our veterans, yes or no?

Opposition Motion—Service Standards for VeteransBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Shaun Chen Liberal Scarborough North, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are supporting benefits and services to help veterans. That is exactly why our government put in a joint suicide prevention strategy. We created a veterans emergency fund. We invested in a new career transition service. We created a pension for life for veterans who have served our country. We created the education and training benefit. We have expanded the medical tax credit for psychiatric service dogs. We also continue to invest in a centre of excellence for PTSD research.

These important investments are helping ensure veterans have a successful transition to life after they have served hard to defend our country and create peace and security for Canada and all around the world. We will continue as a government to make sure our veterans are well served and that we support them—

Opposition Motion—Service Standards for VeteransBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

We have time for just one more short question and response.

The hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles.

Opposition Motion—Service Standards for VeteransBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Linda Lapointe Liberal Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to my colleague. I would like him to go over what the former government cut and our government restored again. That way, people tuning in, including those in Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, will know what we have done to make things better for veterans and ensure they are well taken care of.

Opposition Motion—Service Standards for VeteransBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Shaun Chen Liberal Scarborough North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her continued advocacy and work on this particular file.

The fact is, whether 10 or 10,000 veterans need help and come forward for benefits, our government is ready to provide them with the benefits and services they need. That is why we have increased accessibility by reopening nine offices that were previously closed by the last government. We have hired 470 new staff. We understand there is a backlog to address, but veterans oftentimes need service immediately, which is why we have made targeted investments into, for example, areas on PTSD research. We are creating more benefits and programs so veterans get the supports they need.

Opposition Motion—Service Standards for VeteransBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am so pleased to rise today to speak to issues concerning our Canadian Armed Forces veterans in response to the opposition supply day motion put forward by my colleague, the member for Courtenay—Alberni.

I enjoy serving with him on the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. I appreciate the opportunities we have to collaborate on ways that have the potential to see our veterans better served, if the government were to implement our recommendations.

The motion before us states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should automatically carry forward all annual lapsed spending at the Department of Veterans Affairs to the next fiscal year, for the sole purpose of improving services for Canadian veterans, until the Department meets or exceeds its 24 self-identified service standards.

Today, in response to the motion, we have heard from the Liberals and they tell us that lapsed funding does not result in anyone receiving less than they should. They have said that it is just how the government keeps its books. They have said that nothing nefarious is going on. The Liberals have explained that most spending at Veterans Affairs is statutory and that the government needs to be prepared to cover the cost of these benefits, whether 10 or 10,000 eligible veterans make a claim.

The Liberals have advised us that each year the spending estimates for Veterans Affairs are put before the House, based predominantly on those very same statutory requirements. In other words, the funding that has lapsed will be in the spending estimates this year and the year after that and the year after that.

The Liberals are saying that the motion is a moot point. Actually, for the most part, they are right. However, I know they hope veterans will forget that when in opposition, the Liberals sung a very different tune.

It is true that the funding for Veterans Affairs is regulated by statute. It seems the Minister of Veterans Affairs is aware of this fact now. The other day, he was explaining to Global News that he was statutorily obligated to provide programs and services owed to veterans, so any lapsed funding would not affect services to veterans. A Veterans Affairs spokesperson agreed with the minister and said that lapsed funding did not result in anyone receiving less than they should, that it was simply an administrative process.

Services from the Department of Veterans Affairs, under the Liberals, is demand driven, just as it was during the previous Conservative government. The hypocrisy here is that when the same thing happened in the past, the Liberals falsely claimed that the then government was stealing from veterans. Now when they find themselves in government and are faced with the exact same situation, the Liberals say that they are not stealing, that they are following an administrative process.

I am not going to come to the House today and claim that lapsed funding in the Department of Veterans Affairs under the Liberal government is somehow stealing from veterans, because it is not and it never was. However, I will ask the minister, now that he and the Liberal government are aware of how Veterans Affairs budgets work, if they will apologize for accusing my former colleagues of thievery? Will they apologize to Canadians for completely misrepresenting in the past how this Veterans Affairs budget works? Will they apologize to veterans for the stress they caused them by suggesting the former government was taking money from their benefits, when they knew it was not true?

