05/06/2015 11:26 EDT | Updated 05/06/2016 05:59 EDT

Ontario PC Jim Wilson: Military Vets Should Get First Crack At Public Service Jobs

TORONTO - The Progressive Conservatives say veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces often have trouble finding work and should get first crack at Ontario public service jobs.

Interim PC Leader Jim Wilson introduced a private member's bill Wednesday that would give priority to current and past members of the military to help them land a provincial government job.

"The members of our Canadian Armed Forces make a commitment to our country that is virtually unparalleled," Wilson told the legislature. "When they're ready to leave the forces or have to leave due to a medical condition, they often don't have the easiest time finding new employment."

The federal government and New Brunswick recently passed similar legislation to give priority hiring to veterans for public service jobs, and Wilson said Ontario should clearly follow suit.

"This is definitely asking society to make an exception for those that have voluntarily served, who in many cases were sent away ... and their resume's often have a gap that says 'I went to Afghanistan,'" he said. "This is no free ride for veterans. They have to be qualified."

Private member's bills rarely become law in Ontario, but Wilson urged Premier Kathleen Wynne to "steal the legislation as a Liberal idea" if that would help get it passed in the legislature.

"We're open to exploring any options that would demonstrate that value that we place on the Forces," said Wynne. "I haven't seen the bill or what the amendments to the Public Service Act would look like, but certainly we're open to looking at those."

New Democrat Leader Andrea Horwath said she also wanted to see details of Wilson's bill, but agreed it was important to help veterans find a way to make a decent living when they leave the Armed Forces.

Scott Maxwell of Wounded Warriors Canada welcomed Wilson's initiative, but said private companies must also be encouraged to hire more veterans.

"It's equally important that we are having this conversation in the private sector as we are today for the public sector," he said.

Finding work can be especially beneficial to veterans who were medically released because of an operational injury, like post traumatic stress disorder, as they make the transition to civilian life, said Maxwell.

"One of the big gaps that can further challenge the transition is not having a job," he said.

The average age of someone leaving the Forces is 37, and veterans now get lump sum payments instead of a pension from the military.

"The point is they want to work," said Maxwell. "They're highly trained and highly skilled."

Federal legislation on the issue received Royal Assent on March 31, so Maxwell said the Ombudsman's office at Veteran's Affairs has no data yet on its success in helping veterans get civil service jobs in Ottawa.

Under Wilson's bill, veterans who are medically released for service-related reasons would be given top priority for Ontario government jobs.

Military personnel and veterans with at least three years in the military could compete for the public service jobs up to five years after they are honourably released.


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