Tag Archives: Julian Fantino

So this is the way it would end

5 May

MP JULIAN FANTINO’s softer side was seldom portrayed in media coverage of his often-stoic, no-nonsense campaign. Vaughan Today photographer Agnes Ramos captured this moment as Fantino campaigned door to door in Woodbridge.

The federal election just past is one for the history books. What started out as an expensive exercise no political party seemed willing to take responsibility for spawning — not to mention having no readily apparent aim, drive or direction — ended up rewriting the electoral map in Canada.

It was not without its drama, either. Not insignificant were some garish examples of major media outlets (CBC with the bogus Conservatives-fleeing-Fantino-camp tale in Vaughan; the Toronto Sun with its tawdry story masquerading as a Jack Layton exposé in Toronto) that blurred the lines between reporting and activism.

As it turned out, neither of the stories had much beyond the accusatory headlines, and neither Julian Fantino nor Layton were any the worse for wear in the end. In fact, Fantino won the Vaughan riding with a whopping 56.3 percent of the vote, and became part of the story of the night on Monday as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservatives rolled to their first majority. Layton survived to lead a breathtaking orange onslaught that vaulted the NDP into the position of official Opposition.

The adage that all politics is local didn’t hold true any better here than it did in most ridings across Canada. Incumbent Conservatives Fantino and, in Thornhill, Peter Kent were no doubt buoyed by the Blue Wave that swept 167 seats into the Harper fold. And their respective Liberal challengers, Mario Ferri and Dr. Karen Mock, surely lost ground on two fronts they could not possibly have fought: the national apathy toward the Liberal party and the impossible late-campaign NDP surge that impacted races everywhere.

The NDP phenomenon ballooned the perennially third-place party’s take to 102 seats, delivering a plethora of unlikely MPs in ridings across Canada. It was particularly felt in Quebec where it decimated the Bloc Quebecois, leaving that separatist party with a mere four seats.

In Vaughan, it manifested itself in no-show NDP candidate Mark Pratt collecting an astonishing 7,950 votes. Not bad for a media-shy candidate who provided no contact information, put in no appearances, posted no election signs and handed out no literature! In Thornhill, Simon Strelchik finished a distant third, as he did in 2008, but this time he almost doubled his vote count, getting 7,106.

So what lessons did we learn from the exercise? Beyond the obvious one that pistol-whipped Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff and Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe learned about being careful what you wish for, that is!

The once-proud Liberal party, complete with its understood divine right to rule, was reduced to a mere shadow of itself (34 seats). Its lock on the riding of Vaughan, which Fantino first broke in a narrow November byelection victory, is clearly a thing of the past. Perhaps Ignatieff did the right thing in stepping down after the drubbing his party took on Monday night (and losing his own seat in the process), but to blame him for the result is to give no credit to the parties that did win.

I did not sense, based on the couple of stops he made in Vaughan, that Ignatieff was doing such a terrible job connecting with the people. Ferri and Mock were both credible candidates, and the faithful who turned out to the rallies I dropped in on were as vibrant and enthusiastic as you’d expect from a Liberal crowd. I don’t see the result of this election, then, being a matter of the people saying no to one party and its message as much as it was saying yes to another.

The Conservatives succeeded in selling their message, plain and simple.

Harper showed nowhere near the social flair of an Ignatieff (or Layton) at campaign stops. Where other leaders blew into town pumped, in a party mood and ready to get down with the people, Harper made an entrance. And though he didn’t whip the faithful into a giddy frenzy, from his mouth flowed streams of flawless data that, even in the absence of resonance, seemed to compute.

Fantino very much reflected his party’s stoic image. While the media and the public alike looked to see more personality, what we saw for the most part was absolute focus on what he deemed to be priorities. Like his party in general, he soldiered on with his message and would not be sidetracked by grenades lobbed at him or barbs from a media that wasn’t always private in its discomfort with his rigid personality.

Nonetheless, I found the sheer efficiency of the Conservative campaign admirable, even if I was not a fan of its austerity. We won’t know now whether Ignatieff as prime minister would have created a kinder, gentler climate, but I wouldn’t argue very enthusiastically that Harper is not, of those available, the best CEO we could have chosen to run the business of the country.

The NDP didn’t exactly come from nowhere to supplant the Liberals as the official Opposition. Under Layton’s dynamic leadership they were going to be players anyway, even in third place. Where their fortunes turned, though, was in the French-language leaders debate. Quebec voters have traditionally gone after carrots en masse. Layton, who is no stranger to charm or to fantastic promises, was able to articulate it well enough in French to dazzle the electorate right out from under Duceppe, whose own promises were not going to be coming to pass any time soon.

And then the Greens won a seat, with party leader Elizabeth May finally finding a province, a riding and an occasion that was just enough this side of impossible to win.

Yes indeed, it’s been one for the history books. I can’t imagine what kind of story would have to develop to see the fall provincial election in Ontario top that!

— Dan Hoddinott


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

No surprise Vaughan wasn’t a landslide, Justin Trudeau says

21 Dec

MP Justin Trudeau says Vaughan’s byelection wasn’t a landslide like many pundits predicted because newly elected Conservative MP Julian Fantino shied away from talking about issues.

