Ombud blasts government's treatment of veterans
The outgoing veterans' ombudsman, retired colonel Pat Stogran, is going out firing his guns at the Conservative government and federal bureaucrats, expressing his anger at how Ottawa treats its veterans.
"It is beyond my comprehension how the system could knowingly deny so many of our veterans the services and benefits that the people and the government of Canada recognized a long, long time ago as being their obligation to provide," he said.
Stogran said he faced an uphill battle his entire term in office.
"After a mere two years and nine months, we've been confronted with the tasks of staffing the office, identifying the ways that our veterans are being unfairly treated and developing doctrines and protocols to redress them," he said.
During his tenure, Stogran said that he repeatedly came up against a culture of inaction among senior officials.
"I was told by a senior Treasury Board analyst, who shall remain nameless, that it is in the government's best interest to have soldiers killed overseas rather than wounded because the liability is shorter term," he said.
He added that he is going to spend his last three months in office telling the country how badly Canada treats its veterans.
Even before the news conference, the ombudsman was expressing his anger.
"It's hard for me not to get angry when I think how our vets are being treated," he said on his personal Twitter account Tuesday, prior to the news conference.
Stogran, former battle group commander in Afghanistan, was told last week his three-year contract in the job would not be extended for another period.
He's been an outspoken critic of the replacement of life-long pensions for disabled veterans with a system of lump-sum cheques and qualified financial support.
The federal Liberals are demanding the government extend Stogran's term.
Both the Liberals and Stogran have been critics of the New Veterans Charter, saying it needs to be re-worked.
Still, Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn said that Stogran's anger may lay in the fact that his contract is not being renewed.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper also hinted as much while taking questions from reporters in Tuesday in Mississauga, Ont.
"There are no positions for life," Harper said. "That's the way we do things."
Speaking in French, Harper added: "If the ombudsman has concerns, has suggestions, the government is open always to incorporate these suggestions in our future programs and I encourage him to work with us."
Harper said a review is underway, as the needs of today's veterans are different than previous generations.
But Liberal MP Marc Garneau said the Tories have been "heavy handed" and manipulative in their treatment of Stogran.
The NDP also supported Stogran's criticism, saying that bureaucracy at Veterans Affairs is rampant.
"Parliament and the government has control over the bureaucracy," he said.
"There is ministerial responsibility. If the instruction is, 'don't bring anything that'll cost any money,' well, who's in charge of that? That's the government."
CTV's Chief Parliamentary Correspondent Craig Oliver said that Stogran, the first-ever veterans ombudsman, often clashed with the Conservative government over his role.
"He's very emotional," said Oliver, adding that Stogran recently spent weeks travelling the county and speaking with injured veterans.
It appears that it was an intense experience. Said Oliver: "I think, as he says, it got to him."
Oliver added that there appeared to be a disconnect between what Ottawa had expected from the ombudsman and what Stogran wanted to achieve at his post.
While Ottawa had hoped that Stogran would take on an advocacy role, the former soldier instead took on an adversarial, combative role with Ottawa.
"That's exactly what he did, and they didn't like it," said Oliver.