When my cellphone rang last week, the voice on the line was agitated and somewhat incoherent.
It took a couple of minutes, but it became clear that Daniel was a military veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, feeling frustrated and abandoned by a political and court system he has battled over the years.
He figuratively pointed his finger at me and the rest of the media for not helping our veterans.
"Please exercise patience and tolerance with me,'' he subsequently wrote in an email.
I didn't snap back at him. I didn't hang up the phone and I didn't accuse him of being a pawn of a big union.
That's the Julian Fantino playbook and Stephen Harper is again watching what happens when the messenger, not the message, becomes the story in the protracted slanging match between the veterans affairs minister and those who served our country.
Ottawa hasn't seen a communications fiasco of this magnitude since then-public safety minister Vic Toews accused his Liberal opponent of standing with the child pornographers by questioning his stillborn electronic surveillance bill.
Fantino appeared bereft of empathy and respect when he belatedly encountered the veterans who were in Ottawa last week to protest the closing of eight Veterans Affairs offices on Friday. They did close Friday, as some demonstrators shed tears and others vented their anger at their government.
Monday, Conservatives will stand to vote against an NDP motion that would have kept those offices open.
The Conservatives did vow to move more quickly to clear a backlog of up to 75 investigations into military suicides, a response to the NDP motion.
That order came from Defence Minister Rob Nicholson.
Fantino was too busy apologizing from cue cards in the Commons and blaming his inept handling of the veterans issues on the Conservatives' reliable target - big unions.
Fantino did not respond to an interview request from the Star, but he spoke to 1010 Talk Radio Sunday.
He again stepped all over his message.
He called veterans the "meat in the sandwich" of a political battle and turned his guns on the Public Service Alliance of Canada.
"They have spread so much misinformation and out-and-out false information that clearly has agitated the veterans community,'' Fantino said. "I would be agitated, too, if I heard some of these lies that they've been putting out.''
The union, which does have a stake in all this, paid for veterans travel and accommodation in Ottawa for a meeting with Fantino, which the minister missed, then, with cameras rolling, left an acrimonious discussion with them, turning his back on men proudly wearing medals on their chest.
To suggest they are merely dancing to their union puppet masters just heaps more insults on the veterans.
It is inexplicable how the Harper government has turned the treatment of our veterans into a blind spot for his government.
Veterans who have raised concerns over their treatment have had their personal files violated, Conservative MP Rob Anders dozed off during testimony of veterans, then accused them of being "NDP hacks."
Veterans have accused the government of shortchanging them with lump-sum payments replacing lifelong pensions and dismissing disabled members of the military before they have served the requisite 10 years to qualify for a pension.
To deal with this, the Conservatives need someone who can communicate a delicate message, something that has been left to military veterans in the caucus like MPs Ted Opitz and Erin O'Toole.
But the ham-handed Fantino is driving public perception of an uncaring government.
For Daniel (he did not give me permission to use his last name), his struggle is best laid out in an independent 2012 study of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board by the law firm of Borden, Ladner, Gervais, which found the Federal Court threw back appeals to the board in 60 per cent of cases studied from 1995 to 2011.
The Federal Court found the appeal board often squeezed veterans in their strict definition of military duty time, unfairly rejected uncontradicted medical evidence and refused to give soldiers the benefit of the doubt, the study found.
Daniel likely has credibility, so he is ahead of the minister.
Fantino told 1010 he isn't resigning, and takes it as a "badge of honour" that NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has called for his dismissal.
Actually, the real badge of honour was being worn by those who Fantino disrespected last week. He has done irreparable damage to his government.
Tim Harper is a national affairs writer. His column is distributed by Torstar Syndication Services. email@example.com Twitter:@nutgraf1