CFN – The Prime Minister finally did what everyone knew had to be done and he removed Fantino from Veteran Affairs. It was long overdue.
Clearly he waited too long, the damage has been done. In politics perception is reality and most voters perceive the Conservatives as not caring enough or doing enough for our veterans. One can certainly argue that the Conservatives have gone out of their way to honour the sacrifices, deeds and events around our veterans, but what really counts for the public is how the government helps our vets in their time of need.
For most Canadians a vet is a vet, they all deserve the same type of treatment and the same level of assistance. The public does not distinguish between a World War Two vet, a Korean War vet or and Afghanistan vet. They don’t understand or accept the government explanation of the difference between how older vets are assisted and how we assist newer veterans under the Veterans Charter. A vet is a vet.
The Conservatives get bogged down in numbers, how much they have spent or reallocated (a fancy way of saying cut). The public doesn’t care about their numbers unless they see factual proof that our veterans are benefitting and that the government is doing all that is possible to take care of the health of our vets. The government can throw around all the numbers it wants, but all it takes is for a couple of vets to go on TV and disagree with those numbers and the amount of assistance that they are getting and the government has once again lost the argument. Any sense government numbers made went out the window when the public heard how much money the department returned to government coffers.
The government is in bean counter mode, it’s all about the dollars. The public see a defence based on dollars as a smokescreen; they don’t believe the numbers and frankly don’t care about them. They don’t see the proof that everything possible is being done to help our vets, their perception is the government isn’t doing enough. That is an argument the government can’t win.
A new minister will help in the short term. Fantino maybe a competent individual, but his public persona was wrong for the job. The lack of empathy shown was very damaging to him and the government and the Conservative brand as well.
Erin O’Toole may be a fine MP and he has the potential to be an excellent minister, but outside of personality, the biggest problem is that he is still administering the same policies with the same budget restraints. Unless the policies change the government will not win this fight. The government will never win an argument based on dollars and cents; they cannot win an argument that creates two classes of vets. Until they accept that a vet is a vet and bean counting be damned, they have lost this battle. Our vets (all of them) have stood up to far more that politicians, they won’t back down. It’s time for the government to make a strategic withdrawal and rethink the whole veteran’s issue. Perhaps that will be O’Toole’s greatest contribution, but to do that he has to first convince the Prime Minister.
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