Opposition Motion — Canadian Forces

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his presentation on this very important motion, which I will be supporting.

We have been told that there are somehow 600 points of contact replacing the Veterans Affairs offices. All of us, as members of Parliament, are hearing from veterans. They want these offices to stay open.

However, we now find that these points of contact, of course, are Service Canada offices, which as members of Parliament, we also know about because we have been hearing from frustrated, angry constituents for months. If they call Service Canada about an overdue EI claim or for information they need on pensions, they wait on hold for over an hour. The Service Canada offices are in no shape to absorb the veterans who will want services.

Can the member comment on what he makes of this claim that there are 600 points of service? Is it not in fact 600 clusters of frustration?

Ryan Cleary: Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. The member is absolutely right. There are 600 points of contact, but those 600 points of contact are Service Canada offices. Will they be able to help the veterans in their time of need? My answer to that is no. In a lot of cases they will be referred to the Internet, for example, and in too many cases that we have heard about veterans who are seniors of 80 or 90-plus years of age cannot use the Internet or the telephone. Theirs skills are not there on the Internet. Their hearing is not there for the telephone.

The member for Sackville—Eastern Shore mentioned a story in his speech earlier. He spoke about how one veteran recommended that when people call these Service Canada outlets, they actually have a lunch with them, because they are going to be on the telephone that long. Also, veterans who are in immediate need of help are being referred to 911. Therefore, the short answer is no. Those 600 points of contact will not do.