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Kory Teneycke blasts back at Margaret Atwood Add to ...

Hot: Margaret Atwood. Talk about stirring the pot. The Canadian literary icon's simple act of adding her voice to an on-line petition protesting against a Fox News-like channel coming to Canada has sparked outrage among right-wing commentators.

"This is not the first time Atwood has put her political agenda ahead of principles and patriotism," Kory Teneycke writes Friday in Sun Media papers. "In the 2008 election campaign she was asked if she would vote for the separatist Bloc Quebecois if she lived in Quebec, she said: 'Yes. Absolutely. What is the alternative?'

"Seriously? How about voting for someone who doesn't advocate the breakup of the country?"

Formerly director of communications to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Mr. Teneycke is now vice-president of development for Quebecor Inc., the company making the bid for the new all-news channel, Sun TV. The proposed station has been mockingly dubbed "Tory TV" and "Fox News North" as its aim is to promote a right-of-centre view to counter what many Tories see as a Liberal bias in Canadian media.

In his column, Mr. Tenecyke notes the petition was started by Avaaz, a special interest group funded by U.S. billionaire George Soros.

And he questions its veracity: "Atwood is not the only A-list 'celebrity' that has signed. Dwight Shroot (from The Office), Boba Fett (of Star Wars), Snuffaluffagus (Sesame Street) and Homer Simpson are also signatories."

For her part, Ms. Atwood told The Globe and Mail her concerns were not about silencing Sun TV. Rather, her protest lies with what she sees as Mr. Harper's pattern of silencing the voices of his critics.

"Some people signing the petition object to the expected content. I object to the process," she said. "It's the [prime ministerial]pressure on yet another civil servant that bothers me. These folks are supposed to be working for the taxpayer, not the PM."

There have been reports that CRTC chairman Konrad von Finckenstein's head is on the Tory chopping block because the regulator has so far opted not to grant the channel its desired license. The PMO has denied this and Quebecor is taking another run at securing preferred status.

Hot: Replacement rumours. Official Ottawa loves nothing more than to speculate about political players. And so a report Friday by The Globe and Mail's parliamentary bureau chief that Stephen Harper's chief of staff, Guy Giorno, is set to leave his post has sparked much interest in his potential replacement.

Topping the list is Derek Vanstone, formerly chief of staff to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and now in the PMO as deputy chief of staff in charge of operations. Interestingly, he has been travelling with the Prime Minister this summer.

Like Mr. Giorno, Mr. Vanstone comes from the Mike Harris school of politics.

Not: Rob Ford. Liberal Party pollster Michael Marzolini is rumoured to be lending his analytical skills to George Smitherman's bid for Toronto mayor.

The whispers come as Hogtown Grits become increasingly worried about the growing strength of right-wing candidate Rob Ford. He is topping the polls, running ahead of Mr. Smitherman, a former McGuinty cabinet minister, and former Liberal Party national director, Rocco Rossi.

Word of Mr. Marzolini's involvement came after reports earlier this week that another veteran Liberal, former war-room strategist Warren Kinsella, had joined Mr. Rossi's campaign.

Mr. Marzolini is the head of Pollara, a national polling firm based in Toronto, and has been involved with the Liberals since Jean Chrétien's three majority governments. But he doesn't confine himself to federal politics, since most pollsters - and political consultants like Mr. Kinsella - can't resist a good election campaign.

Hot: Julian Fantino. The recently retired Ontario Provincial Police commissioner is creating buzz after reports the federal Conservatives are courting him to run as their star candidate in Vaughan.

Long-time Liberal MP Maurizio Bevilacqua - a 22-year veteran in the Commons - resigned his seat Thursday. He is set to run for mayor of the Toronto-area suburb, leaving a vacancy in the House of Commons.

Mr. Fantino would be a catch for the Tories, especially as they push their law-and-order agenda. As well, Vaughan is surrounded by other Conservative-held constituencies, including junior cabinet minister Peter Kent in Thornhill and Lois Brown in Newmarket-Aurora.

The former police officer is playing down speculation about his interest in federal politics, however. "At this point, I am more interested in decompressing from 42 years of very busy public service, and that's where it's at. I have only been gone a month and I am still getting acclimatized to this [retired]life," Mr. Fantino told Toronto Star.

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