About the Blog:

Guelph Politico is locally sourced and dedicated to covering the political and cultural scene in the City of Guelph. Est. 2008.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Harper and the Media

It’s not easy running for office, but then again it’s not supposed to be. It’s our natural human compulsion to avoid situations where we might look foolish or misspeak lest it be taken the wrong way. A Freudian slip, tipping over a glass of water, we all hate the idea that our best versions of ourselves will not be put forward. Now image that moment being caught on video or audio for posterity. And now imagine facing that possibility all day, everyday. That’s what politicians face, and being only human it’s only a matter of time until something slips.
But that’s the risk you take as a politician, sometimes something you say in your misspent youth comes back to bite you at the worst opportunity, and sometimes you call somebody a naughty word under your breath and the microphone picks it up. Usually, the people that take those slights and share them with a wider audience are the media.
Stephen Harper has never exactly seen the media as his friend, but in this campaign his obfuscation and downright belligerence towards the press has been even more apparent than ever. And no, I’m not just talking about certain Guelph-based Conservative candidates, but it’s certainly a nation-wide trend. And this goes beyond an incident today where CBC journalist Terry Milewski was booed at a Harper rally in Richmond Hill after impudently asking if he would accept a decision by the Governor-General to hand power to the opposition parties in the wake of the May 2 election.
The push and pull between Harper (and his candidates) and the media has made its fair share of news this election. Starting from the unusual step of limiting reporters’ questions to five a day, it seems that the Prime Minister is doing everything he could to keep those pesky reporters at arms length with all their queries, and stuff. The matter is a rather logical extension of other media mitigation measures like collecting names and choosing from it what reporters get to ask what questions at what time. This Prime Minister, who doesn’t scrum as often as he should, and has visited the National Press Theatre exactly once in his tenure as PM, has almost made a career out of ducking the press. And he leads by example as well.
In the early days of the campaign, Forum Research of Toronto did a poll for The Hill Times and found that only 19 per cent of voters believe that Harper has been “very open and willing” to answer media questions during the campaign. Meanwhile, 65 per cent of the 2,000 some-odd respondents ranked making the government more accountable to Parliament as a “very important” election issue, second only to the economy and job creation. This poll was done immediately following the events in London and Guelph where people deemed “unacceptable” were expelled from Harper rallies. It took the Prime Minister four days to apologize for this partisan profiling, but the chink in the Harper machine began to develop. The thought began to occur that the basis for this election, a parliamentary censure for secrecy and lack of transparency, wasn’t quite so pointless anymore.
What’s been most surprising about all of this is the reaction for the Tory faithful. It’s frequently come up the idea that how can the party that ran on a return to responsible government, following years of Liberal scandal, do their work in the shadows and expect the media be okay with that? How can their supporters be okay with that? And not just the people that booed in Richmond Hill, but just general commentators I’ve seen who’ve defended the mitigation of media and other members of the public by saying that the Tories are perfectly justified in who they do and do not let in to “private events.” This while Harper supporters freely photo-bomb Liberal events with (occasionally) little interference.
It’s a bizarre state of affairs. Harper and his team believe that the key to majority status is saying (or repeating) just enough of the party platform to convince undecideds and the rest of the time, keeping their peace and their silence lest they say anything to upset the apple cart. It’s a strategy seen in American politics: stay off the stump, stay on message, repeat something enough and people will buy it. And while this does occasionally work in Canada, the strategy seems to have turned in this particular election.
Though it may upset some people to hear this, an open media is essential to the proper administration of government, like Question Period, or being able to vote without some nitwit making a scene at the polling station. When you have a slate of candidates who come out to the debates, answer calls from the paper by actually picking up the phone, and is even willing to take time out to talk to alternative press, and one that doesn’t do any of that, the choice should be obvious despite your political affiliation.
Love it or hate it, the media is the anti-freeze that keeps the keeps the machinery of government from corroding in the harsh conditions of an autocracy. Harper may be of the opinion that out of site is out of mind, but millions of Canadians like the idea of being able to pay careful attention to what our elected officials are doing in the seat of political power in this country. Holding our elected representatives to account is the sacrosanct right of any democracy, its too bad then that between capping the number of questions asked, the number of journalists that get to ask them, and the even planning to start his own press theatre, that our Prime Minister doesn’t seem to appreciate that.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Hate Mail

Now for the part of running a blog I love the most, reader interaction. Well, maybe not in this case. Someone named Dick Chapman sent me this brief e-mail this morning. There was no salutation, and no valediction, just a two line splash of cold water that calls into question my capability, my integrity and accuses me of bias all at the same time. 
When I receive this e-mail earlier today, I knew I wanted to share it, along with the response I wrote, but I'm not sure why. In the end I think because it's my own valediction to the struggles in this election of getting the Conservative candidate on the record. I've got one more piece in my about Conservatives in general and their relationship to the media, and that will be all I have to say about that. 
In the meantime, read as I get raked over the coals and I tried to walk tall in the eyes of Dick Chapman.

E-mail From Dick Chapman
You are neither jounalist [sic] nor a writer with any honour! You are just a Toronto Star mouthpeice who doesn't know what he is talking about!
Marty has more integrety [sic] and experience than you will ever have! This is from one who has traveled the world and written and published a book and who knows what a good man is!
Hello Dick,
First of all, just let me say, "Ouch." Second of all, thanks for reading. ;-)
But kidding aside, I do take exception to being characterized as without honour, or that I'm a "mouthpiece" for anyone but myself. I appreciate and recognize Marty Burke's service to Canada, and I do believe he is a man of integrity. I have a great deal of admiration for anyone that puts their name forward to run for government office, for it's an all-consuming pursuit with an unyielding spotlight. Anyone that puts their name on a ballot deserves respect, and I believe I've advocated that point many times on my blog and in my Echo Column.
The problem is that I've not been shown the same respect in return by Mr. Burke's campaign. (Notice I said "campaign" and not put blame on Mr. Burke himself, since I've actually never talked to him personally.) I e-mailed his campaign, phoned his office every day for a week, and made a person visit there, and not a single person showed me the common courtesy of either a returned phone call or an e-mail.
Regardless of your opinion of me as a journalist, the fact of the matter is that the campaigns of Frank Valeriote, Bobbi Stewart, John Lawson, Drew Garvie, Karen Levenson, and Kornelis Klevering have treated my as such. They have made themselves open and available to me (and by proxy, my readers) to their thoughts, their ideas, their opinions, and their persons. Whatever my own political ideology, I have been able to engage with them, and I am appreciative.
My criticisms of Marty Burke stem from that position. I do not know him personally, and to my knowledge I have made no personality-based disparagement about him. My writing on Mr. Burke has happened in a vacuum, because the candidate himself has been unavailable. I hope as a writer yourself, you might appreciate the difficulty in giving readers a complete picture when you can't tell one part of the story for whatever reason.
I was profoundly disappointed by the silence from Mr. Burke's campaign. Never have I encountered this kind of wall of resistance in any of the five elections I've covered as a member of the media. The Marty Burke you know may be a gracious man of character and integrity, but from my point of view, the campaign that's been conducted on his behalf has left much to be desired.
Thank you for writing,

