Vets demand answers on unspent $1 billion


OTTAWA – Veterans groups are responding angrily to news that the federal department responsible for their care and benefits was unable to spend upwards of $1.1 billion of its budget over seven years.

The figures are contained in answers to written questions posed in Parliament by the opposition and come as the Conservative government tries to figure out how to implement a series of changes recommended by the House of Commons veterans committee.

Like other departments unable to spend their appropriation within the budget year, Veterans Affairs was required to return its unspent funds to the treasury.

The Royal Canadian Legion has written Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino, demanding a detailed accounting of which programs had lapsed funding and why.

Don Leonardo, of Veterans Canada, says he believes it was part of a deliberate strategy to help cut the federal deficit and points out that deputy ministers and others received bonuses for meeting fiscal targets.

A spokeswoman for Fantino said late Wednesday the department asks for the resources to pay for veterans benefits and medical treatment and when there is money left over it is reinvested into the following year’s budget process.