Nova Scotia

Veterans urge Premier Stephen McNeil to be stronger ally against Ottawa

A group of Nova Scotia veterans and their families is urging Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil to fight harder on their behalf to improve benefits for injured former military members.

Veterans and families say Trudeau government must do more to help injured former members

David MacLeod, a disabled Afghanistan war veteran, addresses a news conference at the Nova Scotia Legislature in Halifax on Friday. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

"Don't join the Canadian Armed Forces."

That blunt message was delivered Friday by David MacLeod, who wore a blue blazer with his seven service medals pined over his left breast pocket to a news conference at Province House.

"If you get wounded or injured, Veterans Affairs Canada is unwilling or unable to help you," said the Afghanistan war veteran.

MacLeod, joined by Kim Davis and Natasha Mohr, both wives of veterans, and fellow serviceman Medrick Mercer, was at the provincial legislature to urge Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil to fight on their behalf.

'Deeply betrayed and used'

In November, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said hundreds of frontline Veterans Affairs workers were being hired across the country as the department reopened VA offices closed by the previous Conservative government.

But Friday's group said it feels "deeply betrayed and used" by the Trudeau government, which promised to improve services and benefits to veterans. They said the system for dealing with injured vets is worse than when the Conservatives were in power.

Davis said her husband Blair returned from a tour of duty in Bosnia in 1993 with a psychological injury, and now has to rely on the provincial health system to help him. It's a system, she said, that is not ready to handle the complex problems of vets.  

"Our emerg department is now being overloaded," said Davis. 

"Our emerg department is not equipped to deal with this situation. And many veterans are walking out the door frustrated because they're sitting in a waiting room saying that they have suicide ideations and they walk out."

'I'm not buying that'

Former military member Medrick Mercer echoed the call for McNeil, who is also Nova Scotia's minister responsible for military relations, to challenge the federal Liberals to do more.

"We can bring thousands of refugees from foreign countries in a matter of weeks and we can't figure out how to get a military veteran and his family back into the community that they wish to live with the appropriate health-care supports in place?

"I'm sorry folks, I'm not buying that."

McNeil defends record

Premier Stephen McNeil defended his record of advocating on behalf of veterans.

"I think we've been forceful enough," he told reporters not long after the veterans spoke. "We need to continue to push that message and we will."

However McNeil said he agrees with the veterans, that more needs to be done. 

"There's no question there's a need when it comes to post-traumatic stress disorder and we will continue to make sure that we fight for the appropriate level of funding and services for veterans and their families."