CENTRAL NOVA REPORT BY PETER MACKAY
As Canadians, we honour and recognize the service and sacrifice of our veterans. These brave men and women put their lives on the line in defence of our country and the values we hold dear. It is for this reason that we recognize the need to support our veterans, as well as provide them with the benefits and services worthy of their sacrifices made on our behalf.
Since 2006, our Conservative government has increased spending on programs services for veterans and their families by nearly $5 billion. This represents roughly a 25 per cent increase in the Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) budget. Of the Department’s annual budget, 90 per cent is spent in direct benefits and services for Canada's veterans and their families. These additional dollars go to an expansion of the Veterans’ Independence Program; reinstated benefits to Allied Veterans and their families; improved the War Veterans Allowance; an increase in the number of Operational Stress Injury Clinics to support veterans suffering from mental health illnesses; and the establishment of the Veterans Ombudsman among others.
For the thousands of men and women who leave Canada’s Armed Forces each year, the government provides assistance in finding a new career, learning new skills, or dealing with any other challenges they may face. Veterans Affairs has locations across Canada to meet the needs of veterans. In areas where there is not a Veterans Affairs office, there are more than 650 Service Canada locations now able to provide the same level of service and information, including 23 in Nova Scotia alone. For example, Cape Breton veterans will now be able to access the same programs at the Service Canada office just blocks from where Veterans Affairs office is located in Sydney, as well as at locations in North Sydney, Glace Bay, Port Hawkesbury, and Inverness.
These changes will not result in a reduction in case management services and home visits will continue. Regardless of where they live, veterans with serious health concerns can access home visits from registered nurses and case managers to help deliver personalized care plans. Veterans Affairs will continue to meet or exceed its service delivery standard of one case manager for every case managed veteran.
Finally, our Conservative government has put great emphasis on the achievements of our men and women in uniform. By marking 2013 as the Year of the Korean War Veteran and making significant investments in the Community War Memorial Program, we are ensuring their sacrifices receive the recognition they deserve.
We owe veterans a debt of gratitude. Their sacrifices have helped protect our freedoms and preserve the sovereignty of our nation. The federal government will continue to honour those efforts by providing our veterans with the services and benefits they deserve.
Peter MacKay is MP for Central Nova and federal Justice Minister.