OTTAWA – The continued hard work of Thunder Bay – Rainy River Member of Parliament John Rafferty is yielding new information into the closure of nine Veterans’ Affairs offices across Canada, including the Thunder Bay office, and has again put the Harper Conservatives squarely in the crosshairs of Canada’s increasingly frustrated military veterans.
“We were told that our Thunder Bay Veterans Affairs office was closed because there was not enough money to support keeping them open,” Rafferty said from Ottawa. “This was a flat out lie and we now have the documents to prove it.”
In his response to Rafferty’s written questions Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino tabled two documents in the House of Commons. “Fantino’s response showed three things; that the nine offices could have been saved for just $5 million per year, that more than $1.1 billion has been approved by parliament but not spent by Veterans Affairs since 2006, and that the Harper Conservatives just don’t care about ensuring our veterans get the possible care and treatment,” Rafferty said.
Following the closure of the Thunder Bay office, and eight others across Canada, Rafferty sat down with his staff and developed a plan to get some answers. “I had some serious questions that I wanted answered, including; ‘How much money would be saved by the closures?’ and ‘Does the Veterans Affairs department have any room in its budget to keep the offices open?” he said. “I wrote to the Minister and tabled it in the House of Commons. We were shocked when we saw his response.”
Rafferty said he was appalled to learn that veterans in his riding were paying the price for billions in new Conservative tax cuts. “In the year they closed our local Thunder Bay office, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs left enough money unspent in its annual budget to keep that office open and then open another 300 such offices across Canada. It is absolutely disgraceful conduct by a government that has shown it will gladly upon trample upon veterans and their rights to provide tax cuts to the richest Canadians and to get themselves re-elected.”