While all eyes were focused on the provincial vote, Tory candidates running in the November municipal elections were sharpening their campaigning skills at an election readiness training session at developer Mario Cortellucci's Hollywood Princess Banquet Hall in Concord on August 17. Scheduled to speak at the gathering was Municipal Affairs Minister David Young. But because of the blackout, he had to beg off. Lucky for him.
It's unlikely many of Young's supporters in the predominantly Jewish Willowdale community he represents would have been happy about his sharing the stage with Brit MP Andrew Rosindell, the other keynote speaker brought in by conference organizers, who's been the subject of much controversy in the UK media - and not just for his extremist views on crime and punishment.
Much of that controversy stems from Rosindell's involvement with the European Foundation (EF) - he's international director - and his past chairing of the European Young Conservatives. The groups have ties to Azione Giovani, the youth wing of Alleanza Nazionale (AN), the party descended from Mussolini's Fascists.
While AN has been trying to shake off its neo-fascist image in recent years, the party's blue and white flag still bears the tricoloured insignia of the Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI) that was inspired by Mussolini.
According to Searchlight, a UK-based anti-fascist magazine, the former head of the European Foundation's Rome office, Emiliano Carlucci, served as vice-president of the youth wing of AN. Also according to Searchlight, Bill Cash, a leading British Tory MP and chair of the EF, addressed a European Young Conservatives meeting in 1998 in Italy hosted by the AN's Azione Giovani youth wing.
When news of Rosindell's coziness with the groups first surfaced via a laudatory e-mail from Rosindell to the head of the Azione Giovani, some MPs tabled a motion to have him expelled from the party. They failed, according to media reports at the time.
Rosindell has also been a member of the anti-asylum Freedom Association and the Monday Club, a group suspended from the British Conservative party for its strident views opposing immigration.
The club's Web site lists among its values the embracing of Christian teaching and morals and resistance to "political correctness." Among his other pronouncements: that the virulently anti-immigrant British National party is a "socialist" party.
Mark Walters, Rosindell's political secretary, is reluctant to discuss his boss's Ontario visit or views when I call, except to say that "in Britain, if one is right-wing, there will be those who will attack you with false information."
The call back he says I will receive from Rosindell later that day never comes. When I follow up a week later, Walters says Rosindell has decided not to speak to me, then abruptly hangs up. How is it, then, that the Tories brought Rosindell to their conference? It turns out the invite came from Patrick Brown, president of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Youth Federation, who met Rosindell at an International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) conference. Brown is executive secretary of the IYDU.
He says he is "surprised" to hear of the accusations against Rosindell, but adds little more.
Instead, he refers me to PC party president Blair McCreadie, who tells me Rosindell was invited to speak because of his expertise in political campaigning.
I receive two more calls from an antsy-sounding McCreadie to inform me that members of his party and Rosindell would be reading this story carefully. Perhaps the PCs would rather the public not know about the company they keep.