On May 9 and 10 the Liberal government held their second Veterans Affairs Canada Stakeholder Summit. We were given a definitive date on through an official email by the minister himself on April 27. Ninety different stakeholders converged on Ottawa to help the government maintain a better relationship with its veterans. The VAC website states that:
"The Veterans Affairs Canada Stakeholder Summits are hosted by the Minister of Veterans Affairs. Through the Summits, the Department engages with stakeholder organizations to discuss issues facing Canada's Veterans and their families. In addition, six ministerial advisory groups are being created as part of his commitment to improve transparency and seek consultation on issues of importance to Veterans and their families. Stakeholder Summit participants include representatives of Veterans organizations from across Canada, organizations that support the Veterans community, as well as Government of Canada representatives including officials from the Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Affairs Canada, the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman, the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, the Canadian Armed Forces, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and other departments."
The first summit was held shortly after the election and it was truly a harmonious event. The prime minster's mandate letter was publicly released, and its goals were extraordinary. The optimism was palpable. The deputy minister, "Uncle Walt," got up and gave a speech worthy of an Oscar. A raucous standing ovation greeted him at its conclusion. My skepticism in the Liberal government was waning -- at the very least I knew to keep my reservations to myself.
The second meeting did not start as well. Budget 2016 failed to mention a few parts of the mandate letter. Most importantly to me was re-establishing the pension for life and the education bill. Two associate deputy ministers, Bernard Butler and Michel Doiron, began with a PowerPoint presentation in which these two parts of the mandate letter were left off.
The questions at the conclusion began to get more and more hostile. Finally, a stakeholder had enough and announced this was the worst summit he had been to yet and stormed out. A break was called for and we all dispersed for coffee and juice. The tension was apparent and many were starting to think the sunny ways were over.
Shortly thereafter another stakeholder got up and began to speak. His assessment was critical of the government, he called the stake summit a "dog and pony show." After he spoke it was clear that the meetings were going in a very hostile direction.
The minister took this moment to speak and address the concerns brought forward by the two members. His tone was that of a father chastising a child. He claimed that the Liberal government is the only government that has veterans' backs. Then others came to the minister's defence.
Three speakers railed against those that questioned the government, the last of which will be known as one of the most famous veteran advocates of our generation. They supported the minister and chastised those that dared question why. Each shamed everyone to unite behind the same government that wrote the New Veterans Charter and whose last government is known in the military as the Decade of Darkness.
As the poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade" goes, "Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die." It felt like we were being ordered back into formation. Called to attention and made sure our ranks are dressed off.
Each stakeholder that got up and defended the government was a sergeant major, their pace stick tucked under their arm yelling at ranks to shuffle to their right or left. Yet that is not what I take offence to.
While the minister bullied the veterans into discontinuing to voice their concerns, he would have been fully aware of the fact that the Liberal government was going to allow the abeyance on the Equitas lawsuit -- the court case in which the government has been arguing the "moral obligation" they have to soldiers maimed in war -- to run out.
It begs the question why the stakeholder summit was called on such short notice, allowing it to have been held ahead of the announcement of the impending litigation against the soldiers. The biggest piece of the Liberal party platform and mandate letter was the reestablishment of life-long pension, and now they are going to court to argue against life-long pensions.
That would mean that on May 2 when Prime Minster Justin Trudeau was flanked on either side by injured veterans doing one handed push-ups, there is a possibility he would have been fully aware that he was going to be taking those very same veterans to court fighting against what he promised to do on two separate occasions.
I am curious which hand he used to sign the authorization to reopen the case. When he was doing his photo op push-ups surrounded by Invictus athletes, was he thinking about taking the soldiers back to court? Using such a worthy cause defeats the purpose of the games.
There is nothing I hate more in this world than liars. Worse still, there is nothing I hate more than people that pretend to support you when they are about to stab you in the back. At least you can say they have come by their nickname the Fiberals honestly.
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