About the Blog:

Guelph Politico is locally sourced and dedicated to covering the political and cultural scene in the City of Guelph. Est. 2008.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Fantino Paradox

I know the Federal Conservatives are quite proud of themselves. Not only did they wrestle the Vaughan, ON seat owned by the Liberals for 22 years away from the Grits, but that new Conservative MP also happened to be the former Toronto Police Chief, former OPP Commish, and all around, take no guff law man Julian Fantino. Getting Fantino as a candidate, let alone as a rookie MP, was quite the coup for the Conservatives since to many Fantino is both well-known and well-liked. So it was only a matter of time until the claws came out...
During a CBC interview following his election, Fantino said of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that "In some cases, the Charter has been exploited and the rulings that have followed have, in fact, benefited some criminals, absolutely [...] The Supreme Court of Canada and other court rulings are trying to change some of the misinterpretations that have been given as to the reason, the purpose, and the mechanisms of the Charter."
This propmpted Justin Trudeau to jump on the bait (and justifiably so given the fact that the Charter is arguably his father's greatest legacy) saying "Once you become a representative of the people and you are not a cop any more... you have to start thinking about everyone's rights and freedoms. And sometimes that means thinking about the rights of some people you don't particularly like," said Trudeau. "That's the strength of our Charter; that's the strength of Canada as a country."
Fantino wasn't going to take that lying down, and retorted, “You know what, here’s me with 42 years of working night shifts and facing people with loaded guns and dealing with murderers and rapists... and I get a lecture from a newbie. C’mon.”
Actually Mr. Fantino, I think you're the newbie in the House of Commons. Unless, of course, you mean that Trudeau is a newbie at "facing people with loaded guns and dealing with murderers and rapists" then yeah, Trudeau's a "newbie." Whatever that means.
I do think what he does mean however, and it's right there in a piece of alliteration that would make Karl Rove proud, is that Trudeau was "promoting the hug-a-thug philosophy." Meaning that trying an accused criminal as per the laws and procedures recognized by the Criminal Code of Canada and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is for pinko bike riders, to borrow a euphemism from another Conservative Nobel laureate in the making. Who cares if he's cut his public policy chops on Hockey Night in Canada.
Yes, more often than not, in the conservative school of thought, protecting rights is synonymous with "soft on crime." It's part of a culture that's been perpetuated with help from shows like "Law & Order", that all defendants are guilty and all the lawyers that represent them are greedy/ambulance chasers/fame hungry/self-promoting/criminal themselves/all the above. Unfortunately, that way of thinking discounts the fact that in our system of justice, the onus is on the state to prove guilt, not on the defense to prove innocence.
And while you can salute someone for their public service, like Fantino's four decade-plus tenure in various police services across Ontario, "The Chief" is hardly incorruptible. Let alone the recent questions about unaccounted for $8.4 million from the OPP's G8/G20 responsibilities, from illegal wiretaps to being accused of homophobia to the Shawn Brant controversy, if Fantino had run as a Liberal, the Conservative tar and feather machine wouldn't have let him out alive. And while we're on the subject, though I'm sure the Liberals had put in some phone calls to court the province's former top cop, was one of the police chiefs that's spoken out so strongly against the long gun registry going to sign up with the party that whipped its own members into supporting it? I hardly think so.
Bottom line, many of my Conservative friends are seeing Fantino's sweep in Vaughan as a sign of improving Conservative fortunes nationally. Of course, many note that Fantino's election is a better sign that name cache still trumps more traditional forms of campaigning, like showing up to debates:

But seriously, there were two other by-elections on November 29th, the one in Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette stayed Conservative, while Winnipeg North saw Liberal Kevin Lamoureux take the riding for his team after 13 years of representation by NDP MP  Judy Wasylycia-Leis. In other words, in terms of federal politics, the country just as schizophrenic as it ever was. 

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