Black Friday sees closure of VAC office

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Black Friday rally protests VAC district office closure.

Caseworker in Saint John exposes federal guarantees as meaningless

It was a Black Friday indeed in Charlottetown as the district office for Veterans Affairs Canada closed, despite a determined campaign by veterans, a federal union and various civic, provincial and federal politicians to save it. It was a decision made a year ago by the federal government as a cost cutting measure, but with firm assurances that veterans would be well-served by the nearest district office in Saint John, N.B.

The campaign to save the office resulted in one small concession later last year - a caseworker would be stationed at the Service Canada office in Charlottetown to handle veterans’ issues. That concession was announced by Federal Fisheries Gail Shea as a sign Ottawa was responding to vets’ concerns.

This week, a brave VAC employee effectively exposed those federal assurances as meaningless. Saint John caseworker Michelle Bradley, who had accompanied a delegation of veterans to Ottawa on Tuesday, said she is ashamed she can’t do more to help Island veterans because she and one other worker now have the responsibility of looking after 2,200 P.E.I. veterans. She is overwhelmed and cannot help veterans in need of assistance because of the sheer workload. Files were already moved out of the Charlottetown office to Saint John well before Tuesday’s meeting in Ottawa.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper stood in the Commons Wednesday and said the Charlottetown office wasn’t very busy and defended the decision to close. Obviously he didn’t have very good information. Ms. Bradley has provided the correct data as she actually handles the files.

She said there has been an immediate impact as wait times are increasing for veterans, who sometimes wait for weeks for return phone calls. “We just don’t have the time to service them the way the Charlottetown office did.”

Mr. Fantino inherited the portfolio last July after the decision to close was made. But he has defended it from day one and must assume much of the responsibility. The fiasco in Ottawa on Tuesday where veterans were snubbed is bad enough. But to finally hear the truth of what is about to happen to our veterans is shocking. Thus, the beleaguered minister doesn’t know, doesn’t care or has his orders from a higher authority.

As for the one VAC employee assigned to the Service Canada site in Charlottetown, Ms. Bradley suggests the feds have failed to explain one key fact it’s a temporary measure and the employee doesn’t have the necessary training to really help veterans. Vets say they don’t know how to reach the caseworker here because there is no phone number and all requests for help have to go through Saint John.

Ms. Bradley’s comments are a devastating indictment of this ill thought-out decision. She deserves credit for taking this brave stance.

Friday, Jan. 31, 2014 is a date veterans will remember for a long, long time.

Marijuana drops to No. 3

Let’s see, what do you think would be the most controversial topic at a public meeting Wednesday night in Charlottetown: a) rezoning for a parking lot; b) a new horse barn at the racetrack; or c) medical marijuana facility?

It should be a no-brainer.

So when more than 100 people jammed into the meeting room, it was to wage war on drugs, right? Wrong. Once the parking issue at Mel’s was discussed, and the new barn was settled, more than 70 people left, leaving just 30 citizens remaining for the marijuana debate. When Mayor Clifford Lee noted he had a family member suffering from cancer who found pain relief by smoking marijuana, it took a lot of the steam out of the debate.

Next issue please.

Organizations: Veterans Affairs Canada, Service Canada

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Saint John, Ottawa Iceland

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Recent comments

  • David
    February 03, 2014 - 12:33

    There are cuts to other services and offices for other people so why do vets think they are immune to this. Vets seem to think they should have anything they want because the joined the military. Don't get me worng I think vets deserve to be treated with respect but no more or no less then anyone else who serves the public. They were paid for their service and received benefits for their service. They are no different then any police officer or bus driver or any other person who has done a job in public service. For some reason they believe they are special and should be treated like heroes for the rest of their lives and should get anything they want.

  • Come On People
    February 03, 2014 - 08:47

    Come on people , shake your head , we all know people that worked (or should I say )spent time at the VLA offices in Charlottetown . No one was over worked , this office was just a place to reward political friends & now is gone . Employee's now will have to pull up their socks and do some work for their pay . Just another shedding of federal excess baggage that the Liberals bought votes with in the past .

  • Connedagain
    February 02, 2014 - 12:05

    Veterans Affairs books, at first glance, indicates that hundreds of positions have been cut, however, one only has to dig deeper and will quickly note the huge increase in the use of casual employees at every VAC office and the substantial overtime for full-time staff to process claims at Head Office. It takes three casuals in any calender year to replace a full-time employee as they can only work 90 days per year. How much is it costing for hotel, meals, and incidentials for the case worker from Saint John who has been temporarily re-located to Charlottetown to man the desk at the Service Canada location? Where are the true savings?

  • No loss of services,lots of false hype
    February 01, 2014 - 22:57

    Kudos for what?There are NO program cuts,NO services cut ,NO benefits cut. Nothing has changed except the way they do business.. and VAC carries on.. THere is a VAC worker at that building...She just complained about her workload..... Just plain old political grandstanding......There is no loss of services to our VETs...where does it say or indicate that? Am I missing something here

    • Informed Veteran
      February 02, 2014 - 21:12

      As to your comment about the VAC employee who 'still works out of that building, she was just complaining about her job load', she does not. She works out of New Brunswick, and she and one other person have taken on all of the Island Veterans files, a job that was once done by an entire department in that building. And if you pay attention, her complaint is not her workload, her complaint is that with two people working out of another province, they are not able to provide the services the Veterans deserve.

  • Evelyn Burt
    February 01, 2014 - 14:40

    It was indeed Black Friday yesterday with the closing of the Ch'town office. Kudos to Ms. Bradley for having the courage to tell it like it is. Any loss of services to our beloved Veterans should create a Canadian-wide uproar. Hopefully the next election results will reflect our outrage. THX.