Fantino resignations don't 'sit right,' Ignatieff says

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff says revelations about the resignation of two members of Conservative candidate Julian Fantino's riding association in Vaughan, Ont., indicate "real doubts within the Conservative camp."

Liberal responds to resignations of 2 Conservative riding association members

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said details about the resignation of two members of Tory candidate Julian Fantino’s riding association indicate "real doubts within the Conservative camp" about funding for a health-care project in Vaughan, Ont.

Ignatieff was responding to a CBC News story about $10 million in federal funds that were handed over to a private non-profit group involved in a health-care development in Vaughan, just north of Toronto.  

Vaughan MP Julian Fantino, left, and developer Michael DeGasperis stand at the proposed site of the Vaughan Health Campus of Care. (
Two Conservative riding association members — Richard Lorello and Tracey Kent — quit over federal money earmarked for the Vaughan Health Campus of Care, which has two key Fantino fundraisers as backers.

"I think the Julian Fantino story speaks for itself," Ignatieff said when asked about the CBC story. "And the fact that someone resigned from his inner campaign circle indicates, you know, real doubts within the Conservative camp as to the appropriateness of this bit of government largesse to help a Conservative candidate.

"It doesn’t sit well, it doesn’t look right, it doesn’t feel right and Conservatives themselves are embarrassed by it."

Vaughan Health Campus of Care, or VHCC, is a private, non-profit volunteer group involved in developing health-care facilities adjacent to a proposed provincial hospital in Vaughan.

Developer Michael DeGasperis is the chair of VHCC and construction insurance man Sam Ciccolini is a director. Both men served as key fundraisers in Fantino’s November 2010 byelection campaign.

In explaining the reasons for his resignation, Lorello told CBC: "The optics look really rather strange that the same people who helped Fantino are the same people [whose non-profit group is] receiving $10 million in government funds."

Late Thursday afternoon, Fantino released a statement that avoided the issues raised by the $10 million and the resignations. 

Fantino called Ignatieff's comments "opportunistic" and said the Liberal leader "is not interested in improving health care in Vaughan nor supporting the interests of our families." 

Fantino said he has been "a committed fundraiser and volunteer for the Vaughan Health Campus of Care to help ensure the community receives the health care services it deserves." 

He said he was "proud" to deliver the $10 million.