Opposition parties and unions have lately played deplorable political games on the back of our veterans. As the proud daughter of a veteran and a long-time member of the Royal Canadian Legion, and also as regional minister for P.E.I., I would like to clarify some facts.
The most important point for me has always been and will always be to ensure that our veterans and their families have access to all the services and support that they need and greatly deserve. To achieve that, our government has never hesitated to invest when and where required. That‚Äôs why between 2006 and 2014, the Veterans Affairs Canada budget has risen from $2.8 billion to $3.64 billion.
I heard criticisms saying that P.E.I. is now the only province without a regional VAC office. Unfortunately these people always fail to mention that we are the only province with the department‚Äôs headquarters, where there is now an access centre for veterans.
Historically, 34 per cent of VAC employees have worked out of the Charlottetown headquarters. By 2016, that number will be 37 per cent. As such, the important role that the people of Charlottetown and P.E.I. play in supporting the veterans of our country is increasing. We should all be extremely proud of that.
In addition, there are several other ways for veterans and their families to get information about VAC‚Äôs programs and services or submit applications for veterans independence and disability benefits programs: six Service Canada sites on P.E.I.; a 1-800 number; Veterans Affairs Canada website; and ‚ÄúMy VAC Account‚ÄĚ. A VAC agent will also be assigned to the Service Canada office at 191 University Avenue in Charlottetown.
On P.E.I., there are just over 60 veterans requiring case management services out of a total of around 2,200 veterans receiving benefits and services from VAC. Case-managed veterans continue to have access to the same personalized visits from VAC case managers, whether in their own home or at a location of their choice.
Like the Veterans Ombudsman, I urge all parties to stop partisan games and self-interest promotion on the back of our veterans. We owe our veterans an enormous debt of gratitude. They have put their lives on the line to fight for our rights and freedom. In return we should all work together to honour them and ensure that their evolving needs are answered.
Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and Regional Minister for P.E.I.
MP for Egmont