Minister of Veterans Affairs remains steadfast in the face of discontent
The Union of Veterans Affairs Employees calls for the resignation of Minister Lawrence MacAulay.
Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay remains steadfast in the face of the discontent caused by the the Liberal government's treatment of ill and injured veterans – and even in the face of a call for its resignation.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Mr. MacAulay argues that after years of complaints and criticism, Ottawa is making progress on several fronts when it comes to providing more adequate support and more fast to veterans who need help.
Among other things, he mentions the hiring of hundreds of temporary civil servants and the awarding of a new $570 million contract to an outside company to provide rehabilitation services to veterans across the country.
But the contract has drawn ire from the Union of Veterans Affairs Employees, who recently called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to remove MacAulay from office.
The government says the deal will ease the burden on overworked civil servants while ensuring veterans have access to a nationwide network of 9,000 psychologists, physiotherapists, social workers and other professionals across the country.
But the union says this contract will have the opposite effect, adding another layer of bureaucracy for veterans to contend with, while radically changing the role of managers of cases.
The union also castigated the ministry's continued reliance on temporary staff to solve its problems. This issue has also been raised by Auditor General Karen Hogan, who is calling for a long-term staffing and funding plan for this department.
Mr. MacAulay says he has no intention of resigning and that the government will continue to work to ensure veterans get the support and benefits they need.
“My job is to do my job, and that's what I'm going to do and continue to do.
—Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs
Some critics also question Mr. MacAulay's influence in Cabinet and the interest Liberal government's real deal for veterans.
The Trudeau government has been criticized for years for failing to deliver on its promises to ill and injured veterans. He was blamed in particular for his inability to reinstate a lifelong disability pension that is given to veterans who served in World War II and the Korean War, but not to those who were deployed to Afghanistan.
Members of the Royal Canadian Legion at the Remembrance Day ceremony in Wellington.
More recently, veterans have complained about continued delays in processing applications disability, a constant shortage of civil servants to deal with those who need extra help, and insufficient support for families and caregivers.
Mr. MacAulay has already acknowledged that the government needs to do more and he repeated it this week. But in the same breath, he cites several numbers as proof that the situation is improving. He mentions in particular a reduction in waiting times for certain types of disability applications and the hiring at the ministry of hundreds of additional civil servants – mainly temporary workers.
The minister also blames external factors for some of the continuing problems at the department, including an increase in claims for disability benefits and deep staff cuts under the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, a decade ago.
The Minister of Veterans Affairs will represent the government at the Remembrance Day ceremony on Friday in Ottawa, as the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is flying to an international summit in Cambodia.
Veterans seeking help face endless delays