QP Live: Julian Fantino plays defence, again

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by Nick Taylor-Vaisey

Julian Fantino, who’s facing repeated calls for his resignation from veterans and the opposition, could use some good press. Christie Blatchford, at the National Post, won’t give it to him. She can’t stand the veterans affairs minister. Fantino’s attempting to sell cost-cutting measures that change the way veterans interact with his department. It’s a tough sell.

The feds are shuttering nine veterans’ affairs services offices (one’s already closed, and eight more are on the block). The government says the offices are underused, and is redistributing services to your local Service Canada office. That’s more than 600 points of service, says Fantino, which are closer to vets everywhere. Plus, he adds, federal officials will still make house calls, even mowing vets’ lawns. Sweet deal, right?

Veterans aren’t buying it. They liked the specialized offices, and they don’t like the idea of frail colleagues waiting in long lineups. In her column, Blatchford frames the argument, and its importance to the government, appropriately.

It’s an immensely sensitive issue for the government, of course, because veterans and the military are so central to the Conservative brand, and because the government is so bent on portraying itself as the soldiers’ friend. Cutting local offices that deal solely with veterans, aged and young, in favour of big general-purposes Service Canada, however the economies of scale may play out, doesn’t square well with that pretty picture.

Fantino is entrenched. But he’s finding no sympathy in the papers, and he’s lost the confidence of the vets who speak for their peers. They’re calling for Fantino’s head, displeased with the minister’s attempt at a meeting with veterans’ groups earlier this week—an off-the-rails rendez vous for which he’s sort of apologized. Yesterday, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair called on the Prime Minister to fire Fantino (and played fast and loose with the facts, as Aaron Wherry notes), and he’ll no doubt continue this afternoon.

Fantino will have to come up with something new to placate his foes. Alternatively, he could be stubborn and stick to his guns, a strategy that will almost guarantee his enemies’ continued wrath.

Maclean’s is your home for the daily political theatre that is Question Period, when MPs trade barbs and take names for 45 minutes every day. If you’ve never watched, check out our primer, which we produced with J-Source. Today, QP runs from 2:15 p.m. until just past 3. We tell you who to watch, we stream it live, and we liveblog all the action. The whole thing only matters if you participate. Chime in on Twitter with #QP.

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Julian Fantino. The opposition is not finished calling for the veterans affairs minister’s resignation. He’ll be forced to defend himself, once again, and don’t expect this to end any time soon.

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QP Live: Julian Fantino plays defence, again

  1. I think this debate on the veterans office closing is a disgrace to the veterans and taxpayer, it seems all parties are jockeying for veterans votes(I hate this kind of politics), but what im really surprised in, is how much love the dippers are showing towards the military, this is a pacifist party(dippers)declaring its support for a military. What would a military look like under a NDP government ? My answer would be, they would dismantle most of it and just hang on to blue helmets. Why hasn’t any reporters ask the dippers what their military would look like if they were elected in 2015.

    • To be fair to the NDP, you should separate support for vets from military equipment and troop numbers. To support those that have already served, while not wishing to be a military force in the future is at least a rational position.

      The current Conservative position of buying fancy equipment while screwing over vets is both shameful and irrational.

  2. Right now your live stream is showing what appears to be a soap opera in Mandarin

  3. Im beginning to wonder if there are any other NDP members in the house. Tom is definably running the show in that party. He must lack confidence in his MPs.

  4. When I left the CF in 1997, a component of the exit list was to meet with a Legion representative. In that meeting, the rep explained that the Legion’s role was to help former members obtain disability and/or other benefits from Veterans Affairs Canada because, he told me, VAC automatically denies any claim it receives, as a matter of policy. It may surprise some to learn that VAC held an adversarial approach to its constituents but, in 1997 anyway, so it was. I relate this, not to excuse Fantino and this government, but to clarify just how awful they are acting, to have upset veterans this much, given that these vets likely would have received the same information.

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