The department makes estimates for what it expects to spend and in the event that all the money is not spent, it lapses. The way the department is set up, it is required to have enough money for the demands of our veterans, each and every year. This motion by the member for Courtenay—Alberni is somewhat moot. However, there are many areas of concern where my colleague and I are of one mind that I believe are the force behind his intent today.

What are the reasons this funding remains there at the end of the budget year? Why does it fail to reach veterans? There are two significant reasons why that happens. One is incredible inefficiencies within the department, an inability when it creates programs to get them through the door and out to the veterans. The other reason is a significant culture of denial. Veterans always have to fight for something they should be able to receive without an increased level in their mental health problems, without an increased level of PTSD and struggling through the transition process and without an increase in the number of veterans who contemplate or actually go through with suicide and homicides because they simply cannot take another problem added on to the problems they are already facing.

For example, the fact that $37 million taxpayer dollars abused by the Prime Minister to fight veterans in court was a blow to the guts, the hearts and the minds of our veterans. When asked why we were fighting certain veteran groups in court, the Prime Minister responded, at the Edmonton town hall, in February 2018, with this statement, “Because they're asking for more than we are able to give.”

The previous Conservative minister of Veterans Affairs had worked with Equitas, firing the government lawyer and instead putting the case in abeyance, with the goodwill to work together to move toward acceptable solutions to improve outcomes for injured veterans, as they were requesting.

The outcomes this motion is trying to achieve are very important. I am very disturbed by the increasing backlog of applications for disability benefits. Despite the $10 billion the minister is always quoting, the backlog is 29,000 and growing.

The government sees itself as succeeding, because it indicates that cases are being processed and moved to VRAB, the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, more quickly. How could any government claim this as a success, that basically, initial request from veterans are moving quickly to an appeal board, where once again they have to go through the process for applying and requesting that funding? In most cases, once they make it through that process, it is provided. Why are we putting our veterans through this added difficulty that causes them great angst and only means they are not receiving their funding or their services in a timely manner?

When VAC finally communicates to Canadian Armed Forces members, veterans and their families using veterans-centric plain language and when it ensures all veterans have a clear understanding of every benefit they qualify for upon release and every benefit they may need to access over time, we will be on the road to succeeding to care more effectively and efficiently for our veterans.

One of the biggest challenges to veterans receiving their benefits is an over-complicated chain of command, where upper management does not embrace change and case managers are not empowered to do what is best for veterans as quickly as possible. There does not appear to be a desire to work with DND to create a seamless transition for our veterans if it means a change to the structure or the composition of VAC.

There continues to be a culture that insists VAC must determine if medical release is due to service before VAC will provide benefits, when DND already makes the determination when a member no longer meets universality of service and is released. Yes, of course future decisions by VAC will need to be made as veterans age. However, upon medical release, there is complete clarity already provided by DND on whether they qualify for services from VAC. It is already there at release.

Timely service and peace of mind for an injured veteran should be the determining factors, not protecting the turf of a department. The truth is that the majority of the cohort of case managers the Liberals claim they have put in place, 400 of those 470, were already budgeted for by the previous Conservative government.

At the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, we heard that case managers were not properly trained and up to speed on veterans benefits. They are overworked, stressed and often feeling helplessly caught between veterans in dismay and those up the chain of command. VAC needs to stop operating like an insurance program.

VAC needs to be transparent in what it is actually providing to veterans. Today, we heard one of the members of the Liberal Party talk about the education benefit, $40,000 for someone who has served for six years and $80,000 for someone who has served for 12 years. Unfortunately, that is not a transparent presentation to veterans or Canadians because those funds are a taxable benefit.

Therefore, when veterans think they are going to get $40,000 to go to school, at the end of the year they find out that it is a taxable benefit and they owe the government in taxes. I wonder if the government has come to any decision as to how much of that benefit it hands out is actually clawed back and how much it gets back through taxes from our veterans. It is misleading.

As well, the member across the way said that with the education benefit, veterans would get to go to the school of their choice. I have been approached by many veterans who wanted to take advantage of that program. One of them was actually okayed to go ahead and registered with the institution. The veteran then heard back through the case manager that the people higher up did not think the school qualified. It was devastating.

