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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was lot.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as Conservative MP for West Nova (Nova Scotia)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 47% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Veterans November 2nd, 2010

Madam Chair, I assume he is not referring to the decade of darkness that the Liberals now find themselves in. That is not what he is suggesting.

It is fair to say that many of the initiatives that are now in place have come about during the mandate of the Conservative Government of Canada. We know there is a lot left to be done; there is no question about that. But do we need leadership from the Liberal Party? Absolutely not.

The results of its reductions many years ago took us years to reinstate and give back to veterans. We are moving forward. We have a lot of work left to do and a lot of challenges to overcome, but we intend to keep moving in the right direction.

Veterans November 2nd, 2010

Madam Chair, I was receiving some excellent advice.

I do not want to go back into the voting record. I am shocked at some of the things that were voted against, but I am trusting that if we do this, he will vote for it.

The point being made is a good one, and it has shown up in the reviews of this past year. We have all met veterans who have spent a lot of time trying to get answers from the appeal process. It is not about the individuals or those trying to deal with this. It is the process itself that has to be revisited, the whole way that it is dealt with, because it is a very time-consuming process.

However, I know that if we clarify it, if we make it clearer that the end result is the veteran and the benefit vote goes to the veteran, it will be something we will need everybody in the House to support. It is an important initiative, and I trust that if we get to that point, all members of the House will support it.

Veterans November 2nd, 2010

Madam Chair, I was listening to the hon. member's comments, wide-ranging as they were.

The simplest answer on agent orange is that it took place decades ago and was not dealt with by previous governments. Most of the records, most of the files, most of the information was not there. When this government decided it was time to do something, the best it could do, the fairest thing it could do, was provide compensation based on the information that was available.

A lot of people did not have enough information to be included in the process, and that is why the review went on much longer than was first anticipated. The deadline was extended for well over a year, so that others could make sure that they got best information they could from the records.

There is all kinds of information, and we will continue to look at it. But the main reason these people were left out was that it was not dealt with for such a long time. The best that could be done was to provide a compensation package based on the documents that were available. That was the best possible answer to help those people at the time.

By the way, like many other decisions, this is the only government that provided a compensation package.

Veterans November 2nd, 2010

Madam Chair, this is certainly an auspicious evening.

I am pleased to have the chance to join this timely discussion. Given much of what I have heard so far, it is imperative to begin by reassuring all Canadians that our government fully realizes and proudly accepts the immense debt we owe to our men and women in uniform, our veterans and their families.

We understand Canada's solemn duty to care for and support and serve the men and women who have served our great country.

For 50 years, successive governments focused their efforts on the traditional veterans who served in the first world war, second world war and Korean war. Government programs and services were regularly fine-tuned to the changing needs of these aging men and women. They worked well. Our veterans told us so repeatedly.

But the times change. Generations come and go. With the passing of John Babcock earlier this year, we lost our last living link to the first world war.

Our government quickly recognized this changing reality and we acted.

In 2006 our government implemented the new veterans charter, and we did so with the unanimous support of the previous Parliament and with the overwhelming approval of Canada's veterans and their various organizations. Groups such as the Royal Canadian Legion, the Army, Navy & Air Force Veterans in Canada Association, or ANAVETS, and the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association had been widely consulted and expressed their support for this new approach.

Many prominent Canadians also agreed. Various advisory panels encouraged the change in direction. Experts from around the world confirmed that focusing on early intervention, providing intensive treatment and rewarding rehabilitation would greatly improve the health and well-being of our injured and wounded soldiers.

All of them were right.

With the sweeping improvements we implemented under the new veterans charter, our injured soldiers are getting the help they need, the help that can make a real difference in their lives and the lives of their families. Yet to listen to recent criticism, Canadians must wonder if the new veterans charter was a mistake. Let me assure them, this is not the case.

The question of course is how could there be such a disconnect between the public's perception and reality.

I believe some perspective is required, and I would like to use my time here to address these issues directly.

Among the most perplexing criticisms is the claim that the main goal of the new veterans charter was to save the Government of Canada money by shortchanging veterans and their families. This is just not true. We spend far more money today on veterans' services than ever before. We are ensuring veterans are rehabilitated and successfully reintegrated into society. This is a better and more comprehensive commitment than merely compensating them.