Thursday, April 28, 2011

We Hate Taxes, Love Services

The results of the phone survey the city conducted last month, have been posted and it turns out that even though we love to complain about taxes, but do enjoy the quality of the services that those taxes pay for. Get all the details from the press release below: 
GUELPH, ON – Two-thirds of Guelph residents say they get good value for their municipal tax dollars, and satisfaction with City services is high, with a majority saying they are satisfied with all services in a list of 11.
These are among the findings of a citizen survey conducted for the City of Guelph by Environics Research Group.
More than 80 per cent of residents surveyed expressed satisfaction with parks and trails, police, garbage collection, fire protection, and library services. Satisfaction with sports fields, ambulance services, snow plowing, and arts and heritage services ranged from 70 to 79 per cent. 64 per cent of respondents said they were satisfied with road maintenance, and 57 per cent said they were satisfied with public transit, though one-quarter of respondents said they were unable to express an opinion about this service.
The survey also found:
  • When asked which is the most important issue facing Guelph today, high tax rates/ tax increases (12 per cent) and urban development/ expansion (11 per cent) topped the list. When the City last conducted a survey of this size in 2008, taxation was also identified as the top issue.
  • Five in ten residents (51 per cent) indicated that fees and taxes should be lowered even if it means a small reduction in services, compared to about four in ten (37 per cent) who hold the view that inadequate services need to be improved even if it means a small tax increase.
  • Road maintenance and public transit were identified as priorities for further investments, a similar finding to the 2008 survey.
  • 83 per cent of residents who have contacted the City of Guelph over the past year said they were satisfied with the service they received. Almost half (48 per cent) said they were “very satisfied.” In 2008, 68 per cent of respondents expressed satisfaction, 13% were neutral and 19% dissatisfied.
  • In a series of questions about environmental issues, large majorities (70 per cent or more) expressed positive perceptions of the City’s efforts. 79 per cent said the City does a good job protecting the environment.
  • Opinion was divided on whether the City should only have low and mid rise buildings of one to six stories (45 per cent) or allow taller buildings of seven to 18 stories (50 per cent).
The survey results will inform the City’s 2011-2014 Strategic Plan revision and service review efforts, as well as the annual budget process and ongoing operational improvements.
Environics conducted the survey by telephone among 600 City of Guelph residents 18 years of age and older between March 16 and April 4, 2011. The data was weighted by the City's six wards to ensure that the results are representative of the population. The margin of error is +/- 4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
To view a copy of Environics’ report on the survey, click here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mail from Marty

I do this because it's quite possibly the closest I'll ever get to actually interviewing Marty Burke. Like the headline says, it's text from a letter sent to my house by the Burke campaign. My mom was home when the mail was delivered and when she saw it she was thoroughly unimpressed. (You know my mom, she's the one all over Facebook talking about how the Conservatives will destroy Canada. By the way, she challenges Burke and Jim Flaherty to visit our house while they're campaigning tomorrow.)
Anyway, here is the content of the letter with only some (slight) editorializing.
What is this election about? Here in Guelph, everyone is telling me they want strong leadership and lower taxes.
Stephen Harper’s Conservative government has proven itself to be committed to lower taxes. Since forming government in 2006 we have:
  • Reduced the GST from 7% to 6% to 5%;
  • Lower taxes on job creating businesses;
  • Cut taxes more than 120 times, saving the average Canadian family over $3,000 a year
Our latest budget included further tax cuts like $2,000 Family Caregiver Tax Credit and the $3,000 Volunteer Firefighter Tax Credit.
Unfortunately, Michael Ignatieff, with his NDP and Bloc partners, voted against this budget and its tax-cutting measures and forced this unnecessary and costly election. In fact, the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition would like to raise taxes! [Yes, this section was bolded.] As a result, this “Tax and Spend” coalition is threatening to kill almost 400,000 jobs and costs Canadians $7 billion.
You and I cannot afford such reckless policies. A vote for the Conservative Party of Canada is a vote for a strong commitment to low taxes and responsible economic policies.
On May 2nd vote Conservative, and put an end to the threat of a reckless coalition! [That again? Really? That phrase is so the first week of this election.}
Marty Burke
PS: For further information on defeating the Liberal-NDP-Bloc coalition please visit my website at www.martyburke.ca

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Candidate Questionnaire - Marijuana's Kornelis Klevering

Like all the candidates for so-called "third parties" in this election, Kornelis Klevering is trying for the second time to steal votes from the major parties, in his case, for the Marijuana Party. Klevering keeps his Questionnaire short, but sweet. Here at Politico, we'll talk to anyone will to talk about their ideas, and Marijuana Party candidate shared his without having to man a phone bank. (Yes. I'm still bitter.)
1. Why did you put your name forward to run for Member of Parliament of Guelph in this election?
Raise the issue of marijuana in this election.
2. There’s been a lot of debate about the “necessity” of this election. What do you think, was it important to go to the polls this spring?
Yes. Every election promotes democracy; the more the better.
3. What are your opinions of the Harper Government? Their successes, their failures.
The Tories have become the puppets of anglo-american capitalism. Their great failure has been to let this happen.
4. Please describe your position/ideas on the following issues.
a. The Economy/Economic Recovery
There is greater recovery of the wealth once owned by the middle class by the billionaires class.
b. Healthcare
Big Pharma is behind the suppression of medicinal marijuana in Canada. They enslave us with their overpriced, addictive, and harmful chemicals. That is the basis to Canada’s health program.
c. Education
It should be a right. Students that work hard and pass should receive stipend at end of each semester.
d. The Environment
Shut down the Tar Sands project and nationalize Canada’s oil and gas industry.
e. Parliamentary Integrity/Transparency
There is none. Turn the Parliamentary Buildings into a national museum and transfer federal powers to the provinces.
5. Is there another issue that you’d like to highlight in this campaign? Something that you’ve been hearing about while campaigning, perhaps?
There is a conspiracy to divide the vote so that the Tories will get a majority.
6. What is your message to the voters of Guelph?
Elect the smaller parties. They are by far more representative of their communities then the major parties.

