Veterans issues were among the topics debated by Battlefords-Lloydminster candidates at last week’s all candidates forum, which was held by the Lloydminster Chamber of Commerce at the Centennial Civic Centre.
The topic of veterans issues appeared to have unanimous priority among the potential representatives, though half of the candidates took issue with the Conservatives work on the subject to date.
“We don’t give veterans very much money,” said Liberal candidate Larry Ingram. “In fact, we closed nine of their buildings that they call offices. We don’t do very much at all for our veterans of war and I really believe we should be. And I think we should quit giving so much money to the big corporations that really don’t give a care about us.”
NDP candidate Glenn Tait had a more pointed criticism, specifically outing the federal Conservative leader’s rapport with Canadian veterans themselves.
“There is a reason that Stephen Harper can’t get a photo op with a veteran,” he said. “The New Democratic Party wants to return the veterans benefits. If somebody is going to put their life on the line, risking getting shot and blown up because we tell them to go out there and risk getting shot and blown up, they demand our respect. Demand our support. We’ve got to take care of them when they come home.”
Gerry Ritz, Conservative candidate, started by agreeing with his opponents’ views on the aid veterans should receive, then followed up with examples of how the Conservatives have helped with veterans affairs since their time in office. Among the examples he said that, as a government, they have put over $5 billion into the veterans package.
“There is a lot of discussion out there as to whether that’s hitting the right target or not and those discussions continue but we have enhanced the Veterans Charter,” said Ritz.
“We’ve increased the funeral benefits as our World War 2 vets die, doubled it to some $7,600, and we continue to add to mental health to agent orange veterans. All those different things need to be addressed. There is a lot more work to be done.”
Independent candidate Doug Anguish expressed his support for the troops and said even more needs to be done to help with the mental health of veterans when they return home.
“I’m a supporter of the military. We need to support our veterans when they come back home from the area of conflict. Post traumatic stress disorder and all the issues that come with that need to be addressed. Those are people who protect our freedom and our democratic way of living in Canada and they deserve every respect.”