Rick Mercer slams cuts to Veterans Affairs in an advance release of a rant that will run Tuesday night on CBC.
"Never done this before," Mercer tweeted on Friday, linking to an early YouTube post of the rant in which he savages the Conservative government over its treatment of veterans. As of Sunday, the post had been retweeted nearly 1,300 times and the video viewed more than 90,000 times.
Mercer focuses on cuts to Veterans Affairs which will lead to the closure of nine offices and, consequently, more obstacles to access for those who have served Canada in uniform.
"So if you’re a World War II vet and you have a problem, what do you do? Well, you don’t go to an office and talk to a real person — those days are over," Mercer says. "There’s a 1-800 number they can call, or — this is my favourite, bearing in mind the average age is 88 — there’s an app they can download to their smartphone which will allow them to navigate the Veterans Affairs website, a website that will send them to the nearest Service Canada office where, if they need to make burial arrangements, they have to take a number and stand in line behind some guy like me who’s waiting to get his passport renewed."
"I'm sorry, if you fought on the beach in Dieppe and survived, you should not have to spend any portion of your final days on this Earth in a Service Canada office."
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The nine offices Mercer is referring to are in Sydney, Charlottetown, Corner Brook, Windsor, Thunder Bay, Brandon, Saskatoon, Kelowna, and Prince George, according to information from the Union of Veterans Affairs reported on the Ottawa Citizen website.
In May, the NDP's Veterans Affairs critic Peter Stoffer said in a press release that staff in Charlottetown told him "that because they did their job 'too well' and had too many veterans coming to the office for service, the federal government was closing the [office].”
More recently, the Conservatives have faced questions about federal support for the Last Post Fund, an agency that helps pay for the funerals of impoverished veterans. Since 2006, the fund has had to reject two-thirds of all applications for help because of narrow guidelines that restrict money to veterans of the two world wars and the Korean war.
The Last Post Fund itself, veterans groups and funeral directors have lobbied the government to raise the amount of money its puts towards funerals, which has been fixed at $3,600 since 2000. They also want the eligibility requirements broadened.
But when Prime Minister Stephen Harper was asked specifically about the fund by reporters travelling with him on Saturday, he did not acknowledge those concerns. Instead, he said his government was doing a lot for veterans, and that all programs are constantly being assessed. The Last Post Fund was last reviewed two years ago.
With files from The Canadian Press