By Carol Hughes
During Stephen Harper’s ten year run, the battles between veterans and his government were well documented. His government wrapped itself in the flag, claimed to support our troops, but also fought veterans in court.Maybe that’s what garnered more bad press for Harper than his Liberal predecessors, who waged their own penny-pinching battles with veterans.For whatever reason, it is clear that Canadians side with our veterans and want them to be well cared for.This is why it is disconcerting to see the new Liberal government pick up where the Conservative’s left off in a court battle that will affect some of our more recent, wounded vets.
Anyone who was looking for the government to change the page on its raucous relationship with veterans will remember that during the election the Liberals campaigned on a promise that veterans would never have to fight against the government for the support and respect they deserve if their party won power. Now that the election is over and power has been secured, the sanctity of that promise has been compromised – big time.
That’s because the Liberals are continuing to fight a lawsuit that began in 2012, when six wounded Afghan veterans took the government to court to challenge the Conservative’s lump-sum payment scheme which replaced lifetime pensions in 2006. The changes were unpopular with veterans and didn’t gain support among the civilian population either.
There is no doubt this became an election issue the moment the Conservative’s started to argue that the government does not have a “social covenant” with veterans when it comes to providing pensions for injured soldiers. This was a huge about face for Canadian governments. It mobilized veterans who volunteered on Liberal campaigns firm in the belief that Justin Trudeau would keep his word, abandon the court case, and reinstate lifetime pensions. In six short months those promises are in tatters and the veterans are back in court.
Predictably, the government is hiding behind the well-worn excuse that they won’t comment on something that is before the courts, but that can only work for so long. Sooner or later they will have to address broken election promises made to veterans.
Before the election, the Conservatives had already spent $700,000 fighting veterans in court. Now the Liberal government has taken up the fight and even hired the same lawyer the Conservatives had used. Long gone is the notion of any sacred obligation that Canadians have with those who are injured in the service of our nation. Now our government fights our heroes in the courts and hides behind lawyers who do the dirty work. These are bean-counter battles and there is nothing heroic in them at all.
Last year the House of Commons unanimously passed an NDP motion that recognized Canada’s covenant of moral, social, legal, and financial obligation to our veterans. The moment the Liberals picked up the lawsuit it became clear they were just saying anything to appear different from the Conservatives at the time. Our veterans already served their country without reservation, and they shouldn’t have to fight their government for the pensions we all believe they deserve.