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PBO finds benefits overhaul will shortchange recently and severely wounded vets

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The Liberal government’s incoming system of benefits for injured veterans will be slightly more generous than the one it replaces, but it will leave the most severely disabled in worse financial shape, Canada’s parliamentary budget officer said Thursday.

The report from Yves Giroux is likely to add fuel to the heated (and sometimes nasty) political, legal and social debate about how adequately former soldiers, sailors and aircrew are compensated when they are wounded in the line of duty.

The analysis compared the three separate benefit regimes — the one that existed prior to 2006, the New Veterans Charter that replaced it and the new system being introduced by the Liberal government — and found soldiers were being better compensated by far under the pre-2006 system.

“From the perspective of the veteran, virtually all clients would be better off if they received the benefits of the (pre-2006) Pension Act,” the report says.

The budget officer calculated the value of each benefits system in current dollars and found the old Pension Act system was the most costly for the federal government, at approximately $50 billion. The New Veterans Charter, operational under the Conservatives, came in at $29 billion, while the new Liberal regime is projected to cost $32 billion.

The findings are expected to vindicate critics who have long argued that the old system of lifetime pensions, instituted following the world wars, was more generous.

The difference between that regime and the New Veterans Charter — introduced in 2006 by the Liberal government of Prime Minister Paul Martin and championed by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives — was the subject a major court case involving veterans of the war in Afghanistan.

Pensions for the wounded were replaced with workman’s compensation-style lump sum payments under the charter.

In a politically-charged Federal Court case, ex-soldiers claimed the system introduced in 2006 was discriminatory under the Charter of Rights because it didn’t provide the same level of benefits and support as the old pension system. Federal lawyers argued Ottawa had no special legal obligation to injured veterans and their families.

Many say the case swayed the veterans’ vote toward the Liberals in the 2015 federal election, when Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau pledged to give veterans the option of a pension or a lump sum payment.

That new system is due to be implemented on April 1 and the budget officer said most former military members in the system will see an increase.

To create the new system, the Liberal government rolled together a series of different benefits. Giroux found that one particular stipend — known as the Career Impact Allowance — is being eliminated entirely.

He said that will have an enormous impact on the most severely disabled veterans who join the new system after it’s implemented.

“The five per cent that have the most severe impairment, they’ll be the only, the main losers of the transition to the pension-for-life regime,” said Giroux, who added he’s uncertain whether it was an oversight on the government’s part or an intentional part of the redesign.

He said the system, even in its simplified form under the Liberals, is extraordinarily complicated and he can’t imagine how veterans feel when they’re faced with it.

“The suite of benefits available to veterans is very, very complex,” he said. “Myself, having a tax background, I find this more difficult than the income tax system.

“So it may be oversight. It may be intentional. I have no idea.”

Sean Bruyea, a long-time veterans advocate and frequent critic of the changes made in 2006, was largely satisfied with the report and said it proves what he’s said all along.

“When we have agencies like this, it renews my faith that government can work for veterans and Canadians,” said Bruyea, who got into a nasty public spat and a court case with former veterans minister Seamus O’Regan over the benefits numbers.

In article published on Feb. 26, 2018 in the Ottawa-based publication The Hill Times, O’Regan accused Bruyea of “stating mistruths” about the Liberal pension-for-life plan.

“Let me be clear— NO veteran will receive less than what they are receiving today and most will be receiving more,” O’Regan wrote.

Bruyea suggested the budget officer’s distinction between those who are in the system now and those who will enter in the future is important to remember when parsing O’Regan’s words.

“This independent report verifies for veterans that, contrary to what politicians and bureaucrats have said, veterans are not greedy. They’re not entitled. They’re not angry,” he said. “And if they are feeling angry, it’s justified.”

Another important point, Bruyea said, is the comparison with the pre-2006 system of benefits, which is at least $18 billion more expensive than the more recent benefits systems.

The report demonstrates governments of both political stripes were focused on saving money, he said.

Veterans Affairs “wanted to prove to Treasury Board that they could reduce the costs of this future liability,” he said.

Giroux would not comment on whether he believed the federal government set out in the beginning to save money, but noted the benefits defined for veterans following the world wars were instituted at a time when Canada’s overall social safety net was not as generous.

