North Island-Powell River MP, Rachel Blaney, says the federal Liberal government is leaving Canada’s veterans in the lurch.

The NDP critic for veterans points out that the government’s budget promises $140 million over five years to address the mental health supports service gap, while veterans wait for their claims to be processed.

“This $140 million announcement makes no sense,” said Blaney. “I can tell you with the veterans I hear from – they are tired of new programs that don’t get to the core change that is needed at Veterans Affairs. What I hear again and again is that what veterans and their loved ones want is very simple – one caseworker that stays with them.”

She says the budget mentions the word ‘veteran’ 61 times, “but it is woefully thin on funding that will make a meaningful difference for veterans in Canada.”

Last September, the Parliamentary Budget Officer recommended permanently hiring the 300-plus temporary hires in order to fully eliminate the disability claim backlog and to maintain service standards going forward.

“With the government opposing the Parliamentary Budget Officers report, we still don’t know when these veterans are going to get the resources and supports they need,” said Blaney. 

“The budget lists $29 million for VAC to hire permanent caseworkers brought on to help with the disability backlog, but this is just a re-announcement of money set aside in Budget 2018.”

Budget 2021 includes $45 million over two years for a pilot project on homeless veterans to be run through Employment and Social Development Canada.

“In 2019 the Liberals unanimously supported a motion to end veterans’ homelessness but then did nothing about it,” said Blaney. “Let’s hope this new project actually gets rolled out.”

While Blaney welcomed the additional $15 million over three years for the Veterans and Family Well-Being Fund for COVID-19 recovery support, she noted that there is nothing in the budget to better support the families of veterans, nothing to eliminate the problematic marriage after 60 clause, and nothing to support research into women veterans issues.

“Veterans have served our country and have done as we asked them,” said Blaney.  “This file continues to be a massive failure for both Conservative and Liberal governments.”

In response, Veterans Affairs Canada press secretary, Cameron McNeill, said, “Budget 2021 builds on what have been unprecedented investments – more than $11 billion in new funding and support – for our Veterans and their families since 2016.”

McNeill added that the budget includes “important funding for veterans’ mental health care, reducing the backlog of applications, addressing Veteran homelessness, and more.” 

He said this funding will make a significant difference in the lives of our Veterans and their families, and “has been well received by leading Veterans’ organizations like the Royal Canadian Legion, True Patriot Love Foundation, VETS Canada, and more.”

“The Minister always appreciates MP Blaney’s advocacy on behalf of those who’ve served our country, and he is looking forward to continuing to work with her to support them and their families,” McNeill said.