With the events leading to the demotion of Minister Fantino and appointment of Minister Erin O'Toole, the public discourse on veterans affairs in Canada has become increasingly negative, vitriolic and political.
Veterans' issues should be above politics. The men and women who serve our country, who are killed and maimed in its name and who bring their families into service with them (who serve in a different but substantial way) deserve more than to be the subject of political rhetoric and the object of electoral gamesmanship that is neither befitting our country nor helpful to our veterans.
I am a veteran -- though my service pales in comparison to that of many of my colleagues. I am deeply passionate about veterans' issues and particularly, given that my current day job is in HR at a major corporation, helping veterans and the families of those who serve find gainful employment in the private sector. I am good a example of a veteran who had an easy transition. However, there are many veterans, reservists and military families who experience great difficulties in making the transition.
While I have served across Canada and overseas, I was thankfully never seriously injured carrying out my duties. Sadly, I know many veterans who have been seriously injured while serving their country. Their families and the families of those who have died serving their country deserve the same.
Party membership and partisan politics should have no role in addressing issues of veterans transition, benefits and care. It should not matter which party the Minister of Veterans affairs belongs to, it should only matter what he or she does in office. The public discourse should centre on how best to address the issues and not who is responsible for addressing them. The new Minister deserves the opportunity to succeed.
I have had the honour of working, in various capacities, with Minister Erin O'Toole for several years. Minister O'Toole is a veteran himself and has always been passionately supportive of helping his brothers-and-sisters-in-arms.
When I was in private practice and he was in-house counsel (and not in in government), I was proud that my firm and I were able to support his work for True Patriot Love foundation -- an organization dedicated to supporting veterans which he helped found. I am proud to be a member of Treble Victor, a group of ex-military members who support one and other in their transition to the private sector. Minister O'Toole was also a founding member of that group. One of my roles at my current employer is to lead our efforts to recruit veterans, reservists and their families. As a new member of Parliament, Minister O'Toole was always supportive and passionate.
I was fortunate to attend a recent Treble Victor event in Toronto with the newly minted Minister. He and his Deputy Minister, Walt Natynczyk, spoke eloquently about their desire to put politics aside and work diligently to address the real and serious issues facing veterans today. I do not care that Minister O'Toole is a member of the Conservative Party (I am not). It should not matter. I care that long before he was named minister, he worked tirelessly to support veterans. I care that he and his deputy represent the most experienced duo we've had in these roles in a long time. I care about what he will do as Minister.
In his new role, Minister O'Toole is not (as many have said), a "rookie MP". He is not deserving of the negative comments he's gotten. He is man who has spent years serving his country and its service members. He is a true "veteran" Minister. He should be judged not be his party membership but by his actions. I'm looking forward to a public discourse focused on addressing the real issues.