Finley supporters, Fantino interested in PC Leadership: report

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

March 25, 2009

Supporters of Haldimand-Norfolk MP Diane Finley are testing the waters for a possible run for the leadership of Ontario's Progressive Conservatives, according to an article in the Glove and Mail last Friday.

A statement released by the federal Human Resource Minister's Director of Communications doesn't deny the story.

"People have been circulating rumours about Minister Finley running for the Ontario PC leadership," it reads. "While Minister Finley is very flattered by the suggestion, she herself has said that her only priority right now is to the Conservative Government as Minister of Human resources and Skills Development to help deliver Canada's Economic Action Plan. The Minister believes it is essential that people receive the support they need quickly in these difficult economic times."

The Globe and Mail article took Howard Goode, President of the Conservative Party of Canada's Haldimand-Norfolk Riding Association by surprise.

"It's news to me," he said, when contacted by The Regional News.

Bobbi Ann Dwornikiewicz, President of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party's Haldimand-Norfolk Riding Association, said that Finley would have to find a riding if she made a bid for the Party's leadership and laughed at the notion of Haldimand-Norfolk MPP Toby Barrett giving up his.

"It was a struggle finding someone to give up their seat for (former P"C Leader) John Tory," she said.

Tory lost a PC seat in a by-election earlier this month.

"I think that's why there has been a sentiment lately since the defeat in Haliburton that whoever does replace John Tory should perhaps already have a seat," Dwornikiewicz said.

Barrett has been away on personal business and was unavailable for comment last week, but has shown support for Niagara West-Glanbrook MPP Tim Hudak who is currently regarded as a front-runner for the PC leadership.

However Dwornikiewicz said that Barrett will wait to speak with his association and constituents before making his support on any leadership candidate official.

The Globe and Mail article also raised the spectre of OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino taking a stab at a leadership bid.

Fantino "has called some Ontario organizers to see if he would have support if he ran," the author stated.

According to local activist Gary McHale, it explains why the PC Party has refused to make statements against Fantino in the past.

NDP Opposition MPP Peter Kormos called for Fantino to be fired when the Commissioner threatened Haldimand County but the PC Party remained silent, McHale pointed out. Last September, Tory refused to denounce the actions of Fantino in Caledonia and earlier this year Barrett refused to sign part of a petition denouncing the Commissioner while more than 7000 residents signed it.

If Ontario hasn't already turned into a police state, Fantino leading the government would ensure that it did, McHale contends.