“We were duped.”
“We were duped into believing this guy wasn’t a candidate,” says provincial Liberal George Smitherman.
After Julian Fantino said months ago that he wasn’t interested in the job, that he would complete his contract as York Region police chief, after not even applying for the Toronto position – he got the job on Nov 28. Members of the Police Services Board didn’t even take a breather, making the announcement at the end of a grueling 11 hours of interviews with candidates.
Smitherman says that the fix was in from the beginning.
“This was a shameful display of backroom broker power politics.
“That was deliberate, to neuter the kind of dissent that would form around his candidacy.
“We didn’t read the play well enough,” adds Smitherman, a sports fan. “We took this at face value.”
And so did many gay men and lesbians, who researched Fantino’s background and telephoned and e-mailed the mayor and made presentations during the public consultations held earlier last month. Activists linked up with 11 groups to hold an anti-Fantino press conference, all the while thinking they were making a difference.
And says those who spent time on the issue shouldn’t be wondering where they went wrong. The subterfuge means that we’re taken seriously as a political force.
“Rather than looking inwardly, we need to look at the process.”
Word has it that Premier Mike Harris’s office was pushing for Fantino. And police commissioners fell into line.
The vote was five to two for Fantino. Dissenters were downtown city Councillor Olivia Chow and city appointee Sandy Adelson, a law student.
Mayor Mel Lastman, after saying he favoured an internal candidate, went with the majority. “The mayor needs to be held accountable,” says Smitherman.
But now that Fantino’s in, City Councillor Kyle Rae is taking a different approach.
Rae says he got a call at home from Fantino minutes after being offered the job. “He said, ‘You and I need to sit down and work through these issues….’ He is willing to sit down and talk about that.
“He sees the world in black and white. Toronto is a technicolour city. He needs to adjust his set.”
Rae says the pair will meet in the second week of December, and that he’s going to teach Fantino the facts of Toronto gay life.
Despite a press conference promise to build bridges, Fantino has not responded to Xtra’s request for an interview.
“We were duped.”