Harper, Nicholson, Fantino & MacKay: There’s No “Bread” - Let Veterans Eat Cake

Harper, Nicholson, Fantino & MacKay: There’s No “Bread” - Let Veterans Eat Cake

As published in the Media Co-op: May 28, 2014

“Nothing over the centuries has more often been urged than the social rewards of hardship, urged by those who will not have to suffer it.”

The Department of National Defense has a unique approach to fiscal restraint. Recent events at DND seem to indicate that executive entitlement grows in direct proportion to the Conservative government’s diminishing concern for the needs of veterans and their families. During a September, 2013 sendoff for former Defense Minister Peter MacKay, the current Justice Minister and a party of senior mandarins dined on $1425 worth of publicly-subsidized lobster, Beef Wellington and bacon-wrapped scallops while Generals took the afternoon off and a military band provided musical entertainment for the feasting luminaries.

While Harper and the entire cadre of MPs and Senators are enjoying pay raises and the comforting prospect of massively-subsidized pensions; the government is busy closing Veterans Affairs offices, cashiering wounded soldiers months before pension eligibility, ignoring the Veterans’ Ombudsmen and attempting to claw back disability pension payments to retired soldiers. Veterans and their families are well-justified in their cynical attitude to the conduct of the current government. Recently, Defence Minister Nicholson was shamed into providing funding to the parents of Afghanistan fatalities to facilitate their travel to memorial services in Ottawa. As I write, government lawyers are busy arguing that the state owes no special obligation to veterans.

That being said, while the previous Liberal regime was no friend to veterans, they generally avoided the galling hypocrisy of Harper’s militaristic rhetoric. The Conservatives seem more interested in pomp and ceremony than providing genuine support to our serving military members and veterans. Evidence of this trend includes Harper’s recent success at re-introducing “royal” designations to the navy and air force and spending $75 million public dollars on Royal Jubilee medals; most of which were automatically awarded to politicians, senior bureaucrats and wealthy Conservative donors.

Obviously, the government of Canada; or at least DND, has money to spare on real priorities like gourmet food and monarchist decorations. Caring for veterans and their families has become a nuisance to the Harper regime. This attitude is nothing new. From the time of the Romans; soldiers have routinely been swept aside after surviving their dangerous duties. I challenge all MPs and Senators to explain why none of their military-aged children have served in Afghanistan or even volunteered for a combat arms unit. As usual, the spirit of sacrifice is notably absent among Canada’s political “elite”.