Veterans Affairs funding slashes raise concern about local jobs

Teresa Wright
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Department of Veterans Affairs

The Department of Veterans Affairs is planning to cut over $222 million from its budget over the next two years, a move that some believe will have a huge impact on employees in Charlottetown.

The cuts are outlined in the department's plans and priorities report, which details spending and programming plans up to 2014.

The biggest budget reductions will be in compensation and financial support for ex-soldiers.

The report discusses "significant demographic shifts in the Veteran population," with many Second World War and Korean War veterans passing away while new, younger vets are emerging from current conflicts with challenges much different than the department has traditionally tackled.

"This document forecasts a reduction of spending," Veterans Affairs spokesperson Janice Summerby wrote in an email to The Guardian.

"The sad reality is that the number of Second World War and Korean War veterans and survivors of "traditional" veterans is declining and we anticipate a corresponding decrease in the number of this group who will be accessing benefits from Veterans Affairs Canada."

While no staffing reductions are mentioned in the report, some believe this will be the inevitable next step.

The current cuts don't include those that will come from the Harper government's current Strategic Operating Review that is looking to slash five to 10 per cent of spending in all departments and agencies.

The VAC's budget is roughly $3.5 billion a year.

Charlottetown MP Sean Casey said Monday he believes the current cuts will have a negative impact for employees of the Veterans Affairs headquarters in Charlottetown.

"This is really bad news," Casey said in an interview. "Charlottetown will be impacted. No question about it."

He said the buzzword "transformation agenda" has been circulating within the department, referring to a decentralization of services from the Charlottetown offices into individual military bases.

"They deny to me that ‘transformation agenda' is code for cuts... but what that means is, we're going to be seeing less in Charlottetown and more on the military bases across this country, so big changes are afoot for Veterans Affairs Canada under this government," Casey said.

"I'm extremely concerned that we're going to see a significant downsizing in the short to medium term at Veterans Affairs headquarters."

No one from the federal department was made available to The Guardian for an interview, but an email response did mention a commitment to the Charlottetown headquarters.

"The department will continue to ensure it has the right people with the right skills in the right places to meet the needs of veterans of all ages. That includes maintaining its important presence in Charlottetown," Summerby wrote.

Liberal P.E.I. Senator Percy Downe echoed Casey's concerns.

Downe pointed out that at least one VAC job was already moved out of P.E.I. when the director of communications position was recently transferred to Ottawa.

He believes this is just the beginning of other jobs that will be either cut or moved out of P.E.I.

The VAC employs over 1,300 people, mainly at the headquarters in Charlottetown, with a payroll of over $100 million.

"You take that $100 million payroll and you reduce it significantly on P.E.I. and you're affecting everything from tickets for the Rocket hockey game to restaurants to car and housing sales," Downe said.

"This would have a tremendous impact on the P.E.I. economy."

The department said none of its planned spending reductions would negatively impact veterans or their families.

 

Organizations: Veterans Affairs Canada, Department of Veterans Affairs, The Guardian

Geographic location: Charlottetown, P.E.I., Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • john sheppard
    January 14, 2012 - 12:28

    I want to thank VAC for the wonderful services I have received. I am a WWII and Korean vet.

  • No Sen Here
    October 18, 2011 - 19:52

    Yup, and all Downe can think about are the employees who cannot buy Rocket tickets, Like who does anyway? way to go to bat for the vets Percy, that is just the problem,typical Liberal laziness, you and Employee...don't like your job buddy? I'll take it Those vets should be calling you at home.

  • Gerry
    October 18, 2011 - 19:52

    Listened to Mr. Casey on Compass this evening. He appeared to be very vague and incapable of expanding on the real issues facing VAC, albeit the employees or clients. Surely the Guardian and Compass can demonstrate their ability to conduct investigative journalism in order to provide factual information. Sounds like Mr. Casey is doing a great deal of speculating on a subject he knows very little about; therefore, fear mongering. As an added note, VAC, as in many government departments (provincial and federal) are top heavy with highly paid managers overseeing highly-paid managers. However, the front-line staff, who happen to be the clients' first point of contact; and know exactly what the veterans are experiencing, good or bad, are the irreplaceable employees. But then again, it goes without saying, the lowest person on the totem pole gets the least recognition. My father served in WWII and not once did he ever complain about the service, which was very minimal, he received from VAC. In fact, he sang their praises in terms of compassion and client service. He did not expect to receive any benefit which he did not qualify for, nor was he ever remiss in expressing his gratitude when he met the criteria for a particular benefit. Thank you VAC, for being there the few times my Dad required your advice or assistance.

