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NDP, Liberals demand Fantino resign from Veterans Affairs portfolio

Then-Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino answers a question during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Sept.18, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino has been welcomed back to the House of Commons with a flurry of demands for his resignation.

Both the opposition New Democrats and Liberals piled on during today’s question period — Fantino’s first since the auditor general’s report slammed the way Veterans Affairs has been treating mentally ill veterans.

Fantino, who was in Italy last week attending Second World War commemoration events, brushed aside the criticism and accused the opposition of “fear-mongering and mud-slinging” at the expense of veterans.

Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair called Fantino’s recent absence from the Commons an act of “cowardice,” and wondered aloud why he continues to have the confidence of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Liberal House leader Ralph Goodale was more blunt, saying Fantino should be fired.

In response, Fantino rattled off a laundry list of steps the government has recently taken to improve mental health benefits and access to services for ill and injured soldiers.