The Capital News has been told by the office of the federal Minister of Veteran’s Affairs that the Veteran’s Affairs office closed in Kelowna by the former Conservative government will be reopened in the city within a year.
Just hours after the Capital News story (below) about local MP Stephen Fuhr’s meeting with Minister Kent Hahr appeared online, a senior representative of the minister’s Ottawa staff phoned the newspaper to say the story had been read and the office wanted to respond. He said the department wanted to make it clear, the Kelowna office will reopen, along with all eight of the other Veteran’s Affairs offices that were closed across Canada.
He said the department is currently looking for an appropriate location in the city and will need to hire staff for the reopened office.
He quoted from the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mandate letter to Hehr saying all nine offices must be reopened as per the election promise made by the Liberals during the recent campaign.
He also said that while the Kelowna office will reopen, there is no plan to close or move the existing Veteran’s Affairs office located in Penticton.
New Kelowna-Lake Country MP Stephen Fuhr is still waiting for an answer about the future of a veteran’s affairs office here.
Despite meeting with the minister responsible, Kent Hehr, earlier this week in Ottawa to discuss re-opening the office in Kelowna, Fuhr has still not received a definitive answer to the question of whether the Liberal government will follow through on its promise do that (along with eight other offcies across the country closed by the former Conservative government.)
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau made the promise during the election campaign and, during his own local campaign, Fuhr reiterated it several times.
But shortly after being sworn in as minister, Hehr appeared to back away from the plan saying it remained to be decided what offices would be reopened and where they would be located.
“Minister Hehr understands the importance of this office to our local veterans and assured me that our veterans will be well-served,” said Fuhr. “Our meeting was productive and I look forward to hearing from the minister again shortly.”
He added Trudeau, now prime minister, has asked Hehr to “deliver” on a number of top priorities, including re-opening the nine Veterans Affairs service offices that were closed, hiring more service delivery staff, and fully implementing all of the Auditor General’s recommendations on enhancing mental health service delivery to veterans.
“These priorities draw heavily from (the Liberal) election platform commitments and local veterans can be confident they will receive the respect, support, care, and economic opportunities they deserve from our government,” said Fuhr.
Last week he said if the minister does not reopen the office here, he will lobby to have the existing veterans’ affairs office located in Penticton moved to Kelowna.
Fuhr said it make more sense to have an office in the Central Okanagan rather than the south Okanagan—if there is to be only one in the valley—because of the distance veterans from the north Okanagan have to travel for service.