  • why put them down because of where they work
    October 18, 2011 - 18:32

    Just so you folks know what is what...if DVA was to close down the economy as we know it in Charlottetown would certainly not be the same and alot of businesses would be affected and would probably even close. Just look in New Brunswick when some of the saw mills and some of the mines closed up how that affected those towns they are now ghost town and not many jobs to be found. I would hate for people to think that government employees weither it be provencial or federal are deadbeats all these people are trying to do is earn a living a put bread on the table like the rest of us.

  • Thaddeus Sholto
    October 18, 2011 - 18:31

    There is something lacking in the mentality, morality and intellect in someone who takes great pleasure in seeing people lose their jobs. They must be such losers that they can't stand to see other people successful so the only way they can live with themselves is to mock and belittle those with jobs at the VAC. When they really want to feel good they literally celebrate the fact that someone is losing their job. That is not normal and they should seek psychological help. I have seen it in the way some people mock and attack farmers and fishermen in their posts. What scares me is that these people are walking around loose. Do you get my drift Sasha and MacEachern?

  • local veteran
    October 18, 2011 - 17:32

    Mr Casey is right ..BUT.ALL Fed Govt departments are being cut...some up to 40%...and Mr MacEACHERN is right DVA is full of Murphy,Easter,MacAuley and Downe appointees and lots of Tories also........... along with that you will notice Mr Downe and Mr Casey are echoing each others concerns...it's called POLITICS.........they represent a deadbeat shallow rudderless party with absolutley NO clout...and local press coverage is all they can get........in all reality if we had a Conservative member sitting here...I doubt the cuts would so evident....with 1200 veterans dying a month there are bound to to be service cuts......Mr Casey on TV talking about suicide and access to veterans health services..shows he really has no is idea what DVA's role is ..and only became acquainted with the dept just before he sought or should I say was annointed to the position he is in.............Thank God Gail Shea will be there to speak on our behalf.........time will tell what will happen...but neither Casey or Downe will be solving any of these issues.........they might as well be members of the PEI party............

  • Stephen
    October 18, 2011 - 17:32

    To Sasha, Can you please tell me What government employee had a choice of jobs and benefits. I know myself I had to fight in competitions for over 10 years to get my job..I EARNED it by competing with over 1000 other testers. I didn t ask for my wage or benefits, but I sure as hell am not going to deny it. What kind of sick person gets a thrill out of hard working people losing their jobs?You get a thrill out of families going hungry, losing their homes and the such. Just because the fortunate ones have jobs in the government doesnt give you the right to be jealous and make us out to be the bad ones. I know I work hard every day to help the vets and soldiers that fought for my rights. If you want a job with the government, than do what I did, earned it.

  • sasha
    October 18, 2011 - 13:05

    This will sound horrible, but I see any cut in number of government employees on PEI as not too bad of a thing. Right now small business has to compete with government for even somewhat skilled employees. People get a choice of getting government job and benefits where they just have to show up every day or work for privately owned company where you have to account for your time and you get paid only as much as you are worth. In order to get decent employee, small business must provide the same wage, benefits and lack of any responsibility as government position does.

    • Dear Misguided Sasha
      October 18, 2011 - 18:58

      I am a former federal government employee who has also worked in the private sector. I worked harder for the feds than I ever did for any private company and I had to account for every single moment of every single day I worked. I had to request a day off weeks in advance, so I didn't just come and go as I pleased. I paid into a pension for 34 years and when I reached an age where I could get the Old Age Pension, the federal goverment clawed back what citizens who work for private industry are permitted to keep. I had to study hard constantly, and also had to deal with a multitude of politicians who changed everything everytime there was an election or cabinet shuffle. I had to take a lot of 'garbage' from people who thought I was personally responsible for making the laws instead of just administering what the government decided to bring into law. I paid for my benefits. In fact I received less than 50% if the gross income I was supposedly paid. I was not paid what I was worth because I am unilingual English and do not have a degree. I don't feel sorry for the people who complain that they have to compete with government for decent employees. In fact, I like to ask them why they think they should. If they are treating their employees with respect, as I was when I worked for private companies, then I would have decent employees who worked because they found joy in working for an employer who treated them more like humans than cattle. As for as cheering for the cut in budget for VAC, it is the veterans who will suffer most with longer waits, etc. Maybe some of the cuts are to benefits for vets. Maybe they will move VAC out of PEI and who will buy the houses built by their staff? Who will buy luxury cars, support theatre, restaurants, retail stores, etc.? Might be a handful, but certainly not as many because the salaries in a head office are substantial compared to what people on PEI make. Don't forget, a lot of the people working there are mobile and they will leave with their salaries. Politics? Possibly, but not likely. Just a fact of life. You have NO idea just how hard it is to be a government employee. You have no idea what joy it is to work for a local business owner who treats you with respect for $11 an hour with free coffee for a benefit..

  • Casey
    October 18, 2011 - 12:29

    You Sir ,Casey, was elected to save and create jobs.Please tell us when you had your last meeting with PM Harper to save jobs .Give up.the blaiming game and create jobs for CH,town We elelted you to make a difference-------Not just Complain.Work as hard for the ordinary Islander as you worked for your PNP

  • pjones
    October 18, 2011 - 11:49

    Walter, if you think that people losing jobs and having a negative impact on local economy is 'payback' because someone didn't treat you like a delicate flower, you probably deserve to be treated as a 'come from away'.

  • not on your life
    October 18, 2011 - 11:26

    Not sure why that gentleman has such a spite on VAC employees. Why does he not name the deadbeats. Scared???? Don't forget that there have also been a few conservative governments in also that have put a few of their deadbeat friends in office. Not everyone at VAC is a deadbeat....they are honest, hardworking people whom are trying to make a living and feed their families.

  • Only in PEI
    October 18, 2011 - 11:20

    If Casey doesn't know anything, what is he fear-mongering about? Why would someone who has no information be quoted in the Guardian???

  • Gerry
    October 18, 2011 - 11:10

    I hardly think if I was in fear of losing my job that my concern would revolve around "tickets for the Rocket hockey game to restaurants..." However, not being in a position to pay for the necessities, oh let me see now; groceries, utilities, fuel, mortgage; and my family's needs in general, may be my biggest priorities. Mr. Casey demonstrates the typical Liberal elitist mindset.

    • nitpicker
      October 18, 2011 - 19:17

      For some reason you overlook that Casey also mentioned housing sales. Clearly, his point was that the impact would be wide reaching.

  • Fenarfin
    October 18, 2011 - 11:02

    Nothing more than the Feds sending a message to PEI voters. What? Nobody was supposed to retalliate?

  • bob from cardigan
    October 18, 2011 - 10:55

    Well, you had to see this coming with Charlottetown voting with Liberals while the rest of the Country was moving towards other parties. Anyone who thinks this is not a political motivated set of cuts just needs to read the article and see that two Liberals are crying foul. Bad for Charlottetown, but with only a budget of 100 million in salaries, I can't see it impacting the jobs that much, may see a 5 to 10% reduction in staff.

    • The Speaker
      October 18, 2011 - 18:20

      Come on Bob and all you other idiots out there. The Harper gang is cutting jobs across the board. Environment Canada is getting slashed, they are shedding programs left and right. Even the military (Harper's patriotic baby) is not immune. I realize all you Tories who still can't accept that 75 per cent of the Island MPs are Liberals and it really eats at your guts that Ghiz won the provincial election, but VAC would have been cut no matter what.

  • Employee
    October 18, 2011 - 07:52

    Please think before you speak. I have worked at Veterans Affairs Canada for over a decade. I work hard everyday to ensure that my Veteran's needs are met. My workload continues to increase, while the lack of staff to do it continues to decrease. I have worked in both private sector and for government and I challenge those, who think we are deadbeats, to check with the numerous Veterans we help and are pleased with our service everyday. I am sure, like with any government department there is far too many top paying jobs, pushing paper, but for those of us working the front lines, we treat our Veteran's as if they were our own family. You do not need to have served in the military or the RCMP to understand the needs. You need to meet with the Veteran's and understand what challenges they meet. I have even received calls at my own home. Now really, where do you get that kind of service? I have seen more and more of our work contracted out to private health companies, and as this continues, it is that, which causes much of our services to decline. I hope that people will truly consider what will happen to our Veteran's if the Head Office should leave PEI and is pieced out to private companies, which report their statistics to look like they are performing at 100%. Then when errors occur by this contract staff, it is up to the staff at VAC to explain these errors with little to no information available and virtually no accountability on the contract staff. Get back to the brass roots staff, if you want to know the true needs of Veterans and the transformation required. I love my job, but I fear for our Veteran's needs, as the budget continues to get cut and the top guns keep trying to invent the wheel. I strongly suggest Keith Hillier come and sit on the front lines along with our top management staff if you want to truly understand what our needs are. When you are answering the phone calls from Veterans and Health Care providers, perhaps, you will receive a much more accurate picture as to what is required for transformation. When a publication jumps on a story like this, it would be nice, if Veterans that have succes stories would write in to tell their personal stories. Far too often, we hear a one sided report of events, which VAC cannot respond to, to respect the privacy of each individual we serve. Sincerely, A caring staff member who goes above and beyond everyday for Veterans.

