Trudeau promises lifelong pensions for injured veterans
Marlene Leung, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, August 24, 2015 9:31AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, August 24, 2015 6:51PM EDT
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has unveiled a key election promise aimed at Canada's veterans, including lifelong pensions for injured vets and hundreds of millions of dollars in expanded benefits.
Speaking in Belleville, Ont., on Monday, Trudeau said that if elected, the Liberals will re-establish lifelong pensions, as well as increase the value of the disability award. The disability award is a tax-free sum of money that is given to injured members of the Canadian Forces or veterans.
The Liberals will also re-open nine regional Veterans Affairs offices that were closed under the Harper government, he said.
Trudeau accused the Conservative government of "nickel and dime-ing" the country's veterans and taking them for granted for the past 10 years.
"We will make right what they got so very, very wrong," he said. "Respect, support and a real shot at a bright future, that's what Canada's veterans can count on if we earn the privilege of serving Canadians as their government."
The Liberals will also implement all of the Auditor General's recommendations for improving mental health services for veterans.
The party also pledges to:
- invest $25 million to expand access to the Permanent Impairment Allowance;
- invest $40 million to increase the Earnings Loss Benefit to 90 per cent of pre-release salary;
- invest $80 million per year to create a new Veterans Education Benefit that provides full support for the cost of up to four years of college, university, or technical education;
- invest $100 million per year to expand support for families of veterans, including education counselling and training for families providing care and support for injured veterans;
- increase the veteran survivor’s pension amount from 50 per cent to 70 per cent;
- double funding to the Last Post Fund to ensure that veterans receive a dignified burial;
- hire 400 new service delivery staff, including new case managers at Veterans Affairs; and
- budget $20 million to create two new centres of excellence in veterans’ care, including one dedicated to mental health issues.
Trudeau said the measures announced have an ongoing cost of about $300 million a year. The Liberals will release a fully costed platform in the coming weeks.
Trudeau said the Liberals will implement the measures for veterans immediately, if elected.
Conservative candidate and Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole told CTV News Channel that “in many ways” the Liberal proposal is “just an extension of what we passed in the last term of parliament.”
O’Toole pointed to the Retirement Income Security Benefit introduced in March, which he says “does provide a lifetime pension payment for our moderately-to-severely-injured veterans.”
The Retirement Income Security Benefit ensures that the annual income of an eligible veterans aged 65 or older is at least 70 per cent of what he or she received in benefits before the age 65, according to the Veterans Affairs website.
NDP Critic for Veterans Affairs Peter Stoffer told CTV News Channel that he is “very curious” about what the Liberals “would be taking away” under their plan, and suggested it may have been an “omission” that RCMP veterans weren’t mentioned.
Stoffer said the NDP will also put forward a plan for veterans, likely in early September.
Mike Blais, a retired sergeant and founder of the Canadian Veterans Advocacy, called the Liberal promises "comprehensive."
"On this day, I think veterans should be very pleased," he told CTV News Channel.
Blais said the pledge to re-instate lifelong pensions for injured vets is a sign that the Liberals are listening to the concerns of Canadian soldiers.
He also said that the re-opening of the nine Veterans Affairs offices is particularly meaningful, because there were "serious consequences" when they were first closed.
Vets groups welcome Liberal promise
Chris Dupee is the president of the Ontario chapter of Marijuana for Trauma, an organization that offers medical cannabis consulting services to veterans. While he welcomed Trudeau’s announcement, he told CTV’s Power Play it’s unfortunate that it took an election campaign to bring the policy to the forefront.
“It’s a bit shameful that veterans are even a political issue when this stuff should have been sorted out a long time ago,” said Dupee. “We’re able to see through a lot of the smoke that’s put up.”