Tag Archives: Vaughan election

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

Getting ready for prime time

4 Apr

Finding information as basic as just who is running, and where, in the May 2 federal election has been surprisingly difficult, considering we’re living in an era of supposed instant information. I’m sure we’ve been spoiled by sure hits all the time in other aspects of information hunting, so when we encounter disarray in data-dishing for a very public event, such as an election, the shortcomings may seem more glaring than they really are.

Take the riding of Vaughan as an example. We told you, pretty much as it happened, that Mario Ferri, running for the Liberal party, would be challenging Conservative incumbent Julian Fantino. But that was a week ago. In an election cycle that will last scarcely a month and with the rapid-fire action characteristic of Vaughan political races, that feels like a lifetime. So it does come as a surprise to see the Elections Canada website still listing Fantino as the only registered candidate in Vaughan.

There is no controversy there; Ferri has been registered. Elections Canada simply hasn’t updated the site. In fact, a final list of candidates won’t be posted until Wednesday, April 13.

Now, if my eyes don’t deceive me, a third player has appeared on the scene in Vaughan: Green Party signs promoting candidate Norbert Koehl began popping up on Maple street corners on Sunday. However, no supporting evidence could be found on the Internet; to the contrary, the party’s website lists Claudia Rodriguez-Larrain as the candidate in Vaughan, and Koehl in Thornhill — both realities of previous elections, not this one. And an email attempt at making contact with the party (Gmail…ugh!) also failed to yield results.

Is it possible that the Internet is simply not ready to take over as the primary platform for communicating major events? Eek! Or is this relative chaos more to do with the usual suspects not being able to get themselves ready for prime time? While I would wish to make the case that content providers sometimes need reminding there is an audience ready, waiting and expectant, I am sobered by the tepid response I’ve seen to online polls, both here and on other local sites.

Ready or not, the Internet is going to be the primary platform for election coverage in Vaughan Today — here and on the main site. This abrupt election call has been a rude imposition on our magazine’s publishing schedule, so we consider ourselves sort of ’Net-rescued: a website, a blog and a flock of Twitter birds will see us through.

We are ready. Were we not is when you would have noticed. And that is why more than our curiosity has been piqued when we find the organizers and some of the players in this national drama a little out of step. 

Dan Hoddinott

Election night: We’re live!

29 Nov

We’re live for election night! Check out www.vaughantoday.ca for breaking news and info. We’ll be be covering live from election night parties, as well as taking your tweets and comments. To join the conversation, just add #Vaughan or #byelxn40 to your tweets, or comment straight on our homepage.

Come join in the conversation!

What’s in a name: Do endorsements matter?

26 Nov

While the Liberals and Conservatives have been hauling out their party ranks to join the scrap in Vaughan over the last few weeks (everyone from Senator Art Eggleton to Laureen Harper have visited), the volume has been cranked up on the endorsements lately.

Trudeau on Vaughan

Justin Trudeau attacks Fantino on the charter

Yesterday Justin Trudeau took to YouTube to criticize Fantino for comments he’s made about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Sporting a Movember ‘stache, Trudeau told viewers that while Fantino doesn’t care about individual rights, “Tony Genco will always, always defend the charter and your rights as Canadians.”

Don Cherry on Vaughan

Don Cherry endorses Fantino

The message follows an automated telephone call put out by the Conservatives recently featuring a Fantino endorsement by hockey icon Don Cherry. In the message, Cherry tells listeners Fantino is “honest, experienced and he’s always there for the little guy.”

Vaughan Fire Fighters recently jumped on side with Fantino as well, while Local 353 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has endorsed Genco.

Judging by all the hits on YouTube, there seems to be interest in these endorsements. So what do you think? Do endorsements by celebrities or anyone else matter? Do they affect your vote? Do you care?  Comment away!

(If not, what will you base your vote on?)


Vaughan candidates debate; NDP backs Green?

24 Nov
Candidates Debate

Candidates Debate

By Joshua Freeman

Vaughan voters got a taste of political debate last night, despite the conspicuous absence of Conservative candidate, Julian Fantino.

About 200 people came to see the Liberals’ Tony Genco, the Greens’ Claudia Rodriguez-Larrain, and the NDP’s Kevin Bordian debate at a Woodbridge event hosted by the Vaughan Citizen, Human Endeavour and the Vaughan Social Action Committee.

Off the bat, Vaughan Citizen editor, Kim Champion addressed Fantino’s absence.

“I believe that a debate of this sort is a very important part of the democratic process, so we regret Mr. Fantino’s decision and I feel badly for everyone who came here this evening expecting a full debate among all four invited candidates, “ she said. “I never received a reply from Mr. Fantino to our invitation and still haven’t.”

Although he was absent in the flesh, he was present in print, as members of Conservatives Against Fantino distributed anti-Fantino pamphlets outside the event and in the parking lot.

Genco slammed Fantino for missing the debate and pointed out he himself had missed the Justin Bieber concert he had promised to attend with his daughter for her 13th birthday in order to be at the debate.

