All posts tagged Walter Semianiw

Prime Minister Harper: Thank you for Julian Fantino

Dear Prime Minister Harper:

Gosh, the Veterans Affairs portfolio has been difficult hasn’t it? I don’t think you have received enough credit however for appointing Julian Fantino as the Department’s Minster. He has been a blessing in disguise to Canada’s disabled veterans and their families.

Canadians, particularly veterans, may be widely repulsed by the constant shenanigans of Minister Fantino. I suspect that being the veteran and military champion you claim to be, you had a hidden plan to bring substantive change to that poorly managed department. Our senior public servants and their policies are largely integrity, compassion, transparency and innovation challenged.  Those at Veterans Affairs (VAC) are arguably the worst of the lot.

Back to Minister Fantino. Many believe you appointed the highly controversial ex-police chief because he could somehow command order amongst those ungratefully vocal veterans who dared exercise the very rights for which they sacrificed in uniform. You know, I am referring to those pesky fundamental freedoms of expression, association, peaceful assembly and the press.

Just as Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn noted following the widespread breaches in my privacy in 2010, VAC all alone in Charlottetown needed a change in culture. Rightly bringing the department back to Ottawa would be a rather large budget line.… Read the rest

Feds love veterans for photo ops, but not so much as ‘a budget line’

Sean Bruyea

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has expressed his admiration for America.  Explosive scandals in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the rapid response provide a powerful teachable moment for the PM and the “hero” of Canada’s own veteran scandals, Minister Julian Fantino.

Although longstanding, wait times for healthcare from the U.S. VA exploded over the past two months. VA medical doctor turned whistleblower Dr. Sam Foote came forward with allegations that certain VA medical facilities were “cooking the books” resulting in much longer than reported wait times and at least 40 veteran deaths. The scandal quickly widened. The powerful oversight body, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), sent investigators to 69 of the 152 hospitals and approximately 800 outpatient clinics managed by the US VA.

Washington is not waiting. Under Secretary of the VA, Robert Petzel, quickly resigned. The American Legion played a key role in having Secretary Eric Shinseki’s resign shortly thereafter also calling for criminal investigations. The FBI initiated those investigations last week. Other veterans groups have widely condemned the VA, organizing public demonstrations and speaking to the media.

Meanwhile, an otherwise deadlocked Capitol Hill rapidly pushed through numerous pieces of potent bipartisan legislation.… Read the rest

Parliament Has No Obligation to Fight for Veterans, even though Veterans Fight and Die for Us

Sean Bruyea

In the coming days, Parliament will release a highly-controversial report on the embattled veterans legislation known as the New Veterans Charter (NVC). Will this report help repair or will it contribute to the immense broken trust government has provoked within an increasingly-disillusioned veteran community?

The forthcoming report is part of a legally-mandated “comprehensive review” in spite of the attempt by the minister claiming that he personally called for this review. Such politicking of veterans’ issues has plagued far too much of the Conservative questioning during the hearings. In place of substantive investigation, many Conservative members of committee, such as Parliamentary Secretary Parm Gill, have asked politically rhetorical questions, especially of those witnesses who questioned the government’s inaction: “Can you tell us you are aware that more money is spent today under the new Veterans Charter than under the Pension Act?”

The question was directed to Jim Scott who heads up Equitas Society, which is spearheading a lawsuit claiming the NVC violates fundamental Canadian rights while disadvantaging those veterans under the new legislation compared to the previous Pension Act. Scott obviously did not have internal departmental statistics, leaving this categorically incorrect assertion uncontested. However, in 2012-13, Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) paid out $1.6-billion under the Pension Act and only $552.3-million under the New Veterans Charter.… Read the rest