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Ottawa Book Expo 2020 – Authors, Publishers look forward to a top-notch Canadian book fair

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Diversity has always been a complex issue, no matter where you look.Case in point, world-famous writer, Stephen King, has recently come under criticism for his views on diversity. The best-selling author had stated, “I would never consider diversity in matters of art, only quality. It seems to me that to do otherwise would be wrong.” Many criticized the novelist as being out of touch and “ignorant,” but one cannot deny that King’s opinions on diversity, mirror the thoughts of a whole lot of people in the creative industry.

The Toronto Book Expo is coming back in 2020, with a multi-cultural concept that aims to include marginalized authors.  The Expo intends to celebrate literary works of diverse cultural backgrounds, and the entire literary community in Canada is expectant. Book-lovers and writers alike, are invited to three days of uninhibited literary celebration where diverse cultural works will be prioritized. At the event, authors will be allowed to share their culture with a broad audience. The audience will be there specifically to purchase multi-cultural works.

Multicultural literary expos do not come every day. In Canada, there is a noticeable lack of literary events celebrating other cultures. This leads to a significantly lower amount of cultural diversity in the industry. The Toronto Book Expo would aim at giving more recognition to these marginalized voices. Understandably, more recognizable work will be prioritized.

The Toronto Book Expo is making a statement that diversity is needed in the literary community. The statement is truly motivating, especially if you consider the fact that this could mean more culturally diverse works of literature.

There is a lot of noticeable cultural ignorance in literature. This is an issue that needs to be addressed and books are one of the best means of improving multi-cultural diversity in literature. The Toronto Book Expo is going to fully utilize books to fight ignorance in the literary industry.

Real progress cannot be made if there is a substantial amount of ignorant people in the industry. In spite of advancements made in education in recent years, there is still a considerable percentage of adults who remain unable to read and write.The Toronto Book Expo aims to bring awareness to social literacy issues such as illiteracy.

It is important to uphold high literacy levels in the community and to support those who are uneducated. A thriving society cannot be achieved if the community is not able to read their civil liberties and write down their grievances.

The major foundation of a working and dynamic society is entrenched in literature. Literature offers us an understandingof the changes being made to our community.

The event would go on for three days at three different venues. Day 1 would hold at the York University Student & Convention Centre at 15 Library Lane on March 19. Day 2 would be held at the Bram and BlumaAppel Salon Facility on the second floor of the main Toronto Reference Library near Yonge and Bloor Streets in downtown Toronto on March 21 and day 3 of the expo would take place at the internationally famous Roy Thomson Hall.

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A Week In Ottawa, ON, On A $75,300 Salary

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Welcome to Money Diaries, where we’re tackling what might be the last taboo facing modern working women: money. We’re asking millennials how they spend their hard-earned money during a seven-day period — and we’re tracking every last dollar.Attention, Canadians! We’re featuring Money Diaries from across Canada on a regular basis, and we want to hear from you. Submit your Money Diary here.Today: a biologist working in government who makes $75,300 per year and spends some of her money this week on a bathing suit. Occupation: Biologist
Industry: Government
Age: 27
Location: Ottawa, ON
Salary: $75,300
Paycheque Amount (2x/month): $1,930
Gender Identity: Woman

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Ottawa doctor pens nursery rhyme to teach proper handwashing

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An Ottawa doctor has turned to song to teach kids — and adults, for that matter — how to wash their hands to prevent the spread of germs.

Dr. Nisha Thampi, an infectious disease physician at CHEO, the area’s children’s hospital, created a video set to the tune of Frère Jacques and featuring the six-step handwashing method recommended by the World Health Organization.

Thampi’s 25-second rendition, which was co-authored by her daughter and Dr. Yves Longtin, an infectious disease specialist at the Jewish General Hospital in Montreal, is featured in the December issue of The BMJ, or British Medical Journal. 

Thampi said as an infectious disease physician and a mother of two, she thinks a lot about germs at home and school.

“I was trying to find a fun way to remember the stuff,” she said. “There are six steps that have been codified by the World Health Organization, but they’re complex and hard to remember.” 

Thampi said she came up with the idea to rewrite the lyrics to the nursery rhyme on World Hand Hygiene Day in May, when she was thinking about how to help people remember the technique. 

She said studies have shown that handwashing is effective in reducing the risk of diarrhea-related illnesses and respiratory diseases. 

“So I’d say it’s one of the most important and easiest things we can do.”

The video includes such often-overlooked steps as “wash the back,” “twirl the tips around” and “thumb attack,” which pays special attention to the first digit.

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