As well, the member across the way said that the emergency funds were available 24/7. What he is saying is that people can call in 24/7, but he did not tell truthfully how long it took for the department to actually get those funds out the door to a veteran who was in an emergency crisis situation. Our committee should take a look at that.

Under no circumstances should the men and women who have served and have come home physically or mentally injured find themselves fighting for benefits they were told would be there for them and their families when they signed on, willing to die for their country.

The minister has indicated on numerous occasions that the backlog is because veterans are better informed and they have more services to apply for. I hope there is a certain amount of truth to that. However, in actuality what is not being said is that the backlog is going to get even worse, as VAC is facing a significant increase of service members ready to retire now after serving 25 years. The department is not prepared.

It is no secret that there is no clarity for veterans or service and case managers with the rollout fast approaching of the so-called pension for life. The plan provides no new funds. Instead it consolidates and rolls in existing benefits.

In an article in Esprit de Corps Canadian military magazine, dated April 18, Sean Bruyea and Robert Smol, comparing the old Pension Act and the Liberals' new so-called pension for life, stated:

Furthermore, under the same category of non-taxable benefits for pain and suffering, injured veterans will have a choice between a lump-sum payment of up to $360,000 and a monthly “Pension for Life” up to a maximum of $1,150 to compensate for their injuries. There are no additional amounts for spouses or children. The average “Pension for Life” likely will be around $200 per month. For the 60,000 veteran recipients still receiving the Pension Act, they are paid an average of $680 per month plus amounts for spouses and children.

In the announcement of the Liberals' budget for 2018, with the new life-long pension included, the example that was given was of someone who had served the full 25 years and ended up at the last moment having a very horrific injury, including major loss of limbs. That individual qualifies for the maximum amount. There are many of our boots on the ground who get injured and never make it to 25 years. It is misleading in that document.

Another glaring problem is the inability of VAC to administer funds in a timely manner. One example is the emergency relief fund. It takes days, not hours, to get the funds to a veteran in a crisis situation. I am going to mention an organization called “Veterans Emergency Transition Services”, known as VETS Canada. It is operated by veterans for veterans. A non-profit corporation with volunteers across Canada, it provides emergency aid and comfort to veterans who are in crisis and who are at risk of becoming homeless.

If a veteran or someone on their behalf reaches out to VETS Canada, it can have a person at their door very quickly with help. If it gets a call about a homeless veteran, it works that same day to get them off the street. The new VETS Canada drop-in centre is just blocks from Parliament Hill and it is so effective in its mandate that we heard that 65 of its emergency clients went there in its first two months of operation.

The problem at Veterans Affairs is not a lack of money. We all know that the minister says he has $10 billion to spend, because he says that at every opportunity, yet it seems the desire of the government is to get dollars out the door elsewhere, providing taxpayer dollars to colonize overseas countries, to get Canadians to submit to its attestation values, to pay out terrorists and help murderers, rather than focusing on our veterans, elderly and those working hard to join the middle class.

Veterans want to see more veterans as caseworkers so that they can talk to people who understand military service and speak their language. They want transparency when they file a claim, with an honest, accurate estimation provided as to how long it will take. Veterans want to be made aware of available services. For example, I recently returned from a committee trip up north and discovered that 89% of our Canadian Rangers are not aware of their Canadian Armed Forces health care entitlements or their veterans benefits. An excellent recommendation came forward in the north that a VAC service agent simply be included with the existing team at the Service Canada building in Yellowknife.

Understanding that Veteran Affairs services need to start shortly after enlistment with ongoing contact, we need to ensure that when an forces member retires or is released from the Canadian Armed Forces and becomes a veteran, he or she is armed and trained with the clear, concise information that empowers them to access everything they need and deserve as they transition from serving in our military.

Meeting of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary AssociationPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I see the hon. member for Perth—Wellington rising on the same point of order that was raised earlier today. As I indicated, as we have limited time for the opposition motion, could the member make sure that the additional points are new and inform the process and keep his remarks concise.

The hon. member for Perth—Wellington.

