Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lost in the Twilight Zone

Forgive me, please, but I am feeling like I am just a little bit lost in the twilight zone at the moment.

You might recall I've already confessed my past (and yes, even current) leanings towards the NDP. That's 'past' federally but still very current provincially. Yes, it's true. Provincially I remain an NDipper.

Federally, however, I had enough long ago. Definitely since the installation of Taliban Jack Layton as King of their castle.

Now, I am most definitely not a fan of our Conservative government either. And I've certainly had my issues with them when it comes to their support, or lack thereof, of our military. But when it comes to NDP federally, particularly on the issue of support for the military and their work in Afghanistan .... yeah, right.

Thus, the little bit of cognitive dissonance when I read this piece written by Peter Stoffer, one of the NDP MPs from Nova Scotia, in today's Chronicle Herald.

Mr. Stoffer notes that although we have seen improvements to a number of veterans’ benefits in recent years, including operational stress injury social support centres, wellness and transition programs under the new Veterans Charter, and assistance for Allied veterans now living in Canada, there is much more we can do to improve the lives of veterans and their families. Which, as he states it, is why New Democrats continue to press the Conservative government to implement key reforms for programs and services.
Some of these reforms include unfulfilled promises. The Harper Conservatives ommitted to resolving the clawback of Service Income Security Insurance Plan(SISIP) pensions for disabled veterans, extending the home care (VIP) program for all widows and veterans, as well as fully compensating all victims of Agent Orange and holding a public inquiry into its use. Despite promising significant reform, the Conservatives have not stopped the practice of appointing their friends to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board.

Unfortunately, the government’s lack of action on SISIP and full compensation for Agent Orange victims from 1950 to 1984 has led veterans to launch class-action lawsuits in hopes of forcing a government response.

Beyond its broken commitments, the government needs to improve the New Veterans Charter for modern-day veterans to better support those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, bring an end to the unjust clawback of CF and RCMP service and CPP disability pensions at age 65, increase the survivors’ pensions from 50 per cent to 66 per cent, and eliminate the gold-digger clause (marriage after 60) that prevents widows and widowers from receiving pension and health benefits.

New Democrats have also advocated for equal access to veterans’ hospitals and pavilions throughout the country. Currently, as some families have recently discovered, veterans are not eligible for a bed at the local veterans’ hospital or pavilion if they did not actively serve in the Second World War or Korea. In one case, a veteran was not eligible for admission because he did not serve in a "theatre of war" in one of those wars, even though he had a long and distinguished military career. In a similar story, a veteran was turned away because he served in Cyprus.

We argue that the federal government should make these services available for all veterans, open up discussions about the future of the facilities, and develop Health Care Centres of Excellence for modern-day veterans, RCMP and their families. These specialized centres could provide a unique model of care to better assist veterans with specific physical and psychological injuries and needs.

Veterans and their families deserve our deepest gratitude for their contributions to our country and for protecting the freedoms we hold so dear. For these brave men and women, Remembrance Day is every day. The least we can do is make sure they receive the support they have earned. Lest we forget.
It's awful hard to argue with now, isn't it?

Here's hoping we will be hearing more of the same from the NDP in the future. And that some of that patriotism and respect and gratitude for our military actually rubs off on Mr. Layton.

That would be a very good thing.

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