Harper dumps Julian Fantino from Veterans Affairs

Erin O’Toole tapped to lead Veterans Affairs, while Fantino will remain in cabinet in his old job as associate minister of defence

Julian Fantino

(The Canadian Press)

OTTAWA — The Prime Minister’s Office is confirming Julian Fantino has been shuffled out of his position as veterans affairs minister after less than 18 turbulent months.

In a quiet ceremony today at Rideau Hall, Fantino was replaced in the post by Erin O’Toole, a southern Ontario MP and former member of the Royal Canadian Air Force.

However, Fantino — a tough-talking former police chief who represents the strategically important riding of Vaughan, north of Toronto — remains in cabinet in his old job as associate minister of defence.

Fantino was seen leaving Rideau Hall after the ceremony, but would only offer New Year’s greetings to the gathered reporters.

A tough-talking former street cop who later became Toronto police chief and commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police, Fantino entered federal politics by winning a byelection in 2010.

He was re-elected in 2011 and named to the cabinet in January as minister of state for seniors. He became minister of international co-operation in July 2012 and went to Veterans Affairs a year later.

He found himself in political hot water almost from the moment he took the post.

Under Fantino, the department came under heavy fire from veterans groups, the veterans ombudsman, the auditor general and the political opposition.

Fantino’s efforts to defend office closures, job cuts, lapsed budget money and tweaks to pensions and benefits provoked anger from veterans and scorn from the NDP and Liberals.

There were public relations gaffes, including a much-publicized — and televised — confrontation with veterans, and the sight of Fantino walking down a parliamentary hallway, ignoring shouted questions from the wife of a former soldier.

Government lawyers went to court to argue that the government has no special responsibility to care for veterans, although that had been iron-clad policy since the First World War.

There were howls of protest when it was learned the department had allowed more than $1 billion of its budget to lapse and return to the federal treasury since 2006. The anger only grew when the department admitted spending $4 million on ads last year promoting its efforts to help veterans return to civilian life.

Reports detailed the troubles veterans encountered getting help and benefits from the department. Other studies suggested that wounded veterans would face poverty once they hit age 65.

Efforts to calm the situation failed. Tweaks to benefits and more money for mental health brought no respite. Fantino’s chief of staff quit and was replaced by a staffer from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Retired general Walt Natynczyk, the country’s former top military commander, was also appointed as Fantino’s deputy minister and senior civil servant.


Harper dumps Julian Fantino from Veterans Affairs

  1. Now that Harper has undermined Fantinos credibility by dumping him from the VA file, their is a good chance the liberals can take that riding in which Fantino holds, in the election in October. That’s all the grits have to say in the next election is, if Harper can’t trust him to manage a ministry, that how can you trust his voice in Harpers government, he has no credibility.

  2. Maybe a senate appointment for Julian if Harper wins the next election, after all, he was a loyal soldier and Harper looks after his loyal soldiers, or possibly a senate appointment if Harper thinks he may loose in the October election.

    • “political soldiers”, and yet he ignores the real soldiers coming home with PTSD and physical harm from a war that we shouldn’t have been a part of. As Canada we shouldn’t be the physical tip of the spear when it comes to war but rather be the country that picks up states from their knees and helps heal them and direct them towards TRUE democracy.

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