Conservative MP defends record
South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale Liberal challenger Hardy Staub is continuing to bring the attack to Conservative incumbent Russ Hiebert.
Among campaign issues raised by the former White Rock mayor are compensation for disabled veterans and a need for federal interest in rail operations in the riding.
But overall, his message is the same – Hiebert is not a strong enough champion in Ottawa on local concerns.
“If you’re the representative for the people (here) you don’t quit if you don’t get the right answer,” Staub said. “That’s when you get going.”
But Hiebert responds that Staub appears “a little ill-informed” about the actions he has take not only on behalf of disabled veterans, but also the community at large. He has continually and successfully lobbied for his constituents in the seven years he has been in office, he said.
“I’ve been delivering results,” Hiebert said, pointing to more than 20 federally funded local infrastructure projects that he has lobbied for in Ottawa.
“Over $100 million in projects is not something that can be ignored.”
On the veterans issue, Staub this week received a pledge from Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff that a Liberal government would give high priority to improving treatment for wounded soldiers returning from Afghanistan.
“The Liberal Party of Canada has committed to work with veterans groups to implement significant improvements to the New Veterans Charter, including re-visiting whether the disability award should continue to be a lump sum,” Ignatieff wrote in a letter to Staub, in which he also thanked him for his advocacy on the issue.
Pensions for disabled soldiers have been capped at about $275,000, but in reality many are receiving far less depending on a disability assessment, Staub said, noting awards tend to be a quarter of what disabled civilians are awarded by the courts.
Soldiers can’t sue the government because of the Crown Liability Act, Staub added.
“The difference between a regular soldier and a reserve soldier who has been called to serve is that in the regular army an injured soldier will have a job unless he is completely disabled,” Staub told the Peace Arch News. “A reserve soldier gets thrown out.”
Staub said he was inspired to campaign on behalf of injured reservists by the plight of Dan Scott – a disabled veteran who is the son of Jim Scott, former Conservative electoral district association president in Hiebert’s riding.
“Here we have a 24-year-old young man who will never be able to realize his dream of becoming a police officer,” Staub said. “For all his injuries, he receives $41,000.”
Jim Scott has charged that, when asked directly for help, Hiebert “passed off” his son to his staff members and Veterans Affairs administrators – which Staub said is not the way to represent constituents in need.
“I could have done more with a 54 cent stamp, “ he said, adding he believes Hiebert is too easily placated by his “political masters.”
But Hiebert counters that he has been advocating for Dan Scott and his family since he first heard about his injuries in February last year – and has been in regular contact with them about it.
“Not only did I meet with the minister (of Veterans Affairs) about Dan’s situation last September, but I also advocated in the National Caucus on behalf of Dan and all other veterans. Just a couple of months later, there was an announcement of improvements to the system – I acted and got results.”
Hiebert said it would be “premature” to discuss what Scott’s final compensation will be until he is discharged from the service.
On the issue of the future of rail transportation through White Rock and South Surrey, Staub issued a release saying it is time stakeholders including the railway subcommittee of the International Mobility and Trade Corridor Project – as well as groups like SUN, Smartrail and the Friends of the Semiahmoo Bay Society who want rail lines removed from beaches – engage in examining and debating all the options.
Staub said that with gas prices heading for $1.50 a litre the notion of commuter rail – which might re-use the old interurban line through Cloverdale – also needs to be examined seriously as part of the larger rail transportation picture.
Hiebert declined to comment on all of Staub’s suggestions on rail issue until he had time to study them.
“I take the issue very seriously,” he said. He added that the ultimate location of the tracks cannot be a federal decision alone, but in terms of overall regional rail transportation noted he had also been a strong and successful lobbyist for a second daily Amtrak train between Seattle and Vancouver.
But Staub said there is more an MP can do.
“Because there is a critical federal role played regarding the railway by the Canadian Transportation Agency and its related statutes, I believe it reasonable to expect the MP for this constituency to be pro-active about dealing with the railway’s presence,” Staub said.
“Do I have all the answers? – no. Do I intend to find the answers? – you betcha.”