Sydney veterans office will reopen even after Minister Kent Hehr sows confusion
Hehr not definitive about locations, but minister's spokesperson insists Sydney will reopen
A spokesperson for the minister of Veterans Affairs says the department will reopen its Sydney office, comments that come after the minister himself sowed confusion on the question.
In interviews, Veterans Affair Minister Kent Hehr has not been definitive on whether nine veterans affairs offices across the country previously closed by the Conservatives would remain in their old communities under a Liberal plan to reopen them.
However, on Friday his spokesperson sought to clear up what would happen.
"The government committed to open the nine offices that were closed recently and the minister is committed to fulfil that promise and reopen all nine offices, including the one in Sydney," Christian Duval said in an interview with CBC News.
"We are looking for different options for real estate, but the nine locations will be similar locations within geographic areas of the nine offices that recently closed."
This echoes the push by Cape Breton-Canso MP Rodger Cuzner, who has insisted the Sydney office will reopen and says the new minister simply needs to get familiar with the file.
"The minister's been on the job for about 15 minutes here," Cuzner says.
Cuzner said he and fellow Cape Breton Liberal MP Mark Eyking fully expect the office that was in Sydney to reopen.
"We fought hard on this issue, and it was part of our platform," Cuzner told Mainstreet Cape Breton on Thursday.
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Reopening the nine closed offices — which provide essential support services to veterans — was a campaign promise of the Liberals after the Conservatives' controversial decision to shutter the offices was met with considerable criticism from veterans advocacy groups.
The nine offices closed by the Conservatives in an effort to cut costs were in Kelowna, B.C., Prince George, B.C., Saskatoon, Brandon, Man., Thunder Bay, Ont., Windsor, Ont., Sydney, N.S., Charlottetown, P.E.I, and Corner Brook, N.L.
Hehr told CBC News Network's Power & Politics on Wednesday that his department was considering location options. In an interview with CBC P.E.I. on Friday, Hehr was unclear.
"Those offices are going to be reopened in my view in the places that best serve our veterans, and the Maritimes and where they have been traditionally, that's what we've committed to," he said.
When pressed on the exact locations, he said: "Well, heck, I've only been in the job 10 days. I don't even know where all those offices were. So I can't list them all off here for you, but I have every confidence we're going to open those offices in a timely manner."
Cuzner said he understands the intention behind Hehr's reticence.
"Is there a better way to deliver these services? Is there an opportunity to provide a greater level of service for our veterans?"
At the same time, he says he and Eyking will put forward "what we believe is expected of the government."
Cuzner said the confusion caused by Hehr's interview is "a risk you run by being available to the Canadian public."