| Oct 02, 2008

Editorial - Election losing steam

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Editorial - October 2, 2008 Election campaign losing steamBy Jeff Green

An attempt by local Liberal supporter John McEwen, aided by Rob Baker, guitarist with the Tragically Hip, to pin down Conservative MP Scott Reid on Reid’s connection to MPP Randy Hillier and the Landowner magazine, and a statement he made about arts funding, fizzled at an All-Candidates meeting in Napanee.

Reid had stated at a previous All-Candidates’ meeting, “I don’t think the government should fund the arts”. Baker was the first to ask a question at the Napanee meeting on Tuesday night, and he wanted to know if Reid planned to lobby to have any or all of the 450 federal programs supporting culture and the arts eliminated should he be re-elected.

“No,” Reid said, “I won’t be lobbying to have any of the programs eliminated”.

John McEwen then asked Reid how he could support the Landovwner magazine, which was founded by MPP Randy Hillier, “when it has a racist article.”

“Racism is a serious, heinous thing,” Reid said, “I want to hear the racist section of the Landowner you are referring to”.

McEewen then read from an article entitled “Multiculturalism: Is it Working?” from the June/July issue of the Landowner. He read about half of the article, including the following paragraph: “Multiculturalism has created a more divisive country with ethnic enclaves ghetto-ising the land demanding more than equal rights, as to protect and promote their culture at the expense of others. Canada’s traditions, heritage, culture, laws and ideals are being swept aside for new immigrants … “

Reid responded by saying “Racism is pernicious in all its forms. Taking people who disagree with a policy you endorse and calling them racist is unreal. I don’t see racism in the article. I don’t see any hint of it. I see you rushing into a conclusion that is unacceptable.”

David Remington, the Liberal candidate, then said he was “uncomfortable with the line of questioning which does not fit in with the kind of discussions I would like to have about what I call ‘the politics of possibilities’”, and the meeting continued on with a series of questions about policy issues.

McEwen and Baker are not the only ones who have been trying to skewer politicians in this campaign, however.

The largest two parties have descended to name calling in radio campaign ads heard on CBC radio this week.

The Conservatives ran an ad that features a fictional conversation between so-called ordinary Canadians who repeat the mantra “Dion is not up to the job” several times. The ad ran over and over again in succession. In two minutes of advertising time there was no mention of the Conservative party or its platform. The only such reference came at the end, when a voice said, “paid for by the Conservative Party of Canada”.

Similarly a Liberal radio ad features another group of “ordinary Canadians” - perhaps the same voice actors who recorded the Conservative ad - talking about how the Ontario economy has been “Harperized, and that is why manufacturing jobs have been eliminated.” Again there was no mention of the Liberal party until the voice at the end said, “paid for by the Liberal Party of Canada.”

Negative ads are nothing new, and pointing out an opponent’s failings is a legitimate part of a political campaign, but we are two weeks from the vote and we seem to be left with nothing but this.

In Frontenac County, we also happen to live in what is considered a safe riding, a riding where the result is a foregone conclusion.

So what is left of this campaign?

It’s hard to imagine that the leaders’ debates will be even watch-able. The campaign is basically over. In fact it never really got started.

Ironically this dull election campaign is taking place at a moment of political turmoil.

The next government, be it a Conservative majority, or as seems more likely, a strengthened Conservative minority poised against a fragmented opposition, will be facing an economic and environmental crisis of significant proportions.

All I can say about this election is that, at least in our riding, uncommitted voters have a free vote. We can look at the candidates, listen to what they have to say, try to get a sense of their character, and vote for the one we like best.

Analysts say that only 20% of voters vote for the candidate, the rest vote for a party. This is part of the reason there are so few ridings “at play” in this election. That is a shame, because in my experience we have had some pretty good candidates in this riding and some pretty lousy political parties in this country.

(We will complete our election coverage next week with profiles of the five candidates: Ernest Rathwell – Marijuana Party, Scott Reid – Conservative Party, David Remington – Liberal Party, Chris Walker – Green Party, and Sandra Willard - New Democratic Party)

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