Bill C-27 to prioritize hiring vets 'a hollow promise,' says advocate

A proposed law that would put the applications of Canadian military veterans at the top of the pile for jobs in the federal bureaucracy is unlikely to change much, according to one veterans' advocate.

Hiring freeze takes wind out of proposed legislation, says Jerry Kovacs with Canadian Veterans Advocacy

Gov. Gen. David Johnston inspects a guard of honour on Parliament Hill in Ottawa in May 9. A bill working its way through Parliament would give priority to veterans seeking to make the transition to the public service, but one advocate is criticizing the lack of available jobs. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

A proposed law that would put the applications of Canadian military veterans at the top of the pile for jobs in the federal bureaucracy is unlikely to change much, according to one veterans' advocate.

Jerry Kovacs, commenting on Bill C-27, said priority hiring means little when the federal public service is in the midst of a hiring freeze.

"In theory, it's a good bill ... initiatives to hire veterans are good initiatives," said Kovacs, the director of Canadian Veterans Advocacy.

"[But] if there are no jobs, how can there be any priority hiring? So it's kind of a hollow promise."

Bill C-27 would grant priority to members of the Canadian Armed Forces who were released for medical reasons, and also allow active and released members with at least three years of service to apply for jobs normally reserved for internal candidates within the public service.

The bill has had two readings in the House of Commons and is with the standing committee on veterans affairs.

Committee member Peter Stoffer, an NDP MP, said there is broad support for the bill both in the House and with the Senate.

"Hopefully before Christmas, the bill becomes law," he said.

Hiring process lengthy in public service

However, Kovacs said the hiring process in the federal public service is long, and that including applications, screening and examinations, the process can take years — too long to transition into a new job for anyone, let alone medically released veterans.

"I think this is all political motivation ... to give the appearance they're doing something, when in fact, they're not," said Kovacs, who adds that his group and others like it were not asked to speak on the bill.

Kovacs also notes that for years, medically released military personnel have already had an opportunity to be put on a priority list established by the Public Service Commission.

But he says Veterans Affairs Canada, a department he feels should be hiring vets, often does not.

CBC put in several requests to Veterans Affairs Canada to find out how many military veterans currently work inside the department.

After more than a week, the department has provided no response.

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