Speaking to an editorial board at the offices of Vaughan Today and its sister publications, Trudeau said Fantino nearly lost Vaughan because he spent no time talking to media, voters and the public about issues.

“If he’d done that more, maybe it would have been a landslide, or perhaps he actually wouldn’t have won,” Trudeau said. “Because we’ve seen the issues and concerns and debates he has with respect to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms isn’t necessarily in keeping with a member of parliament who’s there to uphold the Canadian constitution.”

Fantino was accused of running a “peek-a-boo” campaign in the lead up to the by-election, in particular because he didn’t attend a candidate’s debate.

Fantino told Vaughan Today this week he worked hard for the win. He said, with the long-time Liberal rule in Vaughan, he never thought “it would be a cakewalk”.

“The numbers albeit that separated the win may not have been that great in the eyes of some people, but we overcame a huge, huge obstacle to win in the end,” Fantino said. “I didn’t expect the campaign itself to be such a drag, in the point of view of the attacks, and the misinformation and the posturing. That kind of amazed me a bit. But we didn’t dwell on it. I did what I had to do. I spent my time, from very early in the morning to very late and night, meeting widely with people – I didn’t create a fanfare over it, I didn’t challenge my opponents to do the same or to anything. Being portrayed as I was just challenged me to work harder.”

Trudeau seemed to offer some advice for Fantino:

“A member of parliament doesn’t just represent the people who voted for him,” Trudeau said. “They represent everyone in their riding. You are a voice now for the entire riding of Vaughan, Mr. Fantino.”

He said Fantino is in a “learning process as a politician”.

“And I know he’s going to learn to temper his words and be a better representative for everyone in Vaughan, at least I hope he does, as he advances in his short time as a representative for Vaughan until the next election.”

A win for Fantino or the Conservatives or both?

30 Nov
Julian Fantino wins Vaughan

Julian Fantino wins Vaughan

By Shawn Star


It was a story of David versus Goliath – but who won?

Did the underdog David Conservatives knock off the 20-year reigning Goliath Liberals? Or did the Goliath, Julian Fantino, knock off the David, Tony Genco?

The story through much of the campaign was that it was expected to be a close race in the Liberal stronghold, but only because the Conservatives had fielded a noteworthy local candidate in former Ontario top cop Julian Fantino.

The results trickled in for hours on election night, and while Genco led after the first 10 polls or so, Fantino nabbed the lead, and never looked back. While Genco staged comebacks here and there, often getting within 400 votes, he never could overtake Fantino again, eventually losing by a mere 997 votes, or 2.5 percent.

Throwing a cog in the wheel of the debate over whether the win was for Fantino or for the Conservatives, he failed to mention the Conservative Party in the “thank you” portion at the beginning of his seven-minute victory speech.

Julian Fantino speaks to reporters and supporters



It wasn’t until past the five-minute point that he mentioned the party, and even then, made no acknowledgement of any involvement in his campaign, only thanking Prime Minister Stephen Harper for his support.

“I look forward to being a member of an energized and growing Conservative team,” he said. “I am proud to be a Conservative – the party of all Canadians – young and old, east and west, north and south, you and me.”

The other mention Fantino made was saying he believed in the party’s ability to build a stronger Canada, and to “reject the fear-mongering and risky Michael Ignatieff coalition.”

Though he received much applause and accolades for his victory, some attendees at Fantino’s post-election party thought it was just that – Fantino’s victory, and not the Conservatives’.

A Rival’s Support

One of those was rival candidate and sixth place finisher (112 votes) Dorian Baxter, who founded and was running for the Progressive Canadian Party.

“I’m really rooting for (Fantino) tonight. It doesn’t mean I’m in favour of the party, but I’m rooting for the man, I think he’s the man for the job,” Baxter said before the race had officially been called in Fantino’s favour. “One of my purposes in running for this election was to seek to divide the conservative vote to let the Liberals in.”

Baxter doesn’t believe the Conservative Party of today holds true to the original policies of Sir John A. Macdonald and his PC brand, which is what he says the Progressive Canadian Party does.

But he said his view shifted after what he called an unfair bias against Fantino at a debate that the former police chief said he couldn’t attend due to a memorial mass for his father-in-law.

“To my shock and horror (the moderator’s bias) was such a dirty misrepresentation of Mr. Fantino that I found myself getting on my feet to support him,” he said, adding that he thought Fantino ran a more honourable campaign than Genco. “(Fantino) never allowed himself to be dragged down to the level of Mr. Genco, who was equally as guilty (as the debate moderator) of bad-mouthing Julian Fantino on the radio. I heard it, and I defended him…so I’m here and I hope to be able to shake his hand.”

While Baxter doesn’t live in Vaughan, he said he likely would have voted for himself if he could. However if the race was close enough, he would definitely have given it to Fantino in order to defeat Genco.

In the less political portion of Fantino’s speech, he spoke of his experiences since being in this country, and described his life as “a truly Canadian story.”