“It’s disappointing that one of the key candidates wasn’t present,” Genco said. “If you make a commitment to be a candidate for elected office, you need to do you job.”

Fantino had participated in an all-candidates debate taped at Rogers Television earlier in the day, but said he couldn’t attend the live debate because of a previous family commitment.

Once the debate got underway, health care was a hot topic, with all candidates agreeing on the need to push for a hospital in Vaughan. Other topics included child poverty, mental health and the need for more federal services in Vaughan.

Although a large number of attendees were Liberal supporters, many said they were impressed with Rodriguez-Larrain, who came armed with facts, figures and ideas. Her good showing contrasted with NDP candidate Kevin Bordian, who was noticeably stumped when asked for his perspective on a number of issues. Telling the audience he’s not a ‘hardcore politician,’ Bordian said he preferred not to implement party instructions to attack the Liberals for propping up the Conservatives in parliament. At one point, he even threw his support to Rodriguez-Larrain.

“I’m going to do something very rare,” Bordian said. “I would encourage you to vote Green because they actually seem to be honest, they actually seem to be fighting for something other than the party line.”

Although his refreshing honesty at times drew applause and laughs in equal measure, some voters weren’t impressed.

“I thought the Green speaker was excellent,“ said one senior. “I thought the NDP would do better not to field a candidate than to field one who does not even know the party policy – and I’m an NDP’er.”

The 411: A Vaughan election run down

26 Oct
Maurizio Bevilacqua

Mayoral-elect Maurizio Bevilacqua

By Joshua Freeman

Vaughan residents cleaned house Monday, firing embattled mayor Linda Jackson, as well as four other incumbent councillors.

Joyce Frustaglio, Mario Ferri, Peter Meffe and Bernie DiVona all lost their seats as Vaughan voters opted for change after a tumultuous term marked by infighting and discord.

Former MP Maurizio Bevilacqua emerged the big winner of the evening, easily winning the mayoral race with over 64 percent of the vote.

“Tonight you have given me a strong mandate to lead our council, a strong mandate to lead the city of Vaughan. You have voted for change,” Bevilacqua told a cheering crowd of some 200 supporters.

Flanked by his children and surrounded by cameras and cheers, Bevilacqua said the people of Vaughan continue to inspire him and promised to do his best “and much more” in his upcoming term as mayor.


Bevilacqua addresses supporters at his victory party

“I, like the vast majority of Vaughan residents, believe that tomorrow can be better than today,” said Bevilacqua. “I see a city that will be… renowned for its first-class administration, its transparency, accountability and respect for your hard-earned taxpayer dollars. This will be Vaughan’s new image.”

[click here to see part of his speech]

Just around the corner was a more sober scene at Jackson’s party. She followed a distant second with 10,166 votes. Former MPP Mario Racco trailed 32 votes behind her for third place.

Around 10 o’clock, Jackson appeared at her party to concede the election. Surrounded by emotional friends and family, she congratulated Bevilacqua and wished the new council well.

Linda Jackson concedes

Flanked by family and supporters, Jackson delivers her concession speech.

“The people have spoken unanimously and they wanted change from me, and that’s OK… I wish the new council all the very best.”

Speaking to reporters afterward, Jackson said she has no regrets.

“The last nine years on council have been very difficult for me and my family and we worked through it,” said Jackson. “What will be will be. If it was closer, I would think I’d have a lot more regrets… I always believe everything happens for a reason. I’m looking forward to a whole new chapter of my life.”

The mayor said she has no immediate plans for the future.
[Watch her speech here]

At a joint party with his wife, re-elected ward 4 councillor Sandra Yeung-Racco, Mario Racco said he was surprised his numbers were so low, but acknowledged Bevilacqua’s win was decisive.

“It’s not a small win, it’s a very clear win. I wish (Bevilacqua) well,” said Racco. He said he has no immediate plans for another run at political life and, for the time being, will return to business and accountancy.

However, he said the election was not an entire loss.

“Am I ever pleased to see Joyce Fristaglio and Peter Meffe go down.”

Voters opt for change

Those councillors’ losses equalled a win for former mayor Michael Di Biase and newcomer Deb Schulte, who both won seats as local and regional councillors. Incumbent Mario Ferri was also out, with Schulte beating him by just 446 votes to snatch a place on council. Frustaglio finished in 6th place with 18,331 votes, just 28 behind challenger Robert Craig.

Voters also delivered a message of change in the ward races. Challenger Marilyn Iafrate took Ward 1 from Peter Meffe by just 95 votes. In Ward 3, Rosanna Defrancesca narrowly defeated favourite Steven Del Luca to win that seat. Incumbent Bernie Divona finished third.

York Region Catholic District School Board trustee Victor Schiralli was ousted in Area 4 by Cathy Ferlisi.

In a night of upsets, three ward councillors managed to hang on to their seats. Yeung-Racco held Ward 4 and councillor Alan Shefman held Ward 5. Ward 2 councillor Tony Carella also held his seat.

Overall, voter participation stood at 40.54 per cent for the election, climbing just two and a half percentage points higher than in 2006, far short of the 50 percent goal the city set itself for this election.

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