Rumors and reality will mean VA is much smaller in 5 years

Veterans Affairs Minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn, left, with Joseph Chapman, right, as Mike Fay and Dennis Halliday look on. image: GuardianJean Pierre Blackburn gave his best non-denial, denial of the rumors about downsizing Veterans Affairs in Charlottetown.

“We heard rumours from time to time about maybe this headquarters would be closing,’’ Blackburn told The Guardian. “I repeat no, not at all, there is no plan to close the headquarters.”

Then Blackburn went on to remind the Guardian of the declining number of veterans from previous wars being served by the office.“If our veterans are dying at a rate of 1,700 each month, you know it means that less people are needed to deliver our services for the older veterans.’’

Along with the Veterans Charter which replaced lifetime pensions with a lump-sum payment, any sensible person can see the perfect storm of downsizing or eliminating DVA in Charlottetown.

HRDC has been organizing itself for a decade to dispense all pensions and benefits to Canadians. Transferring over the last few files can happen on 12 months notice.

Blackburn’s statement is a “read-my-lips” assurance. “There is no plan to close the headquarters” means no plan today that has been signed off by Privy Council. The plan is in play but won’t be announced until after the next election. Changing ministers is Harper’s choice to keep Blackburn from being quoted when the axe falls.

VA employees know the end is coming. The department has stopped growing its systems years ago.

For example, while VA could be counted a decade ago to employee most of the Holland College IT graduates, the number hired and the number graduating has dropped to a trickle.

No one knows when the 20 year bonanza of PEI housing the only department HQ outside of Ottawa will end. But the end is coming.  The negative economic effect in Charlottetown will be substantial considering wages alone amount to $70 million at Veterans Affairs.