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Why the Military Should Take What the Liberals Say With a Grain of Salt

09/02/2015 07:59 EDT | Updated 09/02/2016 05:59 EDT
Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

It is sad that in 2015 veterans have to be a campaign point in a federal election, but The Grits have had a history of promising what they have no intention of delivering.

The last time the Liberals were in power was described by former Chief of Defence Staff Rick Hillier as "the decade of darkness." The Liberals have had two high-profile veteran candidates leave the party on principle in the recent months, which I think is more newsworthy than the Liberals' recent $300 million dollar announcement. It is indicative to their inability to deliver and their past history of promising what they have no intention of delivering has caught up to them. The truth of the matter is that there are 700,000 veterans in Canada and, with a spouse and two dependents, that number approaches nearly 10 per cent of the population. An overwhelming majority of them vote, and with 40 per cent of Canada's population abstaining in 2011, the veteran vote could very well sway the upcoming election.

The recent announcements were made by a Liberal government trying to fix Liberal-implemented legislation. The New Veterans Charter came from the decade of darkness, and countless soldiers have suffered because of it. There is a joke in the forces that if you walk into any legion and yell, "Pierre Elliot Trudeau is the best Prime Minister!" you would have to run for your life. The Liberals have proven time and time again to be no friend to the soldiers. Chrétien wearing his helmet on backwards (then chiding soldiers as they tried to show him how to wear it properly) and the elder Trudeau's morale-killing reorganizations have made a lasting impression on generations of military men and women who have been burned by the Liberals one too many times.

By pandering to the veteran community, the Liberals are hoping that the memory of soldiers does not go beyond the year 2000. For the last few decades, the Liberals have alienated generations of soldiers. Many of the men and women that have served will never support the Liberal party especially after the reprehensible treatment that they have had to endure during past Liberal mandates, particularly during the aforementioned decade of darkness when the Liberal party humiliated the forces. Cuts were so bad that when the troops were deployed to Afghanistan, they went without desert fatigues. Never mind that it was the Liberal party that went to the bureaucrats at Veterans Affairs Canada and told them that they had to figure out a way to implement a rehabilitation program with the same amount of funding. What was to follow was the implementation of the new veteran's charter , a living, breathing piece of unanimously passed legislation meant to save money that singlehandedly ruined the ability of those maimed by war to retire with dignity.

Former soldier Robert Smol writes that "to understand what the Liberal party's intentions were when they wrote and rammed the New Veterans Charter through the House in 2005, we need not go further than the statements of Albina Guarnieri, who served as Martin's veterans affairs minister and was responsible for the legislation."

Appearing before the Commons Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs on May 17, 2005, Guarnieri stated that "what we are doing is trying to replace dependency with opportunity and that sums up the entire (NVC) package in a nutshell."

As one of the biggest hallmarks of the NVC was to replace lifelong disability pensions with one-time lump sum payments, I cannot help but assume that statements like this were predicated on the assumption that veterans who were receiving disability pensions were "bums" and needed to be kicked out of government care.It should not come as a surprise that, in her selling of the Charter, Guarnieri consistently and conveniently quoted the absolute maximum lump-sum payment that a disabled veteran could receive and have to live on.

During the same committee session, Guarnieri insisted that "if you give a lump sum of $250,000 to a member of the Canadian Forces, that person can invest the money in a house or business." What her statement failed to consider was the fact that the only disabled veteran who could receive $250,000 under the 2005 legislation was one who was deemed 100 per cent disabled, meaning that he was so badly injured that he was incapable of self-care -- hardly the person who could buy a house and invest in a business.

As so many younger disabled veterans were to find out in the years following, the actual payout for their disabilities was far less.

The fact is Liberals have not even apologized or acknowledged the way they have treated the veterans of past generations -- and I know history always has a way of repeating itself, especially when the Liberals are involved.

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