Ministerial Question Period: Processing Backlog

By: The Hon. Marty Klyne

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Hon. Marty Klyne: Minister, welcome. Thank you for the segue into Budget 2023, which directed all federal departments to reduce spending by 3% over the next five years.

In addition, Minister Anand announced last August that all departments must provide solutions by October for cuts to reduce government spending by $15 billion.

This results in an apparent contradiction, as the same budget provided further funding to increase Veterans Affairs Canada staffing to address the long-standing backlog and wait-time crisis. Yet, at the same time, the department is being required to reduce overall spending by 3% over the next three years.

Can you please clarify how these cuts are applied and what the effect will be on existing programs as well as new and backlogged applications?

Hon. Ginette Petitpas Taylor, P.C., M.P., Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence: That’s a very good question, and thank you so much. Let me be very clear. There will be no programs and services that will be cut for veterans and their families. The cuts that we have brought forward are in the area of executive travel and contracts. Through Veterans Affairs Canada, over the past eight years, we have invested more than $11 billion in additional services and benefits for veterans and their families. In no way will those programs be cut at all through the departmental review.

I also want to indicate that with respect to the work that continues, we will ensure, again, that the programs remain in place. We also have to keep in mind that over the past number of years, as I have indicated, we have seen a significant increase in the investments made with respect to services and benefits.

In fact, the Department of Veterans Affairs has seen a 61% increase in the level of applications, and we have had to hire additional staff. Once again, the spending review will in no way affect that. Last year, we received additional funding in order to make sure that we could maintain those positions at Veterans Affairs Canada, as we want to deal with the backlog that we had.

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