Fantino rejects ‘controversial’ label

12 Nov

Julian FantinoJulian Fantino is his own man, but he’s not a renegade.

That’s the message he gives sitting at his impressive Woodbridge campaign office after a long day of campaigning that won’t end with the interview he’s giving to Vaughan Today.

“I’ve always had bosses,” Fantino says.  “I’ve always worked with community, I’ve always known to whom I’m accountable.”

It’s a message the former 42-year cop – now the Conservative candidate in Vaughan — seems annoyed at having to clarify amid recent suggestions in the media that he may be too used to “being the boss” to fall in line behind Prime Minister Stephen Harper in parliament.

But commentators could be excused for thinking the formidable Fantino, 67, might have trouble taking the back seat. His rise through the system has been described as ‘meteoric.’ Having immigrated to Canada with his family as a youngster, Fantino started off working security at Yorkdale Shopping Centre. Since then, his resume includes stints as police chief of London, York Region and Toronto, as well as his most recent role as commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police. Known for his take-no-prisoners attitude, he’s often been described as controversial, a label he rejects and attributes to ‘uninformed bloggers.’

Most recently, his candidacy has even spawned an opposition group calling itself “Conservatives against Fantino,” who are particularly upset about his handling of the Caledonia land dispute.

But Fantino takes the criticism in stride.

“Let me put it to you this way. I’ve always said I have all the right enemies,” he says. “You can’t be leader of an organization with 9,000 people, policing communities that are so dynamic, with so many challenges and not be controversial to somebody.”

That said, the former chief says he’s always been a team player and will do what he has to work within government.

“I know that governments and democracy operate through a process and you work within that. That’s one of the reasons I want to be there. I want to be part of that process,” he says.

Not surprisingly, law and order issues are high on his agenda. He says Harper has been consulting him on public safety issues since his time in opposition and he looks forward to continuing to contribute his experience if elected.

But he’s quick to shoot down any suggestion that he’s been promised a post such as the public safety portfolio, if elected.

“We can’t do the ‘what if.’ I need to get into government first and then we’ll take it from there. I’d like to believe that I can bring a lot of experience, 42 years in public service,” Fantino says.

Whether or not he’s able parlay that experience into a cabinet post if elected, it’s already working for him in the election.

“I go to the door and people … know who I am so I don’t have to hide behind this innocuous branding.”

In part, it’s a hit at Liberal rival Tony Genco who last week told Vaughan Today he believes Vaughan residents still have faith in the Liberal brand they’ve supported for the last 22 years in the form of Maurizio Bevilacqua.

But in part it’s also a fair articulation of a very real factor in the election; name recognition. Having lived with his wife and two children in Woodbridge since 1982, and having been the province’s top cop, Fantino knows that people in this riding know him and that can’t be discounted as a factor that will work in his favour.

Neither can the fact that he’d be a member of the ruling party. There’s no doubt some voters may see a vote for a Conservative candidate as a way to garner some carrots for the riding form the Federal government, an idea Fantino lays on the table himself.

“I’d like to believe that I can have some influence over the federal government to step up to the plate to become a partner in this community-based critical need that we have for a hospital in Vaughan,” Fantino says.

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One Response to “Fantino rejects ‘controversial’ label”

  1. Dontwantaticket November 25, 2010 at 3:29 AM #

    Where were YOU? Your chair was there, your bottle of water was there, YOU weren’t!

    Why? Not a fan of debate? Or is it beneath you to address the public?

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