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EDITORIAL: Rookie O’Regan battles for vets

Published on August 30, 2017

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, and Newfoundland and Labrador MP Seamus O'Regan, who was appointed Minister of Veterans Affairs this week.

©Ottawa Citizen

Seamus O’Regan has dealt with personal demons involving alcohol and mental illness.  

Everyone deserves a second chance and more; and so we wish the rookie Newfoundland and Labrador MP well with his appointment as Canada’s Minister of Veterans Affairs.
The newest member of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet took time off to seek help in late 2015. He admitted his problems and sought treatment. His own experiences will place him in a good position to deal with critical issues facing our country’s veterans. They fought our battles and now deserve the assurances that their country will look after them in their time of need.
The cabinet shuffle is good news for Prince Edward Island. The Charlottetown headquarters for Veterans Affairs isn’t too far from St. John’s and the youthful MP hopefully will become a familiar face on the Island.
The departing minister - Kent Hehr - faced challenges around the cabinet table. He was a personable and welcoming face during his visits to Charlottetown but failed to deliver on some key Liberal election promises - except re-opening district offices. Other issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, homelessness and disability pensions remain unsolved.
Mr. O’Regan is a personal friend of Mr. Trudeau and the two have vacationed together. Having a warm relationship with the PM is a good thing when a cabinet minister comes calling looking for more money.
VAC is a major economic driver for this city and province. We need to protect every job and stop the slow erosion of positions and branches – such as legal teams - that seem to find their way back to Ottawa or other areas of Canada. All services and personnel must remain here. Being from N.L., Mr. O’Regan understands how important those government jobs are outside of Ottawa.
Another bonus for Atlantic Canada is that the region regains its five voices around the cabinet table. Size does matter and the region needs those extra numbers in cabinet.
Mr. Trudeau had high praise for his friend, who’s shown his skills and abilities in caucus, and in delivering for his province. The cabinet has encountered growing pains over the past two years and it is unlikely the PM would pick anyone unless he thought he or she could do a good job.
Mr. O’Regan, a former national CTV host, has one of the government’s toughest and most politically sensitive portfolios. He is embracing the challenge and is anxious to get started. There is a long list of issues for Veterans Affairs, which require a lot of money. He is looking forward to those challenges and the hard work, which will keep him busy, focused and healthy.
We hope Mr. O’Regan has great success in providing for our men and women in uniform. When veterans are forced to sue their government for disability benefits, it's really a national disgrace.
If Mr. O’Regan can return those pensions as one of his first acts, he will go a long ways towards restoring the trust of veterans in their national government.