War vets win reprieve

The Liberal government has backed away from plans to turf a branch of the Royal Canadian Legion from its home in a government building near the B.C. legislature.

VICTORIA — The Liberal government has backed away from plans to turf a branch of the Royal Canadian Legion from its home in a government building near the B.C. legislature.

Citizen’s Services Minister Ben Stewart said Thursday the legion and the vets who frequent it will be staying in their headquarters after saying they won’t escape the government’s budget tightening.

Former B.C. premier Duff Pattullo granted the members of Legion branch 127 the use of the building in 1934 as a headquarters.

The current age of the Legion’s 115 members ranges from the mid to late 80s.

Earlier, the branch received a letter from the Stewart’s ministry advising the veterans to come up with $26,000 in annual rent or leave by this summer.

Stewart had maintained the legion was on the government’s cost-cutting hit list and said he was preparing to meet with officials.

But an uproar in the legislature and protests from the veterans prompted the Liberal minister to do an about-face, and after several media scrums Thursday, he said they will be able to stay put.

“I apologize for the distress that that’s caused the veterans, but the reality is I still plan on meeting with the president and making certain we’re completely clear so that we move ahead,” said Stewart.