It's Fun to Campaign at the YMCA

The YM-YWCA of Guelph hosted an laid back open forum for candidates this evening at its Woodland Glen Drive location. Each candidate present was given an (approximate) five-minute intro before people in attendance were able to talk to the candidates one-on-one. In this friendly, open, and surprisingly sunny given the weather engagement, one might have thought that even Conservative candidate Marty Burke would have put in an appearance. 
But he didn't
 So what's the deal? Interestingly, a source told me that Burke told the Mercury that he would be attending, but he never RSVPed with the organizers at the YMCA. Given this information, it will be interesting to see if Burke will be able to make it to CJOY for their on-air debate tomorrow morning. Still, the Burke campaign is moving full steam ahead with their own plans. It was reported today that Jim Flaherty will be coming to town sometime later this week for a speech and possible door-knocking. The exact details are not clear, but it's expected the media will be asked to pay an admission fee before being allowed to ask the Finance Minister some questions.
Yeah, I'm not bitter. 
Here's some photos from the candidate's forum

Monday, April 25, 2011

Candidate Questionnaire - Animal Alliance's Karen Levenson

Caring on with my attempted completes, today we have the Candidate Questionnaire from Karen Levenson, who, like in 2008, is running as the local representative of the Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada. In hearing her speak, one has to admire Levenson's passion on behalf of animals and animal issues, but make no mistake, her's is more than a one-issue party. Here's her questionnaire:
1. Why did you put your name forward to run for Member of Parliament of Guelph in this election?
I am running for the Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada because no other political party considers animal protection issues or a broad scope of environmental issues as a priority in Canada, not during the election and not after it.
There is a dire need to end Canada’s money-losing, taxpayer funded, blood- spewing commercial hunt for baby seals; a need to end the abusive and environment destroying animal practices on factory farms; a need to end the slaughter of horses in Canada for human consumption, and a need to end the green-house gas emitting Alberta tar-sands. We are in dire need of a national water policy and a national food policy, both of which will have ramifications for animal abuse industries and factory farm practices.
I am running because, while all political parties have policies on health care, none link our environmental degradation and confined animal food production systems to increased sickness, hospitalization and deaths, although mounting scientific evidence demonstrate the inextricable links. I am running to get systemic environmental contamination and animal abuse issues out in the open, to educate the public and to influence the more mainstream candidates to talk about the environment and animals during and after the election.
2. There’s been a lot of debate about the “necessity” of this election. What do you think, was it important to go to the polls this spring?
Animal Alliance Environment Voters campaigns to elect candidates who will fight for effective animal and environmental protection policies. In this election, however, AAEV’s candidates are campaigning for something more crucial to the Canadian way of life: a government that respects the rule of law, the principles of democracy, and the values of most Canadians.
Little progress can be made on protecting the environment and animals, or on other issues that concern most Canadians, if our country is run by unethical politicians who maintain personal power by trafficking in secrecy, deceit, lawlessness, vendetta, favoritism, election rigging, and contempt of Parliament.
Among the world’s wealthy nations, Canada has one of the worst environmental and animal protection records. For Stephen Harper and his Conservatives, however, that’s not good enough. Harper is striving to be dead last. And even that, it seems, isn’t his ultimate goal. He is reducing the scope and effectiveness of the few, mostly ineffective animal and environmental protections that Canada still has, and he’s trying to undermine the environmental and animal protection policies of other nations.
Globally, Harper is sabotaging efforts to protect us from the most dangerous environmental threat humankind has ever faced—climate change. In Europe, Harper is spending over $10 million on a World Trade Organization challenge to force European countries to trade in the cruel and bloody spoils of the largest authorized marine mammal slaughter in the world: Canada’s money losing, environmentally destructive, commercial seal hunt. I believe this election is necessary
3. What are your opinions of the Harper Government? Their successes, their failures.
AAEV has worked on animal and environmental protection issues with most political parties. While fielding its own candidates, AAEV has also actively supported and opposed candidates of other parties. What’s important to AAEV is not party affiliation, but policies. Most parties have a mixed record on environmental and animal protection. What’s important politically is that on Election Day voters reward parties with good records protecting animals and the environment and punish those with bad ones.
Until now, all of our political partners and opponents have shared a fundamental value: a belief in ethical government that serves the interests of all their constituents; government founded on the rule of law; on openness and transparency; on reaching consensus between political friend and foe; on making our cities, provinces, and country better places for everyone. The exception is the Harper government.
Harper aides, advisors, Conservative Party colleagues, and Senators have either been charged with offences or are under active investigation by the RCMP. Harper Senators and fundraisers are charged with breaking Canada’s election laws. Critics of the Harper government’s treatment of veterans have had their personal, confidential medical records illegally accessed and distributed, and used in vendettas against them.
The Harper government has been found guilty by the Speaker of the House of Commons of not being truthful about the costs of fighter jets and jails. Harper has gagged government scientists and other public servants, preventing them from speaking openly and honestly to the Canadian people and the press.
Harper divides Canadians into friends to be rewarded and foes to be crushed. Under such a wilfully unethical and mean-spirited government, little progress is possible on protecting the environment and animals, or on most issues that affect the lives and livelihoods of most Canadians.
Under the Harper Government, Canada has had one of the worst animal and environmental protection records in the G20. Mr. Harper is not content, however, for Canada to have one of the worst animal and environmental protection records in the G20, he is determined that Canada will have the absolute worst record.
For instance, he is spending over $10 million taxpayers’ dollars to challenge the EU ban on seal products at the World Trade Organization and he has threatened to do the same with regard to our dirty tar-sands oil which the EU does not want. He has cut funding to new immigrant services, to child care services and to women’s organizations and, instead, he is spending tens of billions on fighter jets and prisons, even though there is no current threat to Canada by a foreign power, and even though the majority of Canadians do not approve of Canada’s role as an aggressive military force. Nor is Mr. Harper influenced by the fact that crime rates are decreasing in Canada. He wants to build prisons, when instead, he could be investing money into social programs, education and health care.
The most horrifying abuses of power, however, can be seen in the way Mr. Harper treats those who speak out against his policies or do not cow-tow to his iron thumb, dictatorial leadership. He has leaked the medical records of those who complained about his treatment of veterans and he has resorted to reputation-destroying smear campaigns on Richard Colvin, who alerted the government under Harper’s watch 79 times about the abuse to Afghan detainees, and on his own party nominated MP, Conservative Helena Guergis, with whom, for whatever reason, he found disfavour.
Mr. Harper could be investing in the building of nurturing, supportive and caring communities or in making Canada a more humane, environmentally sustainable and progressive society. Instead he is focused on killing machines and prisons.
We needed this election, because, I believe, Mr. Harper and his Conservatives thugs are not fit to lead a democratic country like Canada.
4. Please describe your position/ideas on the following issues.
a. The Economy/Economic Recovery
We are facing a crisis facing on our planet. Consumption of resources is rising rapidly, biodiversity is plummeting and just about every measure shows humans are affecting Earth on a vast scale. The science tells us that if we are serious about saving Earth, we must reshape our economy.
Consuming less may be the single biggest thing you can do to save carbon emissions, and yet no one dares to mention it. Because if we did, it would threaten economic growth, the very thing that is causing the problem in the first place.
Questioning growth is deemed the act of lunatics, idealists and revolutionaries. But question it we must. The myth of growth has failed us. It has failed the fragile ecological systems, degrading 60% of the world’s ecosystems on which we depend for survival. It has failed, to provide economic stability and secure people’s livelihoods.
Even for the richest material wealth adds little to happiness and is beginning to threaten the foundations of our wellbeing.
Prosperity transcends material concerns. It resides in the quality of our lives and in the health and happiness of our families. It is present in the strength of our relationships and our trust in the community. It is evidenced by our satisfaction at work and our sense of shared meaning and purpose. It hangs on our potential to participate fully in the life of society.
Prosperity consists in our ability to flourish as human beings – within the ecological limits of a finite planet. The challenge for our society is to the conditions under which this is possible. It is the most urgent task of our times.
