Time to bring veterans' concerns to Ottawa

Originally published on Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 in the Brandon Sun.

I am writing in response to Martin Haller's letter: "Gov't Making It More Difficult" (Brandon Sun, Feb. 14). I would like to publicly thank Mr. Haller for his dedication and commitment to Canada's veterans and I want to take this opportunity to offer a brief response to his comments.

Just recently, Mr. Haller forwarded a concern regarding a local veteran to my office and within 24 hours, my staff was able to begin working with that veteran to resolve his concerns. This is exactly the sort of teamwork that residents of Brandon-Souris expect from engaged citizens, like Mr. Haller, and their elected officials.

Now with respect to Mr. Haller's letter, he is quite right to point out that we are investing new money to enhance online services provided to veterans. Our government heard loud and clear that many veterans prefer to access information and programs using the online portal. At the same time, we are making it easier to access information and guidance about Veterans Affairs Canada programming in-person.

As a result of our federal government's reforms, veterans in Brandon-Souris will now be able to access in-person assistance by trained federal employees in new locations, where doing so was previously not possible. Rather than being forced to travel into Brandon or Shilo, Service Canada employees will now also offer Veterans Affairs Canada information and guidance at local rural offices in Deloraine, Virden, Carberry and Killarney.

I have spoken out before and will continue to do so: I believe there are legitimate areas requiring improvement at Veterans Affairs Canada. In fact, as reported in the Brandon Sun, I will be hosting a roundtable this Sunday, Feb. 23 from 2 p.m.-4 p.m. at Canad Inns in Brandon to seek recommendations in connection with the federal government's ongoing review of the New Veterans Charter.

I believe that bringing the concerns of local veterans to Ottawa is very important. Recommendations put forward by participants at the Brandon-Souris roundtable will be presented to the federal government and members of the House of Commons' Veterans Affairs Committee. I'm pleased that MP Laurie Hawn, who is a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee and a former RCAF veteran himself, will be joining the roundtable to offer insight and answer questions. The roundtable is open to the public, but you must RSVP by emailing [email protected] or by calling 204-726-7600.

Finally, in response to Mr. Haller's complaints about the recent federal budget, I would like to quickly point out that new funding was announced which will benefit all residents of Brandon-Souris, including local seniors and our large community of veterans. First, the minister of finance confirmed the Building Canada Plan will direct approximately $1.2 billion in federal funding to infrastructure projects in Manitoba.

The budget also contained new funds for a National Disaster Mitigation Program, which will support investments to, among other things, control floods. As mentioned in the Brandon Sun, the budget included a new apprentice loan program which was applauded by the president of Assiniboine Community College. Finally, funding will be provided to improve access to broadband in rural areas.

Our federal government is getting back to a balanced budget and is doing so without cutting transfer payments to the provinces for critical services like healthcare, like the Liberals did in the 1990s.

Larry N. Maguire, MP

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