Madam Speaker, I would like to recognize the residents of the riding I represent, Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, for all the efforts they have put into Remembrance Day, which is coming upon us.
I will be splitting my time with the member for Yorkton—Melville.
There is no doubt in my mind that our military has a proud heritage, not only for service on the battlefield and for those times in peacekeeping, but also behind the scenes.
Many others in the House have shared their own personal stories of the exchange between Canadian military members and civilians, and I am reminded of my own mother, who was living in Scotland during World War II. She also interacted with Canadian soldiers who had travelled overseas. They had left their own homes and families and recognized the devastation in the war-torn country of Scotland, and they gave freely. They gave dolls, candy and food to those who were in need. This discussion about homelessness for veterans breaks my heart, as I know what Canadian soldiers have done on and off the battlefield.
How then do we treat our veterans? Right now, the only word I can think of is “betrayal”. Just recently, our Canadian Armed Forces returned back from Afghanistan, and I think about the code and the honour they live by, and how it must be for them to know they left people in Afghanistan, interpreters and their families, and to feel that betrayal by their own country.
Our Canadian Armed Forces are under duress. Right now there is a housing crisis in the Canadian Armed Forces, and now we get a report about veterans who are homeless. As I said earlier, I am very passionate about this subject, and I am deeply wounded to be reading this report. There are 5,000 veterans who are homeless across this country, and that is just from this report that we have received. As we sit in this chamber, we get reports from the ombudsman; we get reports from our own Parliamentary Budget Office; we get reports from the committee and recently the Auditor General on top of this report, and it is clear this government has not done anything for veterans. It has failed veterans, according to the Auditor General.
I will read from a report on Veterans Affairs by the Auditor General.
[Veterans Affairs] actions did not reduce overall wait times for eligible veterans. The department was still a long way from meeting its service standard. Implementation of initiatives was slow. Data to measure improvements was lacking. Both the funding and almost half of the employees on the team responsible for processing applications were temporary. As a result, veterans waited too long to receive benefits to support their physical and mental health and their families’ overall well-being.
This was in a report from the Auditor General, and combined with all the other reports and the 5,000 veterans who are out on the street homeless, it is appalling. What is the government doing about this?
All we hear is about money being thrown at the problem, but no concrete solutions. I believe that politics is a performance-based industry, and if people do not perform, they should not be there. Seven years the government has been in power, and time and time again it has failed veterans and the existing military. The minister is asleep at the wheel right now. Leadership starts at the top. He should take ownership, take responsibility and start looking after our vets.
I could go on with quotes and I could on with stats, but what good is it with a government that is not going to listen? This year so far, VAC has over $921 million in lapsed funding. That is money that was set aside for VAC in the budget but was not used to support veterans. Money is not the problem. Someone has to pull their finger out here. Someone has to start getting the job done and start looking after our vets. There is a morale problem here, not only in the existing military but for people who have served.
We are on the verge of Remembrance Day, and when people take that moment of silence and bow their heads to think about the fallen soldiers, we need to think about those who have served and who are surrounding us now, and what we are doing for them. Money does not solve every problem. It is about getting the job done. It is about strong leadership, and it is about recognizing the problems.
I am very passionate about this. I am very upset about this subject. Again, I could rattle off statistics and numbers, but the consistency throughout this is that the government has failed its veterans. That is an exact quote from the Auditor General. What are we going to do? What does a committee do when it sits there and produces reports, and works together, as I do with my colleagues from the Bloc or from the NDP, across the aisle? It is a good committee; we have achieved a lot, but from there, nothing gets done. There is no recognition. Veterans are being failed time and time again.
I think about the soldiers who looked after my mother, who helped my grandmother, who fought alongside my grandfather in Holland to liberate a country that was not even theirs. They recognized that it was the right thing to do. The question I have to ask my colleagues is, what is the right thing to do for veterans? What is the right thing to do for our veterans? Who is going to lead the charge? Who is going to fix the problem?
Right now, the minister is asleep at the wheel, not doing his job. I am disappointed. Not only am I disappointed, but my fellow colleagues in the Conservative Party are disappointed. My colleagues in the committee are disappointed. Not only do we deserve better, but our veterans deserve better.