Remembrance Day is this weekend, a time when thoughts turn to Canada’s soldiers and the sacrifices they’ve made for their country. Politicians always make a show of honouring those sacrifices, by wearing poppies, organizing events and giving public speeches about the important role the military has served in protecting our democracy. (Justin Trudeau is even headed to France this weekend to mark a century since the end of the First World War.)
But when it comes to providing for those soldiers when they come home...that’s where things get more complicated.
No matter what party is in power, the federal government is accused of not doing enough. That’s not always without reason: Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan revealed yesterday that Ottawa had accidentally shortchanged veterans some $165-million over seven years due to a calculation error, and the minister pledges they’ll pay the money back over the next couple of years.
There’s also the money the government isn’t spending: The New Democrats dominated debate in the House of Commons on Monday by pointing out the millions of dollars that are budgeted but not spent by Veterans Affairs every year, something that’s occurred when both Liberals and Conservatives were in power.
And Globe and Mail reporter Gloria Galloway has dug out yet another issue related to veterans in today’s Globe and Mail: The Liberal government’s planned “pensions for life," which, it turns out, are actually cheaper for federal coffers than the former system of lump-sum payments. The government has said for the past year that the new pension plan represents an extra $3.6-billion going to veterans, but that appears to be a case of optimistic long-term accounting. Most likely, former soldiers wouldn’t see the extra funds for years, if at all. “This is a cost-savings venture for these guys,” veterans advocate Sean Bruyea said.
Lest we forget.
The United States holds its midterm elections tonight, which will elect new members of Congress. Here are two guides to help you follow along: The Globe looks at the important issues in the race (along with a brief explanation of how the midterm elections work), and, for the hardcore politicos among you, FiveThirtyEight provides an hour-by-hour viewing guide of when the polls close across the country.
Canada and other Western countries are raising serious concerns at the United Nations Human Rights Council about China’s treatment of its minority Mulism population. The Globe’s Nathan VanderKlippe recently ventured into Western China to visit the indoctrination camps himself, in regions where activists say the ruling Communist Party is trying to crush the practice of religion. The journey was fairly dangerous for our correspondent, and he recounts the surveillance and threats he received as he tried to tell the Uyghurs' story.
The Canadian government says it is holding behind-the-scenes talks about the asylum request from Asia Bibi, a Pakistani woman who is Christian and who has spent years on death row on charges of blasphemy.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has been forced to shuffle his cabinet after losing both a top minister and one of his top staffers to separate accusations of inappropriate behaviour. The outgoing minister, Jim Wilson, and the outgoing aide, Andrew Kimber, are both facing allegations of sexual misconduct, according to Global News.
The government is investing in a project that serves Canadians friendly ads when they google extremist sayings.
The Bloc Québécois is thinking about changing its name.
And the National Post, continuing to dig into a program that allows former governors-general to bill taxpayers for their expenses years after leaving office, reports that the initial estimates of Adrienne Clarkson’s expenses may be too low. In fact, the paper reports, she may have been billing up to $206,000 a year.
Globe and Mail editorial board on tonight’s midterm elections in the United States: “If a couple of dozen Congressional districts flip from Republican red to Democratic blue on Tuesday night, giving the Democrats a majority in the House, a lot of Mr. Trump’s plans for the next two years, from rewriting the rules of citizenship to further ballooning the deficit with another tax cut, will become difficult or impossible. If voters put one or both houses of Congress in Democratic hands, it likely won’t lower the temperature in American politics. But it will lower the pace of change, since it would mean legislative gridlock. That would not be a bad thing.”
Jan Kestle (The Globe and Mail) on Statistics Canada getting financial information from banks: “Some have argued that although the Statistics Act does ensure that the data will be kept private and confidential, there is still no real need to move to this new approach at this time. This is wrong. It is increasingly difficult to get respondents to complete long paper-based surveys manually. This will only get worse and the quality of government stats will become even more challenged over time.”
Sean Bruyea (CBC) on the Legion’s monopoly on using the poppy: “Such responsibility should not be entrusted to just one organization, especially one that is not fully accountable to all Canadians. Charities and organizations working to assist veterans and serving members and their families should be able to share this solemn emblem of honour.”
André Picard (The Globe and Mail) on medical assistance in dying: “But as the law evolves, we should not forget its fundamental raison d'être: To mitigate suffering. When Canadians opt for a dignified death, we should be comforting them – not choking them and their health-care providers to death with red tape.”
Christie Blatchford (National Post) on the expenses of former governor-general Adrienne Clarkson: “In fact, this is life, period — commitments, requests for time and money, invites to things, obligations at every turn, small duties and big ones, debts owed, responsibilities assumed. Managing it, saying yes or no, reading email you don’t solicit, showing up when you’d rather stay comatose on the couch — this is all of our lives. Every one of us does it. We just don’t expect the taxpayer to pay for it, nor do we consider it, somehow, to be public service.”