As part of my catching up with gay and lesbian MPs back on the Hill, I caught up with Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, the party's new veteran's affairs critic.
Q: What did you get up to over the break?
A: I had three days off. I went to Sault Ste. Marie for Christmas, celebrated with my parents – Marco and I went. Then immediately afterwards, we went out to Alberta, and I went to a post-traumatic stress disorder clinic in Edmonton to try to figure out what going on with occupational stress injuries. I met with some physiotherapists, psychotherapists, etcetera, in the rehab medicine department. Then I went to a homeless shelter in Calgary and interviewed homeless veterans who stay at the shelter – it’s called the Calgary drop-in. The rest of the time we moved – we sold our house in the fall, then moved on January 11th. We went home and packed, and moved.
Q: You have a new minister opposite you. Any thoughts on Jean-Pierre Blackburn?
A: I don’t know much about him. My disappointment is that he’s not a full-time minister. They’ve replaced a full-time minister, Greg Thompson, with someone who’s a part-time minister – he’s keeping his position as the number two at Agriculture. So I’m disappointed that they’re downgrading that position. I am somewhat relieved that Greg Thompson is gone because Greg Thompson is a very nice man, and it’s always hard to be very critical of a gentleman. I’m looking forward to this.
Q: What’s next on your agenda for this working few weeks?
A: We have a workshop on Thursday on veteran’s issues. We’re really trying to focus a little bit more on new veterans and the Veterans’ Charter and injured veterans and Afghanistan, and a little less on senior citizens and those issues. We’re trying to shift the focus a little bit away from what we called traditional veterans to new veterans. We have speakers coming in to talk about the new veterans charter, which is a lot about disability payments and access to the bureaucracy. Also talking about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and treatment and prevalence. We’ll raise the issue of suicide among Afghan veterans, which is very high – we’ve had over thirty suicides. Also just looking at simply what is the status of new veterans return from Afghanistan, and how are we handling it, and how are we prepared to do it? So that’s Thursday. I’ll be going to the other sessions, but my focus is on that for this week.