Meeting of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary AssociationPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be as concise as possible, with new points in reference to this point of order. I do apologize to the members of the NDP for taking time. However, I understand that this is time sensitive before the making of a ruling.

The House will recall that on Wednesday of last week I asked the Chair to direct, under Standing Order 151, the correction of the House's records related to the leadership of the NATO Parliamentary Association. In light of the submissions by the hon. member for Etobicoke Centre, I want to respond with a number of procedural authorities concerning the conduct of Tuesday evening's business.

As the House will recall, the chair of the association, the hon. member for Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, declared that the conditions precedent for a special general meeting were not met and, therefore, adjourned the meeting. I refer the Chair to the precedents of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights of May 2008. On May 7, 2008, the committee met to consider a request submitted by four members under the provisions of Standing Order 106(4). The chair, Art Hanger, declared as out of order the business that was the subject of the notice. Therefore, the meeting, having no further valid purpose, was adjourned.

A week later, May 14, 2008, the committee met again to consider a slightly different request. Mr. Hanger declared that the nature of the request offended the provisions of Standing Order 106(4), and therefore could not be entertained at the meeting. The committee, having no valid business, was therefore adjourned by the chair.

I commend those two precedents to you, Mr. Speaker, as being analogous to the nature of the special meeting requested by 10 members of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association and the ruling of the association's chair that the association's constitution had not been followed.

Additionally, in reaching a ruling, you will find of interest the following committee proceedings from recent years. On May 4, 2014, at the procedure and House affairs committee, the vice-chair, Alexandrine Latendresse, adjourned the meeting without the implied consent of the committee. When the committee convened at a subsequent meeting, which I will speak about later, the chair, Joe Preston, said the following: “I left the chair and went to take care of some health issues, so I can't tell you exactly what occurred”. Mr. Preston later added: “There was a motion earlier today that we wouldn't concur in an adjournment motion, so how we got there, we're not certain”.

On June 11, 2013, at the citizenship and immigration committee, the vice-chair adjourned a meeting without the implied consent of the majority. At the committee's next meeting, the vice-chair again adjourned the meeting without implied consent, this time in the early hours of June 13, 2013.

On April 3, 2008, at the justice committee, the Liberal vice-chair, Brian Murphy, adjourned a meeting with the consent of the majority, alleging there was disorder. Twice more, on April 8 and 15, Mr. Murphy, the Liberal vice-chair, adjourned the justice committee without the consent of the majority.

I will now revisit the 2013 and 2014 cases, because they speak to a further and important proposition that once the gavel had fallen, the meeting was fully adjourned. The committee could only be reassembled at a fresh meeting after being called by the proper authority. In the case of the PROC committee, Ms. Latendresse adjourned meeting no. 18, at 4:23 p.m. A notice for meeting no. 19 was issued at 4:28 p.m., for members to convene at 4:30 p.m., and Mr. Preston called the meeting to order at 4:31 p.m.

I have been told by individuals who were present that Mr. Preston was on his way to the rest room at the moment of adjournment. Instead of trying to seize the chair to un-adjourn the meeting, he observed correctly that the meeting had been adjourned and used his own prerogative to call a fresh meeting mere minutes later.

In the case of the immigration committee, the vice-chair adjourned the first June 11 meeting, meeting no. 82, at 4:17 p.m. The committee's chair, the hon. member for Dufferin—Caledon, whom I understand was part of an official delegation to London at the time, instructed the calling of another meeting. Notice of meeting no. 83 was then issued, convening members for 4:45 p.m. Meeting no. 83 was also adjourned without the consent of the majority at 12:39 a.m. on June 13. The hon. member for Dufferin—Caledon directed that another meeting be held. A notice of meeting no. 84 was issued—

Meeting of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary AssociationPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order.

The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay, we are in the middle of a point of order at the moment. I have laid out the conditions for the member to add some additional points.

You are raising a new point of order, in fact. As I said, the hon. member for Perth—Wellington has the floor. That said, I am prepared to hear these additional comments.

I insisted that this be concise. The member is getting to his point and then we will get back to the item at hand.

The hon. member for Perth—Wellington.

