It's tough being Tony Ianno. As the Liberals sleepwalk to bagging all their Ontario seats once again, only one Grit MP's ass is on the line, and it belongs to the member for Trinity-Spadina.
But the street fighter from Little Italy has ways of countering the artists, intellectuals, academics and do-gooders flocking to the NDP campaign of Michael Valpy.
The parachute NDP canvassers have been telling voters that Liberal re-election is a foregone conclusion but that the last thing we need from downtown T.O. is another Grit cowering on the backbenches, afraid of saying the wrong thing and getting in trouble with Chretien's henchmen. Vote for a loudmouth. Vote Valpy.
But Tony Ianno didn't get to be the best Liberal organizer in Toronto without learning a few tricks. So late last week, voters in Trinity-Spadina found a glossy piece of red campaign literature with these words on the cover: "He wields more power within the Grits' inner circles than any Toronto-area federal cabinet minister."
Sure, it's attributed to the National Post, but what does Ianno's very prominent use of it say about Allan Rock, Art Eggleton, David Collenette and Elinor Caplan -- the Chretien ministers who seemed to forget Hogtown once they made it into the cabinet?
"If I were Tony Ianno, I would use the quote," says Rock spokesperson Tom Allison. "Would Allan Rock be upset? No. Allan Rock's ability to continue serving Canadians in the cabinet depends on us winning enough seats."
"There is some truth to it," says Ianno of the Post puffery. "On that basis, I'm able to influence the process. The Adams Mine wouldn't have been stopped without me," says Ianno, since it was the prospect of a federal environmental assessment that he pushed for in the Liberal caucus that helped stop the dump plan. "I had to fight the two of them (Eggleton and Collenette) to consider it."