Finley under fire on two fronts

by Bill Jackson - The Regional

December 1, 2010

Opposition in the House of Commons recently questioned Haldimand-Norfolk MP Diane Finley's support of Julian Fantino - the former OPP Commissioner and Conservative party candidate who was elected as an MP in a close by-election in Vaughan this past Monday.

Toronto Liberal MP Maria Minna noted that Finley had signed a petition in 2009 that called for an investigation into Fantino's actions as head of the OPP.

"The member was a minister when she signed a petition demanding the Prime Minister's hand-picked candidate in Vaughan, Julian Fantino, be investigated. She wanted his pay docked," Minna stated. "She wanted him suspended and she wanted him fired. Does she still hold the same view now?"

Minna was speaking of the petition drafted and circulated by Caledonia resident Ken Hewitt - now Haldimand County's mayor-elect - back in 2009. Finley signed the petition at MPP Toby Barrett's new year's levee as reported by several publication, including The Regional News This Week.

Canada's Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews defended Fantino by saying that he "is an outstanding public servant who has served the people of Ontario in an exemplary fashion."

According to political pundits, Fantino will likely be appointed to a cabinet post.

However MP Diane Finley, who's married to Senator Doug Finley - a top advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper - signed the petition that not only called for an inquiry into Fantino's actions, but called for him to be fired as OPP commissioner, Minna reiterated.

"Why the double standard? Or did she only sign for short-term political gain?"

Finley is also facing criticism from former Liberal MP Bob Speller - her challenger in the next federal election - who says that her Simcoe constituency office is inaccessible to individuals with disabilities.

Liberal Human Resources and Skills Development Critic Michael Savage says in a press release that his party challenged Finley to make her office accessible to the physically disabled months ago, but that no such upgrades have been undertaken.

When questioned at committee seven months ago about why her office remained inaccessible, Finley skirted the issue and then blamed the House of Commons for a funding shortfall, the press release contends. Finley said that "The funding system through the House of Commons has not made that possible, much to my dismay."

Books show that, on top of receiving MP funding each year to operate her constituency office, Minister Finley receives an additional $17,110 per year due to the geographical and population size of her riding, Savage contends.

"Minister Finley should be setting an example," Savage said, noting that the Minister responsible for making sure all government services are accessible to all Canadians continues to shirk her responsibility at her own office.

A Finley spokesperson told The Regional News that her staff has been actively searching for a suitable accessible constituency office and that in the meantime, her staff are always available to meet with constituents off-site.

"Our Conservative Government has done more for Canadians with disabilities than any government in Canadian history," the statement reads.

"Bob Speller is simply trying to distract from the dismal Liberal record on helping persons with disabilities. In fact, Michael Ignatieff's Liberals voted against support for persons with disabilities when they voted against the creation of the historic Registered Disabilities Saving Plan to help families caring for a disabled person, and the Enabling Accessibility Fund, which has supported over 300 accessibility projects already."

Finley did not respond to inquiries regarding the Fantino controversy.