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Former OPP commissioner Julian Fantino attends the change-of-command ceremony in Toronto, Tuesday, August 31, 2010. He was succeeded by Chris Lewis.


Ontario's former provincial police commissioner is wading into federal politics, saying he wants to run for the Conservatives.

Julian Fantino announced Tuesday that he will seek the Tory nomination for an upcoming Vaughan by-election - a longtime Liberal riding north of Toronto.

"Public service is something that grows on you," Mr. Fantino said, dismissing reports that he had been persuaded to seek the nomination by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

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"The prime minister doesn't have to pressure me. I'm here because I want to be here."

Mr. Fantino is widely seen as cabinet material and would be a powerful ally for Mr. Harper in his battle to scrap the federal gun registry.

While police chiefs across the country have defended the registry, Mr. Fantino was critical of it during his time as commissioner, calling it "long on philosophy and short on practical results."

When asked Tuesday about where he stood on the registry, Mr. Fantino said he intends to "be a team player."

A date for the Vaughan by-election has not yet been set.

The riding was held by Liberal MP Maurizio Bevilacqua, who is now running for Vaughan mayor in the Oct. 25 municipal elections.

Mr. Fantino was at the helm of the provincial force from 2006 to July of this year. The usual appointment time is three years, and his tenure was at times marred by controversy.

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He was accused of trying to influence municipal officials in connection with an ongoing aboriginal occupation in Caledonia, Ont., but the private charge was withdrawn.

Last December charges at the heart of a disciplinary matter involving Mr. Fantino were dropped, the same day the cross-examination of Ontario's top police officer was to resume after being delayed by legal motions.

The hearing into misconduct charges against two senior provincial police officers adjourned when Fantino accused the adjudicator of bias during his cross-examination.

His original appointment as commissioner was extended in March 2008 through to the end of October 2009.

In 1969, a 27-year-old Fantino became a cadet with the Toronto Police Service.

In the years that followed, he rose through the ranks and went on to helm the police forces in London, Ont., York Region and Toronto before taking on the role of Ontario commissioner.

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