Meeting of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary AssociationPoints of OrderGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Dufferin—Caledon directed that another meeting be held. A notice of Meeting No. 84 was issued at 1:57 a.m., for a meeting of members at 2 a.m. The vice-chair, accordingly, called the meeting to order at 2:01 a.m. and promptly suspended the meeting for six and a half hours without the committee's consent.

Again, from these 2013 and 2014 cases, the lesson is perfectly clear. Once the assembly has adjourned, it may only be reconvened at a fresh meeting with proper notice issued by the appropriate authorities.

On page 1040 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, third edition, it states:

Committee Chairs have considerable administrative responsibilities, starting with those involving the committee's program of activities. In compliance with instructions from the committee or an order from the House, the Chair:

calls committee meetings;

On page 1042, Bosc and Gagnon is quite clear on the role of committees vice-chairs:

a Vice-Chair has no administrative or representative responsibility, such as convening or cancelling meetings, unless he or she is acting on the instruction of the Chair.

Speaking personally as my time as vice-chair of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, I can inform the House that when the chair was absent from a scheduled meeting, he always personally reached out to me or my office to inform me of his absence and made me chair of the meeting. That is an important rule that ensures that the authority of the elected chair is maintained. Moreover, these points are reiterated on page 1095 of Bosc and Gagnon as follows:

Committee meetings are convened by the Chair acting either on a decision made by the committee or on the Chair’s own authority.... Only the Chair of a committee may convene a meeting; Vice-Chairs have no such power.

I think it is clear that the hon. member for Etobicoke Centre was not acting on the authority or instruction of the hon. member for Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill.

The constitution of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association is clear: the vice-chair has no authority to call meetings. General meetings of the association memberships may only be called with at least two weeks' notice by the association's executive committee, or by the written request of 10 association members. That did not happen in this situation. Certainly, two weeks has not passed since the hon. member for Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill adjourned the meeting.

The second matter I want to put before the House is the comments of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker made in another venue. I want to ensure that these comments are properly ventilated here in the House so that all hon. members can be familiar with them.

On Thursday, at a board of internal economy meeting, I understand that the Speaker told the board that “the matter...is one on which I have rulings pending”. At the same meeting, the Deputy Speaker, attending in his capacity as co-chair of the joint interparliamentary committee, stated:

I think certainly members will be cognizant on the points of order that were raised in the House yesterday, and that covered much of that ground. I think members are well aware that this has become a matter of some dispute, and it ultimately has been taken before the House to you, Mr. Speaker, for some kind of guidance or resolution.

Nonetheless, I regret to inform you, Mr. Speaker, that it is my understanding that as of this morning, no changes have been made to the parliamentary website since my point of order, to reflect that the hon. member for Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill remains the chair of the association, nor even a change to leave the name of the chair blank or to indicate that it is, in the words of the Deputy Speaker, in “dispute”.

Indeed, since my intervention on Wednesday, I understand that the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association has updated its website concerning the 2018 annual session to be held in Halifax to indicate that the member for Etobicoke Centre is Canada's head of delegation. That could only have been done, I presume, on the basis of a report that the assembly's secretary received from our own Parliament. We are truly running the risk of Canada's being misrepresented on the world stage. This begs the question of whether you can advise that these reports about the websites are a sign of the clerks acting in defiance of you and the Speaker's office and your own need to prepare rulings, or whether you have already ruled privately on this matter.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—Service Standards for VeteransBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Mr. Speaker, back to the regularly scheduled programming, I want to thank the member for Yorkton—Melville. At the beginning of her speech when she described the statutory elements the minister goes through when administering the department, I appreciate that her comments were well researched and well done. She outlined the way we do things here. As a member of Parliament, in a non-partisan way, I thank her very much for that. However, in comparing the former administration with this one, there was a glaring omission.

I am reticent to say this, because I know a lot of people get into comments to the effect, “this is what you did and this is what we did”, and those sorts of thing. However, the glaring omission here, which should be looked at, is on the point of entry for a particular veteran.

I can say from experience, not as a veteran, but as someone who has dealt with veterans, that when they want to reach out to someone when they are going through major issues, there is always the element with a government department of where one goes. Many government departments are siloed into different areas, and a lot of people get confused with what direction to take if they do not get it from their local member of Parliament. Therefore, one of the things we did was to transition back to a point of entry that was more familiar to a veteran in the sense of having Veterans Affairs offices, as opposed to regular bureaucrats.

