Tonight I received a full response to the questions I posed to our Durham candidates. The Liberal candidate, Grant Humes, gave me a verbal response of support with a handshake, but the NDP’s Tammy Schoep replied in writing with the full support of Jack Layton and the NDP Party. First her email message and then her official reply. BONNIE
Email message from the Durham Federal NDP Candidate, Tammy Schoep:
Sorry it took so long for this response. The Party researchers wanted to make sure they got all the answers before they sent this out. It is a very important issue to the NDP. Please circulate the document to anyone that wants it. I would love the opportunity to meet the veterans that you wrote on their behalf, and to hear their stories and concerns.
THE DURHAM FEDERAL NDP CANDIDATE
QUESTIONS TO CANIDATES re: VETERANS’ ISSUES — OFFICIAL RESPONSE
THE DURHAM FEDERAL NDP CANDIDATE
History on the Issue
Ø Jack Layton and New Democrats have been among the strongest and most vocal advocates for the rights of veterans in the House of Commons, and NDP incumbent candidate for Sackville-Eastern Shore, Peter Stoffer, in particular has long championed the fair and respectful treatment of Canada’s Canadian Forces veterans and retired RCMP members. His commitment ensured that he was among the first individuals to receive the new Veterans’ Ombudsman Commendation Award for advancing issues on behalf of veterans and their families, established by Colonel Pat Stogran, Retired.
Responses to Questions:
1. What is your position on – the Enhanced New Veterans Charter, Bill C-55?
- For years Jack Layton’s New Democrats have called for changes to the New Veterans Charter to address the concerns of veterans. We were heartened when Bill C-55, the Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act, was introduced in the House of Commons. It appeared the federal government was at last listening. Unfortunately, it soon became clear that the bill was a very timid response to the calls for change from veterans and the organizations that represent them. Nevertheless, New Democrats felt that certain provisions contained in the bill could help some veterans and did not want to delay any legislation that could provide some measure of assistance. For that reason, we chose to support it. However, New Democrats would like to see the federal government tackle other issues veterans have been drawing attention to, like the unfair claw-back on the Service Income Security Insurance Pan (SISIP), the need for a public inquiry into the years of toxic chemical defoliation programs at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, New Brunswick and the much-needed overhaul of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board – including appointing its members from the military, RCMP and medical personnel to ensure that veterans’ appeals are fairly reviewed by their peers.
2. What is your position on – stopping the lump-sum payments and reverting back to the Pension for Life for veterans’ disabilities?
- New Democrats believe that disabled veterans should have the option to choose how they would like their disability benefits paid out to them. We do not support forcing veterans to accept the lump-sum payment option.
3. What is your position on – the SISIP claw-back?
- The New Democrat veterans’ policy explicitly calls for an end to the profoundly unfair claw-back of the Service Income Security Insurance Plan (SISIP) for medically released members of the CF and former RCMP members. Ending these claw-backs will improve the lives of more than 100,000 veterans and will go a long way toward ensuring that veterans can live with dignity. New Democrats fully support this measure.
4. What is your position on – Veterans losing their disability pensions on reaching age 65?
- New Democrats strongly oppose the loss of the disability pension by a veteran when reaching age 65. We believe that a disability pension is compensation for the pain and suffering caused in the service of their country and as such, it should be paid in full.
5. What is your position on – 54 Bureaucrats being rewarded with a three-day paid vacation and promotions, after invading Veterans private medical and military files?
- New Democrats strongly oppose the invasion of the private medical and military files by the government officials, and we do not believe that the bureaucrats responsible for the invasion of the privacy of veterans’ personal information should receive any benefits arising out of their misdeeds. New Democrats called for a full public inquiry into the Department of Veterans Affairs as evidence mounted that government bureaucrats viewed and shared the personal medical files of at least two Canadian veterans on thousands of occasions.
6. What is your position on – the hiring of more veterans for both VAC and the VRAB including executive positions?
- New Democrats strongly support the idea of complete reform of the VRAB by appointing members to the board and administration who have experience in the Canadian Forces and RCMP or have medical qualifications. We believe this important change will result in a department and an appeals board that is more alert and responsive to the needs of veterans.
7. What is your position on – The CFB Gagetown toxic chemical defoliation program and its victims?
- New Democrats have committed to set aside $7 million to hold a full public inquiry into the use of chemical defoliants at CFB Gagetown. We believe it’s long past time for the government to end the excuses, act in good faith and finally take some action on this issue that has caused pain and suffering for so many individuals and families.
8. Would you support a public inquiry into the use of Toxic chemicals in CFB Gagetown?
- The federal government must respond to veterans’ organizations, spouses and widows who have long demanded a public inquiry into toxic chemical spraying at CFB Gagetown.
9. What is your position on – The hiring of more medically trained people (possibly ex-military medical staff) to sit in the VRAB?
- New Democrats strongly support the idea of hiring members to the board and administration who have experience in the Canadian Forces and RCMP or have medical qualifications, and we have made it a central part of our veterans’ policy in this election.
10. What would you suggest can be done for homeless veterans across Canada?
- New Democrats believe that it is completely unacceptable and shameful that the women and men who have served our country and risked their lives find themselves without the most basic necessities. New Democrats will continue our commitment to address the needs of homeless veterans in Canada through targeted measures delivered by Veterans Affairs Canada.
11. How would you correct the need for veterans and even families of current serving members forced to use food banks in Canada?
- New Democrats are committed to immediately eliminate the clawback on the disability benefits and pensions injured Canadian Forces and RCMP members face.
- Jack Layton and New Democrats will invest $1 million into a “Helmets to Hardhats” program aimed at helping interested veterans transition to the jobs in the construction sector.
- These measures will assist 100,000 veterans and their families. While we believe that this will alleviate some of the financial pressures veterans and their families face, we recognize that a great deal of work remains to be done. New Democrats are committed to working with veterans and their families, the federal government – in particular, VAC and the Department of National Defence – veterans’ organizations and advocates, and other stakeholders to identify other measures to assist veterans.
12. Do you believe that a disability pension should be tax-free?
- Jack Layton and New Democrats believe that disability pension should be tax-free since it is not income, but rather, compensation for the pain and suffering they have experienced in the service of their country.
13. Do you believe that when a soldier is injured to a point of being 100% disabled that it is the correct thing to cut his salary to 75% when, in most cases, they will never be in a position of being employed again?
- Jack Layton and New Democrats believe that this situation is unacceptable and unfair and we are committed to find solutions. We believe that must begin with consulting with veterans and those who work on their behalf and a federal government that is willing to act in good faith.