The Conservatives were, rightly, in my opinion, castigated during the 2015 election campaign for treating veterans unfairly.
I, personally, think Julian Fantino was a poor minister ~ maybe he was doing what the PMO, PCO and his own officials told him, but he certainly managed to do it, whatever “it” was, in a way that reflected badly on the government of the day. Remember the disgraceful sight of Minister Fantino literally scurrying out the side door to avoid having to face the wife of a veteran?
But, the problem wasn’t just Julian Fantino. It started way back in 2005 when Albina Guarnieri, an eminently forgettable Liberal politician, was the Minister of Veterans Affairs and, presumably on the advice of her officials and with the approval of the Paul Martin, the PCO and PMO, introduced the New Veterans’ Charter.
Now, I am not going to argue the pros and cons of this, that or the other regime for looking after veterans … I understand that good, honest people differ on what is appropriate and on how it should best be provided. The bureaucrats and politicians are not monsters; not all of the veterans are saints, either. Some people with much, much better knowledge of the issue than I have explained why it is not all black and white and I accept that.
But, and it’s a Big BUT: I am absolutely convinced, without a doubt, what the Liberals did in 2005 was immoral. We had troops in contact with a real enemy in 2005 ~ men and women were being killed and maimed in combat. They had ALL enrolled in the Canadian Armed Forces with the implicit promise of a certain kind of veterans’ benefits regime. The government has a right to change systems and sometimes changing systems is the right thing to do but, usually, when benefits are changed the government allows those who are serving when the change is made to elect to serve under the new or old (existing) system ~ that’s certainly what happened to me when the superannuation system was revised. It’s what should have been offered to every person who was serving when the New Veterans’ Charter was enacted … those who joined the CAF the next day and ever after would join under the new system but those serving on that day should have had a choice.
It was a simple, moral issue.
The Conservatives should have seen that and could have, in 2006, when Greg Thompson was the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs, made the moral change … but they didn’t; again, I assume, because they listened to the same advice from bureaucrats and lawyers in Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) and, later, in the Justice Department which ~ again, presumably, with the best of intentions ~ has been trying to argue, in court, that Canada, the Government of Canada, has no special duty (a social covenant) towards veterans. Maybe that’s a valid and even an important principle … it appears that Justice Department lawyers have convinced both Conservative and Liberal cabinets that the case ought to be argued, even after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explicitly promised that it would be dropped.
I don’t believe that either Paul Martin or Stephen Harper were, or that Justin Trudeau is, intentionally, making immoral choices, but I do believe that they (Prime Ministers Martin and Harper) were both complicit in making an immoral choice because the bean counters in VAC and the lawyers in justice have their own ideas … maybe, I reiterate, they are good ideas, but sometimes even good ideas can have a moral dimension that renders them unacceptable in practice. I believe that was, and remains, the case with the New Veterans’ Charter, although I think I understand at least some of bureaucratic and political rationale for it. In any event, all that is to lead into a blog post my my friend at MILNEWS.ca in which he turns on Prime Minister Trudeau, more in sorrow than in anger, for listening to the bean counters and lawyers and not to the voices of those, millions of Canadians who voted for him, no doubt, because of his clear, unequivocal promise to change how the government deals with veterans. I encourage everyone to read it.
Large parts of the media, mainstream and social, are against the Prime Minister on this and a couple of other issues where the Liberals seem to have either taken too much preemptive action on difficult promises (electoral reform) and too little action on easy ones (veterans). As I said a week ago, Prime Minister Trudeau and the Liberals seems to be a bit “tone deaf.”