14 October 2011
Ottawa –There is a federal review of all spending by all government departments underway. All departments have been told to look at their budgets with a view to cutting 5% or 10% (both are an option) from their operations and programming budgets. This type of review is needed in these tumultuous financial times, but unfortunately it also includes Veterans Affairs Canada.
We will battle with all we have to prevent any programs or operations that will have a direct effect on our veterans’ benefits from being cut. Veterans, serving or retired, regular, reserve or RCMP, should always be given the thanks of the country that put them in harm’s way. There is a way to show that thanks - and that is by not cutting any benefits that have accrued to them in the past because of this review.
Most recently I was in the United States at the annual convention of the American Legion in Minneapolis. Their guest speaker was President Barack Obama. He stated that American veterans’ programs would be exempt from the U.S. program review and that the U.S. would not live off the backs of the American veteran. I was struck by his personal commitment.
It would be extremely timely for the Prime Minister of Canada to say the same thing and make the same commitment. It is one thing to say that you care, it is another to show that you do by concrete action. It is time that our federal leadership owned up to the moral debt they owe to the veterans and their families. They can do that by saying cut if you can but do not touch programs or operations that have any effect on Canada’s veterans.
The government of Canada can pay down its financial debt, it just takes time to do it. But it must not pay down the debt with funds taken from veterans programs.
Yes, it is fiscal restraint time, and yes it is time that we all learned to do without some of the perks that accrue to us. The veterans would agree with this point of view because that is what they fought and served for. They fought for the very principles that may yet harm them. But we are asking the federal government not to take away the benefits earned by those who have suffered enough for this country.
The veterans of Canada don’t ask for much, other than to live out their lives as comfortably as any other Canadian. They have always been there for Canada and Canadians because they believe in service, not self, first.
The government of this country could take a lesson from our neighbours next door and learn the true meaning of what it is to give of oneself for one’s country. It should exempt VAC from any review that hurts our veterans. It is time that the Prime Minister of Canada recognize in deeds the moral debt that he and other Canadians owe to our veterans.
Veterans programs, that involve benefits for them, must be exempted from the current program review. There can be no other decision taken.
Patricia Varga is the Dominion President of The Royal Canadian Legion. A black and white picture of the Dominion President is available at www.legion.ca/PVarga.jpg .
For further information please contact Bruce Poulin at Dominion Command, The Royal Canadian Legion, at (613) 591-3335 ext. 241 or by cell at (613) 292-8760.
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