Julian Fantino announced this week that his government had earmarked $200 million for veterans' mental health services. However, as Michael Harris points out:
Getting the news of the $200 million mental health initiative from Fantino wasn’t just insulting — it was classic Harper media control. The announcement was made on a Sunday, when opposition critics and veterans’ advocates were largely unavailable. The benefit to that strategy is that the story came out just the way the Harper government likes it — without contradiction, criticism or analysis.
There was another, obvious factor behind the announcement’s timing, of course. Coming as it did the day before Auditor General Michael Ferguson lowered the boom on Fantino’s department, the announcement offered the idea (to some) that this is a caring, compassionate government. Whatever Ferguson might say the next day, the public would be left with the impression — that all-important first impression — that Harper was already on it.
And nothing could be further from the truth. The Harper government is in court right now fighting veterans who want to reverse the more egregious shortcomings of the New Veterans Charter. The truth, as it was laid out in Ferguson’s report, is not pretty. The Department of Veterans Affairs ran veterans through a bureaucratic steeplechase towards … nothing. According to the AG, it could not even measure performance outcomes on its own programs to troubled veterans — so it had no idea if any of them were working.
The process veterans have to go through to apply for mental health benefits would baffle Stephen Hawking. People desperate for help have to jump through hoops for eight months before finding out if they even qualify for assistance. Since the day Harper came to power up to the present, more than 3,000 applicants have been turned down.
It's all classic Harper doublespeak. When you get behind the smoke and mirrors, you find there's nothing there.