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Fantino's Liberal rival defects, throws support behind Tories

Tony Genco, left, and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff at a Vaughan by-election rally in November, 2010.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

The Liberal candidate in a recent federal by-election in Ontario has abruptly switched camps and joined the Conservative campaign.

Tony Genco waged a fierce battle for the suburban riding of Vaughan last fall, losing to Conservative candidate Julian Fantino. It was a key by-election because it represented the fall of a traditionally Liberal riding, but also the rise of the Conservative Party in the Greater Toronto Area. Mr. Fantino quickly became a key member of the Conservative team in Ottawa, where he was appointed minister of state for seniors.

In a surprising move, Mr. Genco endorsed Mr. Fantino and dismissed the Liberal Party as out of touch with a majority of Canadians.

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"I now encourage every Liberal in Vaughan to seriously reconsider their support for the Liberal Party and support the Conservative Party of Canada and Julian Fantino," Mr. Genco wrote in an open letter.

"The Liberal Party is adrift continuing to be nostalgic about its historic contributions and past glories, without having built from those successes of the past to renew its ideas to reflect the needs of the new modern Canada," he said.

It was the second major surprise of the day to hit a local campaign in Ontario. The NDP's candidate in Elgin-Middlesex-London, Ryan Dolby, resigned and endorsed the Liberal Party, saying it was the best way to stop the Conservative Party from obtaining a majority.

While the Liberals welcomed Mr. Dolby's endorsement, a party spokesman expressed "disappointment" at Mr. Genco's decision.

"It is now up to Mr. Genco to reconcile today's endorsement with the criticisms and attacks he levelled against the Conservative Party and Julian Fantino just four months ago," Liberal spokesman Marc Roy said.

The Liberals also released a list of attacks that Mr. Genco launched against the Conservative Party during the by-election.

"After running up a record deficit - including a billion dollars wasted on the G8 and G20 - Stephen Harper has chosen tax breaks for large corporations, untendered stealth fighter jets, and new super-prisons. Those don't sound like Vaughan's priorities, The choice for Vaughan is clear. Let's send Stephen Harper a message he can't ignore: the people of Vaughan do not support his government," Mr. Genco said.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Daniel Leblanc studied political science at the University of Ottawa and journalism at Carleton University. He became a full-time reporter in 1998, first at the Ottawa Citizen and then in the Ottawa bureau of The Globe and Mail. More

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