Calgary

Kent Hehr returns to Calgary as minister of veterans affairs

The Calgary MP’s priorities include reopening Veterans Affairs offices closed under Harper government and working on his "Calgary French."

MP told the Calgary Eyeopener he is 'out of the frying pan into the fire'

Calgary MP and Minister of Veterans Affairs, Kent Hehr, in the CBC Calgary studio on Friday. (Danielle Nerman/CBC)

Three hours after he officially became Canada's minister of veterans affairs and associate minister of national defence, Kent Hehr was addressing a crowd at the Canadian War Museum.

"My goodness, talk about out of the frying pan into the fire. And I used my Calgary French on the crowd, which was actually enjoyed," Hehr said.

It was an historic moment — the first time an elected Liberal MP from Calgary had addressed a crowd in Ottawa since 1968.

"That was not lost on me while addressing that audience," Hehr said.

"My grandfather always wanted me to be a minister. Now, it was of  the religious variety, but nevertheless I think he'd be proud of this too."

Helping veterans young and old

Just two days after joining Trudeau's cabinet, Hehr is looking to repair the federal government's relationship with those who served in the Canadian Armed Forces.

He says one of his first priorities is to look at reopening the six Veterans Affairs offices that were closed under the Harper government, then he is going to "get out there and listen."

"We have to look at this in a more holistic fashion that understands that serving in the military is complex and has issues wide-ranging, not only from the individual, but extending to those who they love and interact with," Hehr told the Calgary Eyeopener on Friday.

He says that means giving equal attention to veterans young and old.

"They are people 25, 35, 45 — with a long life to live yet and lots to give back and we have to ensure we're getting them opportunities to reintegrate."

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