Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave a frank, honest answer in Edmonton last week when he told a wounded veteran the federal government was still fighting veterans groups in court because “they are asking for more than we are able to give right now.” It wasn’t the public relations answer anyone was hoping to hear, so one must surmise he meant what he said.
While it’s nice to finally hear the leader of a government with a budget deficit that has swelled far past its election promises and projections admit Canada doesn’t have an unlimited pool to spend from, veterans’ support and pensions is clearly the wrong place to draw the line.
Yes, the Liberals inherited a mess from the previous Conservative government, which made an unpopular decision to replace the lifelong pensions in 2006. To their credit, they have also been good to reopen veterans’ resource centres and bring in new investment including a system introduced late last year that will give non-taxable compensation for pain and suffering — including more compensation for those veterans more seriously injured — and a taxable income replacement benefit. The overhauls look like a step in the right direction, but some veterans have said they don’t equate to pre-2006 levels.
Moreover, Equitas, the group of six veterans heading to the Supreme Court, argues that soldiers who suffered the same injuries in the same Afghanistan conflict before and after the changes in 2006 receive different compensation and continue to do so. That shouldn’t be. Every Canadian soldier wounded in battle should be entitled to the same level of care and compensation — and it should be our duty as a country to ensure those serving for us receive benefits commensurate with the sacrifices they have offered for our cause.
That the federal government chooses to continue to fight that obligation in court is sad and it is costly. One could hope the money used fighting veterans could be better served revamping programming and offering more help.
Some veterans have argued Canada’s stance to keep fighting, and indeed, comments like those Trudeau made, could make it more difficult for the military to attract talented young men and women. That would be a shame as, sadly, there will always be a need for strong defence in this world. While serving one’s country can be a great source of pride and honour, it’s not a glamorous post. There need not be further reasons to deter those that would answer the call.
Perhaps, instead of arguing that it can’t afford what its veterans who gave so much are asking or mounting its defence in court, the federal government should get creative. It should find ways to ensure all veterans are treated equally and that they are making at least what they had made prior to the cuts. Surely, there are other areas the government is spending money that could be adjusted to ensure veterans are taken care of — the opposition parties have sure offered suggestions.
Ultimately, it all comes down to will. It is hoped politicians of all stripes continue to realize their duty to veterans and make every effort to work together with them to innovate, creating satisfactory and cost-effective solutions.