Scheer promises increased support for veterans during P.E.I. campaign stop
'You have been betrayed, you deserve better,' Conservative leader says at campaign stop
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer pledged increased support to the country's veterans in a campaign announcement on P.E.I. on Sunday.
Scheer spoke to veterans at Lloyd Inman Memorial Park in Canoe Cove in the morning.
"To every veteran who has struggled and continues to struggle, without the supports and benefits you have earned through your service my message is this: you have been betrayed, you deserve better," he said.
In his announcement, he promised to enshrine in legislation a military covenant between the federal government and veterans to ensure that they are respected and receive the services they require.
He also vowed to clear the backlog of veteran's benefit applications within the next two years.
The Parliamentary Budget Office estimates the promise to clear the application backlog would cost $51 million over two years.
That backlog has been a problem for the federal government for years.
The Liberals have been struggling to work through the stack of benefits applications. As of last December, Veterans Affairs had 27,107 disability claims registered in the system. Of those, 15,421 — 57 per cent of the total — had been waiting in the queue for more than four months.
Trudeau's government hired more frontline staff and committed $42 million over two years to clear up the backlog. But the system has been plagued with issues, including an accounting error that short-changed 270,000 ex-soldiers on their benefits.
I understand that the toll is an impact on families here and so we are hearing that feedback.— Andrew Scheer
In addition, Scheer said he plans to create a new pension system and strengthen services to support discharged or retired members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Scheer also said he wants to launch an inquiry into Armed Forces members who were administered Mefloquine, an anti-malaria medication.
More service dogs in veteran communities and commemoration projects like the National Memorial for Canada's War in Afghanistan were also announced as part of his plan to support veterans.
Easter weighs in
In a statement released Sunday afternoon, Wayne Easter, the Liberal candidate for Malpeque, challenged Sheer's announcement. He said the Conservatives have a record of cutting services and support for veterans.
Easter recalled the closing of nine Veterans Affairs offices, including one on P.E.I., during Stephen Harper's time in office.
Scheer is promising cuts on a five-year timeline, Easter said, with the aim of balancing the budget. But to achieve this, he said, Scheer will need to make billions in cuts.
Apart from his comments about veterans, Scheer touched on plans to help Islanders with the issue of affordability and bridge tolls.
"I understand that the toll is an impact on families here and so we are hearing that feedback," he said.
He said his government would tackle affordability by way of removing the federal carbon tax, lowering personal income taxes and removing GST from home energy bills.
He said there would be more details on his plans to address affordability as his campaign continues.
Shellfish in Charlottetown
Following his announcement in Canoe Cove, Scheer made a stop in Charlottetown for the International Shellfish Festival.
Scheer shucked oysters with P.E.I.'s celebrity chef Michael Smith and sampled various dishes featured at the event before leaving for St. John's.
Scheer's last official visit to P.E.I. was in August. He spoke to Islanders in Cornwall on his plans to repeal the federal carbon tax.
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With files from Travis Kingdon