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2015 Federal Budget – Another Omnibus Bill

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Re: 2015 Federal Budget – Another Omnibus Bill

Post by Teentitan on Tue 09 Jun 2015, 22:16

I didn't write it the Chief Editor of VVi Perry Gray wrote it.
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Re: 2015 Federal Budget – Another Omnibus Bill

Post by Guest on Tue 09 Jun 2015, 20:20

Great to see it all laid out, and get the overall picture of what is happening. great work teen

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Re: 2015 Federal Budget – Another Omnibus Bill

Post by Guest on Tue 09 Jun 2015, 14:56

great read thanks for that.

propat

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Re: 2015 Federal Budget – Another Omnibus Bill

Post by Riddick on Tue 09 Jun 2015, 13:42

Thank you Mr. Gray for speaking on our behalf. It appears you have not only done your homework but you are well versed with the workings of politics and the fine art of diplomacy.

Typical of the government using the bandaid approach in a futile attempt to "fix" things along with a lot of gibberish and double-talk hoping to confuse and trick people into thinking they are doing something wonderful.

I agree.......the government/MVA needs to inject more financial support vs adding new programmes where only a few will meet eligibility and actually qualify. To stand against a podium with a huge smile while bread crumbs are tossed our way is truly an insult to our intelligence and our sacrifice.

Riddick
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Re: 2015 Federal Budget – Another Omnibus Bill

Post by bigrex on Tue 09 Jun 2015, 13:12

Very well written. And it is true, in the world of VAC, there is a vast difference between benefits being available and benefits actually being approved. After all, just look at the number of totally and permanently disabled Veterans who were not getting the PIA. What is the good of creating, and administering benefits, if most Veterans cannot qualify, and even those who do meet the restrictive criteria, are often denied on first application, or discouraged from applying in the first place, by VAC staff. I went several years without money for housekeeping under the VIP program, because I was told I would not qualify, but as soon as I did anyways, it was approved it right away.
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2015 Federal Budget – Another Omnibus Bill

Post by Teentitan on Tue 09 Jun 2015, 11:48

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein

These two quotes attributed to Einstein demonstrate the self-imposed limitations used by the federal government, which seems determined to avoid solving problems by operating in an illogical way.

Omnibus bills entered Canadian federal politics in 1968 with the introduction of the Criminal Law Amendment Act in 1968. This was viewed by the Liberal Party as “the most important and all-embracing reform of the criminal and penal law ever attempted at one time in this country.” Since then the federal government, regardless of which party held power has used omnibus bills with an increasing tendency to create a patchwork of contents. The only logic being to ensure that the contents become law and Parliament does not have much time to review the material.

Omnibus bills have been considered anti-democratic because of their tendency to to allow a ruling party to pass amendments with little debate or scrutiny. Even Prime Minister Stephen Harper criticised them:

“a contradiction to the conventions and practices of the House.” (2005)

The current budget bill includes over 750 clauses and amends nearly 70 laws. So despite the prime minister's comments in 2005, he now believes that another omnibus bill is a good idea despite the mash-up of concepts contained in its 500+ pages.

In my opinion, the problem with omnibus bills is similar to that of the Charlottetown Accord of 1992, which was submitted to a public referendum on 26 October and was defeated. There may have been many parts of it that were supported by the majority of voters, but not enough to ensure that all were acceptable. There are times when it is much better to debate distinct ideas rather than a mixture. The federal government failed to respect KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

The two other national referendums did respect KISS; the 1898 Canadian prohibition plebiscite and the 1942 Canadian conscription plebiscite.

For the rest of this article, I shall limit myself to discussing the clauses relevant to the Veterans Community.

The reason given by MVA Erin O'Toole for including new VAC programmes in the budget was to ensure that the programmes were not delayed by the opposition parties. There are two facts to consider with regards to the veracity of his comment. The programmes were part of a VAC bill (C-58), which was not presented for review despite being drafted in March. The NDP was willing to support C-58, although the party may have recommended more enhancements. Bill C-58 could have been reviewed before Parliament recessed for the summer, particularly as the Conservative Party had enough votes to ensure its passage.

