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Apology by sleepy Tory MP 'just not good enough' for veterans advocates

Conservative MP Rob Anders, shown August of 2000, was caught on video falling asleep in the House of Commons and also nodded off in front of a veterans advocacy group at a committee hearing.

ADRIAN WYLD/Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The Conservative backbencher who fell asleep during a Commons committee meeting and later attacked the veterans advocates who criticized his behaviour as "NDP hacks" has offered a mea culpa in the House of Commons.

"I want to apologize for any offence my comments may have caused veterans or anyone else," Rob Anders said Tuesday morning. "I have, and continue to have, enormous respect for the men and women who have sacrificed in the service of our country."

But the offended group, Veterans Emergency Transition Services, says the brief four-sentence apology doesn't cut it and is demanding the Calgary MP's resignation.

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Initially, Mr. Anders – the same MP caught falling asleep during Question Period in November in a video that went viral – categorically denied he nodded off during the group's presentation.

At the time, he called it a "smear job" from "NDP hacks in the pocket of [Opposition veterans affairs critic]Peter Stoffer," adding he was recovering from a car accident that affected his ability to stay alert.

But when it came out that David MacLeod and Jim Lowther, the veterans advocates in question, were both card-carrying Conservatives, Mr. Anders issued a short apology circulated by the Prime Minister's Office to the press gallery.

He recited nearly the same statement Tuesday in the House of Commons.

"It's just not good enough," Mr. MacLeod said after hearing the apology. "Not only did he fall asleep, and then instead of apologizing, he accused us of being in the NDP's pocket and being NDP hacks."

The group has been approached by a legal firm that offered to help them sue Mr. Anders pro bono, but Mr. MacLeod said they are simply considering their options right now.

Mr. Stoffer, who is also vice-chairman of the veteran affairs committee, said if the group wants to pursue the resignation, the NDP will introduce a motion at the committee demanding Mr. Anders resign.

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"If I was the one harmed, no, of course that apology wouldn't be good enough," Mr. Stoffer told The Globe. "That was the shortest apology on record."

Mr. Anders did not immediately respond to an interview request. Veteran Affairs Minister Steven Blaney, who appeared before the committee later Tuesday to discuss proposed budget cuts, did not directly answer whether he thinks Mr. Anders ought to resign. Instead, he simply said the MP had apologized already.

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