I am sorry if I am interrupting the NDP heckling, but the question is simply about what had to be done in that circumstance, and that was different from the last administration.

Opposition Motion—Service Standards for VeteransBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, in fairness, I think it is very important that we reach out to veterans in a way that is accessible to them. Whenever there is change, it is difficult.

I note that one of the offices reopened in my province, and I had veterans coming in to talk to me. The frustration was that no one came to talk to them about reopening them. This is the government that consults on all things. The veterans said that the government put it back where it was. It is downtown, in the middle of a very busy area. There is no parking, and they cannot get upstairs. They really liked it when it was in a mall with Service Canada.

Up north, in Yellowknife, veterans asked why we do not have someone come to be part of Service Canada there so that there is an expert on the ground.

With regard to reopening offices across the south, I have not seen any results to see what they have cost the government or how effective they have been. I know that there are some veterans who still very much prefer meeting face to face, but even in those offices, I have heard that they usually respond by telephone.

Opposition Motion—Service Standards for VeteransBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 5th, 2018 / 1:50 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, when veterans signed up, the people who went from my region did not read the small print. They served their country. They took the risks. They came back expecting that there was a contract for life. The present government has argued in court that there is no moral contract for life.

What I have seen over my 15 years in Parliament is that politicians always love to stand by veterans on Remembrance Day, and then they ignore them for the rest of the year. We saw the previous government go ahead with a lump sum pension that we knew was going to be problematic. We learned that there was a $165-million shortfall in veterans pensions under the previous government.

However, the most staggering thing we have seen again and again is that a government announces funding for veterans and then renounces it and then announces it for a third time. They seem to be sure to thank themselves for announcing it, then the money goes back to the Treasury Board and is not spent. Veterans are ripped off, and their families are ripped off.

We have an opportunity in this House to do something right, to say that if the money is committed to veterans services, it is going to be spent on veterans services and is not going to be clawed back. The Parliamentary Budget Officer said that this is possible, and we can make this change in this Parliament.

I would like to ask the Conservative Party if they will be standing with us to support veterans when this motion is passed in the House. Will they support us and veterans, or will they stand with the present government, which continues to fight veterans on their basic pension rights?

Opposition Motion—Service Standards for VeteransBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, veterans are incredibly important to Canadians. Serving at committee for veterans affairs as the shadow deputy critic, I find that this is probably one of the most emotional files in the House of Commons. That is why I am pleased to say today that everyone on this side of the floor represented in the Conservative Party of Canada will be voting in support of this motion.

Opposition Motion—Service Standards for VeteransBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I had the privilege and honour of serving in the Canadian Forces for just over three years.

When I reflect on Stephen Harper when he was the prime minister and compare that time to what we have witnessed over the last three years, I believe that our veterans are quite satisfied with the degree to which this government is going out of its way to ensure that all retiring veterans, and veterans in general, get the type of support necessary. We have invested literally hundreds of millions of dollars. We have reopened offices for veterans. There is a lot of good news out there.

The simple message I would try to communicate today to those who might be following the debate is that if people are aware of a veteran who is not getting the services required or who has unresolved pension issues, they should bring that to the attention of the department in one form or another.

Opposition Motion—Service Standards for VeteransBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I hear from a great number of veterans, and their frustration is with the very department the member says to bring their concerns to. That again shows that we have work to do in making sure that VAC is there to serve veterans and not itself.

I would ask a rhetorical question. Now that the Liberal government is aware of how the Veterans Affairs budget works, is it prepared to apologize for accusing my former colleagues of thievery?

Opposition Motion—Service Standards for VeteransBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Saroya Conservative Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is simple and short. When the Prime Minister was in the third party, he promised veterans that they would never have to fight the government in court. After $38 million spent over the last two years, what has happened?

