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Vets lose office battle, not the war

Kelowna-Lake Country MP, Ron Cannan says he is not hearing a lot of negative feedback from veterans in his riding as the local Veteran's Affairs Office ticks through its final day.

The local office, along with several others across the country, will close today (Friday).

The Kelowna office is being replaced by a single Veteran's Affairs officer who will work out of the Service Canada building on Queensway.

"What is really disappointing and hurtful is to see how veterans are being used in a well orchestrated manner for partisan and political reasons by the Public Service Alliance of Canada," says Cannan.

Dale Dirks, 72, a veteran in Kelowna, says that assertion is totally inaccurate.

"For Ron and for the minister to come out and say that, when in fact they themselves cannot voice an opinion or say anything publically without that information coming from the PMO (Prime Minister's Office) - what's the difference," questions Dirks.

"Remember, most of these guys that are on the television are well past 65-years-old - our minds are not as sharp as they should be. Lots of times it's very easy for someone to say don't forget this or don't forget that. And, the last thing you hear is usually the first thing you are going to say."

Dirks agrees with Cannan that there has not been a lot of push back from local veterans concerning the closing of the local office.

He says the reason for that is many voted for Cannan and like him.

As for the closure of the office, Dirks agrees only a handful of veterans may have used the services provided by the office on a daily basis but believes there are many more who will be hurt that didn't necessarily come in on a regular basis.

"Lets look at it from another point of view. We have firefighters who are there all day long - but they are not called upon 24 hours a day to fight fires," says Dirks.

"So, here we are we have these people here that are situated here, they are very highly trained people and honestly, I don't think we are going to have the service the Government of Canada agreed to with the new Veteran Charter."

Dirks says more than 2,000 files are being transferred from Kelowna to Penticton.

He says it's going to be extremely difficult for those veterans with disabilities or mobility issues to make that trip if they need assistance.

Meantime, as the Kelowna office was ready to shut down Friday afternoon, Dawn Klappe., president of the Kelowna local of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers laid a wreath near the main entrance symbolizing the death of the Veteran's Affairs Office.

"This is not union oriented. It's in honour of the veterans that have served this country from this city," says Klappe.

"It's disgusting that the Canadian government would blame the unions for getting veterans all riled up and upset over something like this."

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