POLITICS

Tories Want Trudeau To Fire Veterans Affairs Critic After Controversial Beer Quip

11/13/2013 11:05 EST | Updated 11/13/2013 11:27 EST

Conservatives are calling for Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau to fire his Veterans Affairs critic after he compared giving lump sum payments to wounded veterans with placing beer in front of an alcoholic.

Long-time Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis was part of a political panel on CBC's "Power & Politics" on Monday — Remembrance Day — debating cuts to Veterans Affairs and the New Veterans Charter.

As the focus shifted to how injured veterans are compensated, Karygiannis took issue with the controversial lump sum payments for pain and suffering that replaced the pension-for-life system in 2006.

"Giving somebody a lump sum, and I will quote the folks from Wounded Soldier that said that's like hanging a case of beer in front of a drunk," he said. "A lot of our young men and women that are injured come back and they get the lump sum, they go and spend it either trying to buy a house or buying a fast car or spending it on booze or addiction. And after a couple years, they're left to fend for themselves."

After he was pressed by host Evan Soloman, the Liberal MP said he was quoting Scott Maxwell, executive director of the non-profit organization Wounded Warriors, which supports soldiers injured in the line of duty.

Conservative MP Erin O'Toole, a former officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force, took offence to Karygiannis' words.

"I wouldn't compare it to a case of beer," O'Toole said. "I think particularly on a day like this that's a totally inappropriate comment."

Karygiannis posted a "clarification" on his personal website on Tuesday and apologized for a quote he said might have offended some Canadians.

"At no time did I mean any disrespect towards our Veterans," he wrote. "Many coming back from wars fight all kinds of difficulties. At no time was it my intention to say that Veterans do not know how to handle their affairs and or characterize them in a negative fashion."

But Karygiannis' contrition wasn't enough to stop Tories from creating a petition urging Trudeau to fire his critic.

On Tuesday, Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino sent an email to Tories with the subject line, "Fire Him Now."

It read:

On CBC's Power & Politics, Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis criticized the payments offered to veterans under the New Veterans Charter, saying:

"Giving somebody a lump sum…that's like hanging a case of beer in front of a drunk… They get the lump sum, they go and spend it, either trying to buy a house or buying a fast car or spending it on booze or addiction."

Whether it's accusing moms and dads of wanting to spend the Universal Child Care Benefit on "beer and popcorn", or saying injured veterans will spend lump sum payments on "booze or addiction", the Liberals continue to believe lobbyists, academics, and bureaucrats spend money better than hardworking Canadian families.

These comments are an insult to Canadian veterans — particularly so close to Remembrance Day.

We need to send Justin Trudeau a message — we’re not choosing the winner of Canadian Idol in 2015, we're electing a Prime Minister.

Of course, Fantino left out that Karygiannis was apparently quoting Maxwell, a veteran of the Afghan war, with the beer analogy.

Karygiannis isn't the first person to suggest veterans may not always spend lump sum money wisely.

Canada's former top soldier, retired general Walter Natynczyk, said in 2010 that he too saw problems with the new system.

"The monthly pension was great for younger vets and the lump-sum payment was better for older veterans. But now we have a mix," Natynczyk said. "Some younger veterans took their cash and bought Porsches, boats and souped-up trucks, and now they are broke. It's always hard when you have people who are 21, 22 and 23 years old."

Fantino's reference to "beer and popcorn" harkens back to the 2006 election when Scott Reid, director of communications to then Liberal prime minister Paul Martin, famously said the Tory child-care policy would allow parents to "blow" their child-care benefits on beer and popcorn.

Though Reid retracted the statement, Tories en route to an election victory used his words as proof that Liberals don't trust Canadians with their own money.

What do you think of Karygiannis' statements? Should Trudeau fire his Veterans Affairs critic? Tell us in the comments.

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Remembrance Day 2013