“A young immigrant boy comes to this country,” he started, mentioning that he arrived in Canada’s centennial year, 1967. “He becomes police chief, a grandfather along the way, then runs for political office to serve his country – and wins.”

Iggy: Election proves Libs are only alternative

30 Nov

Ignatieff at a Liberal town hall in October

Despite a loss  in Vaughan last night, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff released a statement today on the party website saying the results prove the Liberal Party is the only alternative to the Conservatives.

“These by-elections show the clearest sign yet that in the battle to defeat the Harper Conservatives, there is only one alternative party that can deliver change – the Liberal Party of Canada,” Ignatieff said in the statement.

“I want to commend Tony Genco for putting up a formidable fight and turning a coronation into a tight race between Liberals and Conservatives … Tony and his team proved that a campaign that respects local democracy and puts the voters of Vaughan first can go head to head with Stephen Harper’s politics of cynicism.”

Although the riding slipped through the Liberals’ fingers by 997 votes, they did deliver on a promise Ignatieff made at a Liberal town hall meeting several weeks ago. Then, he told the crowd the Liberals would vigorously defend their turf. Throughout the night the race remained too close to call. Genco himself only conceded the loss around 10 a.m. this morning.


Tony Genco releases statement on loss

30 Nov

Statement released by Genco campaign this morning:

VAUGHAN – After a hard-fought campaign and a long night of watching results come in, I want to sincerely congratulate Julian Fantino on his victory. I want to thank my campaign team and supporters, as well as everyone who supported us on the Liberal team. I am proud of the ideas we put forward for the people of Vaughan and together we will continue to work to build our community and our country.

Red no more: Liberal rule ends in Vaughan

30 Nov
Tony Genco

Tony Genco addresses supporters at his election night party.

By Joshua Freeman

Two decades of Liberal rule came to an end in Vaughan tonight as voters handed over the riding to Conservative candidate Julian Fantino in a cliff-hanger by-election.

With all polls reporting, Elections Canada’s website showed Fantino with 49.1 percent of the vote, while Liberal Tony Genco, the former CEO of Downsview Park, came in at 46.1 percent.

Although the Conservatives won in the end, the result had been unclear throughout the evening, with neither party officially conceding or declaring victory until after 1 am.

The polls were so close in fact, that Genco has still not yet officially conceded the loss.  He appeared only briefly at his campaign party. Arriving close to 11 pm, Genco spent 40 minutes behind closed doors with his team before speaking briefly to the waiting crowd.

Tony Genco

Tony Genco greets supporters

“This race is too close to call,” Genco said. “I’m indebted to all of you for making this a very tight race and we’ll know for sure what the voice of the people will be.”

Visibly upset, he thanked family and supporters before handlers whisked him to a waiting car and told reporters he’d be unavailable for the rest of the night. Liberal staffers explained Genco was run down and had a hoarse throat from campaigning.

That left Liberal MP’s inside to do damage control. While Genco hadn’t officially conceded, they acknowledged a probable loss after he left.

“This is not a Conservative win, this is a Julian Fantino win,” said York West MP, Judy Sgro. “It ended up a popularity contest in this riding… we’ll win this riding back when there’s a general election.”

She pointed out that while some media outlets had predicted a Conservative landslide, Fantino “barely squeaked to a victory.”

Brampton-Springdale MP Ruby Dhalla also tried her best to put a happy face on the loss.

“I think the citizens of Vaughan have really paid tribute to the great work Mr. Fantino did as Police Commissioner,” said Dhalla. She also pointed to low voter turnout as a factor that might have hurt the Liberals. Unofficial results put voter turnout at 32.4 percent of registered voters. That compares to 52.3 percent voter turnout in the 2008 general election. “I’ve worked in by-elections before, but this was very quiet,” Dhalla said.

Despite his early departure, many supporters seemed unaware Genco had left and were surprised to learn he was no longer in the building.

“I think (Liberals) are going to be demoralized by this (loss),” said Mike Zichowski, a Liberal scrutineer. “To lose a big seat like this that’s been Liberal for so many years and now to swing Conservative.” Watching tired volunteers file out the doors, he added he now worries the stage might be set for the Harper Conservatives to pursue a majority government in the next general election.


The last numbers posted at the Liberals' election night party.

Despite the help of party strategists, PR people and high profile MP’s, such as Justin Trudeau, the Liberals were unable to hold on to the seat occupied for 22 years by Vaughan’s mayor-elect, Maurizio Bevilacqua.

Throughout the campaign, Genco tried to frame the decision for voters as a choice between the ‘Liberal brand’ and the Harper government, rather than a choice between himself and Fantino, a high profile candidate who enjoys strong popular support in the area. But the strategy proved unsuccessful against Fantino’s strong name recognition.

Genco’s future plans were not immediately clear. His campaign manager said he would not comment on the results of the election until every last vote had been counted.

But the bigger question may be what plans Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff will make. Having lost a long-standing Liberal riding, he may now face comparisons to former Liberal leader Stephane Dion, whose loss of the Outremont by-election in 2007 signalled the beginning of the end of his leadership.

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