Tag Archives: Stephen Harper

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


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.”

Fantino rejects ‘controversial’ label

12 Nov

Julian FantinoJulian Fantino is his own man, but he’s not a renegade.

That’s the message he gives sitting at his impressive Woodbridge campaign office after a long day of campaigning that won’t end with the interview he’s giving to Vaughan Today.

“I’ve always had bosses,” Fantino says.  “I’ve always worked with community, I’ve always known to whom I’m accountable.”

It’s a message the former 42-year cop – now the Conservative candidate in Vaughan — seems annoyed at having to clarify amid recent suggestions in the media that he may be too used to “being the boss” to fall in line behind Prime Minister Stephen Harper in parliament.

But commentators could be excused for thinking the formidable Fantino, 67, might have trouble taking the back seat. His rise through the system has been described as ‘meteoric.’ Having immigrated to Canada with his family as a youngster, Fantino started off working security at Yorkdale Shopping Centre. Since then, his resume includes stints as police chief of London, York Region and Toronto, as well as his most recent role as commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police. Known for his take-no-prisoners attitude, he’s often been described as controversial, a label he rejects and attributes to ‘uninformed bloggers.’

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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?


Genco says he’s ready to rumble for Liberals in Vaughan

2 Nov

Reporter Joshua Freeman sat down with Liberal candidate Tony Genco at his campaign headquarters this week to chat about the upcoming byelection, facing a big name challenger in Vaughan and more. The federal byelection is set for Nov. 29 in Vaughan.


By Joshua Freeman

Tony Genco

Tony Genco

Liberal candidate Tony Genco says he doesn’t feel pressured to deliver in this month’s by-election in Vaughan.

Sitting in his campaign office at Highway 400 and Langstaff Road, surrounded by red posters and banners bearing his name, Genco is nonchalant about what’s at stake for his Liberal Party in this by-election.

His demeanour’s at odds with the punditry surrounding this race, touted by some as a bellwether for the next federal election, upon which party strategists may base their moves. A Conservative win could be a devastating incrimination for Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, akin to Stephane Dion’s ominous loss in the 2007 Outremont by-election. A Genco win might be interpreted as a sign of healthy support for the Liberals and Ignatieff in their ongoing effort to eventually unseat Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

And Genco is the man the Liberals have charged with making sure a 22-year stronghold doesn’t fall to the Conservatives in the form of Julian Fantino, the former OPP commissioner tapped by the Conservatives to try turn Vaughan blue.

“I wouldn’t say I’m feeling pressure,” Genco says, talking slightly above the music that penetrates the walls from the fitness boot camp next door.  “What I feel is a responsibility to make sure Liberal values are understood and recognized.”

The rest, he believes, should follow from that.

“Liberal values are Vaughan values,” Genco says. “I think there’s strength in that. … If you want to understand a provincial candidate or a federal candidate, you start with what they represent in terms of the brand.”

Genco’s belief in the Liberal brand comes from years of working on that brand, first behind the scenes. Growing up in Toronto, he got his B.A. in political science from York University in 1988. He then got his start in politics working for Liberal MP Art Eggleton through most of the nineties. After that he ran a 1999 provincial bid against Al Palladini in the former riding of Vaughan-King-Aurora. He didn’t win, but he introduced himself to the community and learned a few things along the way.

“I learned a lot about myself in terms of the campaigning. I had up to that point mostly been in the background, behind the scenes. So I had to take my own advice and go knock on doors and meet people,” Genco says.

A job followed as CEO of Downsview Park, where Genco learned to navigate the federal bureaucracy in order to win the park autonomy from the Canada Lands Company.

“We had to demonstrate from a public policy perspective, why autonomy was necessary … That took some time, but we won all the battles,” he says.

Moving on, he took those skills with him to community work on the Vaughan Public Library Board and the York Central Hospital Board of Trustees where he serves as chair. Most recently he’s been a part of a team of political consultants advising on municipal politics.

“This election is not about Julian Fantino and Tony Genco.”

Back in his office, talking strategy for his own run, Genco says personality might be important in municipal politics, but party brand trumps the personal brand when it comes to federal elections.

“I think the party is the most important thing,” he says. “You’re electing a rep who is going to be your voice through that party.”

As he talks brands, one thing is clear: Genco wants to run against Stephen Harper rather than Julian Fantino.

“It’s not a question of overcoming Fantino. He’s a good man. He has much experience,”  Genco says. “I think this election is not about Julian Fantino and Tony Genco. I think this election is about the Liberals fighting for the community against the Harper agenda.”

Personality-wise, the relaxed Genco describes himself as a simple guy who likes watching the Leafs and spending time with his wife and two young children. He’s not a fan of the politics of personality, but if you press him about how he’ll overcome Fantino given the former cop’s strong name recognition, he’s blunt.

“The Harper agenda has not done well and I don’t think Julian is going to be able to defend it,” Genco says.

He sites massive spending for G20 security and fighter jet contracts as examples the Tories can’t be trusted with fiscal management.

“Liberals have historically been good fiscal managers,” Genco says. “Tories haven’t.”

As for the ad sponsorship scandal that ended Liberal rule in 2006, Genco says, “things happen, but overall when you compare the record of the Tories to the Liberals, there’s no comparison.”

Borrowing a slogan from the winning campaign of Toronto’s mayor-elect Rob Ford, Genco repeatedly emphasizes: “Liberals respect the taxpayer.”

Other top priorities include seniors’ pensions, investment in childcare and the Liberals’ proposed Family Care Plan.

“I grew up watching Pierre Trudeau and believing in the just society,” Genco says. “Having been part of the Liberal family for a few years, I believe those values are still inherent in the party.”

In a riding that’s been red for two decades, a lot of Vaughanians might share that view. But in a town known for big personalities, it remains to be seen whether Genco’s bet on party brand will pay off.


We’ll chat with Conservative candidate Julian Fantino, NDP hopeful Kevin Bordian, and Green candidate Claudia Rodriguez-Larrain soon.
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