Judy Foote says millions of dollars the federal government is paying for television advertisements would be better spent on improving programs and benefits for veterans.
“There can be no rational explanation why a government would increase advertising spending, while at the same time cutting front-line services for veterans,” the Liberal MP for Random-Burin-St. George’s said in a prepared release.
Foote was referencing recent ads promoting transition services for veterans that appeared during the Stanley Cup playoffs as well as the FIFA World Cup.
“Each of these TV spots costs thousands of dollars, yet this year’s federal budget increased funding for transition services for veterans by just $11,000,” she said.
Stephen Harper’s Conservative government spent more than $28 million to mark the anniversary of the War of 1812, Foote said, and earmarked an additional $82 million for commemorative events and ceremonies in the coming years.
Foote said the government continues to spend millions of taxpayers’ dollars on commemorating Canada's military past, while neglecting some of those very individuals who are part of its history.
“The Harper government has closed nine regional Veterans Affairs offices throughout the country, including one in Corner Brook, and committed to eliminating 781 jobs from the Department of Veterans Affairs by 2014-15, all in an attempt to cut costs,” Foote said.
While she maintains commemoration is important, she said ensuring veterans and their families receive the support they deserve and access to the programs they so desperately need should be the government’s top priority.
Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino was not available for an interview Wednesday, but his department did provide an emailed statement in reaction to Foote’s comments.
The email stated that Veterans Affairs Canada spent $3.2 billion directly on benefits and services for Canadian veterans who have been injured in the line of duty. Just a few months ago, the email states, the federal government increased veterans spending by $108 million in its Economic Action Plan 2014.
The department says, through its advertising campaign, Veterans Affairs Canada aims to inform veterans and their families about programs and services including rehabilitation, financial supports and mental health services.