Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to enter the discussion this evening in support of the motion put forward by my colleague from Edmonton Centre.
I will start off by pointing out that, as chair of the veterans affairs committee, I certainly was pleased that we had unanimous consent and support from all members of the committee to proceed with the report. One of the important recommendations within the report is one that my colleague and friend has been promoting for some time. I think we have all been promoting it.
We sometimes get a little carried away in this place, and I was pleased that did not happen at committee stage. We focused on improving services to veterans and picking up on some of the gaps. We committed ourselves to moving forward. All of us on the committee agreed that there are a lot of great services available to our veterans, as there should be. Are there opportunities to improve? Absolutely. Are there challenges? Of course, there are. We have to focus on where we are going.
To unnecessarily upset veterans is unfortunate, but it does happen, and I realize that this is the political climate. I would like to focus on where we are and where we are going moving forward. We will never get everything done that we think should be done, but that is the nature of the kind of services that we need to provide to our veterans.
The motion refers to one of the things that we have seen and heard for some time is a challenge, and that is the fact that many veterans have slipped through the cracks in getting service in a timely manner. I have heard members from all sides refer to this as incredibly important, and it was the committee's number one recommendation.
Veterans are often transitioned out of DND, and they end up in Veterans Affairs. There can be gaps of time in getting the appropriate services that they deserve. We all agree that is an important challenge to face. We do not know what these two departments do together or how united they become in the end result, but we are absolutely committed to making sure that when somebody leaves DND and enters veterans services that they are entering a seamless and absolutely supportive system. We are committed to making sure that they do not have to spend months waiting to go from one department to another, one bureaucracy to another bureaucracy.
I spoke to one lady during the committee process who had gone through the system. She was a medical person, and even with her knowledge she waited for over 12 months to be transitioned from DND to Veterans Affairs.
Part of the problem that these individuals face is the interpretation of the degree of the problem, or the medical challenge that they face, the recognition by Veterans Affairs that if they left DND with some serious challenges, they should automatically be accepted by Veterans Affairs. Unfortunately, for some reason that has become a problem for many of our veterans.
People with medical challenges who have done their service feel that they are alone, that there are not enough services available to them, even though there are all kinds of terrific services. The problem they face is accessing those services. That is the critical entry point. My friend and colleague's motion says that we should keep the pressure on, that we need to keep focusing on where we are going.
There were 14 major recommendations that the committee felt the government should focus on. Most of the organizations and groups agreed that these recommendations are the timely and important ones. The ombudsman said they are important, and he wants to make sure that we continue to be focused on them. The government has accepted some of the recommendations up front, and it continues to add its support and acceptance of the recommendations. As we continue down this road, our job is to make sure that all of the recommendations are enacted and supported. Our veterans deserve that. We all agree that it is the right thing to do.
It is important, as well, that we do not unnecessarily confuse or alarm our veterans. Many veterans get great service, and they are happy to get it. However, there is no question that there are those who are going to be difficult. There are also those who will probably never be happy with what we do, but that should never stop us or get us off course in doing what is right for our veterans.
Doing what is right for our veterans is consulting with them, listening to them and then acting in the best possible way on behalf of them and the taxpayers to deliver services that look after their needs for many years to come.
I know that when we finished the committee report, and when we presented it to the government, there was a great feeling that it was a huge step forward. For those who are asking why are they not done, some of these things require us to go back and consult with the veterans' organizations on implementation. We cannot force them. For instance, the family resource centres are being looked at. How do we engage them more? We cannot go out and tell a separate organization that this is what it is going to do. We are here to help, we want to help and organizations should let us know the best way to proceed.
In some cases these things happen quickly and in some cases it takes months of discussion, always with the sense that we must do it, we must complete it, we must get there together to benefit all our veterans. We are absolutely convinced that that is under way and will happen.
For those who are impatient, I would just ask them to look deeper than the lines that are being thrown out here. They should talk to veterans and ask them if they want it done correctly or quickly. They will tell people that of course they would like to have it quickly and correctly, but correctly is far more important. The veterans want long-term support and long-term delivery, and we want to ensure we do it in the right manner to benefit them.
I would also point out that it is important, as we carry through, we keep the dialogue going with the veterans to ask them how we are making out. There are a lot of organizations out there, perhaps there are too many organizations. It is one of those things we have to discuss with them to ensure we hear clear messages as to progress and results. That will continue to happen.
I am delighted that Walt Natynczyk is now the new deputy minister of Veterans Affairs. He was the former chief of the defence staff. He was the head honcho there. For him to be in Veterans Affairs, I really believe the motion that our colleague has raised will becomes a reality even more efficiently and more quickly, perhaps because he gets it. He understands this issues of appropriate transitions, appropriate delivery of service and appropriate follow-up for the veterans.
He has now seen both sides of the table, and he will help the progress along a great deal. It was a good move on behalf of the government to appoint him as the deputy minister of Veterans Affairs.
I do not think anybody from any party would question the logic of having him as the deputy minister in this transition period. He will understand the departments, the veterans and he will help us on this course as we move down the road.
It has been frustrating for many of us when we get into this discussion, but I really believe all members, regardless of party, care about and are concerned about veterans. There is no doubt in my mind. Sometimes we get caught up in some misinformation, occasionally. It is not a deliberate thing to misinform, but sometimes that happens. We must be careful that we are unnecessarily confusing the veterans or giving them the wrong information, and I am talking about all sides, all parties.
I am glad my colleague raised the motion. It reminds us there is work to be done. It reminds us that veterans are a top priority. It reminds us that we are making progress. It also reminds us that we must stay vigilant, focused and committed to ensuring we deliver the very best service we can to our veterans.