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MP-Report

Pension for life for vets

Pension for life and a commitment to do better for our veterans

In 2006, all parties in the House of Commons passed the New Veterans Charter (NVC). 

It modernized the benefits and services available to veterans, recognizing that those who had served in places like Afghanistan were going to need help transitioning to civilian life through the provision of financial, education, re-training and mental health supports that were not available under the old Pension Act.

But since the establishment of the NVC, and despite improvements, many veterans have continued to express concern that the most severely injured veterans needed a greater commitment from the federal government in the form of a lifetime pension.

On Dec. 20, Seamus O’Regan, minister of Veterans Affairs and associate minister of National Defence unveiled the government’s Pension for Life, a plan that will make significant changes to rectify the situation.  

The Pension for Life plan has three key pillars:

  • monthly, tax-free financial compensation, with the choice of monthly payments for life, to recognize pain and suffering caused by a service-related disability with a maximum monthly amount of $2,650 for those most severely disabled with barriers to re-establishment;
  • income replacement for veterans who are experiencing barriers returning to work after military service at 90 per cent of their pre-release salary. In some circumstances Veterans may be eligible for an additional one per cent career progression factor each year; 
  • services and benefits to help veterans in a wide-range of areas, including education, employment and physical and mental health.

These provisions represent an additional investment of close to $3.6 billion to support Canada’s veterans. When combined with well-being programs already announced in previous budgets, the government’s investments since 2016 add up to nearly $10 billion. 

Previous adjustments to the New Veterans Charter have added layers of complexity to an already overburdened system, a problem that was exacerbated with the closure of VAC offices across Canada under the previous government.

By reopening the VAC offices and making improvements and changes to Veterans programming in Budget 2016 and Budget 2017, veterans in Kelowna and across the country have the person to person support they need to navigate the suite of benefits and services available to them.  

Now, with our most recent announcement, unnecessary complexities and delays will be addressed and supports can be tailored to a veteran’s unique situation and service history to help Veterans and their families live a full and productive life post-service. 

In the meantime, those who are having the most difficulty resuming a normal life and those who have the most catastrophic injuries remain the government’s most pressing priority.

With the right balance and effective mix of financial compensation, benefits and well-being support services, it’s now time to turn our full attention to delivering services our veterans want and deserve.



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City kids to play on 150 rink

Once in a lifetime opportunity for Kelowna-Lake Country kids

As Parliament heads into its final week before it rises for the Christmas and holiday season, naysayers, egged on by the official opposition, have attempted to launch a protest against what they see as an egregious example of government waste. 

This time, however, it’s more Scrooge than squander.

The controversy is the Canada 150 rink on Parliament Hill, which opened Dec. 7, and will remain open until the end of February.

A national Canada 150 Skating Day was also held on Dec. 10 in communities across the country.

It’s been a year of outstanding celebrations across Canada and the Canada 150 rink will be one of the last opportunities this year to bring Canadians together to enjoy the unique opportunity to skate on Parliament Hill.

That’s not all. The Canada 150 rink will also be home to another great Canadian pastime, a winter hockey tournament.

Thirty-two eligible girls and boys Peewee house league teams, representing every province, territory and region, will compete at this year’s Bell Capital Cup hockey tournament in a special Canada 150 Division, giving them a once-in-a-lifetime chance to play on Parliament Hill. 

I am extremely pleased that the Kelowna Peewee Female Rec Devils have successfully competed for the chance to represent B.C. and will participate in the Hill tournament being held from Dec. 27 to Jan. 1.

To view the winning video and learn more about our community’s team, please visit http://www.kelownaminorhockey.com/kelowna-peewee-female-rec-devils-going-ottawa/

Fiscal responsibility is essential, of course, and that is why the government has partnered with the Ottawa International Hockey Festival (OIHF) to pay for the design, build and programming of the outdoor skating rink on Parliament Hill, including the cost of the youth hockey tournament.

And those efforts won’t go to waste once all is said and done: after the end of its stay on Parliament Hill, the skating rink will be donated to a community in need and will serve as a lasting legacy of Canada 150 for the next 30 years.

For the past 150 years, Canadians have worked together to make this country great, one that is economically and socially sound. 

Today, we have the fastest growing economy in the G7, the lowest unemployment rate in almost a decade, a strong middle class, an improved Canada Pension Plan, universal healthcare, access to affordable post-secondary education, a skilled workforce, and a society built on inclusiveness and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  

We live in cynical world and it’s especially hard at this time of year to square our good fortune against the conflicts and suffering that affects the daily lives of so many others. 

But as we reflect on Canada 150 and what it means to live in a country like Canada, let’s not let cynicism get the better of us; let’s recognize that, from time to time, while we remain vigilant against the most pressing issues, a little levity, a positive outlook, especially for our children, is allowed.

As we close out the year for Canada 150, let’s put the partisan swords down and allow ourselves a moment to celebrate bringing Canadians together, and providing an experience our young Canadians, their coaches and parents will never forget. 



A place to call home

During the past year, the federal government has worked closely with the provinces and territories and engaged broadly with Canadians, municipalities, Indigenous organizations, community organizations and the private sector on the development of a National Housing Strategy.

On Nov. 22, the new National Housing Strategy was unveiled.

Funded through new and existing programs, the Strategy ensures many more Canadians will have access to adequate and affordable housing by reducing the financial stress of rising accommodation rates, helping communities renovate their housing stock, and providing more stable housing to persons who are homeless. 

