I'll be the first to admit it - I liked Erin O'Toole, the Veterans Minister under the Conservatives. He came in like a breath of fresh air into a dump. Before he arrived Veterans Affairs was a nightmare to deal with. He didn't have time to clean up all the trash, but he certainly made as big a dent as he could. There was no question who he was minister of. He was a retired air force officer looking after veterans - his troops if you will. He was minister full-time, all the time, sincerely, and unapologetically so. I miss Erin O'Toole.
Trudeau gave us Kent Hehr. Why I wondered when I quickly noted the guy had zero military experience. Trudeau did have several veterans in his cabinet he could have chosen, but no, he gave us a Calgary lawyer. It seems that Hehr's real qualification may come from the fact that he's disabled (in a wheel chair) and the thinking was he would understand what veteran's are going through. Bit of a misnomer there though. For starters, not all vets are disabled in any way. In fact, the vast majority are not. So, unless they're now lawyers, he has nothing in common with them. Those of us that are disabled due to our service could theoretically relate to a minister in a wheel chair and visa versa. That's only in theory though.
As time has marched on since Hehr became minister I've grown more and more disillusioned by his performance. In the very beginning he seemed to be quite interested in veterans, but now he refuses to converse with them on social media. Instead, he goes to the odd dinner here or there with the Royal order of this, that or the other thing and shakes hands. Mostly, though, he likes to take selfies with himself and just about everyone - other than veterans. I follow him on Twitter, and he followed me back. We exchanged a few private messages. I gave him some ideas on how to better help injured veterans. He thought the ideas were good and promised to have his staff contact me to follow up. That was nearly five months ago. Never heard from his staff, and he no longer answers on social media. He's entered the Ottawa bubble. As I follow him on Twitter, I'm amazed at just how much he tweets about that has nothing to do with veterans affairs. In fact, if you didn't know better, you wouldn't know he was minister at all.
I became so agitated by his lack of a veteran presence I decided to count his Twitter broadcasts (Tweets). Not so shockingly I discovered of the 772 tweets he's made since January 1, 2016, only 159 have been military related in some way - that's a measly 21% of his social media activity. Most of his public presence is apparently consumed with meeting movers and shakers, and doing absolutely nothing for veterans. Here's an example of a recent tweet - many are similar in nature:
FYI, this one is from the Junos.
Apart what I'm going through as an injured veteran, another incident recently highlighted my concern with Hehr. Robin Brentnall, former airbourne soldier and severely disabled veteran has just been forced to undertake a hunger strike in Gander, Newfoundland. Why? Well, Veterans Affairs Canada refuses to qualify him for a $70,000 payout that he's qualified for under the new critical injury program. In fact, Robin has even had a stroke. He is severely disabled, although he does keep his fighting spirit. But here it is, the man is on a hunger strike because Veterans' Affairs are up to their old tricks - delay, deny, die. Minister Hehr was notified of the situation and his office sent a standard reply letter saying there was nothing the Minister could do as the Appeal Board had made their decision. That's simply a lie. In fact, the Minister has the power to make any award at his discretion according to the Act. When Hehr's office found out that Robin was going on a hunger strike they sent him a letter requesting he not do it as it could make his health worse... like they care. More like, "don't do it, we don't want the bad publicity - especially if you die". Disgusting.
Here's Robin with a chest full
In my opinion, Kent Hehr doesn't have the right to shine Robin's boots. He's a hand shaking, baby kissing, elbow rubbing, selfie taking, do-nothing politician - who happens to also be disabled. He didn't keep his promise to veterans over their life-time disability pensions, nobody knows when the Liberal's budget promises will come into effect - least of all the veterans. Just really, really disappointing. It seems like the new minister is really nothing more than a Fantino without the arrogance. He certainly is no Erin O'Toole, and he most definitely should at least come to the aid of fellows like Robin Brentnall - wounded warriors that amde a real difference.
Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)