By Tom Hoppe
In any election all candidates make promises to win votes. Citizens should not take these election promises to lightly and ask the candidates how they will achieve what they promise. I have seen in most cases a person, or in this case a political party past behaviour will usually dictate their future behaviour, and two items I have heard from the Liberals leads to some questions.
First the announcement by the Liberal leader that if elected he would bring back the monthly pension for injured veterans. I question what Justin means by that statement because under the financial component of the current New Veterans Charter (NVC) an injured veteran who receives a lump sum can request to have the lump sum paid out over monthly payments. Sounds like a great plan, but for most veterans who receive a lump sum around $30-$50,000 mark a lifelong monthly pension would be very small compared to the Pension Act which provided a lifelong pension not a lump sum. The problem that I have seen with the misunderstanding around the monthly pension issue is that people have compared the Pension Act which is a financial component, to the entire NVC which is a transitional legislation. When in reality the Pension Act should only be compared to section 3 (Financial Component) of the NVC; so I ask Justin will he bring back the Pension Act, or only carry on what is already available to veterans under the NVC?
The second question I have for Justin is a statement of pulling our troops out of operations overseas and sending them as trainers. In the past governments will change the terminology of operations to give the perception to the public there is no requirement to properly equip or send proper resources to support the troops.
I remember my overseas tour in Bosnia on what the Liberal government at the time called a peacekeeping mission. While the rest of Canada thought Canadian soldiers were on a peacekeeping mission the reality was many Canadian soldiers were involved in engagements with opposing forces most notably the Princess Patricia Canadian Light infantry who were involved in one of the biggest battles in Croatia since Korean war. During the first few years of the Balkan conflict more than 20 Canadian service members died and hundreds more were wounded. I remember being sent to the Balkans without even a proper helmet or flack vest, the rules of engagement were not suited for the situation and there was limited or no medical air evacuation. Even towards the end of my tour we were told orders from Ottawa had directed that portions of the forward surgical hospital would be closing because we were on a so-called peacekeeping mission with a low threat level. A few weeks before the changes to the hospital were to take place a sniper shot a Canadian solider whose life was saved by the doctors of that forward surgical hospital. The Liberal government at that time kept everything quiet about the Balkans until many years after the conflict was over.
But it was not just the Balkans, I remember during my entire time as a soldier the military was constantly being cut back under the Liberal government. As citizens we should ensure any government that is in power properly equips and supports our military if we as a country are going to send our sons and daughters into a conflict zone. I along with many others do not want to ever witness the loss of any soldier because a government sent them overseas into a situation where they did not have the proper equipment and support. So I ask Justin as a citizen and a decorated soldier who served this country, if he is going to send troops overseas how can we as a nation know the Liberal government will not do what they did in the past with military cuts and guarantee our sons and daughters are going to be properly equipped and supported?
Tom Hoppe MSC, MB, CD, MA -a veteran who has been involved in shaping veterans policy and transition programs for almost two decades and was twice decorated on one tour for bravery and leadership. Tom served as Chair for the Veterans Ombudsman Advisory Council and as National President of the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association. Tom has spoken about veterans issues on documentaries, radio, TV, and authored a book on leadership.