John Ibbitson writes a piece in today's printed edition of the Globe and Mail titled, Tories mull shrinking Veterans Affairs as old soldiers fade away. In it the columnist explores the possibility of doing away with the Department of Veteran's Affairs as the government grapples with diminishing numbers of Vets and the deficit.
The Macdonald-Laurier Institute's Brian Lee Crowley provided a very thoughtful take on the issue as part of the Ibbitson column. It is safe to say that Brian's analysis outlines precisely the conundrum that the government faces.
"Two competing principles are at work here," observes Brian Lee Crowley of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute for Public Policy, an Ottawa think tank.
"On the one hand, we have great pressures on the government to reduce spending, and so abolishing the Department of Veterans Affairs might result in some administrative savings, say by rolling it into the Department of National Defence," he said.
"On the other hand, if there is one group to whom the country owes an undeniable debt of gratitude that should be manifested in solicitous attention to their needs, it would be those who risked their lives on behalf of the country. I tend to come down on this side of the conflict."
From my perspective, having worked at the Department of National Defence, Brian is coming down on the right side of this issue. The Government of Canada needs to look long and hard at the lasting impact that our involvement in Afghanistan will have on the lives of our current Canadian Forces and their families before pulling the plug on Veteran's Affairs. And, whatever is decided, we must keep the needs of our brave soldiers and their families at the top of the list of considerations.
There are many ways government can save money…let's not start on the backs of our true heroes.