New MP Fantino happy to be part of Vaughan’s political changes

30 Dec
PM Stephen Harper welcomes Julian Fantino to parliament

PM Stephen Harper welcomes Julian Fantino to parliament

There’s change on Vaughan’s political horizon, and newly elected Member of Parliament Julian Fantino says he’s proud to be part of it.

With the new Conservative MP sworn in last month, and a new mayor and four new councillors at city hall, it seems Vaughan voters want change, Fantino says.

“The voters are taking notice that so much of the negativity that has gone on and goes on in politics needs to be re-focused on doing what we are supposed to do: provide the best quality service and support for the people we represent,” he said. “If that’s the change that’s being reflected, I’m really glad to be on board.”

The former Ontario top cop took the reins from now-mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua in a byelection that turned out to be a little closer to call than pundits had predicted.

But Fantino says he knew it would be a tough fight for the Conservatives in Vaughan.

“I looked at it from a very pragmatic point of view, keeping in mind the Liberals had been very entrenched here … for 22 years, with a very significant infrastructure in place and all that,” he said. “So I never for one minute thought it would be a cakewalk. I knew it would be very tough.

“I stayed away from polls and that kind of thing. I knew we had to work very hard. And we did. And so at the end of the day, the numbers that separated the win weren’t maybe all that huge in the eyes of some people, we overcame a huge obstacle and challenge to win in the end.”

While the numbers didn’t surprise him, the nasty campaign trail did.

“I didn’t expect the campaign would be such a drag in that from the point of view of the attacks and the misinformation and all the posturing,” Fantino said. “That kind of amazed me a bit.

“But being portrayed as I was caused me to work even harder.”

Shortly after the Nov. 25 byelection, Fantino drew fire when he drew comparisons between the campaign and Hitler, a comment he says was taken out of context.

“A lot of this is show business and taking things out of context,”Fantino said. “What I did … refer to a process that I experienced and not cast aspersion on any particular person.

“That whole passage of history is unpleasant. And some of the things that happened to me on my campaign were unpleasant too.”

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff called on Fantino to apologize.

“Mr. Ignatieff can stand on his soapbox all he wants: I am not making any apologies,” Fantino said. “I feel like I was the victim and he should be apologizing to me.”

Fantino also became the subject of a political Twitter outbreak, with jokesters and politicos participating in “Julian Fantino is so tough …” at Twitter.com, a stab at his “tough guy” reputation, something Fantino rejects.

“I don’t know what all this Twitter thing is all about. I think it’s so easy for people to put labels on others. I have been labeled left, right and sideways by people who know nothing about me,” he said. “I am who I am. I make no pretense about my past. I’m very proud of what I’ve been able to achieve and accomplish, what this country has given me and afforded me. I came to this country as an immigrant boy and worked my way through the apprenticeship of becoming a Canadian citizen through hard work.”

What people say about him online doesn’t concern him, Fantino says.

“I really don’t care about all this Twittering and this labelling. It just doesn’t mean anything to me at all.  It’s a waste of time. I do what I do. I’m guided by my principles. I know who I am. I’m very comfortable with me. I know what I’m here to do and I know who I’m here to serve.  I don’t worry about any of that stuff.”

Fantino said while many political pundits called Vaughan a win for Fantino himself and not Harper’s Conservatives, it’s impossible to separate the two.

“I never once pretended to be anything but an ally and a team player on the Harper government team,” he said. “I don’t know how anybody could separate that out.  I ran on his policies and his agenda.

“Some of the things we are enjoying in this community of late is a result of the Harper government’s infrastructure funding: $622 million for the subway extension into Vaughan.  Money for the Al Palladini Centre and the refurbishment of the Kleinburg Library …  and lots of roadwork.”

He says he’ll work hard to secure federal funding to improve healthcare in Vaughan.

“I’m very committed to doing what I can to expedite a hospital for Vaughan,” he said. “That’s been talked about for a good long time now and thinks it’s time to get on with it.”

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