Finger-pointing won’t solve Veterans’ issues

The finger-pointing over the Veterans Affairs report by local politicians was an embarrassment, particularly in Northumberland County where the military is such a integral part of the community.
Conservative MP Rick Norlock and Liberal candidate Kim Rudd provided a prelude to a federal election campaign last week as both tried to score points with local voters over the Veterans Ombudsman’s concerns regarding the government’s failure to take care of those returning from duty injured or facing health problems.
On Aug. 18, Col. Pat Stogran, a retired infantry officer, said bureaucrats are not looking after the needs of soldiers and Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers, going so far as to suggest the government is avoiding paying compensation to veterans. Stogran is ending his three-year terms as ombudsman and his contract is not being renewed.
Chief of Defence Staff Walter Natymczyk gave the charges credence over the weekend when he said the problems identified in the report were the “absolutely correct issues”.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper addressed concerns Friday saying the government will review and adjust its policies.
Still, there was time for Norlock and Rudd to square off in the local media.
Norlock expressed pride in his government policies saying the Harper government has done more than previous administrations for veterans. He went on to defend the removal of Stogran, despite a long list of public civil servants who have been fired from agencies for challenging the government’s policies.
He also pointed to the increased number of mental health clinics and noted the addition of an advisory committee on stress injuries as being two major steps taken to address the criticisms.
Rudd accuses Norlock and his government of deliberate effort to undermine veterans pointing to the pension issues, lack of a Veterans’ Charter and now, the treatment of injured soldiers. She also attacked the government’s decision not to renew Stogran’s contract, saying it is due to his critical stance towards the government.
Both politicians need to be very wary when treading on this topic, remembering the military heritage of Northumberland. Besides all the distinguished veterans of two world wars, Korean, and peacekeepers, we have a major military base in the riding, along with plenty of people who are currently serving. These men and women are well versed in the policies of Liberals and Conservatives. They know there are high points and low ones on both sides.
Anyone who watches the repatriation ceremonies, including the trip along the Highway of Heroes, recognizes the pride many people express each time the hearse travels under the bridges.
Swinging at each other in the media does little to address the concerns of injured veterans. It is the ideological approach Conservatives apply when dealing with policy that is at the heart of this debate and the failure of Liberals to provide substantive alternatives.
When it comes to compensating veterans, nothing is more blatant than the new system of lump sum payments to injured soldiers. In one case, a serviceman who lost both legs in a suicide bombing in January 2006 was offered a choice between disability payments at $4,000 per month under an old system versus the $250,000 lump sum he would get under the new one. Obviously, he took the long-term monthly payments.
The new system fails to address long-term needs and is focused on saving money, not looking after brave men and women who offer their lives to protect us. These people deserve the security of knowing they will be looked after, not the quick solution of a government blinded to human needs by an obsession to control costs.
Voters care little about the squabbling between politicos. They also don’t care who holds the job of ombudsman, as long as it is filled and the person advocates on behalf of veterans. What will not be tolerated is having two candidates barking at each other while avoiding substantive military issues. Northumberland County residents will not be fooled.

2 thoughts on “Finger-pointing won’t solve Veterans’ issues

  1. Thanks for the thoughtful and concise comments. Despite the announcement this weekend by the Conservative Party, I think it is merely a band aid on a wound that needs stitches. Feel free to weigh in at any time.

  2. I know this isn’t a municipal matter but I just had to weigh in. Neither party has a very good track record regarding the basic living standards of our men & women who serve in our armed forces. It seems odd to me that the government that claims to be “supporting our troops” is doing exactly the opposite. Liberals have squandered any chance of this key demographic by offering nothing but finger pointing. Where were they when these hero’s needed a place to safely house their families. Government reports have stated for years the near third world residences offered to these service men and women for them and their families to live in.Where’s that funding? Government has seen fit to honour only the fallen and let the wounded and broken returning soldiers fend for themselves. Standing by our troops must be more than a political slogan or tag line these hero’s expect and deserve the best we as a nation have to offer them for their many and continued sacrifices. We can not allow the term Support Our Troops to become more LIP SERVICE.
    Dave G.

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