DARRYL KNIGHT The Standard
NORTH DURHAM: Durham MP Erin O’Toole received a promotion earlier this week, when he was named Canada’s new Minister of Veterans Affairs.
The announcement came from Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday, Jan. 5, as O’Toole was sworn in at Rideau Hall, taking over the post previously occupied by Vaughn MP Julian Fantino.
“Our Government remains focused on the priorities of Canadians: jobs, the economy, safe communities, and standing up for Canadian values at home and abroad. With this in mind, Mr. Fantino and Mr. O’Toole have been asked to draw on their considerable knowledge and experience to take on important portfolios. I am confident that they will deliver results and provide strong leadership as they go about addressing their duties and responsibilities,” Harper said in a brief written statement.
Unlike his predecessor, who had spent most of his pre-political career in law enforcement, O’Toole served in the Canadian Armed Forces for 12 years, and has been a passionate advocate for military families and veterans for many years.
“It’s an honour for me to serve our veterans. I served myself, and they’re some of our finest. It’s a privilege for me to serve our veterans,” Minister O’Toole told a crowd of reporters gathered outside Rideau Hall following his swearing in ceremony.
O’Toole was one of the founders of the True Patriot Love Foundation and has worked alongside many passionate Canadians over the years, supporting veterans and preserving Canada’s military history. A member of Branch 178 of the Royal Canadian Legion in Bowmanville, O’Toole has also served on the Board of Governors of his alma mater, the Royal Military College of Canada.
“I am humbled by this opportunity to serve our veterans and appreciate the Prime Minister’s confidence in me,” said Minister O’Toole in a press release. “From the age of 18 when I joined the military out of high school up until today, the men and women of the Canadian Forces, their families, and our veterans, have always been a very important part of my life.”
It has been a rapid ascent to the cabinet post for Minister O’Toole - the son of long-time Durham MPP John O’Toole - after winning the Durham Riding in a by-election on Nov. 26, 2012, replacing Bev Oda, who had become ensnared in scandal while Minister of International Cooperation, including a high profile incident in the U.K. where she charged a $16 bottle of orange juice to taxpayers, while staying at the $665 per-night Savoy Hotel in London.
Once again, O’Toole will find himself mending fences following a series of recent missteps by Fantino during his time as Minister of Veterans Affairs, including the closure of nine regional Veterans Affairs offices, as well as a recent report from Auditor General Michael Ferguson, who revealed a failure to provide support for mentally ill veterans.
Minister O’Toole added that he remains committed to the residents of Durham, and has maintained a satellite office in Uxbridge since being elected to enable him to be more accessible to his constituents for meetings, without having to drive to Bowmanville. As well, Minister O’Toole, who was raised for a portion of his youth in Port Perry, writes a regular column in The Standard to keep residents informed of the goings-on at Parliament Hill.
“My continued commitment to the Durham riding will remain a top priority. I have an experienced and capable team and we will continue to work hard on behalf of our communities and constituents,” Minister O’Toole added in a press release.
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