Odd Thoughts: Fantino leaves happy vets behind

Fantino is out. And there will be a great gnashing of teeth and rending of garments by veterans throughout the land… not.

More likely, the sounds you’ll hear from veterans will be those of cheering and general merry-making.

Suffice it to say, with his old portfolio fat with instructions for how to reduce services, pensions, and anything else that could benefit those who put their lives on the line for our country – and as tactlessly as possible – Julian Fantino was not the most popular of Veterans Affairs Ministers Canada has ever seen.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has put Fantino on ice – almost literally.

The misfired cannon Harper aimed first at federal gun control legislation, then at Canada’s veterans, is now pointed at the Arctic, where he will bring his bull-in-a-china-shop expertise to bear on the delicate diplomacy needed to preserve Canada’s sovereignty in the North.

In our new, globally warmed climate, practically every country with so much as a square foot of property within a ballistic missile’s throw of the Arctic Circle is slavering over natural resources which, when they seemed impossible to extract anyway, were readily ceded to us by practically everyone. Our Arctic lands were originally a (useless) gift from Norway, whose explorers were the first to plant flags there.

Even lovable and cuddly Denmark, who helped Canada with the scientific research that underpins our sovereignty claim to the United Nations, is now using that same research package as the basis for its own claim.

Yes, Mr. Harper, that’s where we need Julian Fantino’s kid-gloves approach to dealing with people who have views differing from those of the Conservative government.

Fantino will also be in charge of information technology security and – this one cracks me up – foreign intelligence. Fantino has clearly demonstrated that there are few people more foreign to intelligence than he is.

Forgive me if I sound a bit cynical, but I think Fantino’s demotion from Veterans Affairs Minister to Associate Minister of Defence is even more cynical than I am.

Harper is preparing for a federal election that will inevitably take place this year – and perhaps sooner than many folks might be expecting.

Remember Mike Duffy? He’s the nationally recognized journalist-turned-senator who blew the lid off Senate finance improprieties… by apparently getting directly involved.

Former Senator Duffy’s trial starts this April, and everything about his situation suggests that there will be plenty of embarrassment to fill the plates of a number of prominent Conservatives, right up to the Prime Minister’s Office.

With the trial expected to run through the summer, and interminable testimony quite likely implicating the prime minister Himself, Mr. Harper might want to dodge the dirt by calling an early election. 

Forget the “fixed election date” legislation that opens the polls in the fall. Last time out, Harper called his election a full year ahead of his own “fixed” schedule. What’s a few months this time?

Expect an early Throne Speech to be passed easily, followed by a quick budget that Harper’s majority government could easily pass – but won’t, because Opposition screaming will “force” Harper to take it directly to the people of Canada in a late-March/early-April general election.

As for Mr. Fantino, he should tread lightly on Canada’s thinning Arctic ice. As an albeit junior defence minister, he is now in charge of people who are still carrying their guns.

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