QP Live: The government lost a veteran's vote - Macleans.ca

QP Live: The government lost a veteran’s vote

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House of Commons

House of Commons

Julian Fantino spent much of last week fending off consistent calls for his sacking. He countered opposition claims that the government is letting down veterans. He was happy for the weekend, probably. He didn’t want to see these words in the Ottawa Citizen this morning.

A recently retired Canadian soldier and national veterans’ advocate has quit the Conservative party over what he says is the federal government’s lack of respect and “spectre of indifference” towards veterans.

Few lost votes sting as much as that one. Paul Wells explained why on the most recent Maclean’s politics podcast. “If there’s anyone likely to be a Conservative voter, it’s an old guy who used to be in the army,” he said, adding a note of caution. “This government can’t get too frequently in the habit of taking its client groups for granted.”

But there’s retired Sgt. Major Barry Westholm, profiled in the Citizen, feeling taken for granted. His words hurt two-fold: he’s a lost vote that used to be a guarantee, and his criticism will single-handedly fuel opposition fury in the Commons. The government could put on a brave face and deny they’ve mistreated anybody, or they could unleash a heck of a mea culpa. You guess which route they’ll choose.

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Few things will, for now, interrupt the opposition’s attacks on veterans affairs minister Julian Fantino. Will the NDP and Liberals take a new tack? Will they stick to the same pointed questions? No matter the queries, Fantino’s response will likely remain the same—that is, deflection and denial of any mistreatment of vets.