Jim Lowther and Gary Zwicker are veterans, proud members of the Canadian VA and leaders of the Homeless veterans program in Halifax to create a mission-specific facility for veterans. They were denied access to Stephen Harper‘s rally. Not because of their behavior — both men are seasoned negotiators — but because they represented Canada’s veterans. Clearly Harper’s “suits” were expecting Harper could be embarrassed if these gentlemen tried to raise questions. Shame on Harper! Shame on the Conservatives! BONNIE
Please be aware of “perceptions” the Conservatives use to fool Canadians in their canned response to written questions submitted . WHAT is NOT mentioned:
The two billion dollars Conservatives promise is over FIFTY YEARS!!!!! It’s not immediate.
By STEPHEN MAHER Staff Reporter, “The Chronicle Herald,” Halifax
Tue, Apr 5 – 7:23 AM
A Dartmouth volunteer who helps homeless veterans was turned away from a Stephen Harper election rally last week and the man calls it a slap in the face to those who have been injured in service of their country.
Jim Lowther of the Veterans Emergency Transition Team said he is apolitical but will stand with anyone who promises to help the people he helps: former Canadian Forces members who find themselves living on the street, often as a result of psychological disorders caused by their service.
Lowther has been trying to set up a meeting with Harper to seek help for veterans but has been rebuffed.
On Thursday, he and fellow veterans advocate Gary Zwicker went to the Halterm container pier on the Halifax waterfront hoping to get a few minutes with Harper, or at least to watch his speech. But a Conservative staffer in a suit and tie denied them entry at the gate.
“We said we were veterans and we wanted to listen to what he had to say,” Lowther said. “And we were turned away.”
A small group of Conservative politicians, staffers and hand-picked supporters formed the audience for Harper during his Halifax visit. Access to his events is typically strictly controlled.
Subsequently, Lowther stood with NDP Leader Jack Layton on Saturday and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff on Monday when they campaigned in Halifax-Dartmouth and made election promises to do more for veterans.
Lowther does street-level outreach, trying to help veterans living on the street, a problem he became aware of while volunteering during a dinner program at St. Andrews United Church in Halifax.
“I ran into a vet who was there getting something to eat,” Lowther said. “I said, ‘What the hell are you doing here?’ He said, ‘Getting something to eat.’ He pointed to four other guys, other veterans.”
Lowther learned that many veterans, particularly those suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder, end up on the street, struggling with alcohol and drug addiction.
“I was gobsmacked,” he said. “I said, ‘That’s it.’ I said, ‘I’m selling the house. I’m going to buy a big house to put the veterans in.’ My wife said, ‘You’d better come up with another plan.’ ”
Lowther and Zwicker flanked Ignatieff on Monday morning as he announced a campaign promise to provide four years of free college or university education for current and future members of the Canadian Forces. The program would cost $120 million for two years.
“If you served your country, we think that helping you get a great post-secondary education is the least that a grateful country can do,” Ignatieff said.
Lowther said he likes the concept.
“It’s a great idea, and I wish when I got out that I had been able to do four years of university,” he said.
On Saturday, he and Zwicker stood with other veterans in Dartmouth as Layton announced a series of campaign promises aimed at helping veterans, including an end to a pension clawback on disability benefits.
Col. Pat Stogran, the former veterans ombudsman, denounced the “so-called Harper government” for turning its back on veterans.
In an emailed statement, the Conservatives defended their record.
“We meet with veterans all the time,” the party said. “We take the care, services and financial support of our military personnel, past and present, and their families seriously.
“We have enhanced support for veterans and their families, including $2 billion for veterans who have been seriously injured in service, $282 million to expand the Veterans Independence Program for surviving family members and $10 million per year in five new stress-injury clinics.”
The Conservatives have promised a Helmets-to-Hardhats program to help veterans get jobs in the construction industry. And they take credit for increasing spending on equipment.
“We also owe it to the men and women of the Canadian Forces to provide them with the best equipment available, reversing the Liberal record that Gen. Rick Hillier called ‘a decade of darkness.’ ”
Lowther said he would still like to meet with Harper to discuss the plight of homeless veterans.