Fantino shrugs off complaints about campaign
The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, November 27, 2010 6:39PM EST
VAUGHAN, Ont. - A star Conservative candidate running in one of three federal byelections is brushing aside the notion he has been avoiding the public spotlight.
Former Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino, who is running in the suburban Toronto riding of Vaughan, said on Saturday he has been too busy canvassing voters to speak to reporters.
It's a marked departure for the normally media-friendly Fantino.
During his policing career, which also included stints as chief of the municipal forces in Toronto, York Region and London, Ont., Fantino held frequent news conferences and few other police officers could match his ability to make headlines.
But he has been difficult to spot in recent weeks, missing at least one public debate and his campaign staff rejected or ignored several interview requests from media. He has made few public comments about the campaign.
The federal Conservatives under Stephen Harper are well-known for keeping tight control over what cabinet ministers and MPs are allowed to say publicly. Fantino's lower profile during the byelection campaign prompted one columnist to dub his electoral bid a "pop-up, peek-a-boo campaign."
But at an event held Saturday to raise food for Vaughan's food bank, Fantino laughed off suggestions he is hiding or keeping a low profile.
"The fact you can't get a hold of me at the office should tell you where I am. I'm on the road going door to door, spending time with people. I'm not in the office waiting for the media to call," he said.
When asked why the media has not been allowed to follow him while he knocked on doors, Fantino's handlers said a voter complained about being photographed.
"I don't know if you call this a low profile. I'm here before you, I'm speaking to you, I've had many many interviews with media people, just because you haven't been there, doesn't mean that I've been hiding," he said.
"All I can tell you is my activities are open book. I'm in the public domain all the time, as I am now. I've been in the public domain all along, door-to-door, meetings and activities widely in the community."
Fantino said he missed the debate due to a family commitment.
His Liberal opponent Tony Genco said he thinks Fantino "runs away" every time he tries to bring up the issues. He said he bumped into Fantino at an event and described a "bubble" of staffers surrounding him. "He doesn't want to engage. It's disappointing and I really think he's doing a disservice to democracy in the way in which he's approaching this whole campaign," Genco said.
"He's got to explain to the people of Vaughan why the policies of the Conservative government will serve their interest and he hasn't been able to do that. "
At Saturday's event, Fantino said he is listening to Vaughan voters by attending different local events and canvassing doors. He said voters have told him that jobs, the economy, utility bills, crime, health care and seniors are their main concerns.
The Canadian Press asked half a dozen voters in a residential area near Saturday's event about whether Fantino had knocked on their door.
One voter said he had met Fantino three times --through a door-to-door canvass, at a local mall, and community centre-- but other residents said they had never received knocks on their doors or any Fantino campaign literature.
The byelection is to be held Monday along with votes in two other ridings, both in Manitoba.