It's essentially confirmed now: Julian Fantino will be Vaughan's next Conservative candidate, most likely in the upcoming by-election that is soon to be called (my guess is October 25 or 27th).
Vaughan is a fairly strong Liberal riding, but let's face it right here and now: Fantino is a major candidate and will get quite a few votes simply on name recognition. The "known" Liberal candidates, Steven DelLuca and Tony Genco, are definitely not as well known, even if they have the connections in Vaughan's hefty Liberal establishment.
So it's not a stretch to say that the Liberals losing Vaughan, even if election day is relatively good for us overall, is not out of the picture. Vaughan will end up being a local race more than anything, especially during a by-election.
That said, Fantino isn't a shoo-in either. He does face an uphill battle purely in terms of numbers, as Maurizio Bevilacqua, the riding's former Liberal MP, had a 15-point margin between himself and Conservative Richard Lorello in the 2008 election. Both the NDP and Green votes were pretty much negligible. 8,400 votes separated the two, and that's a tough amount for anyone to overcome, even a star candidate.
Whats more, the riding is overwhelmingly suburban in its make-up, and those suburbs break hard for the Liberals. Fantino will need to increase his vote in this area against whatever Liberal candidate there is. While Fantino is a native to the area of Woodbridge, if you correlate the poll numbers to the poll-by-poll results provided by Elections Canada (it essentially comprises all the polls 100 and up), Woodbridge is also full of Liberal strongholds. Though the Conservatives have won quite a few polls in the area, they lag behind heavily in all others - not many spoiler votes there. That means Fantino will have to appeal directly to Liberal voters in order to snag the riding. Definitely not impossible, but a task nonetheless.
Other areas of the riding, specifically the area called "Maples" (if people that know Vaughan want to correct me on my labelling of places, please feel free), are a little less Liberal strongholds, but also have higher support tallied for the NDP (it's about poll 10 to poll 80). That may or may not work to Fantino's advantage, given that (obviously) the NDP is left wing. But another given is that the NDP's vote total in this riding was not even 10% in 2008 - they are essentially down to their core vote, votes that probably wouldn't have gone for the Liberals anyways. As I said, pretty much negligible. Unless the NDP mounted a very successful campaign with a big name as their candidate (Kevin Bordian is not a big name), Fantino should not count on the NDP bleeding Liberal votes. So again, he has to appeal directly to Liberal voters in order to pull them over.
In essence, Fantino's job is probably going to be harder than it seems for him, even if he is a big name. Star power will only get you so far, and given how much and how long people have been voting Liberal for, it's not going to be a cakewalk. But Bevilacqua himself as a fairly large local name, so any Liberal candidate that tries to fill his shoes is going to face the problem of whether those votes that went for Mr. Bevilacqua will go to them. They might not go to Fantino either, but if they refuse to vote at all, the question comes down to whether the Liberal base is big enough to counteract the Conservative base. As with most by-elections, turnout will be key.
Which means that the Liberals have to start canvassing support now. They may or may not be doing so, but its key. The more Liberals we identify now, the better we know what support we can rely on in the riding. I guarantee the Conservative EDA has already started.
A few key things Liberals in Vaughan can rely on and will most likely utilize:
1. Proximity to several incumbent and high profile members
2. Being next door and connected to the Thornhill FLA, which is positively huge for non-held riding
3. Upswing for Liberal support in Ontario
4. Lots of Liberals in Vaughan, federally and provincially
Fantino is a big name, and that's nothing to scoff at, even in a riding that gave nearly 50% of its vote in 2008 to the Liberals. The probability of him winning is huge. But the Liberals in Vaughan are far from limp, and if they work to it, they can keep the riding red, even if we don't have a high profile candidate.