Genco says he’s ready to rumble for Liberals in Vaughan

2 Nov

Reporter Joshua Freeman sat down with Liberal candidate Tony Genco at his campaign headquarters this week to chat about the upcoming byelection, facing a big name challenger in Vaughan and more. The federal byelection is set for Nov. 29 in Vaughan.

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By Joshua Freeman

Tony Genco

Tony Genco

Liberal candidate Tony Genco says he doesn’t feel pressured to deliver in this month’s by-election in Vaughan.

Sitting in his campaign office at Highway 400 and Langstaff Road, surrounded by red posters and banners bearing his name, Genco is nonchalant about what’s at stake for his Liberal Party in this by-election.

His demeanour’s at odds with the punditry surrounding this race, touted by some as a bellwether for the next federal election, upon which party strategists may base their moves. A Conservative win could be a devastating incrimination for Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, akin to Stephane Dion’s ominous loss in the 2007 Outremont by-election. A Genco win might be interpreted as a sign of healthy support for the Liberals and Ignatieff in their ongoing effort to eventually unseat Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

And Genco is the man the Liberals have charged with making sure a 22-year stronghold doesn’t fall to the Conservatives in the form of Julian Fantino, the former OPP commissioner tapped by the Conservatives to try turn Vaughan blue.

“I wouldn’t say I’m feeling pressure,” Genco says, talking slightly above the music that penetrates the walls from the fitness boot camp next door.  “What I feel is a responsibility to make sure Liberal values are understood and recognized.”

The rest, he believes, should follow from that.

“Liberal values are Vaughan values,” Genco says. “I think there’s strength in that. … If you want to understand a provincial candidate or a federal candidate, you start with what they represent in terms of the brand.”

Genco’s belief in the Liberal brand comes from years of working on that brand, first behind the scenes. Growing up in Toronto, he got his B.A. in political science from York University in 1988. He then got his start in politics working for Liberal MP Art Eggleton through most of the nineties. After that he ran a 1999 provincial bid against Al Palladini in the former riding of Vaughan-King-Aurora. He didn’t win, but he introduced himself to the community and learned a few things along the way.

“I learned a lot about myself in terms of the campaigning. I had up to that point mostly been in the background, behind the scenes. So I had to take my own advice and go knock on doors and meet people,” Genco says.

A job followed as CEO of Downsview Park, where Genco learned to navigate the federal bureaucracy in order to win the park autonomy from the Canada Lands Company.

“We had to demonstrate from a public policy perspective, why autonomy was necessary … That took some time, but we won all the battles,” he says.

Moving on, he took those skills with him to community work on the Vaughan Public Library Board and the York Central Hospital Board of Trustees where he serves as chair. Most recently he’s been a part of a team of political consultants advising on municipal politics.

“This election is not about Julian Fantino and Tony Genco.”

Back in his office, talking strategy for his own run, Genco says personality might be important in municipal politics, but party brand trumps the personal brand when it comes to federal elections.

“I think the party is the most important thing,” he says. “You’re electing a rep who is going to be your voice through that party.”

As he talks brands, one thing is clear: Genco wants to run against Stephen Harper rather than Julian Fantino.

“It’s not a question of overcoming Fantino. He’s a good man. He has much experience,”  Genco says. “I think this election is not about Julian Fantino and Tony Genco. I think this election is about the Liberals fighting for the community against the Harper agenda.”

Personality-wise, the relaxed Genco describes himself as a simple guy who likes watching the Leafs and spending time with his wife and two young children. He’s not a fan of the politics of personality, but if you press him about how he’ll overcome Fantino given the former cop’s strong name recognition, he’s blunt.

“The Harper agenda has not done well and I don’t think Julian is going to be able to defend it,” Genco says.

He sites massive spending for G20 security and fighter jet contracts as examples the Tories can’t be trusted with fiscal management.

“Liberals have historically been good fiscal managers,” Genco says. “Tories haven’t.”

As for the ad sponsorship scandal that ended Liberal rule in 2006, Genco says, “things happen, but overall when you compare the record of the Tories to the Liberals, there’s no comparison.”

Borrowing a slogan from the winning campaign of Toronto’s mayor-elect Rob Ford, Genco repeatedly emphasizes: “Liberals respect the taxpayer.”

Other top priorities include seniors’ pensions, investment in childcare and the Liberals’ proposed Family Care Plan.

“I grew up watching Pierre Trudeau and believing in the just society,” Genco says. “Having been part of the Liberal family for a few years, I believe those values are still inherent in the party.”

In a riding that’s been red for two decades, a lot of Vaughanians might share that view. But in a town known for big personalities, it remains to be seen whether Genco’s bet on party brand will pay off.

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We’ll chat with Conservative candidate Julian Fantino, NDP hopeful Kevin Bordian, and Green candidate Claudia Rodriguez-Larrain soon.
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4 Responses to “Genco says he’s ready to rumble for Liberals in Vaughan”

  1. Ernie Anderson November 9, 2010 at 5:54 AM #

    Very…. Nice…Blog… I really appreciate it.Thanks… 🙂

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Tweets that mention Genco says he’s ready to rumble for Liberals in Vaughan « Vaughan Today: Election 2010 -- Topsy.com - November 2, 2010

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Joseph Uranowski, Joshua Freeman and Pundits' Guide, AlexisD_VaughanToday. AlexisD_VaughanToday said: Genco says he's ready to rumble for Liberals in #Vaughan: http://t.co/oXX0sj6 #cdnpoli #byelxn […]

  2. By-election Questions and Answers « Pundits' Guide to Canadian Federal Elections - November 3, 2010

    […] So he says, in an interview with the Vaughan Today Election blog. […]

  3. Liberals rally behind Tony Genco « Vaughan Today: Election 2010 - November 5, 2010

    […] Click here to read a full interview with Tony Genco from earlier this week. […]

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