A man­date for the new min­is­ter

Truro Daily News - - OPINION -

There is no com­mit­ment in this coun­try like the one made by Cana­dian sol­diers go­ing to war. They ac­cept the very con­crete pos­si­bil­ity of be­ing killed, maimed, and psy­cho­log­i­cally dam­aged in the ser­vice of the na­tion. They don’t choose when and where they’ll fight, but rather do so at the be­hest of the gov­ern­ment and on our be­half.

As Sea­mus O’Re­gan takes the helm of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs fol­low­ing last week’s cabi­net shuf­fle, he in­her­its the duty of ac­knowl­edg­ing and re­ward­ing that com­mit­ment. He will have a long task ahead of him: prin­ci­pal among his obli­ga­tions will be to re­solve the ig­no­ble squab­ble be­tween the fed­eral gov­ern­ment of Canada and in­jured vet­er­ans who wish to see the re­turn of life­time pen­sions for sol­diers wounded while serv­ing Canada.

Stephen Harper’s Con­ser­va­tives, re­spond­ing to a 2012 class-ac­tion law­suit from six in­jured Afghan war vet­er­ans, claimed the gov­ern­ment has no “sa­cred obli­ga­tion” to vet­er­ans.

Justin Trudeau, in op­po­si­tion, did not agree. He stressed, on mul­ti­ple oc­ca­sions, that in­deed the gov­ern­ment did have a sa­cred obli­ga­tion, that this was pre­cisely our debt to those en­listed to risk their lives for this coun­try. He called on the Harper gov­ern­ment to “end this court bat­tle, and start giv­ing our vet­er­ans the help they de­serve.” Through­out his cam­paign, he promised to bring back life­time pen­sions for in­jured sol­diers.

Yet once in power, Trudeau’s Lib­er­als have car­ried on the shame­ful law­suit they in­her­ited. De­spite their rhetoric, they didn’t put it be­hind them and set to work restor­ing life­time pen­sions for in­jured vet­er­ans. In their first bud­get, they elided the is­sue. In their sec­ond, they still pro­vided no money.

In­stead, they merely sig­nalled the in­ten­tion to an­nounce plans by year’s end for a life-long pen­sion op­tion — though many sus­pect this will sim­ply take the lump-sum pay­ment for which in­jured vets are presently en­ti­tled and spread it out monthly. For those most se­ri­ously wounded, the best-case sce­nario would be a pen­sion of $1,000 per month for 30 years.

This would be an em­bar­rass­ingly pal­try of­fer. Con­sider that Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment who sur­vive a six-year tour of duty in the House of Com­mons be­come el­i­gi­ble at age 55 for a bare min­i­mum of some $30,000 in pen­sion, all the way up to po­ten­tial an­nual pen­sions of $165,000 for long­time par­lia­men­tar­i­ans. Few, if any, will be so in­jured by their time in Par­lia­ment as to be left dis­abled.

Canada is lucky that its sol­diers do not risk their lives, their bod­ies, and their life­long men­tal health pri­mar­ily for money. If in fact they did, two suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments would now have driven home the les­son that it sim­ply isn’t worth it. Rather, they are pub­lic ser­vants who risk the high­est sac­ri­fice for their coun­try.

The new min­is­ter in­her­its a small depart­ment with an ex­tremely im­por­tant man­date: to ad­e­quately com­pen­sate these pub­lic ser­vants for their ex­tra­or­di­nary con­tri­bu­tion. He has both the op­por­tu­nity and the obli­ga­tion to make real all of the high-sound­ing rhetoric vet­er­ans have heard from too many suc­ces­sive gov­ern­ments. If Trudeau truly be­lieves in this coun­try’s sa­cred duty to vet­er­ans, then he must em­power his ministers to act in ac­cor­dance with that obli­ga­tion.

It now falls to O’Re­gan to lead Vet­er­ans Af­fairs out of ig­nominy by re­tir­ing the “no sa­cred duty” le­gal de­fence and tak­ing ac­tion to re­store live­able life­time pen­sions. If we can profit as a coun­try from putting sol­diers in harm’s way, surely we can find the re­sources to take care of them once they re­turn.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.