Top bureaucrats ignoring promises at Veterans Affairs

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Department of Veterans Affairs

EDITORIAL

There is an undercurrent of concern circulating through the headquarters of Veterans Affairs Canada in Charlottetown.

The concern is being voiced around water coolers, in coffee shops and at hockey arenas – wherever rank and file VAC employees gather.  

Concern is based on the following premises:

-- With a new minister and a new government in place, senior VAC bureaucrats believe they can develop policy and enact change without much political oversight.

-- The new minister and government are reluctant to challenge senior bureaucrats – even if policy is contrary to Liberal promises.

-- These senior bureaucrats, holdovers from the Stephen Harper government, never supported a federal department headquarters outside Ottawa and are intent on inexorably reducing staff, power and decision-making in Charlottetown. These senior bureaucrats find it an annoyance to travel to Charlottetown or live on P.E.I.

-- With politicians distracted with a budget, new immigrants and implementing election policy, senior bureaucrats believe they can make key changes. And before politicians realize what’s happened, it will be too late to reverse them.

-- Senior bureaucrats are re-hiring Conservative appointees whose terms have expired but who share an agenda that is not sympathetic to P.E.I.

At least one Island MP has been alerted to the situation. He made general inquiries and has been assured that all is well.

There is still no word on re-opening the district office, closed by the former government almost two years ago.

VAC’s Human Resources component has already been moved to Miramichi, N.B. What other components or units are leaving Charlottetown?

This bureaucratically-driven strategy is defended because the intent is to make operations more efficient.

But these senior bureaucrats are ignoring iron-clad political promises made to this city and this province. The then-Department of Veterans Affairs was relocated to Charlottetown more than 30 years ago for a specific purpose – to enhance and maintain a national presence on P.E.I.

Concerns about the future of VAC are nothing new. There was a major review done in 2010. More than 140 jobs were cut in 2013. At one time, there were more than 1,200 jobs on P.E.I. and promises were made to keep levels at approximately 1,000. What are today’s actual numbers?

Things became more acute in the last two years or so under the former government when cutting costs took precedence over delivering services to veterans.

Retiring or injured armed forces veterans who served with recent NATO and UN commitments in Afghanistan and other theatres of conflict have increased the workload at VAC.

By the end of this week, a decision is pending that could impact other jobs. There should be an immediate freeze on job transfers to Ottawa until we get some answers. Decisions negatively impacting jobs on P.E.I. should be reversed.

How many senior VAC positions are in Ottawa that really should be located in Charlottetown? Senior managers here have recently seen their authority reduced or removed.  

The importance of a fully-operational, fully-staffed national headquarters cannot be overstated.

If things are indeed so dire, it's time the premier, the city’s mayor and the four Island MPs sit down with the new minister and his deputy and get answers and assurances. It’s time to renew federal vows to P.E.I.

Or are we going to see our national headquarters die by a 1,000 cuts?

Organizations: Veterans Affairs Canada, Human Resources, Department of Veterans Affairs NATO UN

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

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Comments

Comments

Recent comments

  • tipieds
    March 30, 2016 - 23:35

    Hateful Harpercrats

  • Pete
    March 22, 2016 - 19:36

    At least one fact in the editorial is incorrect. "VAC’s Human Resources component has already been moved to Miramichi, N.B." Only the payroll component (and it is a relatively small component) of VAC's HR department has been moved to Miramichi (along with the payroll component of most government departments). Although I agree that there is cause for concern, I also think that it is important for journalists to get their facts correct in order to add credence to their opinions.

  • Jazz
    March 22, 2016 - 18:37

    It would be a insult to PEI if this office moved...just for the vary reason it was located here many years ago. There is enough stress caused to veterans and their families that an article such as this is disheartening. To hear of the interoffice politics true or not is not easing the stress levels of any veteran and their families commencing the process or already dealing with the maze of DVA office locations. Relocating of the office to Ottawa is a huge waste of money. Deputy Ministers are typically the operational assurance person so that if a new Minister comes along, the Department doesn't lose the continuity. ...just saying. Freezing jobs to relocate to Ottawa is not the answer. Those that have served need reassurance that it is business as usual and NOT an longer wait time to have an application processed...dear lord, no! There is more to this picture than just an office and jobs!

  • What A BS Story ...
    March 22, 2016 - 14:17

    ... this is written as a fairy tale ... no facts.

  • Joe worker
    March 22, 2016 - 12:03

    What?? No DVA hater comments yet. Maybe all the haters finally realize the amount of money that would be lost to Charlottetown and PEI if DVA was relocated.

  • country boy
    March 22, 2016 - 10:14

    Interesting, all one hears is about employees of Veteran affairs and nothing with actually helping veterans. Nothing has changed with this government. Veterans are still treated like liars and cheats....The workers only care about their employment.

    • Really
      March 22, 2016 - 15:00

      Really. There's nothing in the media about helping veterans? You are saying that with a straight face?

    • Tommy two guns
      April 12, 2016 - 11:28

      it is what it is where there is no photo op there is no lies as far as living in the west and most of VAC is in the east you would think that only people from the east put it on the line but i have news for you there is other provinces then the eastern republic of canada

  • Aongasha
    March 22, 2016 - 08:26

    PEI or Ottawa, some things never change. Long coffe breaks at Tims, even longer lunch breaks, no one available after 2:30 pm most days and never on Fridays after 12 noon. Cheers to those with these great jobs. Most taxpayers just say, 'cry me a river'.

  • Brian from Stratford
    March 22, 2016 - 07:53

    The anonymous writer of this editorial should check their facts before publishing such erroneous, fear-mongering tripe.