(Volume 26 Issue 2)
By Michael Nickerson
Justin Trudeau is having a bad month. He might end up having a bad year when all is said and done, but let us focus on his current woes. The smell of scandal, the sniff of hubris, and the stench of incompetence in the air has Team Justin™ starting to crack at the seams. The promises and commitments of only a few years ago now seem little more than lies and clichés. And the infighting has only just begun; good Canadian political theatre at its finest.
The New Year started with Scott Brison resigning as head of the Treasury Board, ostensibly to spend more time with his family. Whether accusations of meddling with the navy supply ship procurement on behalf of Irving Shipbuilding were a factor in his sudden exit is open to speculation, but with the trial of Vice Admiral Mark Norman coming this summer and Brison on the witness list, things are sure to get much more interesting before election time.
Regardless, his departure triggered a bit of a cabinet shuffle on a cold day in January. There were smiles and hugs all around as ministers got promoted, took on new portfolios, and generally made nice with their boss for being part of federal cabinet. Well, one assumes that was the idea anyway, but Jody Wilson-Raybould had other ideas.
Moved from the Justice portfolio to Veterans Affairs, Wilson-Raybould looked about as enthusiastic as an entrant in a live worm-eating contest. Despite the odd platitude about the importance of the ministry, it was clear the former attorney general was not pleased.
As we all now know, she didn’t even last a month before resigning under even more scandal-laden clouds than Brison, namely the potential prosecution of SNC-Lavalin and who might have pressured who to go easy on the ethics challenged engineering giant. And just about everyone, from opposition MPs to pundits, to disheartened and disenfranchised First Nations, have stepped up to the whipping post to take turns publicly flailing Trudeau for broken promises and abuse of trust.
Which is hard to argue really so full speed ahead on that score. What should be very troubling to Canadian veterans, and current members of our armed forces who will inevitably join them, is the almost complete lack of outrage concerning the impact this will have on those who have risked their lives for this country. The revolving door of ministers at Veterans
Affairs, and the almost unanimous conclusion that being appointed to deal with the issues facing veterans is akin to being sent to a penalty box was made starkly clear by the public debate. The whole issue was lost in the shuffle, a footnote at best.
In short, my dear veterans, very few people actually care about you. Sure, they’ll say thanks once a year and name a highway after you, but let’s take stock of the reality. While successive governments have touted their commitment to Canadian veterans, they’ve spent most of their time fighting a return to full lifetime pensions, dragging veterans through the court system, and ignoring obvious problems with transition to private life identified decades ago. Far too many cases of homelessness and suicide continue to this day as a result.
Much of this has to do with counting pennies and votes, doing the math, and prioritizing accordingly. And that sort of calculus makes it very clear Canadians don’t have the time or inclination to care about their veterans. It’s why being minister of Veterans Affairs is viewed as being either a stepping stone or an act of torture depending which direction on the ladder you’re heading. It’s why the plight of the veterans Jody Wilson-Raybould was supposed to serve was merely background noise to the whole fiasco that is Team Justin™.
I dare say it’s time to stop trusting your government, dear veteran, and start engaging your neighbours, friends, and communities; to raise awareness, to protest and make your voice heard amongst average Canadians instead of your tone-deaf MPs. That, or remain an afterthought.