Tag Archives: greg Sorbara

Genco better than PC party

22 Aug

I have come to like Tony Genco, the Progressive Conservative candidate in the Oct. 6 provincial election. I like his spunk, his tenacity, his ability to withstand the howling winds of change, and also the howling voices of detractors, while pressing on to do what it is he feels he needs to do.

No matter that he willingly stepped out into the storm that now assails him as he trudges purposefully across the Vaughan political landscape. At least he trudges with purpose. He has appointed himself well in recent interviews, has shown himself capable of the wider view and has exhibited a political intelligence for which he does not often get credit. And his will to win far surpasses that demonstrated by the exclusive, reclusive and elusive local political entity to which he has hitched his wagon.

In fact, were it not for the outrageously media-unsavvy Conservative association around him, I might be inclined to suggest he is capable of stealing some of the spotlight from Liberal incumbent Greg Sorbara in the campaign that has just now begun to unfold.

A full cast of colourful characters have burst out of the gate, full of bravado all, as they prepare to mount a challenge to the giant that is Sorbara. All have fought on other fields — Genco ran federally as a Liberal, the NDP’s Paul Donofrio and the Reform Party of Ontario’s David Natale have run municipally — and are now ready for their first taste of victory. All will draw some media attention simply because they are interesting characters, but it will take more than in-passing notation to outshine Sorbara The Quotable.

As though finding a way to outmaneuver Sorbara The Deliverer, Sorbara The Accomplished and Sorbara The Entrenched were any small feat.

Genco has a profile, but there’s nothing coming his way in the line of support beyond what he manufactures himself. Successful political parties have systems in place, layers deep, to ensure that their messaging is both well crafted and well distributed. The Liberal party wrote the book on that; the Conservatives apparently failed to read it.

Vaughan Today, for some odd reason, doesn’t seem to stay on local Conservative contact lists very long. Which probably explains why it takes a certain resolute impoliteness on our part to gain entry to most of their important events.

We found ourselves shut out of the Ontario PC party GTA fundraiser in Vaughan last week too. We had to resort to other means to listen in as premier-hopeful Tim Hudak trumpeted the party’s [changebook] platform in his 20-minute speech. I still marvel at how it never occurred to him to use the occasion and locale to put in a word for Vaughan candidate Genco.

This disconnect with local organizers was reminiscent of the Julian Fantino federal campaign in May, where Vaughan Today had to practically beat down the door to be included in Conservative events such as a Prime Minister Stephen Harper visit (which we almost always found out about from other sources). We elected not to beat down the door for the Hudak event, lest we exhibit bad form and perhaps barge in right in the middle of … oh … Richmond Hill candidate Vic Gupta’s address. (Guess the braintrust figured that, this being the Weston Road and Highway 7 area, they should “localize” things — with York Region representation.)

Ideology aside, what Genco lost when he left the Liberal party is access to a credible political vehicle to deliver him and his message to the people. The loss makes him the contemporary of Donofrio and Natale — not of Sorbara — in this race. Only Sorbara has the luxury of strong party presence to draw on. Genco might be better off following his own maverick spirit than conforming to the “strategy” of a group that behaves as though it does not recognize the need to sell its message.

— Dan Hoddinott

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No F in ‘CBC’, but one in ‘Fail’

14 Apr

Vaughan MP Julian Fantino at a recent media scrum in Woodbridge. CBC reporters sourced local activists to advance a story suggesting impropriety about VHCC funding caused Conservative departures.

That’s not Igg the CBC has on its face today, though a mindless story it hurled onto the Web on Wednesday, suggesting resignations from the Conservative riding association here were based on impropriety by Vaughan incumbent Julian Fantino, moved along the viral trail all the way up to Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, who found the lure irresistible.

That’s egg, and it drips rather well, considering they got suckered by a combination of activist zeal and questionable journalism.

But enough about them. The story is a problem for Vaughan’s image — more so than for Fantino’s, I would wager — because it presented the national media with the something-smarmy-in-Vaughan-politics story they expected to find in this campaign. And given the viral nature of the Internet, and some media outlets’ desire to grab and repeat rather than produce original content, away it went.

The story named two prominent community activists — Richard Lorello and Tracey Kent — who told the reporters they resigned from the riding association due to moral outrage about who may stand to get their hands on some of the $10 million in federal funds Fantino attracted for the Vaughan Health Campus of Care project.

Well, actually, Kent had already resigned, due to a self-confessed conflict about Fantino accepting the endorsement of former Liberal rival Tony Genco. At least a week earlier I was in receipt of her “open letter” of resignation (which seems to be the popular way of bowing out around here this year).

“Due to the recent undertaking with Liberal Tony Genco, I can no longer be a member of the Vaughan Conservative Association,” she said in the letter, dated simply April 2011. “My values do not shift overnight, nor can be compromised. So it was with great disappointment to see my own riding association and representative, take advantage of a man who is clearly in personal distress about his true values, and use it for political spin.”

The CBC story failed to point out that both the subjects and the primary sources for the story are, in fact, the same activists who happen to be intimately engaged and very publicly active in keeping watch over who is doing what in regards to the development of a new hospital in Vaughan. They are not impartial witnesses. Anyone with a Twitter account and a #vaughan hash tag — or a Vaughan driveway that receives weekly Metroland drops — would have known that those sources have vested interests.

