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View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you.
I want to thank our witnesses for being here this evening. I know some of you were there last evening. We've had some very good testimony from our witnesses. As I mentioned in my opening remarks yesterday, what we have in front of us as a committee, and what we will ultimately have in front of us in the House when the bill goes back to the House, are very concrete measures that are aimed at benefiting veterans. When they pass into law, veterans will benefit from these measures.
Your testimony is much appreciated. It is acknowledged that this is not the end of the work. In other words, this is not the end of the line. This is a beginning, in a sense, but the measures are very concrete in nature.
What I've heard most witnesses say is that they support the measures as they are presented. They might have suggested changes, but they support what is contained within the legislation moving forward so that veterans will actually benefit.
Perhaps I'll just ask Mr. Blackwolf. Would it be an accurate representation of your position that what is in front of us would be of benefit to veterans and should move forward?
View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much, Chair.
Maybe I'll just start by commenting. Mr. Chicoine said that the ombudsman had said these were half-hearted steps. I want to clear the record; that's not what he said at all. I have his remarks in front of me. He said:
The proposed legislation represents significant progress on several issues of longstanding concern to veterans and their families. Because it is narrowing the gap on needed changes, it is important that it pass quickly and be implemented without delay.
That's what he actually said.
If I heard each of your testimonies correctly—and I appreciate everything you had to say to the committee—when you look at the legislation itself and the key measures contained within it, what I heard each of your organizations say is that you too support the measures within the legislation, that you too recommend that it pass as quickly as possible so that veterans can benefit from what is actually contained within the legislation. Is that correct?
View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
Sure, absolutely. The minister's here, but if he were not here I would still say that I think it's fair to say that the minister has said that the Veterans Charter does not stand still. It is a living document. There is always work that needs to be done. There are gaps that need to be filled, but these steps are important steps.
Let me highlight one of those important steps. The critical injury benefit is significant, I feel—$70,000 dollars tax free. And of course it's for a veteran who is injured and suffers that injury from a significant event related to service.
I wanted to ask the legion your thoughts on this critical injury benefit. I don't believe it's something you had asked for specifically, but there it is. It's in the legislation. I think it's a good sum of money to help a veteran cope with having sustained a serious injury in a single traumatic event, but could I have your comments on that?
View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
Okay.
I'll just comment on your point because it came up in one of the presentations as well that all the details aren't there. I would say it is part of the legislative process, in a sense. There is just sort of a rhythm to how things are implemented.
The first key steps are securing the funding, passing the legislation, and then of course the regulations follow. Before regulations are implemented, there is consultation; they are gazetted, and there's feedback. Actually the regulatory process allows flexibility because I think you might have valid concerns.
If everything were locked down in legislation and the only way you could make a change was to put it right back through the legislative process, you might say that's a bit rigid, can't we have a bit more flexibility to accommodate such and such a circumstance, or such and such a changing situation? I think that's why the regulatory process is there. It doesn't have to go through the full legislative process again. The regulatory process is meant to be very responsive.
So, yes, there will be some details that will follow, but I would say that I feel these initiatives are put forward in good faith, are meant to benefit our veterans, and there's a consultative process that will take place before the regulations are finally promulgated in their published form.
View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
Debbie Lowther, did your organization have a chance to look at the critical injury benefit? Did you have any comment you wanted to make on that particular benefit?
View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
I think it's targeting seriously injured veterans.
Am I done, Chair? Thank you so much, Chair.
View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much, and thank you to our witnesses.
I have not heard a single MP around this table or a single MP in the House of Commons limit future initiatives. I have just not heard anyone give any indication whatsoever that once this legislation is passed, that's it.
I've heard the exact opposite. I've heard it's a living document, and that these are great first steps. Some political football is being played, and just to give you an example, the opposition is asking what has taken so long. We even heard that tonight. The government, through the minister, picks some key initiatives, six, seven, eight of them, announces them, puts them into legislation. Some of them have already been delivered, for example, the better access to the PIA, the respect for reserves. So the minister takes some key initiatives and moves forward faster.
Why aren't you doing more? What's taking so long?
I want to remind everybody on this committee that there's very real legislation sitting in front of committee right now that's going to be back in the House with very real benefits and initiatives for veterans, and there are veterans who will benefit from them. I think we have to keep that first and foremost in our minds, especially if we're trying to put the veteran at the centre of everything, because we can play a little game and say if only it were different, then I would vote for it.
Yes, but what about the veteran who is eligible for one of these new benefits? When this passes into law, are you saying tough luck for him because it wasn't quite the way you wanted it. That's part of the political consideration that has to be, I think, swept aside, so we focus on what is in front of committee and what is in front of Parliament. That leads me to my question.
Mr. Blais, I'll open with you. I'd like to know what your advice is to MPs on this committee about this legislation, these measures that I consider to be very real benefits for very real veterans: to vote for them, to support this, to pass this quickly?
View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Chair, if I may, there is nothing I said in my statement that was political. I'm talking about very real legislation that is in front of the House, and the legislation is actually in black and white, and it has to be voted on. So MPs are going to have to—
View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
It's not a point of order, Frank. Don't waste our time like this.
View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
I'm just wondering if I can get a clarification on your answer. What would your recommendation be to the committee on how to deal with this legislation here and in the House?
View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
That's good.
Thank you.
I'd like to build in Mr. Derryk Fleming's response as well.
Are you still with us, Mr. Fleming?
View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
Good. I appreciate your hanging in there. It's hard when you're not actually physically present in the room.
