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by Bill Jackson - The Regional

December 1, 2010

Many people are of the thinking that it was Julian Fantino's celebrity status that won the by-election in Vaughan this past Monday. Given such a close race to the finish line there's no doubting that some of his celebrity supporters also played a big role by helping him over a heap of reported backlash that was piled up by his detractors during the past few weeks.

Many people were surprised to see that Canadian icon Don Cherry endorsed Fantino. Cherry, who has become known for his steadfast support of Canada and the Canadian Military in particular, probably doesn't know the story of Caledonia or the local war veteran whose home was stoned by native protesters while the OPP stood idly by and watched as so-called peacekeepers. He probably doesn't know much about people's repeated attempts to hang Canadian flags on Argyle Street and the lines of tactical officers who lined up to stop them. He probably knows nothing of Fantino's attempt to criminalize such individuals. One can only  assume that,, given his strong sense of nationalism, Cherry probably knows very little about what went on in Caledonia the past five years. Perhaps someone should send him a copy of Christie Blatchford's new book; however the damage has already been done.

There was plenty of reaction to Cherry's backing of Fantino, however the Canadian Press article, which skimmed the surface of political intrigue, spoke of nothing contrary to Cherry's support and only questioned his ethics in relation to his job with the CBC.

Apparently Cherry considers Fantino his "good friend" according tot he hockey guru's 20 second automated phone message that hit homes in the Vaughan riding.

In an endorsement on Fantino's website, Cherry stated that "There are not enough words to describe how much respect I have for Julian Fantino. He is honest, brave and always there for the ordinary guy. A class act and someone who will never let you down. He tells it like it is and what you see is what you get. One of the many reasons I admire him so much is that I know he will bring dignity, integrity and respect..."

Good grief.

Fantino ran what is referred to as a "peek-a-boo campaign" because he was apparently scared to face the heat of well-founded criticism. He took the position Canada is going soft on criminals and that he doesn't support the "hug-a-thug" mentality. I think of his behind-the-scenes approach to Caledonia and his written support of native activist Clyde Powless who was responsible for violence and closing down thruways here in Caledonia.

There's no question that his candidacy was made possible by political opportunism - a by-product of his popularity - certainly not prowess. His name gave the minority Conservative government an opportinity to take control of a Liberal stronghold and gain leverage in the House of Commons.

Given MP Diane Finley's support of a petition that called to have Fantino suspended and investigated, it's abysmal that the Conservatives anointed him. In Cherry's case, ignorance is no excuse.

Most often, when sports gets involved with politics, the result isn't pretty. Like any old boys network, the camaraderie and guffawing often speaks louder than the actual meat of the matter. This is no doubt true when it comes to Cherry's commentary most of the time.

We shouldn't be that surprised at the loudmouth for being a bit misinformed in his thoughts and opinions. After all, his disdain for French people, Europeans and hockey visors demonstrates that even protecting himself from harm, more often his own bias, comes after the fact. At least many voters realized that putting a stop sign on the back of their political helmet was the right thing to do before being rammed into the boards from behind by Julian Fantino. The people who listened to the media reports and fact-based accounts of Fantino's failures made it a close race.

The by-election race was no walk in the park as many people originally expected it to be and even though Fantino has been elected and will most likely assume a cabinet post in the near future, another end result is that a couple of months ago, some Canadians had much more respect for the Conservative Party and Don Cherry than they do now.

But that's what happens when unknowingness and power hungry decision-making come into play on important matters involving federal government. Finding a candidate to be an MP should be handled with much more scrutiny, and at least we now know where Stephen Harper's government stands when it comes to law-abiding, high-minded priorities.

Don Cherry is known for his thumbs up valediction. In this case he gets two thumbs down.

And those who supported Fantino should be careful what they wish for. It might come back to bite them in more ways than one, especially with another federal election coming up in the not-so-distant future.