b. Healthcare
Canadian taxpayers’ health care system is besieged by costly, debilitating, and life threatening illnesses unduly caused by poorly regulated industrial and agricultural practices that sacrifice the health of the many for the profits of a few. Because the health consequences are not immediate, we often don’t recognize the health threats. Physicians who warn us about the human health risks of toxic industries are routinely silenced by Health Canada.
For example, Alberta oil sands production is one of the world’s largest producers of disease inducing toxins that are linked to colon, prostrate and lung cancers, vascular damage, kidney failure, liver and skin damage, nerve damage, cognitive impairment, respiratory failure, and death and neurological impairment in foetuses, infants and children.
Industrialized farms are breeding grounds for virulent pandemic causing diseases, like avian flu and H1N1. The use of household chemicals can trigger changes in the sex of unborn children, switching boys into girls.
Stringent industry regulations and a timely transition to humane, innovative and green industries will protect people, food animals and the environment from the life-threatening effects of the agriculture, tar-sands and chemical industries.
c. Education
We advocate for a national education policy that would include the teaching of compassion and humane treatment of humans and animals, as well as protection of the environment as core subjects starting at the elementary level and extending to post-graduate programs.
Canada’s education system fails to question our domination over and oppression of non-human animals and our exhaustion of natural resources. Key thinkers, such as Plato and Pythagorus, stressed that domination over animals and nature was the precursor to domination over other humans. Today social scientists recognize the direct link between the way we treat animals and the way we treat human animals. Domestic violence, climate change, extinction of species and environmental destruction, racism, sexism, and religious discrimination are just different varieties of oppression toward animals. Yet, these ideas are denied expression in most class rooms from elementary to graduate school.
Students who question dominant views of animal and environmental use are intimidated or pressured into conciliation and silence, in the same way that just a few generations ago, students who questioned racism and sexism were intimidated into silence.
Only a small minority of universities even have programs that address compassion toward humans and animals in their curriculum or question the over-consumption of natural resources. So, too, there is little acknowledgement of the damages such limited thinking and behaviours create, even though we daily face the consequences of such thinking – increasing domestic violence, climate change, extinction of species and environmental destruction.
An education system that encourages critical thinking about the exploitive nature of institutionalized and industrialized cruelty, and how we treat other humans, animals and the environment will help to create a more humane and compassionate society.
d. The Environment
We’re faced with the imminent end of cheap oil, and steadily rising commodity prices, the degradation of forests, lakes and soils. Some political parties advocate creating biofuels. We believe doing so is inefficient, since it requires tremendous amounts of land and would never be able to feed our energy needs. Moreover, the land used to grow crops for biofuel could be better used to feed people, and end poverty.
The AAEV Party believes in the need of weaning ourselves off our dependence on cars and long-distance transport for getting to work, and for delivering food and consumer goods. We advocate creating self-sustaining communities, that grow their own foods and make many of the consumer staples that the community needs. We support the use of high speed internet and Skype so that employees who do not have to be in a physical office building can work from home and attend meetings without having to drive to other locations as well as high speed rail, such as exists in France, China and Japan.
Canada’s food and water supplies are not safe. Our food and water policies are based on political gain, not on ensuring public health or environmental protection. Over 95% of the 650 million animals raised and slaughtered for food in Canada today are mass-produced on factory farms owned by just a few huge corporations built to maximize profit, not to protect jobs, human health, the environment or the animals they raise.
The vast majority of animal products we eat – meat, eggs, cheese, milk-- come from factory farms where animals live their short lives indoors, crammed by the thousands into filthy windowless sheds, wire cages, gestation crates, and other cruel confinement systems, where they are mutilated, force-fed, drugged and genetically modified. Huge lagoons of untreated manure from pig and cow farms leach into our water supply, our soil and air. There are no laws that prevent cruelty to farm animals or environmental contamination of untreated waste.
Cheap food is not cheap when we realize factory farms diminish public health, increase medical costs, contaminate the environment, destroy property values and siphon off millions of our tax dollars in subsidies and puts people out of work.
A transition away from agriculture monopolies toward small, humane, bio-diverse, environmentally responsible farms will increase income and employment for farmers, improve living conditions for animals, protect public health, decrease medical costs, reduce the development and spread of virulent, life-threatening diseases and safeguard our environment.
e. Parliamentary Integrity/Transparency
The issue in this election is not “the economy, stupid”, as Harper hopes Canadians will wrongly believe. The economy has been doing fine, thanks to a minority government that forced Stephen Harper to admit there was a recession and implement economic measures that spared Canadians the worst of it.
The issue in this election—the issue AAEV candidates are campaigning on—is deposing the Harper regime and electing an ethical government.
The Harper Government has succeeded in being the only party in the history of Canada that has been found in contempt of Parliament. His caucus’ refusal to disclose the true costs of the fighter jets and prisons to Parliament is symptomatic of the Harper Government’s refusal to work with other parties, its secrecy, dishonesty and deceitfulness, its lawlessness and its disregard for the rule of law.
As a result, Canadians no longer have confidence in their federal government. Our government is a broken system that fails to put the interests of the public before the interests of partisan politics. Corrupt politicians create policies based on their own self- interests and connections with industry rather on what is just, humane, equitable and environmentally responsible.
While Harper ran on the platform of improving transparency and access information, our Access to Information bureaucracy and Conflict of Interest legislation are designed to obstruct the flow of information and to shield political parties, government departments and their industry connections from scrutiny.
It is our right as Canadians to ensure that our elected and appointed officials conduct themselves in a fiscally responsible, straightforward, and honest manner. We need strong and enforceable Access to Information and Conflict of Interest legislation that enables the public to gain information on the workings of our government and to hold government officials accountable when they are not working for the best interests of all Canadians.
5. Is there another issue that you’d like to highlight in this campaign? Something that you’ve been hearing about while campaigning, perhaps?
Social justice works to enhance the lives of the most impoverished and marginalized in society. But what about animals?
You might say: people are more important, we have to improve their conditions first.
I say: The same patterns of subjugation, repression and exploitation of workers exists in our factories and farms for both human and non-human animals. Can we not work to end the violence, marginalization, and victimization of both?
The exploitation of humans began with the advent of agriculture. We learned to subjugate, exploit and be violent toward other humans by the way we treated animals.
No doubt, we live in a society of great violence and suffering. A poverty of compassion allows the suffering of others to continue. Are our hearts not big enough to embrace the suffering of all?
Philosopher John Locke noted that the brutalization of non-human animals affected the humanity of human ones.
Kant wrote: "cruelty to animals is contrary to man's duty to himself, because it deadens in him the feeling of sympathy for their sufferings,” and thus it deadens man’s sympathy for the suffering of other humans. We cannot end exploitation and brutality, if we end it for some, and allow it for others.
Let’s end the suffering of both.
6. What is your message to the voters of Guelph?
Our relationship with animals sets the tone on how we view people of other nations, races, religions, sexes, lifestyles and abilities.
Human rights and animal rights are tied up together. Sexism, racism, and species-ism result from the dominant perception that one living being is better than another. Discrimination is based on the persecution, devaluation, repression, systematic imprisonment, enslavement and murder of innocent, sentient beings.
We have a profound moral obligation to show the same level of compassion for the suffering of peoples and animals who are victims of persecution, oppression, genocide, and state ordered killings. We must hold the same concern for their well-being as we show for our own.
We set an example to other nations when we use diplomacy instead of defense missiles, when we build eco-friendly infrastructure, sustainable and humane food production, and decrease animal agriculture and systemic animal abuse.
We set examples to other nations when we bring compassion, cooperation and respect to the nations we hope to uplift, when we share our expertise to build nurturing, caring communities, and when we leave our capitalist, consumptive values at home. We do it not for oil or economic exploitation but because it’s the humane and right thing to do.

