Exempt Veterans Affairs from cuts, urges MP

Charlottetown Liberal MP Sean Casey says he will be voting in favour of an NDP motion to stop federal cuts to Veterans Affairs Canada.

Charlottetown Liberal MP Sean Casey says he will be voting in favour of an NDP motion to stop federal cuts to Veterans Affairs Canada.

The motion, expected to be raised in the House of Commons Tuesday at 6:45 p.m. AT, would exempt the department from budget cuts, helping ensure veterans don’t see any changes in their services or pensions.

"It's not right for the deficit to be balanced on the backs of our heroes," said Casey.

"We're trying to urge the government to follow an example set in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia. They have all exempted their veterans departments from cuts."

Federal documents show VAC plans to cut more than $226 million from its budget in the coming years.

The department has also been asked to cut an additional five to 10 per cent from its budget, just like every other department, to help wipe out the federal deficit.

Casey said he doesn’t expect the NDP motion will have Conservative support.

"I do expect that they will vote against it," he said. "But if they vote for it, they will say it means something it doesn't.

"I expect that Veterans Affairs workers on Prince Edward Island will, and should, feel as vulnerable as ever at the end of the day."

Even if the government supports the motion, it may not mean VAC is in the clear, cautioned UPEI political scientist Don Desserud.

"The resolution's not binding on their policies and how you define excluding one group from another is difficult to prove," he said. "Budgets are complicated affairs."

The union that represents the department’s employees has said the expected cuts could mean hundreds of job losses in Charlottetown.

Government officials have said they expect most job losses will be handled through attrition.

And because the number of living veterans is declining, the government says it can afford to trim the department’s budget without affecting the services it provides.

"We are providing them with the tools they need and the money they need," said Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney.