Veterans Affairs to open new access centre

Teresa Wright
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Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney was in Charlottetown on Friday to visit the department’s national headquarters and meet with local officials.

Veterans Affairs will be opening a new access centre for veterans in Charlottetown in what appears to be a concession to a decision made last year to close the department’s only local district office.

Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney was in Charlottetown Friday to visit the department’s national headquarters and meet with local officials.

In an interview with The Guardian, Blaney said he made the decision to open the new access centre after meeting with Egmont MP Gail Shea and hearing the concerns of many on the closing of the district office.

“We needed to make sure veterans here on the Island have a direct access to the personnel,” Blaney said.

“That’s why we are creating an extension of our headquarters, which is an access centre for our veterans, so veterans will have full access to our people here in Charlottetown.”

The closure of the district office was announced last year as part of budget reductions and a streamlining of services at Veterans Affairs Canada.

The federal government said Service Canada locations across the province would thereafter serve as in-person access for veterans seeking services.

But veterans advocacy groups and unions raised concern over the fact P.E.I. would become the only province in Canada without an official district office for veterans.

Blaney said Service Canada offices will continue to provide veterans services, but this new VAC access centre will now also be available for direct service from department employees.

The district office is still scheduled to close, but the new access centre will replace it in the Jean Canfield building. It will operate with a smaller staff and is set to open in February of next year.

“The access centre will be embedded in our headquarters, so this is people who are skilled from our department who will give access,” Blaney said.

Blaney also announced Friday three new director general positions within Veterans Affairs Canada will be posted to Charlottetown

The director general of communications, director general of finance and director general of Canada Remembers positions within the department will all be posted externally and those who are chosen for these positions will have to live and work in P.E.I.

Veterans Affairs has been the subject of much tension over the last year as the department moved to slash hundreds of jobs as it streamlines services.

Blaney said Friday he understands these cuts have caused much stress on staff wondering about their futures, but reiterated he sees the Charlottetown headquarters as the 'flagship' of the department.

He also said rumours about further job cuts are mere ‘fear mongering’ by Opposition politicians hoping to gain cheap political points.

“As you know, we have a large amount of people who are eligible to retire and we are moving forward with attrition and human resource management,” Blaney said.

He added that he is seeking additional funding for the department going foward, due to a big uptake in new programs now being offered to meet the evolving needs of new veterans.

Blaney said he will be seeking support in the coming weeks from Opposition parties for additional financial support at the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Organizations: Veterans Affairs Canada, Service Canada, Canada Remembers Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs

Geographic location: Charlottetown, P.E.I., Iceland Canada

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Recent comments

  • Yvan Thauvette
    February 12, 2013 - 10:08

    I found the last Minister's announcement insulting to the veterans. It tells us a lot. First, they are unable to manage that department properly. Second, they are taking decisions witout measuring the impacts those decisions will have on the service to Veterans. What about the other District Office closures, like in Sydney, Thunder Bay, Saskatoon, Kelowna, Brandon, Windsor, Corner Brook ? The veterans in those regions won't be allowed direct services. Aren't they suppose to receive the same level of services? The Service Canada offices can't provide the same level of services. When the Minister said rumours about further job cuts are mere "fear mongering" by opposition politicians, again he is misleading the public and the Veterans. This department will continue slashing the number of jobs by hundreds until 2016, sending the work to private companies without saving any dollars to the tax payers. This government and this department forgot what their mission is, simply.

  • A Polical Move Only
    February 11, 2013 - 08:32

    Create (maybe) 10 jobs to keep the naive, simple Islanders happy while you axe 100s of other jobs still. Throw PEI a bone! Name drop "Gail Shea" as being instrumental in bringing these jobs to PEI, so she can look like she actually did something for Islanders for a change. She's a puppet. I'm not stupid. Get rid of Harper and his puppets!

    • albertan
      February 11, 2013 - 13:19

      The world has changed. All decisions in Canada now go through Calgary. If we don't like it, it doesn't happen. Get used to it.

  • PEIgirl
    February 09, 2013 - 22:35

    Yes all day Friday employees were worried about more layoffs and closures - Fed politicians are know for delivering bad news late Friday. This was not good for morale. Also Director General positions going external - so we are laying off employees and removing opportunities internally for promotion. Thank you Minister Blaney!!!

    • CAP
      February 11, 2013 - 10:19

      There were people there on Friday afternoon?

  • department in decline
    February 09, 2013 - 18:46

    Thankfully there are no large-scale world wars any longer, resulting in hundreds of thousands of young men and women returning to Canada and requiring the care of the government. Conflicts since the Korean War involving Canada have been pretty small scale events, from the Canadian Forces' perspective. Yugoslavia had fewer than 5,000 soldiers. Afghanistan, despite lasting a full decade+ has involved fewer than 15,000 soldiers. The sheer cost of running big military missions is going to see Canada involved in fewer and fewer missions overseas. And with increasing automation of weapons systems, ships, aircraft, land vehicles, etc. we will require fewer full-time soldiers. Currently DVA is losing a few dozen clients a day as the old war veterans die. We will one day see this department roll up its operations in Charlottetown so constant down-sizing is to be expected. Despite DVA taking on the benefit requirements of CF and RCMP retirees, the numbers of those organizations are reducing and by 2030 - certainly by 2040 - DVA will not be required - at least not in Charlottetown. That will be about the time that the Daniel J MacDonald Building has reached the end of its lifespan and we will see Charlottetown revert to not having a national department HQ here. Hopefully by that time Charlottetown will have restructured its economy and diversified its employment base so that it is no longer so reliant upon federal jobs.

  • Where does it end
    February 09, 2013 - 12:08

    Shame on a minister who would come to "visit headquarters" supposedly but meanwhile his staff find out about it in the paper the night before and are made to expect the worst all day long until they can watch it on the news. He did not bother to meet with staff or even give them the announcement in advance. You keep people in fear and then wonder about low morale and sick leave.

  • Gerard W
    February 09, 2013 - 11:56

    Just more B. S. from Ottawa............He didn't say how many people would be employed in this new centre, or where the centre would be. Ottawa thinks that a few CRUMS will keep Islanders happy.

    February 09, 2013 - 11:18

    Ask yourself these two questions before you go off on your rants. How many veterans are there on PEI and how many of them need help from the DVA? The population of the whole Island isn't even as big as most towns in the rest of Canada.Islanders seem to think they are entitled regardless of the cost. Why should the DVA Headquarters be in a province with less than 140,000 people. This was done by Liberal patronage and which the Harper government is trying to stop. The same with the abusive EI system.

    • Island Boy
      February 09, 2013 - 12:41

      ELECTRICALENGINEER: I amazed, most 'engineers' spell it with a "y". There are approximately 4,000. Island veterans and dependent spouses plus another 200 RCMP resident on PEI. Yes, you are correct, Liberal patronage got DVA HQ out of Ottawa clutch and onto PEI where it is another "resource" like fishing, farming and etc. HOWEVER, Harper's Government is " patronage " personified and if its actions ( Duffy and otherSenate appointments) are stopping patronage, then Blaney should be adding a new building to house the additions to PEI District Office.

    • Entitlement?
      February 09, 2013 - 13:28

      Decentralization. Redistribution of authority and power. All of which constitute the necessary features of democracy. And then, there's people who would have those features dismantled. Right?

    • nitpicker
      February 10, 2013 - 21:02

      For me, expressing concern about moving DVA out of Charlottetown or closing any of its offices, is not about "entitlement" . Its because I am aware of the damage big job losses would do to an economy that already has very little going for it. And its for veterans in this province who would see reduced services.

  • Kidran Mienko
    February 09, 2013 - 10:46

    Is Minister Blaney aware that Service Canada does not actually provide veterans services? They do give them applications for benefits for which they are not eligible, and then refer them to Veterans Affairs. Maybe he meant disservice.

  • Concerned for all
    February 09, 2013 - 10:21

    They are cutting jobs and moving jobs..... sending head office from pei to ontario will cost more money for the goverment then keeping it here in the long haul.... but i guess the moving expenses by moving its employees to ontario comes from another "budget" so noone in concerned about that? Maybe people in pei that "hate the goverment" should rethink what the head office leaving will do. Thats 1000 employees leaving with their 1000 spouses and also their thousands of dollars they spend here on the island, Think of how many stores will suffer how many other people will end up leaving the island as there will be no one else hiring as there will be no need with even less peopple out spending there money...... Like honestly has no one given that any thought?

  • Anybody need a Director General Appointment
    February 09, 2013 - 09:18

    Yes let's have 3 Director General positions at 100 -150,00 each or maybe keep more regular staff on maybe 3 regular staffers per Director General position. But no must be some favors owed to 3 people by the Federal tories

  • Island Boy
    February 09, 2013 - 08:54

    "Cheap rumours"..."mere fear mongering"... are the terms used by Duffy in his announcement on the wonders of using Service Canada Centers after he visited the Legion last Summer. The term "rumour" also describes Gail Shea' assistance to veterans. In fact her "silence" was deafening!

  • Good news for all . . .
    February 09, 2013 - 07:06

    Okay, I was at the announcement and noticed that Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blarney had a box of signs. He told me that they were for the new veterans access centre. They read, "This Way To The Egress." I'm not sure what that means, but it's good news for all, I guess.