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ECONOMICS CAN BE tough. Hard to wrap your head around. Supply, demand, numbers with lots of zeros; throw in ideas like accounting and budgeting and you're likely as not to suffer a cerebral episode. But lucky for us we have Uncle Seamus to help explain it all. No need to worry about how all the big boys and girls make those complicated decisions about budgeting and government spending. It's all as simple as filling your gas tank.

When questioned recently by Mercedes Stephenson about a Global News report that Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) has left unspent some $372 million allocated to the department over the last three years, Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O'Regan didn't bother with fancy charts or complex explanations, worried no doubt that his target audience might get confused. Keep it simple stupid, as the saying goes, and the good minister was up for the task. "When you prepay at the pump, you put in 80 bucks, you don't fill it up, you get that credit back" Seamus opined. Simple, next question?

Well let's work with this metaphor, shall we? The suggestion here is that if your tank is full, you don't go and spend that extra money. So that being the case, we can assume VAC is a tank and it's full of gas. Going further, one assumes Uncle Seamus meant us to conclude that the engine draining that tank represents the Canadian veterans depending on it for support. Now what the vehicle and the roads it drives on all represent I'll leave to you, because that starts getting complicated, and we certainly don't want that!

So, what if you have a very thirsty engine, under some load and in need of more fuel than anticipated? Well you might want a bigger tank, and as Uncle Seamus has pointed out he and Team Justin[TM] have been doing just that, hiring hundreds of front-line staff and case workers, and reopening 10 service offices. Of course, the numbers of veterans accessing those services have also increased, perhaps not surprising as the aftermath of the Afghan war works its way slowly through the system. The result has been veteran to caseworker ratios that remain stubbornly high, far from what was promised just three years ago. To use an economic phrase, demand seems to be a tad greater than supply. To use an O'Reganomics metaphor, VAC really should have spent the full 80 bucks and bought more gas.

Of course, the unspoken heart of O'Regan's metaphor is efficiency. We live in an age of limited resources and high fuel prices, demanding more efficiency. In O'Reganomics terms, this means veterans should stop guzzling so much gas and be more efficient. Veterans no doubt would rather be just that: healthier, self-sufficient, autonomous; as happy as possible. One would think any opportunity to make the "engine" run better should be a priority of the ministry.

Well not so fast folks; this is a metaphor we're working with here, not a sensible solution. If it made sense then Uncle Seamus would embrace a recent report commissioned by his own government confirming the merits of service dogs for PTSD suffers and spend some of that extra gas money to make it happen. The report concluded what many experts have been saying for years: trained service dogs help significantly reduce the symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, and lack of self-esteem, with improvements in overall health and independence, all things VAC says it wants but won't invest in getting.

That report was submitted last July. As of this writing, Uncle Seamus hasn't even read it, much less gotten the ball rolling. With $372 million in extra gas money it should be, if not simple, then certainly doable to implement a $15,000 per veteran solution that could help veterans now and save the ministry down the road.

But that's not how O'Reganomics works. Fill your tank, take the extra money and hit the road. That's how it works.

Michael Nickerson has been a columnist for Esprit de Corps since 2005. He can be reached at:

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Title Annotation:COMMENTARY
Author:Nickerson, Michael
Publication:Esprit de Corps
Date:Nov 1, 2018
Next Article:1988 A LONG AND WINDING ROAD: 30 years of Esprit de Corps magazine.

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