05/13/2014 07:25 EDT | Updated 05/13/2014 07:59 EDT

Julian Fantino Defends Veterans Affairs Ad Airing During NHL Playoffs (VIDEO)


Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino says a new government ad that has begun to air during prime-time NHL playoff games is aimed at improving communications with Canada's veterans.

But in question period on Tuesday, Liberal MP Frank Valeriote suggested Conservatives were spending big to promote themselves.

Valeriote referenced how Tories spent more than $1 million last year on ads during the Stanley Cup playoffs promoting a Canada Jobs Grant program that did not exist.

Advertising Standards Canada ruled in August the ads were "misleading" but the Harper government received no sanctions. Earlier this year, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, however, awarded the Tories their annual award for wasteful federal spending.

An internal government report obtained by The Canadian Press showed the job grant ads were deliberately pitched to men, as viewership for the NHL playoffs was about 60 per cent male.

Valeriote said Tuesday that Tories were "feeding" on Canada's heightened sense of veterans' issues to promote what he called an "underfunded and failing" career services program.

The program allows veterans to be reimbursed for some services that may help them transition to civilian life, including job finding assistance or interview techniques.

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

Fantino said Valeriote was incorrect with his assertion.

"I have heard time and again that Veterans Affairs needs to improve its communications with Canadian veterans and indeed Canadians," he said.

Fantino said veterans need to know about the financial support, mental health services, and rehabilitation programs available to them.

"Is that member really saying that we should not be telling veterans and informing them and their families on how they can access benefits?" Fantino asked.

The Veterans Affairs ad now airing can be viewed below:

Global News reported 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 their posts to more people.

According to documents obtained by reporter Laura Stone, $88,194 was spent promoting tweets for Remembrance Day, while $15,500 was directed toward promoting veterans services.

The Harper government faced criticism throughout the fall and winter over the closure of eight regional Veterans Affairs offices and ongoing debate about the mental health services available to vets and compensation for injured soldiers.

Fantino also faced calls to resign after he showed up more than an hour late to a meeting with veterans in Ottawa in February.

Some veterans believe they will now have a harder time getting the help they need and have gone as far as accusing the government of balancing the books on the backs of former soldiers.

Conservatives counter that moving services online and to 600 Service Canada outlets means support is more widely available.

What do you think of the ad? Tell us in the comments.

With files from The Canadian Press

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