Volume 26 Issue 8
By Michael Blais
The Federal election is looming and once again veterans will consider voting for the party that best serves their needs. The past four years have been bittersweet and while there have been significant improvements on many files of contention, the proverbial elephant in the room, the Pension for Life, remains a major point of controversy.
Many NVC veterans continue to feel disenfranchised, betrayed, perhaps victims of a grotesque bait and switch game Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party were waging during the past election in exchange for our votes.
I can recall travelling to Belleville, ON, to witness Trudeau’s presentation of the Liberal Party veterans’ platform. Objectively, I was pleased. The Canadian Veterans Advocacy was primarily founded on the principle of restoring Canada’s sacred obligation to acknowledge and respect national sacrifice equally, without discrimination or reservation to the Pension Act Standards that I,
and a majority of VACs clients receive.
Never Pass a Fault, eh?
There must be equality in recognition of national sacrifice.
It was to these standards alone which we spoke to our current Prime Minister. Our first encounter was rather tense, to the point where the Liberal Veterans Affairs critic at the time felt compelled to leap to his feet and inform me that I could not speak to the “leader” in such a manner. Do tell! Prime Minister Trudeau, to his credit, never broke eye contact, raised his hand, tersely told Jim Karygiannis to sit down, and then asked me to continue.
To summarize, Mr. Trudeau, if want to be the Prime Minister of Canada, you damn well better know what national sacrifice is, and your role as a the guardian of the torch, to restore the sacred obligation before you are called to send Canada’s sons and daughters into harm’s way. The message appeared to resonate and after years of confronting Conservative and NDP resistance, there was progress toward advancing the equality cause.
Subsequently, Mr. Trudeau extended an invitation to meet on Parliament Hill after the Remembrance Day national ceremony to discuss the Pension for Life. It was a very special day, with an infinitely more amicable meeting, wherein the NVC LSA vs. Pension Act “faults” were clearly defined, and a singular resolution was championed: to “re-establish” equality
to the Pension Act standards!
Accordingly, when Mr. Trudeau declared the Liberal Party would “re-establish” the Pension for Life, I was in fact pleased. There was but only one lifetime pension to “re-establish” and I can assure CVA supporters, this was the only solution we spoke of. The choice in wording was not random, the promise was definitive and at the time it appeared sincere enough to convince many veterans, including myself, to cast votes for the Liberal Party in the 2015 Canadian federal election.
Was it a grotesque deception?
Today, or in the very near future, as the “Pension for Life” notification letters arrive, veterans will be profoundly disappointed, just as I am.
What the Liberal Party has provided is certainly not what Trudeau promised to veterans in exchange for their votes - is it? Thirty-cents on the dollar when compared to Pension Act provisions?
Is it better than nothing? Is it enough to retain veterans’ votes? Certainly the Liberal’s Pension for Life is an improvement over any Conservative or NDP initiative in the past. Which begs the question: what is Andrew Scheer or Jagmeet Singh’s position on the Pension for Life? Will they seize the opportunity Trudeau has presented? Will the Conservative Party or the NDP step up and pledge to restore the sacred obligation equally, and without reservation? In doing so, will they recoup veterans’ votes lost during the Harper or Mulcair era?
Or will veterans be dismissed as irrelevant, subject to the same litany of lip service every Remembrance Day or battlefield commemoration and promptly be forgotten the next morning?