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Outgoing Ontario Provincial Police commissioner Julian Fantino listens during a change-of-command ceremony in Toronto on Aug. 31, 2010. (Darren Calabrese/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Outgoing Ontario Provincial Police commissioner Julian Fantino listens during a change-of-command ceremony in Toronto on Aug. 31, 2010. (Darren Calabrese/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Vaughan By-election

PM pressing Julian Fantino to run, source says Add to ...

There is renewed pressure - this time from Stephen Harper himself - on former Ontario Police Commissioner Julian Fantino to run for the Conservatives in a riding just north of Toronto.

A source close to Mr. Fantino said Monday the Prime Minister spoke to Mr. Fantino several days ago about running in the Ontario riding of Vaughan. Mr. Fantino, who the source says is now "leaning" toward running, would be a star candidate for the Conservatives given their law-and-order agenda.

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In addition, he has great name recognition in the Toronto area because of his police work. He just retired as the OPP Commissioner, a position he took over in 2006 after serving as Toronto police chief for five years.

The riding the Tories have their eye on for Mr. Fantino is one that was just vacated by long-time Liberal MP Maurizio Bevilacqua. Mr. Belivacqua held it for 22 years and stepped down to run for mayor of Vaughan.

Although it has been Liberal all these years, the Tories have made inroads in that area. For example, Peter Kent, the junior foreign affairs minister, picked off a Liberal in 2008 to win the neighbouring riding in Thornhill.

Early last month, Mr. Fantino tried to play down rumours he was being courted by the Tories. At that time, he told the Toronto Star he was more interested in "decompressing from 42 years of busy public service."

And a source who knows Mr. Fantino believes that it still the case. He said he cannot see him running to be a backbench MP. The former policeman is not a "yes man," the source told The Globe, noting that the former top cop is "famously abrasive" and would likely butt heads with the Prime Minister.

A spokesman for the Conservative Party remained mum, saying they do not comment on candidate searches.

However, it is possible the Prime Minister is thinking about calling by-elections shortly in all three ridings where MPs have recently stepped down. There are two vacancies in Manitoba and one in Vaughan. Mr. Harper must call at least one, in the Winnipeg North riding where NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis resigned to run for mayor, by Oct. 27.

 

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