Veterans, not all, but many, are organizing in a political way that this country has not seen since the general demobilization following the Second World War and Korea. Veterans are being noticed in the political realm and have a power not experienced, or indeed even imaginable, in decades.
It’s being wasted, squandered in efforts to ensure “We get ours”.
The demand could be so much higher. Veterans, with the public finally in a listening mood, could be demanding improvements not only for the care of Veterans, but care of the Canadian Forces as a whole. The public will listen. Respect for Veterans has not been higher since the middle of last century. Veterans have a voice. A voice that once proudly bellowed “Here SIR!” in roll call, but now reduced to a whimpering “Please Sir, may I have some more?”
The sad truth is no one has reduced our voice. The plaintive squeak of Veterans is of our own doing. We dilute our own power, still our own voices, dissipate an opportunity that comes but once in several generations.
The sad truth is that in seeking political redress for what has become of Veterans in this country, we overlook two salient points.
First, the never to be sufficiently damned New Veterans Charter had broad political support. Indeed, all Parties supported it. One of the Parties that would benefit from the current political activism by Veterans actually wrote the damned thing!
Second, care of Veterans starts not when they are injured, or later released from the military. It starts the very day they swear allegiance. We care for Veterans by caring for the military where they served, while they serve. We ensure that military is properly equipped, has sufficient funds to properly train and has the political leadership to set clear, unequivocal goals for how and when the Canadian Forces will be employed.
By ignoring these two points we allow all Parties to avoid the hard questions. Indeed, it should not be surprising that all Parties must be grateful that Veterans are squandering this opportunity. At a time when the funding for Canada’s military is at historic low levels in terms of GDP, that military has little voice. Much of that voice actually comes from civilian news reporters who bring to light things such as the erosion of the funding envelope for Royal Canadian Navy renewal. The best plan put forward by any party is that they will “rob Peter to pay Paul”. A discreditable response for one of the most affluent nations on Earth.
Canada can afford a suitable military. Reversing the last GST cut of 1% would provide a virtually instant availability of some $7B, which would overcome the funding challenges now facing the Forces. Reversing both cuts could see that funding envelope expand, and yet still fall short of the 2% NATO “aspirational” target. This is far from an onerous burden. Indeed, when combined with other tax-saving measures it is quite doable.
None of what is said above should be read as meaning I do not support the efforts to get all Veterans the benefits and respect they deserve. In fact, with a broadened fiscal envelope the treatment of Veterans can easily be achieved. We can help ourselves, by helping the greater cause.
I do. I, after all, have a vested interest in such treatment. Why would I not support improved Veterans treatment?
What I do not support is achieving a strategic surrender in order to gain a fleeting tactical victory.
The 2015 Federal Election may be Canadian Veterans “Vietnam” if the course does not change. A political moment may dissipate. The public will, inevitably, stop listening. Respect for Veterans will fade back into the general background.
We may win all the battles in the course of losing the war.