OTTAWA - By replacing Bev Oda with Julian Fantino as the minister in charge of Canada's aid efforts, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has swapped one controversial member of his cabinet for another.
In the job he just left as associate defence minister, Fantino was the Conservative government's point man on the troubled F-35 stealth fighter purchase.
The procurement became a political lightning rod, with oppositions parties, the Parliamentary Budget Officer and the auditor general all questioning the price tag and the method for selection.
After coming under fire for months, the F-35 file was eventually handed over to a government advisory committee
Fantino's promotion to international co-operation minister after his handling of the fighter jet file raised the eyebrows of opposition critics.
"Procurement before Mr. Fantino and after is a total disaster, in terms of the lack of accountability," Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett said Wednesday.
"Now he's being given a senior portfolio, a full cabinet minister's job. It seems unusual."
NDP MP Charlie Angus said Fantino is a poor communicator who struggled to explain the F-35 purchase.
"Julian Fantino, really? Right up front, I like Julian a lot," Angus said. "But I mean the guy has a problem reading his staff notes in the house. And they're going to give him this portfolio?
"He's shown no ability to handle a portfolio so suddenly he gets international development."
The former commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police also comes to his new post with baggage from his days as a cop.
Fantino was accused of trying to influence municipal officials in connection with an ongoing aboriginal occupation in Caledonia, Ont. The charge was later withdrawn.
The new international co-operation minister was not immediately available for an interview. His office released a statement on his behalf.
"Our government has made great efforts to improve the effectiveness and accountability of Canada's aid programs. I will continue to make that a priority in my time as minister of international development," Fantino said in the statement.
"I will work tirelessly to advance the Canadian values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law."
The statement also mentions Fantino was responsible for Ontario's aid assistance to the United States after hurricane Katrina, and that he travelled to Pakistan in 2008 as part of the province's contribution following a devastating earthquake.
Fantino had a long career in law enforcement that saw him rise through the ranks to become chief of the police forces in London, Ont., York Region and Toronto before taking on the role of OPP commissioner.
He entered federal politics two years ago by winning a byelection to become the MP for the Ontario riding of Vaughan.
But problems arose there with some grassroots Tories.
Three former members of the local Conservative riding association in Vaughan have sworn affidavits alleging possible irregularities in Fantino's byelection and 2011 federal election campaigns.
Elections Canada is reviewing those complaints. Fantino's office has denied those allegations.
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