Equally mystifying is the suggestion that the new veterans charter was a pet project of the bureaucracy in Veterans Affairs. Again, this is not true.

I think a brief look at the charter's history is helpful.

By the late 1990s, it was growing clear to most observers that the original veterans charter adopted at the close of the second world war had run its course. By relying on disability pensions and only limited rehabilitation programs, the previous system was having the perverse effect of encouraging veterans to focus on their disabilities rather than getting better.

For example, if veterans could prove their back pain was getting worse or that their hearing had declined, they might see their disability pensions increase by a few dollars a month. As some have aptly noted, this amounted to a prescription for poverty, especially for the increasingly younger, modern-day veterans.

The solution was and remains to focus on wellness and to promote and reward rehabilitation.

As many reports and discussion papers have concluded, Canada needed a modern approach to meet the needs of a new generation of veterans while still fully supporting those who could not be rehabilitated.

Our Canadian Forces personnel and veterans knew this from their own experiences. Some of them serving on an advisory council flatly called the previous system inadequate and unworthy of us. The result, after almost six years of consultations, was the new veterans charter.

Central to the new charter's success was a commitment to full rehabilitation and vocational assistance, to ongoing financial support and to comprehensive case management.

These pillars of the new veterans charter were not dreamed up by a federal bureaucracy trying to cut costs. They were the ideas and recommendations of the very men and women the new charter was designed to serve.

Dr. Peter Neary is a case in point. He was chair of a joint advisory council for DND and Veterans Affairs. His group had issued a discussion paper in the spring of 2004. When he saw the new veterans charter, this is what he said: “I am pleased to see that Veterans Affairs has responded positively and comprehensively to the recommendations made by our council”.

Further, those recommendations were subsequently reviewed and endorsed by Canada's major veterans organizations at their various conventions. They were not alone in advocating this new approach for our veterans.

Countries such as Britain and Australia had already adopted similar sweeping changes to their veterans programs and benefits.

Other countries, including New Zealand and the United States, have been weighing their own reforms, and many are reaching the same conclusions. Canada deserves top marks for its new charter.

Let me cite a few examples of the endorsements our new veterans charter has received.

For example, a 2008 international study completed for Australia's Department of Veterans' Affairs described our new veterans charter as “the closest to a 'wellness' approach” that is “based on enabling and rewarding a return to the best life possible”.

New Zealand has followed suit. Former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer is now president of the New Zealand Law Commission, which coincidentally completed a review of veterans' care around the globe just this past spring. What was Mr. Palmer's verdict? “We sincerely believe that an approach like the Canadians' new veterans charter is best for younger veterans”.

Even our Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, on which I serve and which is represented by MPs from all sides of the House, praised Canada when it compared our efforts with what other countries are doing for veterans and their families.

I must say that even the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore said, barely one year ago: “When you compare our Veterans Charter and compare our benefits to other countries, we rank among the top in the world when it comes to care for veterans and their families”.

Look at what the member for Mississauga East—Cooksville told The Globe and Mail in September. She was the minister of veterans affairs when the new veterans charter was passed in May 2005, and she said the high point of her political career was watching the four party leaders of the day agree on a $1 billion charter for veterans.

Despite all this support, the new veterans charter still remains a target of critics who, quite frankly, base many of their claims on factual errors or incomplete knowledge. The most common mistake is the suggestion that we replaced the lifetime disability pension with a lump-sum disability award.

This is not true. The sole intent of the disability award, worth a maximum of $276,000, is to recognize the non-economic impact, the pain and suffering, from being injured in the line of duty.

The economic impact of an injury or illness is addressed through a variety of ongoing financial supports. The most common one is the earnings loss benefit. It pays eligible veterans up to 75% of their pre-release salary, and it can be supplemented by other benefits and allowances for the rest of their lives.

If the additional changes our government is proposing are included, it means our most seriously injured veterans will receive a minimum of $58,000 a year.

