Tag Archives: Michael Ignatieff

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

Ignatieff stop energizes Ferri’s faithful

10 Apr

Liberal candidate Mario Ferri, left, takes a moment at Saturday's festivities to pose with Danny Santilli and his 10-year-old son Christian, of Woodbridge.

An apparent snubbing of a young local reporter should not be what is remembered about Michael Ignatieff’s campaign stop in Vaughan on Saturday. So minor was the incident itself, occurring near the end as Ignatieff was preparing to board the bus, that it might have gone unnoticed altogether were it not for the strange juxtaposition of rhetoric and its implied contradiction.

The Liberal leader was only moments removed from milking, to the delight of the partisan crowd, the perception of Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a control freak for placing limitations on the number of questions the media can pose at campaign events — and declaring that he, himself, would answer any and all questions from the media.

But that’s Ignatieff’s personal row to hoe. It should not overshadow the remarkable job he did to energize the local faithful, and to boost the spirits and the fortunes of Mario Ferri, who is trying to unseat Conservative Julian Fantino in Vaughan.

Drawn quite naturally by the star power of Ignatieff himself, hundreds turned out to Ferri’s community barbecue and to mingle with other Liberal party luminaries at the candidate’s Weston and Rutherford headquarters. And Ignatieff didn’t disappoint. Rock star or travelling evangelist, he could easily have been mistaken for either. His presence ratcheted up the excitement level at a party that already was in full swing when his entourage arrived.

While I find the classical ceremony, prepared and flawless choreography, and the implied dignity of the Harper-Fantino approach impressive in its own right, the Liberals turned my head by living rather than merely reciting their message on Saturday. And in this absence of austerity, none of the devoted seemed compelled to fall down in solemn worship when Ignatieff arrived; they wanted his autograph instead!

That, to me, is the sharpest contrast between the two front-running parties as the May 2 federal election draws near. Both are convinced that they have ultimate truth, and that the opponent is in grave error, but the only thing the observer knows for sure is how their convictions are evidenced in the way they live. (The warmth of joy is pleasing to experience, but that is not to say there is no meaning in reverent solemnity.)

Ignatieff was clearly in his element in that festive environment. And substance of the message delivered (and validity of charges leveled against his foes) aside, the juiced up faithful left inspired and reassured.

As for the matter of his brushing off the cub reporter at the end, it bears mentioning that a memo had gone out to all the media on Friday, declaring the event to be a photo-op only, with no question-and-answer period. That said, Ignatieff sort of undid the memo in his pumped-up sermon.

The kid can be forgiven for not realizing he might be breaching protocol. And, just on a human level, he deserved better than to have the Old Man he just approached (dignitary, idol, messiah or whatever) turn away from him as though he wasn’t there. The requirements of a good citizen dictate that.

— Dan Hoddinott

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.


Liberals rally behind Tony Genco

5 Nov
Liberals rally in Vaughan

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff addresses a crowd of supporters while Vaughan Liberal candidate, Tony Genco stands onstage flanked by Liberal MP's

By Joshua Freeman

Michael Ignatieff didn’t say outright a Liberal defeat in Vaughan would be a devastating blow to the Liberal Party. But looking around the room at the Woodbridge banquet hall where he stood last night, he didn’t have to. The guest list said it all at the packed rally for Vaughan’s Liberal candidate Tony Genco.

Clearly rallying the troops to give his candidate a big push out the gate, Ignatieff was joined by no fewer than a dozen elected officials, past and present, from the Liberal pantheon. They included Vaughan MPP Greg Sorbara, who introduced Genco, as well as MP’s Joe Volpe, Ruby Dhalla Judy Sgro, Ken Dryden and others. Even past Liberal reps Susan Kadis and Mario Racco turned up.

“You always know something big is happening when you’ve got a dozen MP’s and senators up here,” Ignatieff said. To cheers and music he told the audience of 250 “we must win Vaughan.”

He echoed that message after the rally, telling reporters the party is taking nothing for granted, despite having held the riding for the past 22 years.

“By-elections are always an important test of opinion,” Ignatieff said. “We don’t take anything for granted. We have to earn every single vote.”

Continue reading

Iggy’s coming to town

4 Nov

Tonight party leader Michael Ignatieff will lend some Liberal star power to candidate Tony Genco’s campaign. This afternoon, MP Justin Trudeau will apparently be canvassing with Genco as well.

Josh Freeman will check out tonight’s rally.

Our apologies we couldn’t get to Conservative candidate Julian Fantino’s star-studded launch, with Prime Minister Stephen Harper there himself. (we were up to our eyeballs in municipal election stuff that day!) Any ideas whether Harper will be back before campaign’s end?


Liberals to Fantino: we’ll defend our turf

14 Oct

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff dropped no hints last night as to who the Liberals might run to replace longtime  MP Maurizio Bevilacqua in Vaughan.


Liberal Open Mike event

(left to right) MP Joe Volpe; MP Ken Dryden, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, and Thornhill Liberal candidate Karen Mock at a Liberal Open Mike event in Toronto Oct. 13.


“I won’t say very much about Vaughan except our party was proud to represent Vaughan for many years,” said Ignatieff after Vaughan Today posed the question at a Liberal town hall meeting at a Toronto synagogue last night.

At the end of August, Bevilacqua stepped down as MP  in order to run for mayor of Vaughan. Earlier this week, former OPP commissioner Julian Fantino announced he would seek the Conservative nomination in the riding.

At the Liberal gathering, Ignatieff passed the question to Lawrence-Eglinton MP Joe Volpe, who said “anyone” would be better than Fantino. Ignatieff himself added: “Mr. Fantino has entered the race and he will face a very vigorous defence of our representation in Vaughan.”

A date has not yet been set for a by-election.

Meanwhile just north of there in Vaughan, Bevilacqua attended a meet and greet in Thornhill hosted by MPP Peter Shurman for Bevilacqua and Ward 5 candidate Gila Martow. (Martow said in an email today: “It was open to the public but only advertised to our email and Facebook lists.)

Shurman, former MP and councillor Susan Kadis and MP Peter Kent  also attended.

Kent said he’s honoured to be associated with Bevilacqua, but stopped short of “using the E word” (for endorsement).

“It feels arrogant,” he said. “Who am I to say who you should vote for?”

Kent said he is not endorsing any candidates in the Vaughan election (despite some reports to the contrary).

“I stand by everything I said in my media release regarding Maurizio’s resignation from Parliament. He’s a terrific, mature, level-headed guy.”

Kent said the meet and greet was attended by “quite a spectrum of people… (with) shared values and shared vision for the city.”

Candidates Joel Hertz, Elliott Frankl, Deb Schulte, Michael Di Biase and Joyce Frustaglio also attended.

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