Lorello takes issue with the fact that two men connected with the VHCC — Michael DeGasperis and Sam Ciccolini — also worked as fundraisers for Fantino’s successful byelection run in November. That’s fair. A resignation in the absence of wrongdoing having yet occurred strikes me as a little extreme, but I get his point.

However, at the time of the funding announcement Fantino was up front with Vaughan Today reporter Tristan Carter, and I presume other news outlets that contacted him, about it being earmarked for VHCC infrastructure, and not the hospital itself. And as far as I’m concerned, finding out now that he has had dealings with people involved in the project is not the same as having made a breathtaking discovery of some new racket going down. What are we expected to do — insist that a medical development we’ve desparately needed be put on hold until we can elect a politician who can both a) attract government funding, and b) demonstrate that he has had no previous associations with any of the players involved in the development?

Vaughan has a formidable army of watchdogs who can follow the money. Lorello is not the least among them. In fact, he might even be the best. He has the tools, the drive and the understanding to hold people accountable. And he exhibits a willingness to be held accountable for anything he says and does himself. I have every confidence that he could follow the $10 million from start to finish, knowing all the while whether the rules are followed, and if the plans and schedules are on target. (Or, if they’re off, by precisely how much!)

That Fantino has had relationship with persons connected to projects for which he has just attracted government funding is not a news story. Not for us. Not for the CBC. Not for the Toronto Star. It is simply the way the process works — here and everywhere else, regardless of the riding, regardless of who the Member of Parliament may be and regardless of which party happens to be in power. Perhaps Lorello was quick to blow the whistle, because no wrongdoing has taken place merely on the basis of the funding having arrived. It’s when the money starts to disappear, or when nothing has appeared by the project’s due date, that you have a problem.

That the CBC has taken this story, spun it oddly and deceptively, and run with it — all the way to Ignatieff — disappoints me greatly. It is especially disconcerting in light of their inability to get either Mario Ferri, who is the local Liberal candidate in this race, or MPP Greg Sorbara (also a Liberal) to even mention any perceived impropriety in their comments.

The recklessness continued today. I cringed when I saw how they exposed a potential prime minister (Ignatieff) by soliciting comment on a thin story he could not possibly validate on the spot. Unlike Fantino, who had handed them their hats, Ignatieff took the bait.

“The fact that someone resigned from his inner campaign circle indicates, you know, real doubts within the Conservative camp as to the appropriateness of this bit of government largesse to help a Conservative candidate,” Ignatieff responded, as one might expect, to a CBC reporter.

You didn’t know Vaughan was so readily on the minds of the nation’s leaders, did you? I would expect that, until Fantino’s name was invoked in the leaders’ debate on Tuesday night, the CBC didn’t, either.

I am affronted both as a citizen of Vaughan and on a professional level. In spite of the optics, though, this may not be an agenda-driven story. It could very well be just a matter of lazy reporters not bothering to dig beyond the easy source. In fact, if I had to make a call based on examining the story as evidence, I would lean toward sloppy reporting being the genesis. But in journalism, laziness is as lethal as venom.

The one word I can reach for without effort to summarize the CBC job is this: Fail.

— Dan Hoddinott

Racco says he’ll get more hospital funding if elected

4 Oct

The following appeared in our sister publications Tandem and Corriere Canadese last week.

By Allessio Galletti

“If I’m elected, I’ll be at Queen’s Park on Oct. 26 to request funding for the hospital,” said Vaughan mayoral candidate Mario Racco who has no intention of wasting any time.

Speaking on one of the 2010 mayoral election campaign’s key themes, he leaves no doubt as to his willingness and commitment in pursuing the structure that is so desired by Vaughan residents.

“I know who to talk to and I know how interested the province is in providing Vaughan with a hospital. I’m confident that we’ll have funding allocated within a year,” promises Racco if elected.  In terms of numbers, it would cost $1 billion for a hospital that would operate in tandem with York Central Hospital.  Of this, the former MPP says, about $350 million would come from Queen’s Park.

“I think we’ll succeed in obtaining a good portion of this, allowing us to proceed with the first phase.”

If he becomes mayor, Racco says he’d be able to turn directly to former colleague Deb Matthews – today the health minister at Queen’s Park – on behalf of the community.  But Racco is also willing to go further: “If elected, I’m prepared to go on the morning of the 26th, all the way to Queen’s Park to talk to Greg Sorbara, Michael Chan, and also Dalton McGuinty.”

Working with the province is just part of what the first citizen of the city above Toronto would need to do, and Racco expressed his readiness to do everything possible to help the committee raise funds for the hospital.

“The administering of each initiative would remain in their hands, but I’d place myself at their service for any requirements.”

And further, he would use his is own stature to seek other funding, even within the private   sector.  Speaking on the friction between the committee and the policies of the mandate that is just ending, Racco also says he’d do much better and would do everything possible to attain the goal that many desire.

The next few years will be fundamental to continuing the progress that has been underway for some time, with the goal of getting the Vaughan hospital built – so it’s not by chance that it is a priority for all the mayoral candidates. To this can be added the transportation rebus, as well as the issue of ethics that may well become a decisive factor for ultimate victory.

“Integrity is the most important thing for the Italian community,” says Racco, “and knowing that at City Hall there are people who are not very clean cannot but make one bitter.”

Promising transparency and hoping that “the two people who have been at war for four years” are swept away in the vote, the former MPP promises new life at 2141 Major Mackenzie Dr.

“I’ll keep an eye on anyone creating problems of this sort and, if the improper behaviour continues, I’ll publicly denounce them.”

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