Julian Fantino: A Liability in Veterans Affairs but an Asset in Vaughan?

When Julian Fantino had his first major confrontation with his department’s constituency, I predicted in my post of Feb. 13, 2014 that it wouldn’t end well for him: “Perhaps in a few months Harper will have a done-like discussion with Fantino, telling him not to expect to remain in cabinet if the Conservatives are re-elected. The sub-text of the message would be that it is time for Fantino to take one for the team and announce his retirement, so the party can find a more presentable candidate to contest Vaughan.” A few days ago, Prime Minister Harper removed Fantino from the Veterans Affairs portfolio, but kept him in cabinet in a low-profile portfolio. Fantino on his website expressed his intention to contest the next election.

Steve Chase, writing in today’s Globe and Mail, reported that this decision “demonstrates [Fantino’s] enduring political value to Prime Minister Stephen Harper as a star candidate in the GTA.” I don’t think it demonstrates Fantino’s value, rather it demonstrates that Prime Minister Harper assumes Fantino has political value. Perhaps the Conservatives have done private polling that demonstrates Fantino’s political value. Or perhaps they haven’t and are assuming it.

It seems to me that Fantino is a particularly vulnerable candidate. The opposition parties have numerous clips of Fantino’s confrontations with veterans that they can incorporate into their print and online advertising to depict Fantino as uncaring and out-of-touch. A young and energetic candidate would, by his or her very presence, send the message that Fantino is old and out-of-date.

If this is what the opposition is thinking, surely it must be going through the minds of the Conservative constituency organization. Can’t they find a young, energetic, empathetic, and, given the demographics of the constituency, Italian candidate to unseat Fantino? I can’t imagine that there aren’t some local conservatives lining up to oppose him. I wouldn’t bet a great deal of money that Julian Fantino is the Conservative candidate in Vaughan in the 2015 election.

Political careers often end badly because a politician decides to stay on one election too long. Perhaps Fantino’s own party will stop him before the Liberals or NDP unseat him.


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