A top cabinet minister has accused New Democrats of attacking a veteran now running for the Conservatives in the next election.
On Monday, Quebec NDP MP Mathieu Ravignat rose in question period to ask why photos of Tim Laidler, the Tory candidate in the British Columbia riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam, keep surfacing on official government websites and social media feeds.
"He is there for a photo op with a foreign dignitary. He is there with the minister for an official policy announcement in Vancouver," said Ravignat of Laidler. "He is even there with the minister on the Veterans Affairs website."
Ravignat said Tories seem not to grasp that public resources are to be used to promote public interests."Why is the government of Canada promoting Conservative candidates?"he asked.
Tory MP Paul Calandra shot back that it was "rich" to hear the Ravignat complain when 68 NDP MPs owe money for using House of Commons resources to fund satellite offices.
Undeterred, the NDP MP asked a second question in French on the issue. Ravignat brought up that Laidler was on hand to greet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this month at the airport in Vancouver, as Defence Minister Jason Kenney "played photographer." He said the candidate also attended official events for the ministers of social development and Veterans Affairs.
Industry Minister James Moore, who has been publicly supportive of Laidler's candidacy and is also the minister responsible for B.C., fired back.
"It really is unfortunate Mr. Speaker to see the NDP making a personal attack against a Canadian veteran," he said.
"New Democrats take every opportunity to take a pot shot at this individual but he's a great Canadian doing great things for Canadian veterans."
Laidler served in Afghanistan in 2008. After leaving the military, he became executive director of the Veterans' Transition Network, a charity that helps ex-soldiers ease into civilian life.
Last week, Press Progress, a left-wing news site funded by the Broadbent Institute, published a cheeky story alleging that Laidler "repeatedly photobombs taxpayer-funded events."
The site also shared an edited video of Kenney snapping a photo of the candidate as he greeted the Indian prime minister.
Laidler's candidacy is considered a boon to Conservatives who have faced criticism after the government closed regional Veterans Affairs offices and spent nearly $700,000 fighting a class-action lawsuit launched by ex-soldiers.
In January, Prime Minister Stephen Harper shuffled Julian Fantino out at Veterans Affairs Canada after several high-profile gaffes angered members of the veterans community. Fantino endorsed Laidler last May.
Fantino's replacement Erin O'Toole — a vet himself — has since rolled out a number of pledges meant to address the concerns of ex-soldiers, including a new lump-sum benefit for wounded vets and additional support for those who care for them.
Laidler hopes to unseat NDP MP Fin Donnelly in the next election, scheduled for October.
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