Priority will be given to the most vulnerable Canadians including women and children fleeing family violence, seniors, Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, those dealing with mental health and addiction issues, veterans and young adults.  

Housing needs vary greatly by community. In Kelowna-Lake Country, affordable housing is challenged by a rising population, high rental rates and home prices, and a lack of affordable housing options.

The strategy will help our community in a number of ways: the proposed federal/provincial Canada Housing Benefit will provide affordability support directly to families and individuals including those:

  • living in social housing
  • on a social housing wait-list
  • housed in the private market, but struggling to make ends meet.

Additionally, through partnerships with the province, our municipalities, our non-profits, co-operatives and the private-sector, the new National Housing Co-Investment Fund will provide contributions and low interest loans to repair existing rental housing and build new affordable housing.

The fund is also expected to create more shelter spaces for survivors of violence; transitional and supportive housing for those in need, and will help to make homeownership more affordable for modest income earners.

In the meantime, current housing needs are being addressed through a number of funding arrangements including the Canada BC Affordable Housing Agreement ,and the Homelessness Partnering Strategy, which currently provides $2.7 million over five years to support local homelessness initiatives in Kelowna-Lake Country.

Additionally, in Budget 2016, the government committed $2.2 billion to give more Canadians access to more affordable housing.

Budget 2016 also provided funding for low-cost loans and new financing tools to encourage municipalities, housing developers and non-profit housing providers to develop more affordable rental housing units.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has characterized the new National Housing Strategy as a breakthrough for cities and communities, saying that it demonstrates the kind of federal leadership that local governments have been seeking for more than 20 years.

Municipalities appreciate long-term support as it helps them plan their own long-term solutions and I’m looking forward to working with Mayors Colin Basran and James Baker, and the community, to identify our greatest need and ensure Kelowna-Lake Country benefits as much as it can from available funding.

Our government recognizes it has a responsibility to Canadians to work with all levels of government to preserve the existing supply of community-based housing, build a more modern and sustainable community housing system, and keep housing affordable for low-income households.

1.7 million Canadians are in some form of housing need and the National Housing Strategy will go a long way to addressing one of the most fundamental needs and basic rights of our citizens – a place to call home. 



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Good news update

Fall economic statement bears good news

The government has released its fall economic statement and the news is positive:

  • Canadian economic growth has accelerated sharply, growth is becoming more balanced across sectors and regions, our net debt to GDP continues to decline and because of growing consumer confidence, local economies are thriving. 

Here at home recent statistics from the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission indicate that household income has risen, labour force participation and housing starts are up, unemployment is low, more business licenses have been approved, and record breaking numbers in passenger traffic at Kelowna International continue to bring visitors to the Okanagan.

Even the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s latest financial report confirms that “current fiscal policy in Canada is sustainable over the long term” and relative to the size of the economy, “total government net debt is projected to remain below its current level over the long term.” 

As the economic statement noted, household consumption has been the main contributor to economic growth over the past year underpinned by solid employment gains, low interest rates, improving consumer confidence and, since July 2016, the support of the Canada Child Benefit to families.

In fact, Bank of Canada Governor Stephen Poloz credited the Liberal government's Canada Child Benefit program as a reason for the country's strengthening economy, calling it "highly stimulative."

In the past few months, I’ve been frank in my criticism about the way the government explained its objectives during the recent consultation on tax proposals. 

But as the minister noted in his economic statement to the House, feedback from those who attended our townhall in Kelowna and other entrepreneurs, professionals, and hardworking small business people drove him to get things right.

Our government has responded with a set of modified tax proposals that will ensure small business owners are respected. 

The government is fulfilling its commitment to lower the tax on small business, from 11 per cent in 2015 to nine per cent by 2019.

In addition, the government has also announced that it will not be moving forward with proposals to limit the multiplication of the Lifetime Capital Gains Exemption, which was of concern to many of our farmers and families who were planning on handing down their business to the next generation.

Finally, the government has made amendments to its consideration of passive investment to provide business owners the flexibility afforded from savings accumulated in the corporation.

It is also ensuring these measures are provided in a manner that does not encourage wealthy individuals to have unlimited tax assisted savings over and above the RRSP and TFSA limits available to everyone else.

The modified proposals also ensure incentives are maintained for venture capital and angel investors.

Canada’s economy is growing faster than it has in more than a decade. By investing in Canadians, the economy is thriving and Canada continues to have the best fiscal position among G7 countries.

This includes cutting taxes for nine million middle class Canadians, introducing a new Canada Child Benefit, and strengthening the Canada Pension Plan so that future generations of workers can retire with dignity.

You have my assurance that I will continue to advocate strongly for our community and I thank all of you who have taken the time to contact me to help bring our community’s concerns to the attention of our government.



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About the Author

Stephen Fuhr was born in Edmonton, AB and grew up in Kamloops, BC. He is a former CF-18 fighter pilot with the Canadian Air Force.

After serving with distinction for 20 years, Stephen retired from the Canadian Forces in 2009 with the rank of Major. He joined his family’s Kelowna-based company, SkyTrac Systems, which develops aviation communication and tracking equipment. As CEO and Director of Business Development, he led the company to financial success in a challenging economic climate.

In 2012, Stephen left the company to pursue his first love of flying.

With growing interest in politics and a desire to serve his country again, Stephen ran for office in the 2015 election.

Today, he proudly serves as the Member of Parliament for the Kelowna-Lake Country riding. 



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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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