Opposition Motion—Service Standards for VeteransBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Cathay Wagantall Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, a lot of what the government says and does is not compatible. A number of promises were made to veterans during the last election campaign, after significant consultation with them, very much giving them the impression that they were heard. It was even in writing what the Liberals were prepared to do. One was that they would never take them to court, that they should not have to face their government in court. That came right from the mouth and the heart of the Prime Minister of the Liberal government. Veterans are so upset, hurt and angry about what the government has done in basically completely turning its back on the promise made to veterans.

Over and over again, veterans are seeing Liberals truly live out the statement the Prime Minister made, that veterans are just asking for too much, yet they have the money to send $650 million overseas to battle other countries in court on their views on different values. They have the money to pay off a convicted terrorist. They have the money to give veterans money to a convicted cop killer. There is no question that the government is not on the right track when it comes to caring for our veterans.

1984 Anti-Sikh RiotsStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Raj Grewal Liberal Brampton East, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I stand to mark the 34th anniversary of the tragic events of November 1984. These orchestrated and targeted massacres against the Sikh community were an atrocity that resulted in the loss of thousands of innocent lives, for which justice has not been served. All these years and numerous inquiries later, those responsible for these brutal massacres have still not been brought to justice.

The burning questions from 1984 need to be answered. It is vital that we continue to call on the Indian government to pursue the truth, to pursue justice for those who carry the scars of 1984 and, most importantly, to pursue accountability for the people of India.

Truth and reconciliation have strengthened Canada, and they can be of great benefit to India too. We must remain steadfast in our commitment to openness, justice, human rights and fairness, both at home and abroad.

AddictionsStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Mr. Speaker, communities across this country are grappling with proposals for supervised consumption sites in an effort to reduce the negative impacts of drug addiction and abuse. We all recognize the important public health benefit of keeping people safe and minimizing death, disease and injury, but there has to be room for different harm reduction strategies.

I recently visited Vancouver's Downtown Eastside and saw what was really happening first-hand. I talked to addicts, heard their stories and listened to what they said. This is a failed social experiment. It is a crisis that is not getting any better. While there, I met with members of the Odd Squad, a charity run by serving and retired police officers who volunteer their time to educate youth and the community about substance abuse, and more importantly, about approaches to avoid addiction in the first place.

Governments must ensure that appropriate funding is directed toward detox and treatment-on-demand facilities, plus organizations like the Odd Squad, to give hope to the hopeless. The human cost is far too high to refuse to consider altering the current course.

Veterans' WeekStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Remembrance Day this year, we hope that every Canadian will take a moment to pay tribute to all those who served. We remember the service and sacrifice of all the soldiers, sailors and aviators who answered the call of duty and paid the ultimate price. We honour those who continue to serve our country to make our world a safer place.

During Veterans' Week and on Remembrance Day, Canadians from coast to coast to coast lay wreaths, take part in ceremonies, share their stories and wear the poppy with pride.

We are grateful to our veterans and our active military personnel.

1984 Anti-Sikh RiotsStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Tracey Ramsey NDP Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, this year marks the 34th anniversary of the 1984 Sikh genocide. Over three days, almost 3,000 Sikhs were killed, and their property was looted and destroyed. Sikh men were burned alive, women suffered horrific sexual violence, and children were murdered in gruesome fashion. Many have pointed out that state resources were instrumental in these premeditated killings, but 34 years later, justice and accountability for these horrendous crimes remain elusive.

That is why I stand today to express my solidarity with the thousands of Canadians who live with this pain as survivors and as bearers of intergenerational trauma. It is also why efforts for healing and reconciliation must be prioritized.

The path to reconciliation will not be easy, but for the victims and survivors, today we remember.

Climate ChangeStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Ramez Ayoub Liberal Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, Blainville is home to Quebec's first high-tech weather radar. As a result of climate change, we will be seeing more and more extreme or unusual weather events, like the tornadoes in Gatineau and Ottawa. That is why I am pleased that our government is investing $95 million to replace weather radars across the country.

The new radars will have an extended detection range of 240 kilometres, as compared to the 120-kilometre range of the old ones. Communities within that range will benefit from more accurate weather warnings. That will enable individuals and families to quickly take appropriate action when bad weather is forecast, including planning related to road safety, snow removal, airports and school closures.

That is good news for my region and for the safety of Canadians.