Conservatives effectively killed a Liberal backbencher motion to end veteran homelessness by 2025 that was expected to get all-party support.
In a House of Commons debate Tuesday evening, both the NDP and Conservatives said they supported the motion.
But Elgin-Middlesex-London Conservative Karen Vecchio told the House she wanted more time to debate the issue and wouldn’t agree to the Liberal request to collapse the debate and call a vote. That means the motion is shunted to the bottom of the list and won’t see the light of day before this session of Parliament ends this month.
Bay of Quinte MP Neil Ellis’ private members’ motion M-225 calls for an end to what advocates say is a solvable problem for the estimated 3,000-5,000 homeless veterans in Canada by 2025, a plan in place to do that by next year, and for the government to look at a successful housing voucher program for vets in the United States.
“Unfortunately the men and women that served were last night disappointed…I apologize for that, and hopefully we can make this right,” Ellis told Global News on Wednesday, saying he would continue to push the issue.
“I think that all parties support it but it’s a matter of getting it over the finish line. And last night we couldn’t get it over the finish line, which is disappointing for the men and women that have served.”
Vecchio told Global News she supports the motion and she supports veterans, but says her lack of support for a vote comes down to the Liberals not following the correct process during the debate.
WATCH: Conservative MP Karen Vecchio explains why she blocked a vote on a motion to end veteran homelessness
“They left me, as the critic for this file, with one minute to speak. When I said I wanted more time to speak they gave me one minute…They were playing politics with this bill,” said Vecchio.
“We’re also wondering why after four years are they supporting this motion? This is something that should have been done through all of the legislative process on the different bills that they had, for the national housing strategy, for the veterans’ bills, all of those things. They’re doing this and tacking it on to a private members’ bill because for four years they forgot about the veterans,” said Vecchio.
The prime minister weighed in during Wednesday’s question period.
“Unfortunately last night Conservatives put partisanship ahead of helping veterans, which is disappointing but not surprising,” said Justin Trudeau. “Even if Conservatives won’t put partisanship aside, we’ll continue to work for people across this country.”
The ins and outs of process on Parliament Hill are less important to the veterans in crisis.
“I feel absolutely deflated,” said veteran and advocate Jim Lowther.
His organization VETS Canada relies on a volunteer network of veterans to help those who are homeless and in crisis. Lowther says the need is dire: they get between 250 and 350 calls each month across the country.
“We had a room with all parties agreeing that this was a good thing and then no one votes? They run out of time?”
“We desperately need help. We’ve been carrying this load for nine years… veterans doing the work themselves,” Lowther said.
WATCH: Tour of duty to help homeless Canadian veterans
Lowther says he hopes the issue doesn’t become a “political football” in the next election campaign, as veterans need help immediately.
During Tuesday’s debate, Ellis hinted that veteran homelessness may be included in the 2019 Liberal campaign platform. He said he spoke to both ministers responsible on Tuesday (Veterans Minister Lawrence MacAulay and Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Jean-Yves Duclos), and is hopeful this motion could still become part of policy even if it didn’t come to a vote.
When asked whether solving veteran homelessness would be part of the upcoming platform, Liberal Party spokesperson Braeden Caley said that platform “is still being finalized.”
“Liberals recognize that one person living on the street is one too many, and we are committed to ensuring that no one who has served our country ends up homeless,” Caley wrote in a statement to Global News.
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