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Bullish PM rolls out welcome mat for Julian Fantino

Conservative candidate Julian Fantino heads to the stage to celebrate his by-election win in Vaughan, Ont, on Nov. 29, 2010.

J.P. MOCZULSKI/J.P. Moczulski/The Globe and Mail

1. Hitting the ground running. Stephen Harper is to introduce his sparkly new star MP, Julian Fantino - and likely gloat a little at Liberal expense - at a rare open caucus meeting Wednesday.

The former Toronto police chief and Ontario Provincial Police commissioner, who won Vaughan for the Tories in Monday's by-election, is on his way to Ottawa this morning. According to a Conservative MP and friend, Mr. Fantino is "very excited and wants to hit the ground running."

The newly minted Member of Parliament hopes to take on the Liberals, especially those who have been sniping about the OPP's spending at the G8 and G20s summits as well as those who have been critical of his approach as top cop during the Caledonia crisis.

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And the opposition should look out; Mr. Fantino was paying attention to what was going on in the Commons while he was campaigning. "He's well aware of the personal and baseless smears that some Liberals like Mark Holland, Maria Minna, Paul Szabo and Bonnie Crombie felt were appropriate for QP," the Conservative MP said.

"I would expect that Julian will work hard in the GTA to push out the message of fiscal responsibility, low taxes and support for our focus on the economy," the MP added. "That said, Julian's four-plus decades working as a police officer, including running four police forces gives him well deserved and earned credibility on justice and public safety issues. He's also rarely dull."

The MP noted how in interviews Mr. Fantino was saying the government can't "wimp-out" on toughening up laws against criminals, suggesting he'll be another strong voice for the Harper government's tough-on-crime agenda.

Mr. Fantino's victory in the suburban Toronto riding was a blow to Michael Ignatieff. His Liberals had held the seat for 22 years under Maurizio Bevilacqua, who stepped down to make a successful run for mayor.

The Prime Minister's communications team sent around a note last night inviting the parliamentary press gallery into their closed-door caucus meeting to listen to Mr. Harper "address the Conservative National Caucus."

In addition to a little expected bragging - the Tories also won the by-election race in the Manitoba riding of Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette - the Prime Minister will likely give his troops a little rah-rah speech as the holiday season approaches and a new year in which there could very well be an election begins.

2. Rolling up their sleeves. Michael Ignatieff sent out a call to arms to his supporters Tuesday night - the day after the Liberals won a seat from the New Democrats in Manitoba and lost one to the Tories in Ontario.

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"Keep your sleeves rolled up," the Liberal Leader says. "Wow, what a night, We stole Winnipeg North from the NDP and Vaughan was a dog fight right down to the last vote."

He thanked the volunteers and the candidates; he talked about how "when all the chips are against you" working twice as hard as the other guy can make the difference.

"And even if you live on the other side of Canada, you played a part in the drama Monday night as the nail biter in Vaughan came down to the last polls, and anticipation gave way to jubilation in Winnipeg North.

The Liberals repeatedly point out how close the vote was in Vaughan as pundits and even Conservatives had expected Tory candidate Julian Fantino to simply walk into office without any fight.

"Keep your sleeves rolled up," Mr. Ignatieff concludes. "We've got lots of work ahead of us and we need your Liberal spirit burning bright. Because when the time comes, it could be what puts us over the top."

That time could be after the spring budget.

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