I am not outraged, as some conservatives will be, about this story by Elizabeth Thompson on the CBC News site which says that “Legal disputes involving veterans cost federal government almost $40 million over two years.” Most of that money ($36.3 million) was spent adjudicating claims made by veterans and about half of that ($17.9 million) “went to advocates who represent veterans appealing decisions made by the Veterans Affairs department.” Perhaps there is a cheaper way to settle claims. There should be, and one lawyers said that “he is more concerned by the $17.9 million the government spent on advocates to represent veterans appealing decisions about their benefits because the Department of Veterans Affairs has too much of a tendency to deny claims. They,” he said, “are supposed to go to bat for the people who want a pension and they haven’t been.” But that is, perhaps, in the nature of a bureaucracy that is far, far removed from the people it is supposed to serve.
I remember in 2015 that a group of veterans campaigned, hard, against Stephen Harper’s Conservatives and their complaints were given a pretty loud echo in the (generally anti-Harper) media. Did they influence a lot of votes? I don’t know. Did they add to the general “I’m just tired of Harper’s penny pinching” mood that, I think, infected the whole country in 2015? Yes, almost certainly.
Team Trudeau made a lot of promises in 2015 … including, quite specifically, to veterans. They have kept damned few of them. As someone famously said, you cannot fool all the people all the time and even progressive, anti-military Canadians are beginning to see past the smiles, socks and selfies and notice that they have been fooled over and over and over again.
It’s bad optics, especially with only about 20 months to go before the next election.
I still believe that there is a not hideously expensive “fix” for the New Veterans Charter: go back to 2005, when the Paul Martin Liberals passed it into law and offer every veteran who is a) entitled to any pension for wounds and b) was serving on or before the day the bill was signed into law the opportunity to be “grandfathered” back into the old scheme. Yes it will be a bit complex and costly but it will solve the biggest problem with the NVC which is the fact that was immorally introduced when we had troops in contact with a real enemy. It was immoral to change the terms of service of soldiers in a shooting war while they were engaged in combat.