Good Bad Company

A lot of local ink has been spent talking about Marty Burke's two-for-six record for all candidate debates and forums in the current race. Well, Rabble.ca has put together a list of candidates from across Canada, who, like Burke, think that their thoughts and opinions about the issues important to their potential constituents aren't worth vetting before the very people they're asking to elect them. Some names are pretty familiar (check out the fifth name down in the Alberta list), but not all are Conservatives (there's one NDP and some Bloc guys), and there are several names who serve as their riding's current MP.
This is a very disturbing trend indeed, and I hope people across Canada take note of candidates of any party that see fit to skirt democratic institutions like the press and debates, and not give them their endorsement by voting for them. 
Interestingly, there is one name you won't see on here: Rob Moore, Conservative candidate of Fundy-Royal in New Brunswick and Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism). Why is this interesting? His Special Assistant for Communications is Michael Sona, the infamous c**k-blocker, I mean "Communications Director," of the Marty Burke campaign. Perhaps Moore knows something about taking Sona's advice that Burke doesn't...
  • Deepak Obhrai (CPC) - Calgary East
  • Rob Anders (CPC) -Calgary West
  • Michelle Rempel (CPC) - Calgary Centre-North
  • Jason Kenney (CPC) - Calgary South East
  • Stephen Harper (CPC) - Calgary South West
  • Devinder Shory (CPC) - Calgary North East
  • Dianne Ablonczy (CPC) - Calgary Nose Hill
  • Jim Hillyer (CPC) -Lethbridge
  • Peter Goldring (CPC) - Edmonton East
  • Laurie Hawn (CPC) - Edmonton Centre
  • LaVar Payne (CPC) - Medicine Hat
    • Julian Fantino (CPC) - Vaughan
    • Peter Kent (CPC) - Thornhill
    • Aijaz Naqvi (NDP) - Mississauga-Streetsville
    • Terence Young (CPC) - Oakville
    • Susan Truppe (CPC) - London-North Centre
    • Stephen Woodworth (CPC) - Kitchener Centre
    • Diane Finley (CPC) - Haldimand—Norfolk
    • Royal Galipeau (CPC) - Ottawa-Orléans
    • Theresa Rodrigues (CPC) - Davenport
    • Leanna Villella (CPC) - Welland
    • Kevin Moore (CPC) - Toronto Centre
    • Elie Salibi (CPC) - Ottawa South
    • Pierre Lemieux (CPC) - Glengarry-Prescott-Russell
    • Terry Anderson (CPC) - Hamilton Mountain
    • Marty Burke (CPC) - Guelph
    • James McLaren (NDP) - Ottawa South
    • Ed Holder (CPC) - London West
    • Patrick Brown (CPC) - Barrie
    • Peter Braid (CPC) - Kitchener - Waterloo
    • Chris Alexander (CPC) - Ajax-Pickering
    • Larry Miller (CPC) Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound
    • Corneliu Chisu (CPC) - Pickering-Scarborough East
    • Fred Slade (CPC) - Sudbury
    • Damian Konstantinakos (CPC) - Ottawa Centre
    • Phil McColeman (CPC) - Brant
    • Wally Daudrich (CPC) - Churchill
    • Rod Bruinooge (CPC) - Winnipeg South
    • Bev Pitura (CPC) - Winnipeg Centre
    New Brunswick
    • Rodney Weston (CPC) - Saint John
    • Robert Goguen (CPC) - Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe
    British Columbia
    • Donald Leung (CPC) - Burnaby-Douglas
    • Dona Cadman (CPC) - Surrey North
    • Mark Strahl (CPC) - Chilliwack - Fraser Canyon
    • John Koury (CPC) - Nanaimo-Cowichan
    • John Duncan (CPC) - Vancouver Island North
    • Jennifer Clarke (CPC) - Vancouver Centre
    • Ronald Leung (CPC) - Burnaby-Douglas
    Nova Scotia
    • Gerald Keddy (CPC) - South Shore-St. Margaret's
    • Randy Hoback (CPC) - Prince Albert
    • Kelly Block (CPC) Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar
    Northwest Territories
    • Sandy Lee (CPC) - Western Arctic
    • Daniel Petit (CPC) - Charlesbourg-Haute-Saint-Charles
    • Sylvie Boucher (CPC) - Beauport-Limoilou
    • Claude Pilote (Bloc) - Roberval-Lac-Saint-Jean
    • Roger Pomerleau (Bloc) - Drummond
    • Richard Côté (Bloc) - Portneuf-Jacques-Cartier
    • Nicolas Dufour (Bloc) - Repentigny

    Saturday, April 23, 2011

    Michael Sona, You've Done It Again

    It's a rare day indeed when Michael Sona, communications director of the Marty Burke campaign, reaches out to the media. As I was trolling those series of tubes (Bush slang for internet) this morning, I came across a post on the Mercury's Guelph Votes blog about a press release sent to the Mercury offices about a luncheon between Burke and former Ontario Premier Bill Davis on Wednesday. The release has all the usual details, and at the end there's this line: "Marty and Mr. Davis will be available for questions following the event. If media wish to be present for the entire event including the lunch, they must pay the registration fee, and are eligible for a $65 tax receipt."
    As the bolg points out, there's initally some confusion on this point. Typically, if you want the media to come to something, they get covered, as in they do not pay the cover charge. Scott Tracy, the reporter who posted the blog, wrote that he sent an e-mail (naturally) for clarificiation. You can read it for yourself, but basically, Sona said that asking a question or two was free, however you have to be at the lunch, and getting in costs $100 and registering in advanced at the venue Cutten Fields. 
    Once again, Michael Sona has proven that he doesn't know how the media-candidate relationship works, which wouldn't be a problem IF HE WASN'T THE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR OF THE MARTY BURKE CAMPAIGN!!! Glad I got that out of my system. But really, is he serious? He really wants to make media donate to the Burke campaign, while getting free coverage, and continue dodging most requests for media questions and interviews at the same time? I guess I had Michael Sona wrong, he likes the media just fine, as long as it's pay-per-view. Congratulations Michael, I think you've finally out-Roved Karl Rove. Somewhere, a wolf howls in your honour.

