Italian Pride: Massimo Pacetti

“I think we did a lousy job of communicating our message,” said St-Leonard/St-Michel MP Massimo Pacetti about the Liberal campaign.

“We made a mistake, because we went with the negative ads. (Harper’s) ads were negative with the Paul Martin ‘is this the Canada you want?’ and with the corruption and they had voiceovers. I think that’s where we lost out. Our ads, with the military going into the kind of shocked people, you know, they were just a little too negative.”

Neither the negative ads nor the sponsorship scandal, however, could shake the riding’s Liberal core. Voting Liberal has been a cultural reflex here, Pacetti said. Bloc Quebecois candidate Umberto Di Genova once said winning the riding would be “a miracle.” Pacetti agrees.

His Italian background is part of the reason why he is well liked in St-Leonard, an area estimated to be 60 per cent Italian. Yet Pacetti said it is more than just that. The Liberals have won since the 1950’s in the riding and Pacetti said most Italians he knows, particularly the older ones who come from unstable political climates, are not likely to vote for another party, especially a separatist one.

Pacetti first won the northeast Montreal riding in a 2002 by-election after Alfonso Gagliano resigned over allegations that he tried to pressure personnel into hiring friends and Liberal supporters. Pacetti has been re-elected ever since.

The riding is considered by residents as a “safe place to raise a family in.” The only real problem here, said Pacetti, is immigrant integration but even that is under control.

A father of two, the 44-year-old Pacetti embodies the strong family values of the riding. He has lived in St-Leonard his whole life, coaches minor league hockey and serves on the Pointe-de-l’Ile school board. Before entering politics, Pacetti was an accountant.

The Liberal MP said that in Parliament, he tries hard to represent his riding’s interests. For example, he voted against the government’s same-sex marriage bill in 2005 because it reflected his constituency’s wishes at the time. When the CRTC decided to deny the Italian network RAI a broadcasting license although it approved Al-Jazeera, he joined protesters on Parliament Hill.

The MP said that mostly, he advocates no-brainer policies. He tried to ban the use of handheld cell phones while driving “before it kills someone,” and proposed giving tax deductions to Canadians who travel within Canada. He said this would stimulate the tourism industry and improve national unity.

One idea he is not keen on is proportional representation. Pacetti said Canada is not big enough for it. He is also not in favour of reforming the senate so it would be elected rather than appointed.

“You see it in the States,” Pacetti said, “I was in the States last year and I hated it. You talk to a senator or a congressman, they’re campaigning 50 per cent of the time.”

When asked about Gagliano, Pacetti said he knows the former Public Works minister was responsible for what happened under his watch, but that he still holds much respect for his service to the riding. He said the media sensationalizes and even stereotypes events (in implying a mafia connection.)

”Look at the recent scandal in the defence department, there’s $100 million that’s been stolen by one person. And nobody’s been broadcasting it. The guy’s living in a mansion somewhere.”

The party leadership race, Pacetti said, is another media generated circus. When asked for his predictions, he shrugged it off.

“There are no favourites out there. Somebody like Sheila Copps, had she been more patient, could have been the favourite today.”

Would he consider running for party leadership?

“Absolutely not.”

First, Pacetti said, he’s too young. Second, he doesn’t have the proper political experience. He did say he thought a good leader for the party should be accessible.

“Politicians are either not accessible or when they are accessible, they’re not listening,” the Pacetti said. Another problem he identified is that politicians do not keep their word.

“We just saw it! I cannot believe what Stephen Harper did. By saying one minute I’m not gonna put anybody from the senate… he may have his reasons I’m still not sure they’re good reasons.he had somebody from Vancouver he could have picked, a young guy, James Moore. He could have picked him instead of David Emmerson. So, part of it is our own fault as politicians. I hate to be branded a politician when I see those kinds of things.”

For more information, call (514) 256-4548. Pacetti’s riding office is located at: 5450 Jarry E suite 102, Saint-Leonard.

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