PEI

'I've got a lot to learn': Veterans Affairs minister being briefed in Charlottetown

Canada's newly-minted veterans affairs minister, Seamus O'Regan, is in Charlottetown Friday — being briefed on the department and meeting with Island employees.

'I decided to make it a top priority that I get out here and meet people as quickly as I can'

'We've got a lot of good people who are doing good work on behalf of veterans,' says Seamus O'Regan (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Canada's newly-minted veterans affairs minister, Seamus O'Regan, is in Charlottetown Friday — being briefed on the department and meeting with Island employees. 

O'Regan was named veterans affairs minister on Monday, replacing former minister Kent Hehr.

He spoke with CBC P.E.I.'s Island Morning about his new appointment and veterans affairs on P.E.I.

"I don't think there are many other people in the country who understand the importance of the ministry of veterans affairs to Prince Edward Island," he said.

"Certainly that sunk in with me since Monday and that's why I decided to make it a top priority that I get out here and meet people as quickly as I can." 

'A lot of good people who are doing good work'

O'Regan said he got into politics to help people and that he's inspired by the employees at Veterans Affairs Canada.

"We've got a lot of good people who are doing good work on behalf of veterans," he said.

"Ultimately we are here to serve the veterans of this country and there are a lot of people here in Prince Edward Island that are doing that on behalf of the government of Canada."

O'Regan said the number of case loads is a top issue for his department. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Despite not having military experience himself, O'Regan said he understands what is necessary to be the minister for veterans across the country.

"I think you have to be able to listen to people. I think you have to have empathy and I think you have to be able to work on their concerns."

'If you need help, put up your hand'

The number of caseloads remains a top issue for the ministry.

As it stands, Veterans Affairs Canada estimates the national ratio of caseloads is currently at 31 to 1 and they're hiring more people to help with the near 12,000 current cases.

"I've got a lot to learn. I understand that that is a big issue, the issue of case loads," he said.

"I understand that it's one that we have to improve on obviously and I think we're heading in the right direction according to the data that they've given me."

Having said that, O'Regan said it's just as important to make sure every veteran gets the help they need.

"One thing that I've learned our deputy minister, General Walter Natynczyk, is make sure you encourage people no matter how much further we have to go or how much better we need to be," he said. 

"If you need help put up your hand and we will get you help."

With files from Island Morning

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