Julian Fantino out as veterans affairs minister
Canada’s prime minister has replaced embattled Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino with retired air force officer and first-time MP Erin O’Toole.
In a release Monday, the government said Fantino will remain in cabinet as associate minister for defence Ñ the same post he held before being named international co-operation minister in 2012.
The change was made during a quiet ceremony at Rideau Hall around midday and addresses for now what has been a nagging controversy for Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Fantino faced repeated opposition calls for his resignation or firing in the fall over his handling of the Veterans Affairs Canada portfolio. The department has faced much criticism from some veterans because of the decision to close regional offices and for a lack of support for veterans with mental illness.
In November, the auditor general found the department was not doing enough to provide mental-health services to veterans, just days after it was revealed the government had returned nearly $1 billion in lapsed funding to the treasury in recent years.
Fantino was out of the country attending commemorative Second World War events as the opposition called for a response to the auditor general’s report.
Fantino was roundly criticized for a testy meeting with veterans early last year and for refusing to speak with the wife of a veteran who pursued him down a hallway in Parliament. (Source: CBC News)