Photo: Enio Zeppieri
TORONTO - Last week, a Canadian lawyer, Enio Zeppieri, an Italian, voting citizen, former president of la Federazione Laziale, and Jewish by religious persuasion, expressed concerns regarding Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua’s participation in the Italian elections to be held this March 4.
He put his concerns in writing and sent them off to the Centre for Israeli and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), a lobby group that also stays on the alert for anti-Semitic, anti-human rights trends. Mr. Zeppieri is fearful that an experienced Canadian political figure would openly support a candidate seeking office under the banner of a party he describes as “…ultra right post fascist…”
His letter, which we received via Grenadier Guards through their unnamed representative (who sees that party as anti-Semitic) on February 16, has caused quite a kerfuffle for Bevilacqua and his candidate’s campaign.
Corriere Canadese chose to elicit responses from Bevilacqua, Zeppieri and CIJA before going to print with the story.
Zeppieri was out of town until February 26. CIJA promised to respond with quotes once they completed their due diligence. Bevilacqua did not respond to repeated email requests until February 26. Evening.
What should have been an easily dealt-with, one day story blew up, thanks to reporting by CBC, whose due diligence policy differs from that of Corriere Canadese.
The essence of the argument is this: is it appropriate for the Mayor of a city to not only endorse, but openly promote, with the full weight of his office, any candidate seeking political office in another jurisdiction – especially one outside Canadian borders.
Two other related issues which have prompted no small amount of debate are the appropriateness of the Mayor of Council openly supporting a Builder/developer whose companies must appear before his Council for building permits.
It is a judgementally suspect position to take on his part, given the controversy generated by Bevilacqua’s acceptance of a position on the board of Versabank, a financial institution specializing on a Builder/Developer clientele.
CIJA’s representative, Noah Shack, like Zeppieri, preferred to focus on the second issue: negative perceptions emanating from support, albeit indirectly and by association, for political parties in a foreign country, parties that would not otherwise receive the endorsement of those critical of far-Right movements.
A defensive, if combative, Bevilacqua lashed out at those who would curb his right to express support for preferred candidates.
“Besides, I am voting for the individual, and so is the majority of Vaughan Council”, he said. What would that individual do if “the ticket” under which he was seeking election were to take positions that run counter to “our [Canadian] values” or to the unity of Italy? Up to him, he added grudgingly.
Precisely the nexus of Zeppieri’s concern: Mr. Bevilacqua has the right as an individual to support whoever he wants, but when he introduces his support by prefacing that he is doing it as Mayor, citizens are right to ask if he has done his due diligence.
His candidate has said nothing to dispel those concerns.