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GTA slowly becoming election battleground: Julian Fantino makes it to cabinet, Peter Kent gets a promotion

With the news breaking last night that there was going to be a cabinet shuffle this afternoon, all eyes turned to Ottawa, where reporters waited outside Rideau Hall and watched to see who came in to have their new jobs bestowed upon them by Stephen Harper. The mini-shuffle saw a little game of hopscotch: Thornhill MP and former newscaster Peter Kent was promoted to minister of environment, and his old spot was filled by Albertan Diane Ablonczy. Her old spot was filled by none other than Julian Fantino, who, instead of being made Minister of Something Law and Order-y, will now be minister of state for seniors.

This has added to the speculation that when the next election comes, the Tories will make a full court press to break into the GTA and crush the Liberals where they live.

The Globe and Mail’s John Ibbitson leads off:

Together, the two ministers form the vanguard of what the Tories hope will be a major advance in Brampton, Mississauga and other bedroom communities outside Toronto. The Conservatives know that if they can take the so-called 905 (after its area code) away from the Liberals, they could not only win that elusive majority government, but leave the once-natural-governing party in danger of extinction, reduced to redoubts in downtown Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff, however, knows this as well as his Conservative foe. The party will throw everything it has into saving its GTA assets, even as it tries to erode Conservative support in the region and beyond.

It really is surprising that the Conservatives couldn’t find anything more security-minded for Fantino than minister for seniors.  Of course, maybe this is a roundabout way of rewarding 76-year-old Don Cherry, by making his close personal friend Fantino Minister for People Who Want More Matlock and Fewer Punks on Lawns.

Meanwhile, Albertan Conservatives will be left to stew as the government they elected continues to try to woo us. That’s also called “Toronto winning twice.”

• Harper lays stakes in Toronto suburbs with pre-election shuffle [Globe and Mail] • PM boosts Toronto MPs in cabinet: Kent, Fantino promoted [Toronto Star]

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