Aaron Bedard, one of the plaintiffs in the Equitas Society’s class-action lawsuit, at the recent Walk for Veterans. Fleetwood-Port Kells MP Ken Hardie says veterans should have some news about a “pension-for-life” option by year’s end. (File photo)

Aaron Bedard, one of the plaintiffs in the Equitas Society’s class-action lawsuit, at the recent Walk for Veterans. Fleetwood-Port Kells MP Ken Hardie says veterans should have some news about a “pension-for-life” option by year’s end. (File photo)

Surrey MP says pension news for veterans expected ‘by end of the year’

New Veterans Charter ‘didn’t account for the more modern veterans’

A Surrey MP says disabled veterans should hear details about a “pension-for-life” option by the end of December.

“I’m told we’ll see something on this this year,” Ken Hardie, federal Liberal representative for Fleetwood-Port Kells, said Oct. 18.

Hardie, currently in Ottawa, said he approached new Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan that afternoon in response to a request from Peace Arch News for an update on the federal government’s position.

The issue of lifelong pensions for veterans was back in the news this week after the South Surrey-based Equitas Society – which has been advocating for re-enstatement of the pensions since forming in 2012 and launching a class-action lawsuit – hosted its Walk for Veterans in Burnaby on Oct. 15.

Hundreds of people turned out for the event.

The lifelong pensions were eliminated in 2006, when the Pension Act was replaced by the New Veterans Charter; the move was introduced by the Paul Martin Liberals, inherited by the Harper government, and is now back in the hands of the Liberals.

In the 2015 election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to re-establish the pensions.

Hardie – who acknowledged he has not followed the issue closely, but “has a soft spot” for veterans and others who serve – said in looking at the issue’s history, the 2006 change was based more on veterans who served in battles of decades ago, including the Second World War.

“Back in 2006, the whole regime for looking after our veterans still seemed to be based on looking after the oldtimers,” he said.

“So it was an entirely different set of needs.”

While the change addressed a need for that specific relief, “that didn’t account for the more modern veterans that we have,” many of whom are young men and women returning home with lifelong injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder.

“It’s becoming more and more obvious that the regime we had… isn’t going to work today,” Hardie said.

Hardie said he had asked former Veterans Affairs minister Kent Hehr what was happening with the lifelong pension “a few times” since Trudea’s 2015 promise, and said he was told other improvements for veterans – including rebuilding services that the previous government closed, stepping up available therapies and boosting the maximum disability award – were being given priority.

Hardie said O’Regan “is more than totally committed” to addressing the pension issue, but pledged to follow up on the matter before year’s end if there isn’t news by early December.

“If we haven’t heard anything by then, I’ll go bug them,” Hardie said.