In spite of the government’s handing out $30 million for repairs to 19 Wing Comox, this election could be fought solely on how we treat vets. Two issues stand out for me – they are the rewriting of government’s relationship to veterans and the slashing of funding for Veterans Affairs.
By the end of January of this year, the Harper government had spent $700,000 fighting a group of B.C. veterans in court. They had all been wounded in Afghanistan and they wanted the government to restore a program of lifelong disability payments for the injured. The government was arguing that Ottawa has no special obligation to those who’ve fought wars on behalf of Canada, a principle in place here since the First World War. That principle, the veterans argued, is a social contract between the country and its military personnel, who are called upon to lay down their lives without question.
Then there’s the funding cuts. The Harper government has closed eight Veterans Affairs across the country. They cost one-seventh of one per cent of the department’s budget. Then a six-year $200 million program for mental health services was announced. That turned out to be a bare-faced lie: the program was over 50 years and the government knew it. If cuts to Veterans Affairs continue as the Conservative government has planned, by 2016, staffing will have been cut by 25 per cent. Over their nine years in power, they have failed to spend $1.3 billion allocated for veterans’ benefits. Happily, though, they did have $9 million to spend on ads boasting about how well vets are being treated. That’s almost a third of the amount being spent on 19 Wing. It’s pretty easy to conclude that the $30 million is coming from veterans themselves.
No, this $30 million is the Conservative Party of Canada spending our money on their campaign instead of on vets.