News Local

More funding promised for military families

By Sean Chase, The Daily Observer

GARRISON PETAWAWA - 

The federal government's new defence policy promises more resources and funding to help military families that frequently get posted and Military Family Resource Centres across the country.

 

That was the message delivered here last Tuesday by Sherry Romanado, parliamentary secretary to the minister of veterans affairs and associate minister of national defence. Romanado spent the morning meeting with military dependants, support workers and stakeholders during a session at the garrison's South Side Community Centre.

Calling it an ironclad commitment to keeping Canada strong at home and engaged around the world, Romanada stated the policy, dubbed “Strong, Secure, Engaged,” is an ambitious but achievable plan that will be fully funded.

“Canada’s new defence policy will help address many of the problems facing the Canadian Armed Forces after years of under-funding and under-resourcing,” she said. “Strong, Secure, Engaged is our plan to turn this all around, to resolve these problems, provide a new vision for the defence of Canada and resource the Canadian Armed Forces so that they can deliver Canada’s defence needs for the next 20 years.”

Under the new policy, defence spending will go from $18.9 billion dollars in 2016/2017 to $32.7 billion dollars in 2026/2027, an increase of over 70 per cent. Critics have questioned how Ottawa intends to pay for such a hike and no specifics were spelled out at a press conference after the session. Romanado spoke of the benefits the new policy will bring to military families.

“Through the plan, the government will dedicate an additional $6 million per year for military family programs, including military family resource centers like this one here in Petawawa,” she said.

Other highlights in the policy include the addition of teams at military bases who will help ensure workplaces that are free from harassment and discrimination, access to social workers and health-care providers who can provide psychological services, and improved income stability. She noted that the military salaries of all members deployed on named international missions would be exempt from federal income tax up to the pay level of lieutenant-colonel, and that the government announced a retroactive pay raise for personnel below the rank of colonel.

Romanado, the MP for the riding of Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne, was appointed to her current post in January. As a mother of two sons now serving in the military, she said she has heard about the pressures families face during every posting season and believes that burden needs to be eased.

“I was touched that the military families here in Petawawa would be so open with me and I am honoured that they trust me to share those stories with me,” she said. “There are frustrations and they have every right to be frustrated. For many years over consecutive governments, military families were screaming and saying they needed help.”

In her capacity as parliamentary secretary, Romanado has visited Military Family Resource Centres in Borden, Valcartier, Edmonton, Kingston and Winnipeg. Praising the new defence policy for recognizing families for the first time, Clauda Beswick, executive director of the Petawawa Military Family Resource Centre, said it was important for Romanado to hear first hand the challenges facing dependants.

“She genuinely supports military families,” added Beswick. “It's not only important to her because she is a mom but because she has heard these stories and they've touched her heart.”

SChase@postmedia.com