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Politics Veterans Affairs underspent maintenance of grave markers, analysis shows

Minister of Veterans Affairs Julian Fantino responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons in Ottawa on Wednesday, December 3, 2014.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

A government analysis shows Veterans Affairs underspent by more than $2.6-million on maintaining grave markers for Canada's war dead last year, at cemeteries like the ones in Italy visited last week by Julian Fantino.

The review of the memorial and cemetery maintenance program shows just 2,500 of 7,000 grave markers were properly maintained last year.

Fantino, the veterans affairs minister, is under fire for attending Second World War commemorations in Italy while controversy raged in Ottawa about his department's treatment of veterans seeking mental health benefits.

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The analysis shows the government earmarked more than $18.5-million in fiscal 2013-14 to help preserve the memory of Canadians who died serving their country.

Instead, the department spent less than $16-million, with just eight people doing the preservation work – far short of the 41 full-time employees originally projected for the program.

The analysis also says foreign service providers completed maintenance work on 80 per cent of Canada's overseas memorials, shy of their 85 per cent target.

In the House of Commons today, Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau called on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to apologize to veterans.

For his part, Fantino brushed aside questions about the cemetery maintenance, instead touting his government's recent achievements in providing services to military veterans.

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