I would like to ask you the same question. When you look at the legislation that's in front of the committee and Parliament, what would your recommendation be with respect to how that legislation is handled when it comes time to vote?
View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
Great. Thank you very much.
View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you to our guests for being here to talk about this important legislation. I'm very happy it's included in the budget implementation act. I'm glad we have it here in front of the committee so that we're able to discuss the different aspects of it.
The first question I'd like to ask has to do with the purpose clause. You mentioned it in your opening remarks. I think it would be of interest to all members. I think the terminology that's been used in the purpose clause is terminology that all MPs have been seeking. I'm wondering if you could elaborate on that a bit.
View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much. Actually, Chair, I'd like to read the paragraph quickly, because I think there are people who might be listening to this committee but who don't have the legislation in front of them.
The purpose clause, as I read it in the legislation, is as follows:
The purpose of this Act is to recognize and fulfil the obligation of the people and Government of Canada to show just and due appreciation to members and veterans for their service to Canada. This obligation includes providing services, assistance and compensation to members and veterans who have been injured or have died as a result of military service and extends to their spouses or common-law partners or survivors and orphans. This Act shall be liberally interpreted so that the recognized obligation may be fulfilled.
Thank you for your indulgence. I just wanted to have that on the record. I think that supports the explanation we just received.
I would also like to ask a question about the caregiver amount. I think this is an important initiative for the spouses or family members of veterans who in fact care for them. Even though the veteran may be receiving home care through Veterans Affairs, this is an additional benefit to family members. I'm wondering if you could perhaps explain—I believe the amount is a little over $7,000, tax-free—who that amount is paid to. Is it paid to the veteran, or is it paid to a specific family member?
View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
Does a veteran have to apply for it? For example, if one of their family caregivers is planning some time away to recharge, do they need to fill out an application form to say they'd now like to apply for this caregiver amount?
View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
Are there receipts that have to be submitted? For example, if the family member decides that plan A is best to recharge their energy and refresh them to come back into a situation of looking after their loved one, while someone else might decide it's plan B or plan C, is the department involved in any type of approval process, or is it entirely up to the veteran and their family caregivers how they use that money to rejuvenate?
View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Chair.
Perhaps you could explain something to the committee and to those who are listening. We have what I call important initiatives for veterans. They're in the budget implementation act before Parliament. We're going to be reporting it back to the House. Of course, every indication is that it will pass through Parliament before we rise for the summer, and it will go to the Senate.
Could you give us an indication of the implementation time once this has passed through the Senate, especially for these financial benefits?
View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you.
Thanks, Chair.
View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Chair. To our witnesses, thank you for being here.
Actually, it's an interesting discussion. Let me just ask a question about that.
I think the ombudsman made a good point that a lot of these circumstances are very personal, meaning they are unique to the individual who is being considered for benefits. For example, sometimes it's easy to think that the ELB, which is at 70%, should be at 80%, should be at 90%, should be at 100%, but there are other benefits too that a veteran may have access to. It's very individual.
For example, if someone is a moderately to seriously injured veteran, is the disability award being taken into consideration there? That can be quite a large lump sum payment up to $300,000. In addition to that, there's the SISIP payment for dismemberment. If a member lost an arm, lost an eye, lost two eyes, lost an arm and a leg, there could be a significant lump sum payment that is in addition to any type of ELB they would receive.
The third thing I would mention of course is the military pension. It is true some soldiers are young and may not be in the pensionable window, but there are others who are and would receive their military pension.
I think there are a lot of factors. If I may, let me ask the ombudsman about that.
When you're advocating a position for the ELB, for example, are you taking into consideration these other benefits to which a veteran may be eligible?
View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
If I may, I would bring it to the legislation and what's in this legislation.
I really appreciated your remarks, and I particularly appreciated your fairness principles of adequacy, sufficiency, and accessibility, and how you looked at what's in the legislation. You defined what's in the legislation through your fairness principles.
I don't think anybody feels the work is now done and that's that. I think these are just important steps. They are milestone steps in terms of moving forward.
I would ask the ombudsman from that perspective, is your recommendation to committee members to actually pass this legislation so these new benefits can be implemented?
View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
Great. Thank you.
Let me ask Mr. Forbes the same question, because I think this is a critical question. I think depending on who you speak to and what their emphasis is in terms of delivering benefits, there's much more that can be done in any one, two, three, or uncountable areas. However, this is a very defined bill, and it has very concrete measures in it, concrete measures in terms of financial benefits that will be delivered to veterans.
I understand you want more. I understand from your remarks that you're not happy with what's in there, but is your advice to committee members to support this legislation so it passes into law and will actually deliver these benefits to veterans?
View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Chair.
Just as the meeting is winding down, I'd like to make a proposal to the committee. I think we all agree this is important legislation. A few days ago, I had offered to the committee that we have extra meetings. I was suggesting two extra meetings to make sure we hear from the most number of witnesses as possible. The opposition gratefully accepted one extra meeting, which is the meeting we're going to have tonight.
Mr. Chair, what I'd like to do is propose the second meeting for Wednesday evening, for just one hour. I say that because I believe there are four witnesses we haven't been able to schedule into the two meetings we're having, and this will give them an opportunity to talk about the legislation and what's in front of us. As I mentioned, certainly from our perspective on this side, it's important that we hear from as many witnesses as we possibly can.
I'd like to put that out to the committee, that we host one more meeting—a one-hour meeting, not a two-hour meeting—on Wednesday night.
View Pierre Lemieux Profile
CPC (ON)
It is short notice. It's meant to be accommodating to witnesses. They're not our witnesses.
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