The inclusion of so many different clauses may have been a tactic to decrease opposition to the budget, which is historically not supported by the opposition parties. It was a tactic to demonstrate that the Opposition was anti-Veteran or anti-environment or opposing the various other segments tacked onto the core of the budget. This is just an example of partisan politics at their worst.

Once again a special interest group becomes a political football to be kicked around by one or more political parties as part of their agenda.

In my opinion, Erin O'Toole wanted to get these new programmes passed so that he had concrete proof of a legacy. It was not enough to quietly work to improve VAC and consider what reforms could be introduced without more legislation. There have been almost 500 recommendations proposed to amend the NVC and many were supported by the advisory groups employed by VAC. Many can be implemented by a minister.

Sometimes improvements can be made without resorting to buying or developing new things.

My biggest complaint about the budget is the repeated use of Economic Action Plan. This seems like an example of Newspeak, the fictional language in the novel 1984 written by George Orwell. It is a controlled language created by a totalitarian state as a tool to limit freedom of thought, and concepts that pose a threat to the regime such as freedom, self-expression, individuality, and peace.

Too many of the programmes discussed in the budget are part of the Conservative Party's Economic Action Plan rather than being part of the government's duties and the recognised mandate of departments like VAC.

The value of the overall commitment that the Government is making to veterans through these measures is estimated at $2.5 billion over six years, starting in 2014–15. These amounts have been incorporated into the Government’s budgetary projection. By recording $2.5 billion at this stage, the Government is setting aside funding to ensure that enhanced benefits will be available to veterans and their families in the years ahead.

Of this amount, the Government expects—based on current projections of demand from veterans—that $85.5 million over five years, starting in 2015–16, will flow to veterans in the form of increased benefits and services. The cash value of benefits provided to veterans will significantly increase over time. For example, as more modern-day veterans reach 65 they will become eligible for financial support under the Retirement Income Security Benefit.

Economic Action Plan 2015 confirms additional resources of $193.4 million over five years, starting in 2015–16, to Veterans Affairs Canada to continue to improve its service delivery to veterans and their families.

What is not discussed is how this amount was calculated. Is it a real increase in the VAC budget or a re-allocation of planned expenditures? Since VAC tends to have a self-realising prophecy when it comes to its financial forecasts, I am inclined to believe that the department is just altering how its future budgets will be spent rather than asking for more money. The only way to confidently know that these amounts have been allocated is to review VAC budgets after 2021, and only if the Conservative Party continues as the governing party and additionally does not change its budget plans.

So basically, there is a lot of conjecture involved in this forecast. I am not willing to bet that VAC will receive all of this money and I am even more unwilling to bet that it would spend it based on the fact that it had more than one billion in lapsed spending since 2006!

“Money dangled is better than money given.”

VAC announced three new programs in recent months and they were part of the discussions during the April summit and are included in the budget:

Critical Injury Benefit (CIB)

Family Caregiver Relief Benefit (FCRB)

Retirement Income Security Benefit (RISB)

VAC has not explained why these three programmes were developed, how many clients could benefit from them and how eligibility will be determined. There is no specific dollar amount next to the three VAC programmes. What is indicated in other VAC information releases are the approximate numbers of how many clients may receive the benefit over a five year period.

Why is VAC discussing a five year period when the budget is a one year plan?

Given the economic uncertainties of recent months, the federal government may be too optimistic in how much revenue it will have to finance its budgets until 2020. Adding to these uncertainties is the possibility that the election on 19 October (or sooner) may result in a change in ruling party.

Like many public announcements, these new programs seem to offer more financial support for the Veterans Community. Closer examination of each can raise a host of potential problems. The one question that the Veterans Community can ask VAC about any new financial policy is “How generous will VAC be”?