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    Candidate Questionnaire - Communist's Drew Garvie

    I hated doing it this way, but if I wanted to make sure that all candidates got a chance to share on Politico, it need a, shall we say, less personal touch.
    So here is what I hope will be the first of four candidate questionnaires from the non-mainstream party candidates thanks to Communist Party candidate Drew Garvie.

    1. Why did you put your name forward to run for Member of Parliament of Guelph in this election?
    I think it’s important to have a voice that puts forward the idea of fundamental change while keeping in mind the immediate dangers faced by people living in Canada. None of the major parties even claim to speak for working-people in Canada, let alone act in their interests. The Communist Party of Canada sees working peoples’ interests as being fundamentally opposed to big monopoly capital that controls our economy and to a great extent, our governments.
    I hope to bring to the political discourse the big questions. Why can’t we adopt meaningful environmental regulation and shutdown the Tar Sands? Why can’t we eliminate poverty instead of continuing with policies that increase the “growing gap” between super rich and the rest of us? Where’s the people’s billion dollar bailouts? Why do we spend more and more on the military and prisons each year while our Medicare system is being privatized? The answer is that the federal government is only concerned with answering to Bay Street. This systemic analysis is too often lacking during elections. And it’s these ideas that convince people that it’s not enough to vote for their rulers every four or five years. We’re not simply saying “vote Communist” and your problems will be over. We’re saying that we need to get organized, get united and hit the streets to roll back this corporate control.

    2. There’s been a lot of debate about the “necessity” of this election. What do you think, was it important to go to the polls this spring?
    There’s an immediate need to kick out the Harper Tories. During their two minority terms in office, the Harper Conservatives have attempted to disguise their aims and “soften” their image, concealing their full reactionary agenda from the people. But we’ve seen enough of their right wing program to leave no doubt where they’ll go if they get a majority. Over the past five years, they have:
    • attacked jobs, wages, pensions and living standards for working people;
    • enmeshed Canada even further in an immoral and unwinnable war in Afghanistan, and have now involved us in another dangerous conflict in Libya;
    • slashed corporate and wealth taxes for their rich buddies in Big Oil and on Bay Street;
    • wildly increased spending on the military and prison construction, while cutting funds to social programs, housing, and Aboriginal peoples; and
    • turned Canada into an environmental pariah, obstructing meaningful international treaties on climate change and gutting environmental programs and standards at home.
    They have distinguished themselves as the most arrogant, dictatorial and secretive government in Canadian history.
    At a time when our economy is still mired in deep crisis, the real Tory agenda is to further drive down wages, impose longer hours and harsher working conditions, smash unions, privatize public assets, and gut universal Medicare. Kicking out Harper is a critical first step in taking our country in a new, peaceful, democratic, sovereign and socially progressive direction.

    3. What are your opinions of the Harper Government? Their successes, their failures.
    It depends on your class perspective. For example, if I was the CEO of a major oil corporation that is now free to exploit our natural resources, I’d be happy with Harper’s sabotaging international climate negotiations and the move he made to get his unelected senate to squash the recent climate change bill. I’d be happy with the over one billion dollar subsidy he just gave my industry and the six billion dollars worth of corporate tax cuts he included in the budget. I’d be very happy that he has ignored the demands of indigenous people whose communities are being poisoned. For a select few the Harper government has been very successful. If you are a CEO of a major oil corporation I encourage you to vote for the Harper Conservatives. It’s in your interest.

    4. Please describe your position/ideas on the following issues.
    a. The Economy/Economic Recovery
    The sell-out of manufacturing and secondary industry has been a disaster for Canada’s economy and sovereignty. Corporations will gladly take tax breaks and bailouts, but they will also move jobs out of Canada if it’s good for their bottom line. Foreign ownership and plant shutdowns are destroying auto and steel, the heart of a strong value-added manufacturing sector. Adopt urgent measures to expand employment, raise wages and increase purchasing power, such as publicly-owned steel, auto and mining industries, a Canadian car, a merchant marine, and stronger machine tool, ship-building, agricultural implement and household appliance industries.
    Limit and reduce foreign ownership. Use tariff, currency exchange and other trade controls, plus legislation with teeth including fines or public takeover, to protect jobs and prevent plant closures. We need to legislate a two-year notice of layoffs. Stop corporate giveaways. Increase employer-paid severance pay and retraining, and strengthen bankruptcy laws to guarantee protection for wages and pensions.
    While overall employment numbers have returned to pre-recession levels, full-time jobs remain below the former peak, and the number of part-time workers has grown. It also should be noted that unemployment figures do not count those that have understandably given up the search for decent work, so there are many more unemployed that slip below the radar. We need an economy that serves people and is sustainable, or what good is it?

    b. Healthcare
    Medicare was set up to remove the financial barrier for access to health care. Despite propaganda to the contrary, Medicare is neither in crisis nor unsustainable. Since 1975 the cost of public health care has remained relatively stable at between four and five per cent of the GDP. Medicare spending comprises the same proportion of provincial revenues 20 years ago, but tax cuts have eaten away public budgets.
    No U.S.-style two-tiered health care! Strengthen and enforce the Canada Health Act; block provincial privatisation attacks on Medicare, and commit to a major reinvestment in the system. Halt and reverse the spread of private, for-profit clinics. Scrap the Drug Patent Act (which guarantees mega-profits for the big drug companies, and high costs for health care), and build a publicly-owned pharmaceutical sector. Expand Medicare to include eye, dental, pharmacare and long-term care. Stop the “war on drugs”; treat addiction as a medical problem, not a criminal act.

    c. Education
    We spend twenty billion dollars each year on the military, and this funding is set to increase under Harper. With that amount of money we could abolish tuition for every undergraduate university student in Canada four times over.
    Increase federal support for universal, quality public education at all levels; rollback and eliminate tuition fees for post-secondary education. Stop the drive to ‘corporatize’ education, and protect free speech on campuses. Shift from loans to grants for student assistance. Significantly increase funding and access to training and apprenticeship programs. Build better schools and colleges, not more prisons and “boot camps.”

