Military veterans frustrated by what they feel is ill-treatment by Veterans Affairs Canada have launched a long-promised campaign to try to oust the Conservative government of Stephen Harper.
The Anyone But Harper/Anyone But Conservative, or ABC, campaign was launched symbolically on Monday in front of the VA office in Sydney that was closed last year.
It was one of nine veteran support offices shuttered by the department.
Army veteran Ron Clarke of North Sydney decided to start the ABC campaign last year, with the intention of mobilizing veterans after an election call.
"Frustration by years of cutbacks, lack of support for returning soldiers. Canada's veterans are taking their battle to the political arena," he said at a news conference Monday morning.
"They are calling on Canadians, all Canadians, to support veterans by voting against Stephen Harper's Conservative government. This is our time to put the terrible treatment of Canada's heroes on the political landscape."
Clarke said the closure of VA offices is just one of many issues facing vets as a result of decisions by the Conservative government.
"What's important to vets is that we get a fair shake from the government," he explained. "We need to get rid of a lot of things that are in the Veterans Charter and reinstate the monthly pension rather than one lump sum."
Clarke says veterans are planning a national presence until the election with rallies, television ads, lawn signs, mailouts and a Facebook page.
"We hope to achieve that by letting the public know that we need their help, as well as the veterans and their families," said Clarke.
The Conservative candidate for Sydney-Victoria, John Douglas Chiasson, said that four full-time case managers are being hired to assist veterans in Sydney, as well as 250 caseworkers and VAC staff across Canada.
"The contributions of Sgt (Ret'd) Ron Clarke to the Canadian Forces are deeply appreciated by all Canadians," said Chiasson.
"A Veterans Affairs Canada worker has been assisting military veterans and their families out of Sydney's Service Canada office."