However, the most important thing about the new veterans charter is not how it evolved or the disability award and the other financial benefits it provides. The most important thing is that the new veterans charter offers hope, real hope, for ordinary Canadian heroes who are hurting.

Above everything else, the new veterans charter is about helping our wounded men and women to make the very best recovery they can, in the shortest time possible. And we are proud to be there for them, because our government is here for veterans and here for Canada.

It is a living document, and we are in the process of amending and improving it. It is not about turning back the clock but responding to the recommendations, so that we have a strong array of programs that are geared to the needs of our modern veterans.

Veterans November 2nd, 2010

Mr. Chair, the member and I exchange many views during the committee process. It is a real learning experience.

Would the member not agree that, hearing these discussions, we are realizing that so much that was not done by the previous government is actually under way today? There is action taking place on the things that were talked about.

We know it has been an extremely difficult few months for veterans and for all of us on the privacy issue, but would the member not agree that the government, with the leadership of this minister, is showing that initiatives are now under way and that they are the right way for the government to go?

I know the member is talking about all that should be done, but would the member not acknowledge that there is a listening process and a response process that is good for the veterans?

Battle of Passchendaele November 2nd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, this year marks the 93rd anniversary of a significant milestone in the first world war, the Battle of Passchendaele.

After the Canadian success at Vimy Ridge, it was decided that our soldiers would be sent north to Belgium.

After three gruelling months under extremely harsh conditions, the Canadian Corps captured the town of Passchendaele on November 10, 1917. Four thousand Canadian casualties and nearly 12,000 wounded were left in the battle's wake.

Canada's success at Passchendaele added to our nation's reputation as the best offensive fighting force on the western front. This monumental victory meant our military was at the forefront of the advance, which eventually won the war for the Allies the following year.

The brave soldiers who fought at Passchendaele were among the more than 600,000 Canadians and Newfoundlanders who served during the first world war.

Today we remember the heroic and historic efforts of those who fought for freedom. Today we remember the Battle of Passchendaele.

The Kings Mutual Century Centre November 1st, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I was very pleased to participate in the opening ceremonies for the Kings Mutual Century Centre, known in the Annapolis Valley as the Apple Dome, located in Berwick, recognized as the apple capital of Nova Scotia.

This amazing complex was made possible because dedicated volunteers from several communities joined together and spent many years bringing it to fruition. The planning, the fundraising and the level of co-operation was phenomenal.

Visiting former NHL star, Rick Middleton, could not believe this incredible facility was located in a small town in Nova Scotia. Several times he commented on what people can do when they have vision, dedication and co-operation. The Apple Dome is debt free and is already booked solid with activities.

I am proud that our government supported this wonderful initiative as part of Canada's economic action plan. It has been a great economic boost for this region and a great asset for future development.

I congratulate all of the wonderful volunteers who made the Apple Dome dream come true.

Italian Campaign October 25th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, this month marks the 66th anniversary of the Italian Campaign. Sixty-six years ago, Canadian troops played a vital role in this bitter and costly conflict, one of the longest and fiercest struggles of World War II. Of the more than 93,000 Canadians who served in this 20-month campaign, nearly 6,000 would lay down their lives.

They fought in Italy's rugged mountains, flooded rivers, and rubble-filled streets. They fought for peace, freedom and justice, the same values our military men and women continue to protect today. The legacy of our veterans lives on in the brave Canadians who are serving today in Afghanistan and other areas of the world.

We honour this legacy by caring for the World War II veterans who are still with us and those who have come after them. We are committed to providing the care and support that veterans and their families need, where and when they need it.

Lest we forget.

Veterans Affairs October 8th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, the volume from the member for inconsistency across the way is not going to change the outcome.

The reality is, yes, the Prime Minister has said that this issue must be dealt with fully and that the veterans must be protected. That is our commitment. I can only hope the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore has the courage and audacity to support the government when we clear this issue up.

Veterans Affairs October 8th, 2010

Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated, the fact is this matter came to a head yesterday and made clear to all of us that it had to be dealt with, and it is being dealt with. We are working absolutely and completely with the Privacy Commissioner. Whatever suggested changes, audits and actions are necessary will be done to ensure we protect the privacy of our important veterans.