Paradis: Veteran Affairs’ budget chop won’t trigger Sainte Anne hospital transfer

By Robert Frank

Federal Minister of Industry Christian Paradis doesn’t expect that last week’s 1.1 per cent cut to Veterans Affairs’ budget will influence the federal government’s interest in divesting itself of the Sainte Anne de Bellevue veterans hospital.

“As far as I understand, these savings will be achieved by increasing the efficiency with which government services are delivered,” the Conservative government’s Quebec lieutenant said during an hour-long visit to West Island seniors, March 30. “Yes, there are discussions under way with officials in Quebec, but you have to understand that these savings are from within the management of the department.”

During Mr. Paradis’ visit to the giant Le Cambridge retirement complex in Pointe Claire, resident Marcel Bureau asked “Why has the federal government tabled an austerity budget for 2012, when the economy seems to be faring well?”

“We have to rethink how we are doing things when federal spending continues to increase,” replied the minister. “When there is a waste of resources or duplication, we need to manage the government in the interest of the Canadian people.”

“I was on the treasury board review committee,” Mr. Paradis noted. “Why pay for travel when you can videoconference?”

He stressed that the federal government is striving to make “humane changes”, adding that more than a third of the 19,200 projected federal public service job cuts will be achieved through retirement during the next three years.

Asked by a senior whether a great deal of the savings will be achieved by chopping the National Defence budget, as the Canadian Forces winds down its operations in Afghanistan, Mr. Paradis’ succinct response was unequivocal.

“Absolutely,” he said.

The Minister of Industry added that he is closely monitoring the plight of laid off aerospace workers in Dorval.

“This is a sad thing,” acknowledged Mr. Paradis. “Aveos has experienced a lot of financial difficulty.”

He stated that nonetheless he expects “Air Canada’s chief executive officer will respect the law, which requires maintenance to be conducted in four centres, including Montreal.”

“I am taking a strategic approach,” the minister continued. “This is a bad time

but there is a serious shortage of labour in Canada’s aerospace sector, which I am sure we can address.”

“I have crisscrossed the country and it is shocking to witness the lack of qualified aerospace workers.”

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