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Liberal Veterans Affairs critic Sean Casey wants the Conservative government to hold public meetings on budget cuts to the department. ((CBC))

Liberal Veterans Affairs Critic Sean Casey called on the government Thursday to allow the Veterans Affairs Committee to perform a full and transparent review of proposed cuts to the department.

"The Conservatives like to wrap themselves in the flag and pretend they are the only party that cares about veterans," Casey said in a news release.

"But their apparent desire to cancel public hearings only confirms how disingenuous they really are. It’s clear they are concerned only about themselves, their image and government secrecy."

Charlottetown MP Casey, and Liberal Senator Roméo Dallaire held a news conference in Ottawa to complain about cuts to the office.

The Conservative government is cutting $226 million from Veterans Affairs budget, Casey said, over and above the planned Strategic Review. That will result in a further loss of between $175 million and $350 million, he said, and the department has already confirmed they will be getting rid of 500 employees.

Casey said the Conservatives have forced the Veterans Affairs Committee behind closed doors, barring the public from its proceedings.

"With up to half a billion dollars in cuts coming to the VAC and with 500 fewer employees in the department, it is highly unlikely that this department will have the human or financial resources to deliver services to our veterans they need and deserve," he said.

"Yet, the Conservative members of the committee don’t even have the courage to face veterans in a public forum. This decision to run and hide insults veterans and embarrasses all members of the Committee."

The Veterans Ombudsman and many veterans’ organizations, including the Royal Canadian Legion, have expressed concern over the cuts, Casey said.

Those organizations refute the claim made by the government that the number of veterans in Canada is declining, he said.

"We make a promise to our veterans. For risking their lives in the service of this country, we promise our men and women in uniform that when they come home we will be there for them to honour their service and provide support for them and their families," Casey said.

"This commitment should never be compromised for the sake of fulfilling an election promise."