    d. The Environment
    Adopt emergency legislation to slash greenhouse gas emissions, and support reparations to countries affected by capitalist-driven climate change. Invest heavily to create jobs through renewable energy and conservation programs, and phase out coal-fired plants and terminate reliance on nuclear energy. Substantially expand urban mass transit, and eliminate fares by subsidizing the $3 billion in annual fare collections. Legislate stringent vehicle emission controls. Fund high-speed rail as a better alternative to highways and airlines. Ban “biofuels” derived from feed grains. Impose heavy fines and jail terms against polluters and destructive corporate practices, such as clear-cutting, in-ocean fish farming, and deep-sea draggers. Ban industrial development in parks.
    Block new development of the Alberta tar sands, and close these operations within five years, with jobs guaranteed for workers in more sustainable industries at equivalent wages. Compensate the Aboriginal peoples and communities affected by the tar sands. No to the Enbridge and Mackenzie Valley pipelines, and to oil and gas exploration and shipping on the west coast. Put a moratorium on the exploration and development of shale gas resources in Quebec.

    e. Parliamentary Integrity/Transparency
    Signs that the Harper Tories are undermining the authority of the House of Commons over the Prime Minister’s office: the anti-democratic prorogations in 2008 and 2009; the constant criticism of any form of coalition government; the refusal to allow Parliamentary Committees to see uncensored documents; attacks on the Chief Electoral Officer, the Access to Information Commissioner, and the Parliamentary Budget Officer; the tendency to announce economic and budgetary statements outside parliament; and the refusal to allow political staffers to appear before parliamentary committees. So the immediate struggle in terms of democracy is kick the Harper Tories out!
    But there are other reforms that would help expand democracy. Enact mixed-member proportional representation and the right to recall MPs. Guarantee equal treatment for all registered political parties. Amend the Broadcast Act to give equal time to all parties, so that voters can make informed choices. Lower the voting age to 16. Conduct comprehensive enumeration before every election. Remove restrictions on the right of unions to donate to political parties; enforce the ban on corporate donations. Members of Parliament should receive the average workers’ wages and benefits.

    5. Is there another issue that you’d like to highlight in this campaign? Something that you’ve been hearing about while campaigning, perhaps?
    I think Canada’s involvement in Libya has been sadly absent from the public debate due to the fact that there has been no solid anti-war voice from any party in parliament or the Greens. The NATO powers were doing business with Ghadaffi right up until they saw a chance to not only buy his oil but to control it. There is a lot of talk about “humanitarian” intervention but bombing populations in order to save them has proven deadly as recently as NATO’s crimes in Yugoslavia. Canadians shouldn’t be fooled. What about a “no-fly zone” over Gaza? The Harper government unconditionally supported Israel’s massacre of over 1400 civilians there in 2009. We support a political negotiated solution to the Libya crisis.
    We need an independent Canadian foreign policy of peace and disarmament. Canada out of Afghanistan NOW, not in 2014! Demand immediate NATO withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, and oppose any new military aggression. No war with Iran or North Korea! Respect international law – reject imperialist policies of “regime change” and nuclear first-strike. Oppose the weaponization of space and militarization of the Arctic. Support the global abolition of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction; get out of the NATO and NORAD military alliances. Make Canada a ‘safe haven’ for war resisters – no deportations! Scrap the F-35 and warship purchases – reduce the military budget by 75%. Convert military to civilian jobs – end military exports from Canada. Strengthen our historic friendship and trade with Cuba and expand relations with developing countries. Oppose Israeli apartheid – support a just peace in the Middle East based on total withdrawal of Israel from all occupied territories, the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and the formation of an independent, viable Palestinian state. Cancel Third World debts.

    6. What is your message to the voters of Guelph?
    Well obviously, vote Communist!
    Unemployment, growing inequality, discrimination and environment destruction are not new they are inherent features of the crisis ridden system of capitalism. But at this crucial moment, the Conservative party the preferred party of monopoly capital is the most dangerous threat to peace, democracy, and workers’ rights. They must go… now!
    The Liberals under Michael Ignatieff present themselves as the alternative. But despite their criticism of the Conservatives, it was the Liberals who began slashing corporate taxes and increasing military spending. In reality, the Liberals also stand for pro corporate policies, especially on the economy, militarism, and the ‘law & order’ agenda. While the Tories are the worst threat to Canada, defeating one big business party in favour of another one is not a solution.
    Instead, many working people will consider voting for the NDP, the Bloc Québecois, or the Greens. But while these parties occasionally advance progressive policies, they refuse to challenge the domination of big capital (the banks and large transnationals), or to take a consistent, principled stand against the wars in Afghanistan and Libya.
    Dumping the Tories and working to build a powerful and broad People’s Coalition of the working class and its allies outside of Parliament can begin to achieve real gains. This is the way to begin moving Canada in a new direction, taking power out of the hands of the transnational corporations.
    The struggle for a people’s agenda, bringing together labour, the social justice movements, and all other democratic forces, will strengthen the labour & people’s mass fightback and help set the stage to elect a majority to Parliament which will stand up for peace, jobs, democracy, sovereignty, and environmental sustainability. The election of MPs genuinely committed to democratic and progressive reform especially Communists, the most consistent fighters for working class interests will be a crucial part of this strategy to win fundamental social change.
    Another world is possible! Another Canada is possible! We can move towards these goals by uniting the labour and people’s movements around a genuine alternative program that puts the interests of the peoples of Canada first, rather than those of the monopolies and big banks.
    In this election, voting Communist is the strongest message you can send against capitalist globalization and imperialist war. Your vote for a Communist candidate will help make the voice of working people heard in Parliament and open the door for a people’s majority which can be the basis of a movement to build socialism. Yes, our undemocratic FPTP system means that you have a two party race in ridings like Guelph. But, politicians pay attention to the “wasted votes” and where they’re going. Voting Communist sends a message to those in power that you want real change.
    Our goal is a socialist Canada, in which resources and economic wealth are socially owned and democratically controlled by the working people, not private capitalists. When you go to the polls, get off the treadmill of right wing politics. Vote for fundamental change and then join us in the streets to create this change!

