The Canadian Armed Forces’ budget for equipment purchases suffered a hit and veterans injured in the line of duty were left wondering if they would ever see the option of receiving life-long pensions with the federal budget announced by the Liberal government yesterday.
The budget tabled in the House of Commons by Finance Minister Bill Morneau included an additional $624 million to spend over several years on veterans programs aimed at easing the transition to civilian life of former soldiers.
Still, it might seem to some ironic that while the Liberals were the only party during the latest elections that promised to re-introduce the option of pension for life for veterans injured in uniform, they were silent on it yesterday. The pension for life option was something injured veterans could count on until it was replaced in 2006 by a lump-sum payment bundled with career training programs aimed at securing income replacement.
The CAF will also have to defer some of its planned equipment purchases. The government also took away $8.4 billion from the DND’s equipment budget – but promised to pencil it in again and spend the money over the next 20 years.
There is also $184 million in the budget for defence, however, that money represents funds from the previous Conservative government which the Liberals had promised they would not spend.
The CBC also noted that announced reallocation of funds for such items as the Air Forces new fixed-wing search and rescue planes (FWSAR), and upgrades to the Army’s new light armoured vehicles (LAV III’s) – programs that have already commenced.
“That explanation makes no sense,” said Dave Perry, an analyst with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, in an interview with CBC News. “That whole description is incoherent, so I cannot make heads nor tails of what they are saying.”
He said the budget is in effect taking away money from the military and “pretending to give it back several decades in the future.”
While the Liberals claim they are making progress on benefits for veterans, a report from the Canadian Press said the budget appears to be sending a “strong signal that the old pension system won’t be coming back.”
The Liberals are deferring the funding to tweak the budget’s overall numbers at the military’s expense, according to NDP Leader Tom Mulcair.
“Canadians have every right to be concerned about that, because we are in desperate need of new ships for our Navy, we’re in desperate need of new fighter aircraft for our Air Force, and there’s no way that with the type of budget we’ve seen here that they’re going to be getting them,” he said.