In the Chamber -- Grant Mitchell's Blog

Representing our veterans: Debate resolved for now

Posted 4/29/2009 by Senator Grant Mitchell

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I’ve been blogging about the debate surrounding the creation of a Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs. There has been agreement amongst all Senators on the committee, Liberals and Conservatives both, on the importance of veterans’ issues and problems, and the need to have a committee of some kind to deal specifically and only with these matters. Traditionally, a subcommittee has been struck by the committee.

The problem has been how to get agreement on how we get from here to there.

The Liberals argue that owing to the importance of veterans’ affairs, particularly in light of the war in Afghanistan, the sub-committee is not sufficient.

If you recall, the original Liberal proposal was to set up a Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs immediately. Confronted by the Conservatives desire to hurry the process up by establishing the subcommittee and referring the standing committee idea to the Rules Committee, the Liberals then proposed that a Special Committee should be set up immediately. There is precedent for this. A Special Committee is structured like a full Standing Committee, but, and this is the critical distinction, it is not permanent. Its life is easily limited, for example, until the Rules Committee rules on whether a long-term standing committee is needed.

A Special Committee can be approved by the full Senate in one day with unanimous consent. So, there does not need to be a delay.

This proposal seemed like a reasonable compromise. The Conservatives would get a temporary solution that does not commit them irrevocably to a full standing committee. The Liberals do not get the full standing committee, but get a Special committee that at least is better able to deal with the growing demands of veterans’ issues until the need for a permanent committee can be assessed.

The impasse however, just seemed like it would continue. So at our most recent meeting, we Liberals conceded to the Conservative position as they would not accept ours and we did not want further delays. I will be interested to see if the Rules Committee actually reports any time soon. If not, then, it seems to me to be fair to revisit the matter in 6 months.

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