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Outgoing OPP chief won't rule out political future

Outgoing OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino.

Dave Chidley/The Canadian Press

Outgoing Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino is keeping his options open for his next career move after he retires later this month.

His name has already popped up as the leading choice for mayor of Vaughan, Ont., his home town. And speculation is also rampant that he is eying a career in provincial or federal politics now that his successor has been named.

Premier Dalton McGuinty announced on Wednesday that veteran police officer Chris Lewis will become OPP commissioner effective Aug. 1. Mr. Fantino, 67, will step down on July 31 as previously planned, after nearly four years in the job.

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He is fuelling speculation over his future by remaining coy.

"I'm not ruling anything in or out," Mr. Fantino said in an interview on Wednesday. "Once I'm done, I'm going to decompress a little bit. I'm going to go fishing."

But no one expects Mr. Fantino, who is never far from the headlines and who has the name recognition that helps candidates get elected, to spend much time relaxing at a lake. He began his career in 1964 as a beat officer in Toronto and enjoyed a steady rise through the ranks, becoming the province's top cop in October, 2006.

Mr. Fantino is well regarded by the Liberal government, but he has been dogged by a standoff between native protesters and residents of Caledonia that he inherited from his predecessor, Gwen Boniface.

There is speculation he was appointed commissioner because the Progressive Conservatives were quietly courting him to run against his long-time friend, Liberal MPP Greg Sorbara, in the 2007 provincial election in the riding of Vaughan.

John Tory, a former Progressive Conservative Party leader who now hosts a daily call-in show on CFRB Radio, told his listeners on Wednesday that he thinks it is more likely that Mr. Fantino will run as a Tory candidate in the next federal election than as a candidate for mayor of Vaughan.

"That job would be a bit more comfortable for a former chief of police," Mr. Tory told his listeners. "This is a government that is very committed to law and order issues, and of course, he would be a sure-fire cabinet minister."

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Mario Racco, a former Liberal MPP who is running for mayor, said Mr. Fantino has not shown much interest in jumping into the municipal race.

"If he chooses to join the race, he is more than welcome," Mr. Racco said in an interview. "I know he is someone who cannot be taken lightly and he would be a good candidate, no question."

Speculation that Mr. Fantino could run provincially in next year's election against Mr. Sorbara was also revived on Wednesday. But a source close to Mr. Sorbara said Mr. Fantino has said a number of times that he would never run against his friend.

"You got that piece right," Mr. Fantino joked. "I am good friends with Mr. Sorbara. The rest of it is all up in the air."

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