POLITICS
06/16/2014 03:00 EDT | Updated 06/16/2014 04:59 EDT

Tories To Spend Big Marking Military Past Despite Veterans Controversy: Report

CP

The Harper government will continue to spend big bucks commemorating Canada's military past even as some ex-soldiers protest that Ottawa is neglecting its current veterans.

According to figures obtained by The Globe and Mail's Steven Chase, feds have set aside about $32 million for National Defence over seven years and almost $50 million over three years at Veterans Affairs for "public education, ceremonies, events and remembrance partnerships."

Since coming to power in 2006, the Tories have made honouring Canada's military history a priority. The federal government spent upwards of $28 million to mark the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.

But veterans angry over the closure of nine regional Veterans Affairs offices this year and ongoing debate over benefits likely won't be pleased money is being earmarked in this way.

Some vets have accused the government of balancing the books on the backs of former soldiers. Tories counter that moving more veterans services online and to 600 Service Canada outlets means support is more widely available for ex-soldiers.

Last month, Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino was put on the hot seat for his department spending an additional $4 million on advertising, including pricey TV spots during the NHL playoffs, just months after closing regional offices.

Liberal Veterans Affairs critic Frank Valeriote accused the Tories of promoting only themselves.

"Why would they spend millions of dollars more on ads while not funding the very programs that veterans have been pleading for?" Valeriote asked in question period.

Fantino maintains the ads are meant to improve communication with veterans and clear up "misinformation" about the treatment of ex-soldiers.

Late last month, the minister was confronted by the spouse of a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jenifer Migneault chased after Fantino in front of TV cameras and demanded to speak with him.

She told reporters afterwards that funds spent on advertising should go to help train spouses and caregivers of physically and mentally wounded soldiers.

"Please just use that money to talk to us," she said.

"We'll tell you a whole lot about our husbands that you guys don't know about. Spend the money in the right place and you'll see real results."

Global News reported in May that Veterans Affairs Canada spent $103,694 last year on "promoted tweets," which is when an organization or group pays Twitter to increase the reach of posts to more people.

According to Global, $88,194 was spent promoting tweets for Remembrance Day, while $15,500 was directed toward promoting veterans services.

Fantino maintains the government has invested $4.7 billion in new funding for veterans since 2006 and that some ex-soldiers can receive more than $10,000 a month in compensation.

Do you think Canada should be spending millions commemorating our military history? Tell us in the comments.

With files from The Canadian Press

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