Tension between the Ministry of Veterans Affairs and the union representing its workers has become “untenable,” North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney said.
The tension comes from the ministry contracting out rehabilitation work to a private company as Veterans Affairs staff are feeling unsupported in their roles.
In late October, the Union of Veterans’ Affairs called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to replace Lawrence MacAulay as minister. The union told Atlantic Canada news organization SaltWire that it has lost confidence in MacAulay after the government awarded a $560 million contract for veterans’ rehabilitation services to two companies in June 2021.
This work would typically be done by Veterans Affairs, and the union says that “This contracting out is taking place at a time when case managers … are struggling with overwhelming caseloads of up to 50 veterans each.”
“Instead of ensuring case managers have appropriate workloads that allow them to provide exceptional service, and hiring more permanent staff, your department is threatening to privatize even more of their work,” says an open letter from the union to the minister.
“The Minister … isn’t even trying to work with the veteran’s affairs staff union on rehabilitation services – he’s just letting the relationship sour,” Blaney said.
In Sept. 2022, NDP MP Lindsay Mathyssen moved in the House of Commons that a study be done on the impact of the contract, which Blaney also fought for.
“The first step is listening to veterans and investing in good quality, accessible rehabilitation services that prioritize people, not profits,” Blaney said. “That’s why I fought for a committee investigation into the outsourcing and new rehab contract – we need to ensure outsourcing won’t worsen an already struggling program.”
Blaney called on the government to help veterans as they transition to civilian life, saying that it “can be extremely challenging after serving our country, and Canadian veterans are struggling to access needed rehabilitation services.”
She said that the government has “a responsibility to protect and fight for those who have served our country,” she said. “But after seven years of not fixing these problems and outsourcing rehab services to companies that only care about making money – it’s clear that the Liberals don’t want to step up to help veterans or support workers.”