PR scapegoat Fantino sacrificed for re-election

It’s about time.

Julian Fantino has finally been kicked to the curb and replaced as federal Minister for Veterans Affairs.

We can only wonder why it took so long to remove this man who was almost universally disliked in his office.

He was certainly disliked by veterans’ groups – the very constituency it was his job to serve. He was even disliked enough by people in his own Conservative Party that some publicly called for change.

In attempting to answer that question, we can only conclude that Fantino lasted this long because he was doing what he was directed to do by those higher up the food chain.

The Prime Minister’s office during Stephen Harper’s tenure has a reputation for controlling his people with an iron fist.

Fantino didn’t come up with the idea to not spend $1.1 billion in funding on his own. Clearly there was direction from the most senior levels of government that he was to pinch every penny possible and return it to the general revenue coffers.

We don’t think for a moment that it mattered to those in power that the penny pinching came at the expense of our veterans.

At least, it didn’t matter enough to do anything about it. That money has not been returned to Veteran’s Affairs, after all, and the cuts that allowed it to be drained away have not been reversed.

But the Conservative government certainly has a nice war chest to spend on things like tax cuts now that there’s an election coming up in 2015.

The election is also why they’ve moved on Fantino now. The public relations liability he represents now outweighs the purpose he was serving as minister.

Naturally this leads to the question of whether or not Fantino’s replacement will be any better, in the long term, if the attitudes at the top remain the same.

We have no doubt there will be some placating in the election run-up, but afterwards, should the Conservative again win?

Choosing Erin O’Toole, someone who has served in the armed forces is certainly a good public relations move, but we have to wonder if that’s really all this is, a PR exercise, rather than a sincere attempt to put the porfolio back on its feet. Time will tell.

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