During Question Period today, Liberal MP and veterans affairs critic Rob Oliphant asked after the issue of widows and widowers of fallen Canadian Soldiers getting priority for jobs in the public service as was promised by the government, and in his supplemental, broadened out to the topic of homeless veterans and the like. I caught up with him after Question Period to find out a little more.
Q: You mentioned the shelter in Calgary in your question, and I know you went to Calgary to visit there a couple of months ago, so I was wondering if you could tell me a little more about that?
A: I did – I mentioned the Calgary Drop-In, which is the largest homeless shelter in Alberta, I believe – it’s a large, five or six storey shelter in downtown Calgary, and when I was there, I met with homeless veterans. They estimate there could be between twenty or thirty veterans there every night, and several generations of veterans. That’s a concern I continue to raise. I also mentioned the Calgary Poppy Fund food bank, which is a food bank dedicated only to veterans in Calgary, and just the idea that we have a need for a food bank for veterans in Canada, in one of Canada’s richest cities, plus they are veterans is something that this government should be ashamed of. And it’s in the Prime Minister’s backyard, it’s on his watch – that’s why I wanted to raise it.
Q: Are the veterans who use that food bank more traditional ones, or newer ones as well?
A: Both. The issue of pride particularly for some of the older veterans, the so-called traditional veterans, keeps them out of regular food banks – we respect that, we understand that, and it is a wonderful charitable operation that runs on $2 million a year, which is a sizeable operation for veterans in one city if you think about it. They do great charitable work – this is a tremendous number of volunteers who actually care, and it’s open Monday to Friday, nine-to-five, and it does serve them. The older veterans in particularly, who are nervous about going to a regular food bank, there’s a certain amount of dignity in going to Legion-started food bank. But there are from every generation – World War II, Korea, Cold War, and modern vets that are at that food bank.
Q: Minister Day mentioned that he’s got the regulations on the priority postings coming out next month. Are you satisfied by that answer?
A: We didn’t know until today that it was going to be in May. It’s been two years that it’s been promised – it should not take twenty-four months to draft a new regulation. It becomes an issue of priority; it becomes an issue of the machinery of government grinds to a halt when it comes to these things. The Public Service Commission would be more nervous about it because it really affects their jobs and their lives, because they have to find a system for doing it – they don’t seem to be nervous about it at all. It’s the department of justice that’s holding it up according to the Commissioner. Today I just heard it would be in May, so we’ll be watching – this is April, so he’s got six weeks. We’ll see if it’s done. I wouldn’t be surprised if he just started it now. It might take a few days to draft this regulation – what’s going on?