Mulcair promises more veteran care

HALIFAX – Canada’s “disrespected” military veterans would see more federal health-care support under an NDP government, including funding to help them deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, party leader Tom Mulcair announced Monday.

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Mulcair said $454 million over four years would be spent to provide treatment for veterans suffering from the effects of PTSD. The money would also be used to improve long-term care services and the Veterans Independence Program, which provides housekeeping and other support to elderly and disabled former military personnel.

“I will ensure our government honours the sacrifices of our veterans and provides the services and benefits they’ve earned,” Mulcair said at a legion hall in Halifax, a city with deep military roots.

While many of the veterans gathered at the hall applauded the announcement, some were skeptical, saying they’d like to see further details before passing judgment on the plan.

When questioned about how he would pay for his promise, Mulcair said it was incorporated in his party’s fully costed policy, which has been criticized by his opponents as being overly optimistic and based on flawed numbers from the federal government’s spring budget.

WATCH:Mulcair explains where Veteran cash will come from

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Mulcair also slammed the Conservative government, accusing it of letting veterans down through cuts to their health services.

“Ask our veterans and they will tell you about nine years of disrespect they’ve seen from Stephen Harper,” he said.

But the NDP would have to tread carefully when redefining benefits for veterans, said one man who didn’t want to provide his name, revealing only that he was a veteran of the Korean conflict and member of a long-time military family.

The man, who spoke to Mulcair personally as the NDP leader exited the hall, said any party in power will have to provide benefits and services tailored to individuals, not the “one veteran, one standard policy” that Mulcair spoke of Monday.

“The government has to be very careful how it makes changes,” he said.

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An NDP government would also apologize and “make amends” to former servicemen and women who were forced out of the military over their sexual orientation, Mulcair said, calling the move a measure of fairness that is long overdue.

He also promised to launch a public inquiry into the spraying of Agent Orange at Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick.

The highly poisonous herbicide was sprayed at the army base in 1966 and 1967 by the U.S. military, with permission from Canada. It’s now known that exposure can lead to skin disorders, liver problems and certain types of cancers.

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The federal government set aside nearly $100 million in 2007 for Canadians harmed by Agent Orange and other chemicals used at the base.

The NDP leader also repeated a promise to reopen nine Veterans Affairs offices that were closed by the Conservative government.

Mulcair made the announcements as his election campaign continues its tour through Atlantic Canada. He was scheduled to visit Charlottetown later in the day.

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