Unless there is a significant increase in the VAC budget, the result will simply be that VAC has more programmes to support with no additional funding. Thus each benefit can be offered to a very limited number of clients regardless of how many may be potential beneficiaries.

It is difficult to comment these programmes without knowing exactly what will be detailed in the legislation and policy.

There is also too much referencing of the government's Economic Action Plan rather than the obligation owed to Canada's veterans. This is ironic in that the budget also includes a revised statement on the social obligation of the federal government to the Veterans Community.

I am also disappointed with the programmes considering that they are pale imitations of existing programmes.

It is unclear whether recipients of the Critical Injury Benefit will receive $70,000 or less than this amount and if recipients who have already received a lump sum provided by the NVC will also be eligible. What should be noted is the very limited numbers for both lump sum benefits. Initial estimates suggest 100 (retroactive to 2006) plus 2-3 per year to 2020. Only 227 of the 46,760 recipients (2014 numbers) received 100% of the original lump sum.

The Family Caregiver Relief Benefit will pay up to $7238 per year which is less than the maximum amount provided by the Attendance Allowance of the older Pension Act, which is also intended to compensate caregivers of veterans (up to $21,151.44) or the DND Caregiver Benefit (up to $36,500). None of these programmes is income replacement, which is what is really needed by family members, who sacrifice their own careers to care for Veterans. VAC should be developing Earnings Loss Benefit for families instead.

Retirement Income Security Benefit (RISB) guarantees 70% of pre-65 income rather than ensuring a life long income like the disability award of the Pension Act. Based on VAC's own research supplemented by information from other sources, disabled veterans need more financial support rather than less, particularly post-65 when elderly Canadians in general need more assistance because of increasing health care requirements. Research indicates that the very young and the very old require the majority of our health care.

What is very disappointing is the fact that VAC estimates that fewer than 750 veterans will benefit from these three new programmes over the next five years. My question to you is why so few when there are more than 200,000 clients of VAC and more than 700,000 veterans in Canada?

My answer is that VAC wants to minimise financial support. This is why most of the billion dollars in lapsed spending over the last ten years is related to disability awards. To my knowledge, no minister has ever asked for a budget increase during the last ten years, preferring to return money rather than spend money. VAC has a reputation for being tight fisted like Ebenezer Scrooge or Scrooge McDuck.

In 2006, Greg Thompson, the incumbent minister, provided information on the Veterans Independence Programme (VIP) to the Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. He stated that 86,000 war service Veterans did not receive VIP. He did not offer an explanation about why they did not receive support and added that providing them with VIP “may never happen”. He did acknowledge that “home care is better than institutional care”.

The Gerontological Advisory Council also acknowledged that Veterans were likely to live longer if they remained in their own homes. The logic for not increasing VIP was that the forecast was too high so the minister did not ask for any increase. Better to restrict eligibility than increase spending.

VAC is also aware that most of the health care given to Canadians occurs when we are babies and in the last months of our lives.

Adding new programmes does not mean adding more funding, rather it means just dividing the total into smaller quantities. This is a fact that can not be disputed by the federal government. It is not a question of the availability of VAC programmes, but rather the accessibility. VAC has limited eligibility by either denying access or awarding minimal financial support.

Only about 6,000 Veterans were considered as eligible for the new programmes.

Another systemic problem with adding new programmes is the increase in the workload of the VAC employees, who must manage the programmes. They can expect the current policy manual of over 1500 pages to expand. How long will it take them to be confident that they can implement these programmes? This is not a simple question because there will be an increase in client communications as Veterans try to educate themselves. Currently there is a lack of information on the VAC website about eligibility and other details of these proposed programmes.

If Erin O'Toole wants to leave a lasting legacy, he can start by solving old problems rather than adding new problems.
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Re: 2015 Federal Budget – Another Omnibus Bill

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