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Letter: Similar experience with MP concerning veterans' issues

opinion

Re: Letter: Nice way to treat the residents?

I read with interest this week’s letters, in particular the letter from Larry Steeves about his experiences in trying to correspond with our illustrious Member of Parliament (MP) Earl Dreeshen. His experiences with the Honourable Member from Red Deer-Mountain View were identical to mine. I too, am a veteran but am a short-timer with only 20 years service and an even smaller pension than Mr. Steeves.  

Around 2013, I first contacted our MP at the time, Blake Richards, about my issue -- the so-called “Gold-diggers clause” that disallows widowed spouses of military veterans who marry after 60 years of age, from receiving any survivor benefits relating to their spouse’s military pensions. Before Mr. Richards was able to inquire into my question, the constituencies were rearranged and we became the dubious beneficiaries of Mr. Dreeshen’s largesse with Richards sailing on to the greener pastures to represent the good voters of of Banff and Canmore.

In 2015, newly-elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, in his mandate letter to the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of Defense Seamus O’Regan, the prime minister had directed that he “eliminate the marriage after 60 clause in the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act, so that surviving spouses of veterans receive appropriate pension and health benefits.”

This gave me hope that this outrageously prejudicial regulation would be addressed.  

Nothing happened so I contacted Dreeshen’s office inquiring of the Conservative Party’s position on the issue and requesting his help on pushing the Liberal government on the issue. 

Over the next few years I had several telephone and email communications with different people in Dreeshen’s Red Deer and Ottawa offices. 

Some assured me that Mr. Dreeshen would answer me but he never once did. After one email, his office manager kindly informed me that he did forward my email on to Liberal ministers Bill Morneau and Kent Hehr. Morneau never answered but Hehr did respond saying I would have to write him directly.  Before I could do that, he too was gone in the 2019 election. 

Finally, in 2019, after receiving one of Dreeshen’s annual flyers in my post office box extolling his virtues and advising readers of his flyer to “contact my office...If I can help you and your family in any way." This really set off my BS detector, but again, I politely (if, I must admit, somewhat sarcastically), emailed him, saying I still hoped he would address my request for assistance. 

Of course he never did respond and that’s where it stands now. 

Back to letter-writer Larry Steeves. I sympathize with Mr. Steeves. My takes on Dreeshen are (1) He has no desire to help any of his constituents that live west of Highway 2 or aren’t large-scale grain farmers who contribute to his re-election campaigns, (2) Maybe he just dislikes the military, veterans or all letter writers, emailers or telephone callers in general, (3) He is content to just draw his salary as a do-nothing backbencher MP until he can retire and collect his gold-plated pension. Mmmmm. Maybe it’s all of the above.

I do have a question though: Are Mr. Steeves and I the only constituents who are ignored by our member of Parliament when they seek assistance? 

Fred Gillies,

Sundre