See below, my exchange yesterday (Sept 26, 2012) at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veteran Affairs. I asked some direct questions to a departmental official regarding services to veterans in PEI and the closure of yet another government office. I don’t fault the Official who is simply doing her job, I fault the Harper Conservative government for ignoring veterans in PEI.
TRANSCRIPT OF COMMITTEE:
Mr. Casey, for five minutes, please.
Mr. Sean Casey (Charlottetown, Lib.): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Ms. Stewart, you indicated in your remarks that you have district offices throughout the country. Are there district offices in every province?
Ms. Charlotte Stewart: Yes, there are.
Mr. Sean Casey: When all of the planned changes are implemented, will there be district offices in every province?
Ms. Charlotte Stewart: No, there will not.
Mr. Sean Casey: Which provinces will be without a district office when all the planned changes are implemented?
Ms. Charlotte Stewart: Currently the district office in Charlottetown is slated to close towards the end of 2013.
Mr. Sean Casey: So once all of the planned changes are implemented, Prince Edward Island will be the only province without a district office. Is that right?
Ms. Charlotte Stewart: That is correct.
Mr. Sean Casey: You also indicated in your remarks that there are 24 IPSCs. How many of those are on Prince Edward Island?
Ms. Charlotte Stewart: There is an Integrated Personnel Support Centre, which is a satellite of the Moncton IPSC, but it is located in Charlottetown.
Mr. Sean Casey: You indicated that there are 250 case managers across Canada. How many of those are in Prince Edward Island?
Ms. Charlotte Stewart: I’m not sure of the exact answer. I believe there are three.
Mr. Sean Casey: So there are 120 veterans in Prince Edward Island or thereabouts who are being case managed?
Ms. Charlotte Stewart: Pardon me?
Mr. Sean Casey: There are about 120 veterans in Prince Edward Island who are being case managed?
Ms. Charlotte Stewart: That would be an approximate answer, yes.
Mr. Sean Casey: The availability of front line service from the Department of Veterans Affairs on Prince Edward Island, once you close the district office, will be limited to those three case managers, or is there someone else they can see?
Ms. Charlotte Stewart: The provision of the front line case management services will continue to be provided to our veterans in Charlottetown, P.E.I. What we have to do is make sure that as we…. Our demographics are definitely driving some changes in the department and as the numbers decline, there are certain areas of the country where the client base today, and certainly going forward, does not support the ongoing location of having a permanent office.
At the same time, the department has made a commitment to provide those veterans with front line case management. They will continue to have home visits from case managers of Veterans Affairs Canada and to be provided their services in that fashion. So while we have to redefine our model to meet the needs and expectations of our veterans we can do that by continuing to provide those front line services.
Mr. Sean Casey: When you say that they will continue to be provided with front-line services, if there are only three case managers and there is no district office, who will be providing the front-line services?
Ms. Charlotte Stewart: Case management services will continue to be provided in Prince Edward Island. In many parts of the country today, we do that in areas where we don’t have a district office. We do it through making sure that our veterans know who their case manager is. They will be contacted by their case manager, who will make sure that their needs are being met. They’ll have the opportunity to communicate with their case manager through our national call centres or through regular contact with their case manager as is required. We know that we can maintain the service, and we will continue to do so in those areas where we will, due to declining overall client numbers, have to close some of the smaller offices.
Mr. Sean Casey: The case managers that are presently situated on Prince Edward Island, are they in the district office?
Ms. Charlotte Stewart: Yes.
Mr. Sean Casey: When the district office closes, where are they going to be?
Ms. Charlotte Stewart: This planning is underway right now. We have the benefit of the time to do this properly, and those decisions will be made in due course.
Mr. Sean Casey: Are you going to move them off island?
Ms. Charlotte Stewart: There’s no decision yet.
Mr. Sean Casey: So you can’t assure me that there will be any case managers on Prince Edward Island once all these changes are implemented?
Ms. Charlotte Stewart: No. What’s important and it’s what’s important to our veterans is that when they meet a case manager, when they need a case management service, they’ll have it available to them, and that’s a commitment the department continues to make and will make in the future.
Mr. Sean Casey: And when you say available to them, someone’s going to get in a car and drive over from the main land and do a house call?
Ms. Charlotte Stewart: We have many examples where case managers provide that service, and it is very effective. The feedback from our veterans indicate that.
Mr. Sean Casey: A client service officer…. Do I have the right term? Is there such a thing?
Ms. Charlotte Stewart: A client service agent.
Mr. Sean Casey: A client service agent…. How many client service agent positions have been cut through the transformation agenda?
Ms. Charlotte Stewart: Overall, there were 75 that were reduced.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr. Casey. We are over the five.