    Thursday, April 21, 2011

    With Regret, The Case Against Marty Burke

    It took me a while to actually get to the point of putting keyboard to blog on this post. During my week-long, dogged, Tommy Lee Jones-like pursuit of an interview with Marty Burke last week, which in case you didn't know came out fruitless, my emotional state swung wildly between determination and outright anger. The later emotion was only really slaked when I found good company in CFRU's Election Show and I was interviewed by the Mercury's Greg Layson about the whole thing. Burke can duck me, I don't care.
    And then there was last night. With just over 90 minutes to spare, Burke's campaign let the Guelph Mercury know that their candidate couldn't make their all-candidates debate due to a health issue, a back injury suffered during his military service. The show went on, as they say, but in the end the numbers don't lie, whether by act of over-scheduling or act of obfuscation, Marty Burke has made it only to one-third of the all-candidate debates and forums held since the start of the election. Aside from that he's been unresponsive to requests for time from the city's alternative media, and his responses to mainstream media have come mostly in the form of e-mails from himself or his communications director.
    One thing is perfectly clear, Marty Burke doesn't think he has to properly debate in order to get people to vote for him, and he doesn't seem to think that addressing the media directly is worth his time. In short, Marty Burke has shown time and again that he doesn't think he has to do the things that people have to do, in order to prove they should be elected as Guelph's representative in Canada's House of Parliament. So I submit the following: you can vote for whoever you want on Election Day, but don't vote for Marty Burke.
    Am I being too harsh? I don't think so. I've said before that if Burke can't handle the scrutinizing of myself and Jan and Scott on CFRU, how can he be expected to handle the pressures of Parliament Hill? If he can't come to forums because of a scheduling conflict, why won't he explain why he didn't give organizers of these forums a preferable meeting time? If he's susceptible to back issues, why did he not tip off the Mercury to his potential absence until and hour and half prior to the start of the debate? And to wit, why were there so few Burke supporters at the debate? It's almost like they knew there was no point going out to Guelph Place to support him.
    To many Conservative candidates, it seems perfectly acceptable to skip debates and shut out the media. The reaction from Guelphites, I'm proud to say, is making a loud case for the opposite approach. Granted, Burke took some chin music at the Chamber of Commerce debate, which considering the host should have been the business-friendly party candidate's chance to shine. Plus, the Chamber debate was limited to the four major party candidates, so that meant no worrying about shedding a tear at Karen Levensen's animal abuse stories, no barrage of Harper put downs from Drew Garvie, no freaky-deaky nonsense from Kornelis Klevering, and no freaking out period about Super Mario comparisons with Phil Bender. All kidding aside, the conditions of this debate were perhaps most favourable to Burke amongst all others, his competition cut in half, he could make a strong case for himself and Conservative policies. Instead he told his opponents to "take a chill pill" about reservations on a trade agreement with the European Union.
    Debating isn't easy. Trying to distill a complex argument into a convenient sound bite isn't easy. Burke might want to ask Bobbi Stewart and John Lawson, who, like him, are engaged in their first campaign. But then again, they're six for six on debates and have been nothing but warm and available to the people that want to talk to them. Frank Valeriote's quotes are his own in the paper, and if I had never dealt with any members of his staff, I'd barely know that he had one. But for every time that Burke's name is in the paper, it's usually a quote from his communications director, Michael Sona, that speaks for him. And then at that all communication takes place in e-mail form. Marty Burke is not only keeping himself at arms length from the media, but he's keeping his own comments at arm's length too.
    This is what confuses me about the unflinching support of the people behind Burke, how can the people behind the message of making government open and honest allow for such thinly veiled excuses to not deal with people the Conservative Party perceives as "the enemy." The definition of "enemy" though is anyone that either disagrees with their party platform or those that might question its validity, like media, for example. How can we, the skeptical, be convinced that these are the best ideas if they're not vetted? It's a good question that Burke and his team seem remarkably unconcerned about it. By their optics, it seems that they need only 1,800 votes for a Conservative victory here. Just 1,800 who might have been on the fence or stayed at home last election day and might reward the Conservatives with a majority to avoid another near-future election.
    But back to the debate, no pun intended. Anyone that's suffered from back pain knows that it doesn't just sneak up on you at inopportune times. Funny too, that a man that says he's on his feet "12 hours a day," knocking on doors and going to events would manage to go four weeks without a sign from the old injury. That is certainly a cynical view, but at this point a cynical view is all I have of Marty Burke. And the press release his campaign sent to the Mercury today doesn't help that image.
    Guelph, Ontario, April 21, 2011 – “Yesterday, Liberal candidate Frank Valeriote stated to the Guelph Mercury that I was “avoiding debates,” even though I have attended several. I am calling on Frank Valeriote to withdraw this offensive and untrue comment.”
    “Having served for 23 years in the military, I have suffered several injuries relating to that profession. One of these injuries involves my back, which from time to time causes pain, and it was at the recommendation of my chiropractor and doctor that I not attend last night’s debate.”
    "It is highly disingenuous that Frank Valeriote has missed 33 votes in the House of Commons and yet has the audacity to accuse someone of avoiding a debate due to a injury suffered while in the military.”
    “I am sure that Frank Valeriote misspoke in his comment and was not speaking against the hardships veterans with injuries from their military service face. Because of this, I am calling on him to immediately apologize for these comments.”
    Thankfully, Valeriote has already said he will not apologize. First Burke is a bit liberal (so to speak) with the use of the word "several." If you're a baseball batter, and you're batting .333, you're not hitting "several" balls at the plate. Secondly, tagging Valeriote's 33 missed house votes as a trend, when the real number we should focus on is 362. That's the number of total votes in the last Parliament, meaning that Guelph's current MP was batting .909 in attendance. Third, maybe Burke can remind us he served in the military one more time. His response to a question on Tuesday in the Guelph Tribune, about the long form census, began with a reference to his nearly two dozen years in the Canadian Forces. What the one has to do with the other, I don't know. While I recognize and appreciate Burke's service to this country, it does not entitle him to a Get-out-of-answering-the-questions-free card when it comes to discussing the issues. It also doesn't entitle him to Guelph's seat in Parliament because that's for the voters to decide.
    For my part, I hope to persuade the voters of Guelph that Marty Burke doesn't care about them, he cares about being elected and helping the Harper government put forward their agenda with impunity from the opposition. I don't know what he personally stands for, and I don't know what he will offer us as Guelph's Member of Parliament. This could be taken as pure spite on my part, and the reason I haven't wrote anything like this till now is that I was worried that emotion was overpowering reason; it's no fun being rejected after all. Even if Burke truly does knock on doors 12 hours a day, every day, he will never reach people on the same level as showing up at every debate and taking every media request. This is how democracy works. Talking to every person, in-person, is impractical. But when you're scared of the press because of what you might say might paint you in a way that makes you unelectable, maybe you should rethink the reasons why you're running.
    On May 2nd, think hard about your vote. If someone is this secretive and inaccessable as a first-time candidate, how are they going to be when they're in office. If there's a matter of importance before Parliament, are we going to have to struggle to get our MP on the record if that MP is Burke? Are we going to get a lot of comments from his office staff with barely anything from the politician himself? I remember how Brenda Chamberlain acted before she left office, and I was offended. She refused to do an exit interview with my reporter from The Ontarion when she retired, and in her last election she was difficult to get ahold of, and evasive when interviewed. Of course, that was 13 years after she took office. I'm not sure what she was like at the beginning with the media, but know that if Burke is elected this is not a place I want to start from.