Julian Fantino, former Ontario top cop and newly minted Conservative MP for Vaughan, was appointed on Jan 4 to the position of minister of state for seniors.
Fantino replaces Diane Ablonczy, who was shuffled to the post from tourism in 2009 after she approved funding for Pride Toronto and posed for pictures with drag queens. Ablonczy was named minister of state for foreign affairs for the Americas and consular affairs. Other new cabinet appointments include Peter Kent in the role of environment minister, and Ted Menzies as minister of state for finance.
“We’re very pleased to welcome Julian Fantino to cabinet,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper told journalists after the swearing-in ceremony. “The aging of a large portion of Canadian society clearly has major policy implications, so he will be very busy. Canadian seniors will be in very good hands with his good judgment.”
Some expected Fantino to be given a cabinet role relating to public safety or justice. His promotion is seen as a move by Harper to make inroads for Conservatives in the Greater Toronto Area in preparation for the next election, which could happen as early as this spring.
NDP deputy leader Thomas Mulcair says the Jan 4 cabinet shuffle amounted to “moving the deck chairs on the Titanic,” noting that these are simply more people to deliver the prime minister’s lines. It is a sentiment echoed by Liberal whip Marcel Proulx, who called the cabinet a “one-man show” and lamented that there weren’t more changes, including the appointment of a full-time status of women minister.
As for Fantino’s appointment, Proulx is circumspect in his answer. “Well, he’s brought in his new player into the cabinet, as a junior minister looking after seniors. We’ll see what Mr Fantino can come up with, what ideas he might have.”
Proulx says he didn’t expect anything from Fantino, given the hide-and-seek nature of his by-election campaign.
Following that campaign, Fantino described the Liberal approach as “Hitler theory,” saying, “You tell a lie often enough, you hope that some people will believe it.”
When clarifying those remarks later he said, “That whole passage of history is unpleasant. And some of the things that happened to me on my campaign were unpleasant too.”
A Liberal party spokesperson notes that this will be Fantino’s fourth pension, adding to those he receives for his service with the London and Toronto police services, and from the Ontario Provincial Police.
To learn more about Fantino, check out some of our past coverage here.