On Monday, the ombudsman for the Canadian Forces issued the latest scathing indictment of the disrespect this federal Liberal government consistently exhibits towards our nation's soldiers. André Marin reported that when the Department of National Defense (DND) sought volunteers for a training course on air traffic control in Richmond, B.C. in 2002, ten modestly-paid corporals were provided an advance of $5000, or $50 per day, to purchase their meals.
Once the 102-day course was underway, DND changed its mind and advised the trainees they were entitled to just $17.50 per day. Still, the soldiers' commanders continued to insist they would be allowed the full $50 per diem as promised. It wasn't until the corporals returned home that they learned they would have to pay back the difference.
Negotiations with the soldiers eventually brought the amount owing to $2,200. Meanwhile, two Canadian Forces civilian employees on the same course were allowed to keep the full $50 per diem! Repaying the money forced some of the soldiers into debt. One corporal was even forced to sell his home. All because of a broken promise and the unreasonable expectation that these soldiers would be able to purchase three square meals a day for just $17.50!
Federal public servants get $71.45 per day while traveling on government business. Between them, former Privacy Commissioner George Radwanski, Ministerial Aide Charles Boyer, Veterans Review and Appeal Board Member Denise Tremblay, National Art Gallery Director Pierre Thiberge and Correctional Services boss Lucie McClung have spent over a million dollars on extravagant meals and lavish travel. Of course, these high-ranking bureaucrats were Liberal patronage appointees.
In the House of Commons this week I asked why the government doesn't demand repayment from these people for their lavish over-spending of tax dollars. Why doesn't the government go after the Canadian Forces Commander-in-Chief, Governor General Adrienne Clarkson, for the $5.3-million she spent on just one trip?!
Instead, the government chased after $22,000 from the very people we're having the most trouble retaining in the Forces, highly-skilled technicians specializing in radar and communications. The government should be bending over backwards to keep them in the forces instead of nickel-and-diming them for a few meagre meals. No wonder these men and women often snap up the first opportunity to leave the military and bring their skills to the private sector.
Defence Minister David Pratt has finally, belatedly announced he has reversed this discriminatory decision against the ten servicemen. While he does deserve thanks, at least two questions come to mind ? he has been Defence Minister for three months, what took so long? And why does it always seem to take public disclosure to force the Liberals to reluctantly do what's right?
In this case, Mr. Marin had to make his report public and I had to raise the issue in the House of Commons in order to force the Liberals to act. Sadly, this arrogant government's actions are based upon the risk of exposure, not upon principle or conscience.