Veteran Rod Cutbush says a toll-free number supplied by Veterans Affairs is hit-or-miss at best.
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Roy Lamore says if the Canadian government bought one less $35-million fighter jet, it wouldn’t have to close Veterans Affairs office in smaller communities across the country.
Lamore, a Second World War veteran, was in Ottawa on Thursday, speaking out against the planned closures, which will see 784 jobs lost.
“To our government, don’t be short-sighted and take our dreams away. Don’t push our veterans into a corner. We’ve done enough fighting,” Lamore said, his words broadcast to gatherings across the country put on by the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
The Thunder Bay office is slated to close in February 2014, with a loss of eight full-time jobs.
The cuts have already begun, with only three employees and a manager staffing the local outlet.
Lamore implored the government not to forget the veterans who survived the country’s battles, whether they served like him in Europe or in Afghanistan.
While it may seem like the distant past to some, the alternative is frightening, Lamore said. That’s why it important the government keep its promise to its veterans.
“If things did not work out as planned, we’d all be eating sauerkraut and sausages,” he said.
Lamore was not alone.
Joined by several other veterans in the nation’s capital, he had the support of several more who watched in his hometown.
Jim Heald, who served in the reserves during the heart of the Cold War, said he was astonished to learn the local Veterans Affairs office was closing.
While he’s yet to use the service, he knows plenty of veterans who do.
“We’re still creating veterans every day, right here in Thunder Bay. They’re going to continue to need the service,” Heald said.
When the office does close, veterans needed face-to-face service will likely need to travel to either Winnipeg or North Bay.
They’ll also have the option to call a toll-free number to speak to an official.
Rod Cutbush, injured in the early 1990s while serving at sea, said recent experience suggests an unpleasant experience awaits anyone trying the toll-free route.
He tried for three days before finally connecting with a live voice when he recently needed service. That’s too long, he said.
It’s also not the service veterans deserve.
“It’s pretty faceless. It’s cold,” he said.
Both local MPs promised to help fight the closures in the House of Commons.
Independent representative Bruce Hyer said voters are witnessing the hollowing out of Canada, and blamed a low corporate tax rate for the cuts.
“This regressive decision will have serious implications,” he said. “Lest we forget seems to have been forgotten by the (Stephen) Harper Conservative government.”
MP John Rafferty (NDP, Thunder Bay-Superior North), a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, called it another broken Harper promise.
“This is really a tipping point in this government and the way it treats veterans,” Rafferty said. “A lot of veterans will start falling through the cracks and that’s not what the government promised.”
Other offices slated for closure include Corner Brook, N.L., Charlottetown, Sydney, N.S., Windsor, Ont., Saskatoon, Brandon, Man. and Kelowna, B.C.
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