Mayor Clifford Lee, Councillor Cecil Villard, chairperson of the City’s ad-hoc taskforce on federal job losses in PEI and CAO, Roy Main met with Minister of Veterans Affairs, Julian Fantino, Parliamentary Secretary, Parm Gill and Chief of Staff, Jacques Fauteux early this morning to discuss job reductions within the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) and the impact this will have on the veterans and clients currently using DVA services.
The Mayor noted that the percentage of job loss on PEI is much higher than the national average. Minister Fantino confirmed that there is no intention of the Federal Government "picking" on PEI and the cuts to DVA are proportionately higher than the balance of the Country because the majority of DVA employees work in the Charlottetown office.
Fantino confirmed that a local DVA client services agent will remain in Charlottetown with an individual to handle both walk-in requests and be the reference point for veterans looking for service.
"Although it is good news that veterans will have a local point of contact, we are still disappointed to learn that one person will have the responsibility of meeting requests of hundreds of veterans across PEI," said Mayor Clifford Lee. "Our veterans and their families have dedicated their lives to making our country a great place to live and deserve to have the services available to them in a timely and uncomplicated manner."
Mayor Lee will continue with his efforts to coordinate with the Mayors of the eight other municipalities impacted by the DVA closure and to make sure the veterans and clients have their say to the Minister. "Ideally, consideration of any office closure should be held in abeyance until all veterans and clients have had an audience with the Minister as occurred last night at the Charlottetown Legion."
The Minister confirmed that the number of DVA employees in 2011 was 1,277 and that will decrease to 1,045 by March 2016. Falling short of a guarantee, Fantino said that no plans exist today for any further reduction than reducing the DVA employees to 1,045 by 2016.
"We presented Minister Fantino with a copy of the report generated by the City of Charlottetown, the Government of PEI and two federal unions dated May 2012," said Councillor Cecil Villard, chairperson of an ad-hoc taskforce that commissioned research into the potential scope and impact of federal job cuts on PEI. "We had expectations going into today’s meeting that the Minister would understand the Island perspective of the impact on veterans and the local economy. Although not prepared to attend a City Council meeting, Fantino confirmed he wanted the lines of communication open between his office and the City."
"Overall we are concerned about the level of service available for the veterans and clients of DVA," said Mayor Clifford Lee. "The Minister did indicated a willingness to work with the City in an effort to gather input from veterans and this information will be provided to DVA, as we further explore the new Veterans Charter. These discussion are ongoing and we expect a further announcement in the area in the near future."
Despite all efforts through the City of Charlottetown and outside parties, Minister Fantino confirmed that the closure scheduled for the end of January will not be reversed.
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