Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Military Equipment Purchases Postponed Again; Vets Emerge as Big Budget Winners

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Military Equipment Purchases Postponed Again; Vets Emerge as Big Budget Winners

Article excerpt

DND equipment purchases postponed again


OTTAWA - The promised re-equipping of the Canadian military has essentially been postponed until after the next election in a maiden federal Liberal budget that shifts billions of dollars in capital spending to 2020 -- or later.

The Trudeau government's new fiscal plan shoves $3.7 billion in planned defence purchases -- ships, planes and vehicles -- off into the future, but Finance Minister Bill Morneau insists the move does not represent a cut to military funding.

Morneau said the Liberals need a year to figure out Canada's defence priorities.

"In order to make sure we have the funds available at the time when they need those funds, we've reprofiled some in the fiscal framework," he told a news conference prior to tabling the budget in the House of Commons.

"So, when we need the money, the money will be in the fiscal framework. So, we believe that is the appropriate action to take to ensure our military has the appropriate equipment, the planes and the ships they need."

Instead, it was the veterans community that emerged Tuesday as one of the biggest winners in the Liberal spending spree.

Canada's ex-soldiers will see enriched disability awards, expanded access to permanent impairment allowances and a more generous income replacement program for the wounded -- measures totalling $5.6 billion over six years, starting this year.

Veterans ombudsman Guy Parent said he was generally pleased with the budget, but will have to run the data to see if the new measures, combined with previous changes by the Conservatives, address the needs of the most vulnerable ex-soldiers -- namely, the wounded from the Afghan war.

What the Liberals didn't include in the budget was a campaign promise to return to a lifetime pension for the wounded, as opposed to the current -- and controversial -- $360,000 disability award.

That omission upset a number of advocates, notably Mike Blais of Canadian Veterans Advovacy.

The budget also retreads a previous commitment to reopen nine regional Veterans Affairs offices shuttered by the previous Conservative government, but does not say precisely when that will happen. …

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