Suddenly, the politics becomes local

31 Mar

Tony Genco, who ran against Julian Fantino in November, is now supporting his former rival.

Say what you want, politics in Vaughan is never dull.

Just in case you were expecting the May 2 federal election to be all about a power play unfolding in Ottawa and having no play worth mentioning at the local level, Tony Genco enters the picture on Wednesday — and makes spinning heads everywhere stop on the action about to develop in the riding of Vaughan.

Genco is the Liberal candidate Conservative Julian Fantino defeated in the Nov. 29 byelection to end a 22-year Liberal stronghold in Vaughan. On Wednesday, Genco went public to announce his support for — get this — Fantino, and not Mario Ferri, who is carrying the Liberal banner this time. He used what he termed an Open Letter to the People of the City of Vaughan to transmit both his endorsement of his former rival and his disillusionment with the Liberal party.

In the letter, Genco praised Fantino’s work as an MP and expressed faith in the Conservative party’s ability to form a majority government, while lamenting what he considers the disappearance of the values that drew him to the Liberal party.

“The Liberal Party that I joined over 20 years ago in university has disappeared,” he wrote. “The ideas that I tried to represent of balance, diversity and nation building no longer exist in this version of the Liberal Party.”

Of course, the cynics were quick to suggest opportunism was behind Genco’s big switch (as they are wont to do), and Liberal party insiders muttered about being disappointed, though they stopped short of smearing him. And this being Vaughan, it didn’t take long for someone to wonder aloud whether his newfound love for Fantino was more a matter of the enemy of his enemy being, by default, his friend. For me, there is no evidence one way or the other yet, so I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt for now and presume sincerity.

It has to come as a blow to Ferri to see his party undressed like this before his campaign can even get off the ground. I wouldn’t be too worried about him, though. He’s a big boy, seasoned in municipal politics, and now probably going to draw a lot of attention he might not otherwise have got.

Who knows what this all might mean? The fortunes of many a hopeful candidate have turned on less. If this tremblor through the self-satisfied ranks of tradition-based Liberalism in Vaughan has delivered the jolt I expect it has, we may see significant self-examination of the habit of rote voting along party lines.

By the way, am I alone in feeling Fantino’s aloof comments about Genco’s public declaration of support were off-putting? It’s not like I spend my time waiting for an invitation from Fantino to a baby-kissing photo op or anything, but Genco having stuck his neck out for him like he has done was a courageous move and deserved recognition, not an arrogant remark that could be construed as suggesting Genco has, instead, merely come to his senses.

— DH

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