  • mceachern
    October 17, 2011 - 21:48

    What did Casey expect? The Liberals have been staffing the VAC with deadbeats for years. Unqualified and unemployable outside of the VAC and their tenure positions. Add up some of the high paid heavyweights at VAC that got the positions as mandarins serving for Murphy, Easter, MacAulay and Downe. VAC should be moved out of PEI as soon as possible. The distorted view of to many swollen fatheads, has impacted to much on the working class of PEI and there is already enough political deadwood lying around all the Provincial Government offices. Harper get chopping deeper.

    • smallminds
      October 18, 2011 - 06:23

      Yes, get those jobs out of here asap. Then we can get back to complaining that the Island's recent minimum wage increase just isn't enough.

    • DLM
      October 18, 2011 - 11:20

      To "MCEACHERN".....is it that you have insider information regarding ALL staff at VAC....I for one take offence to the "deadbeats" comment. The ones that work the front lines and are the lowest paid will be affected long before the upper management will be, so the FATHEADS will continue. Would you like to see the economy of PEI fold completely....and note that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is being downsized as well...along with other Federal Government Departments.

    • DLM
      October 18, 2011 - 11:23

      To "MCEACHERN".....is it that you have insider information regarding ALL staff at VAC....I for one take offence to the "deadbeats" comment. The ones that work the front lines and are the lowest paid will be affected long before the upper management will be, so the FATHEADS will continue. Would you like to see the economy of PEI fold completely....and note that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is being downsized as well...along with other Federal Government Departments.

    • MacEachern is Rude
      October 18, 2011 - 19:07

      Who peed on your cornflakes MacEachern? VAC is not staffed by any political party. It is staffed through competitve processes and the standards are extremely high since it is a head office. If you are talking about some of the appointed positions, they are much like senate appointments and change with each change of government. Those who are chosen have substantial experience in public life and understand the laws of the land. It is obvious to this reader that you don't know the difference between provincial and federal governments, and that you do not depend on income from the people who work for VAC and spend locally. Where do you suggest VAC go? Ottawa? Toronto? yep...that's right....remove the taxes that those employees pay...remove the disposible income they spend locally...and see how many of your working class people still have jobs. In fact, McEachern....most of the people at VAC are just that...working class people. If Harper is to chop deeper, then you, my friend, may find yourself in a province with a tax rate so high, or so few services, that you will personally beg to have a head office back here!

  • HAHA
    October 17, 2011 - 21:45

    Tickets to the rocket hockey game-are you kidding me-who cares! It will hurt the economy worse than having attendance at a bush Q league game drop from 1300 to 1250

    • Restofthestory
      October 18, 2011 - 15:17

      I think what the reporter was trying to get at was the fact that a lot of businesses are going to lose if there are losses to the DVA. We can't forget that the people who work for them spend money in the downtown core and the PEI economy in general. Without these workers, the economy is going to slow to a crawl...much worse financial position for the island as the government won't be collecting as much tax because people won't be spending. And they won't collect as much at tax time because the taxable incomes will be much lower. This is something that Premier Ghiz needs to be watching as well and has the obligation to lobby to keep these jobs here.

  • Walter Pearkes
    October 17, 2011 - 21:24

    Sadly with DVA being in Charlottetown all these years. The local Islanders who are employed there, may be looking for work sooner than they thought. Well for all the Veterans that have treated as Come From Aways this may be construed as payback? The DVA should be staffed only by staff who had done military or RCMP time in order to understand the prob;lems that aging Veterans have.