Despite the fact the University of Guelph is in the process of exams and shutting down for the school year, it was standing room only at Peter Clark Hall to hear the Federal Candidates talk about issues of importance to students. If you look at the picture, either the one above or the one below (left wing and right wing, as it were), you'll notice that Conservative candidate Marty Burke was the one major party candidate who opted out of attending.
After the opening statements, Burke's absence wasn't mentioned again by the candidates - Karen Levenson, John Lawson, Drew Garvie, Bobbi Stewart, and Frank Valeriote - as they dug into the issues and questions put forth by both the people in attendance and moderator Tim Mau. Through the inter-webs though, Valeriote's campaign hit Burke with a media statement that was posted on the Mercury's Guelph Votes blog:
Guelph – In a stunning show of disregard towards Guelph’s young voters, Conservative Candidate Marty Burke didn’t appear at the all candidate debate at the University of Guelph held this afternoon.
Incumbent candidate Frank Valeriote said “Guelph’s young people represent our country’s next generation of leaders. Candidates representing all parties need to engage youth because decisions made now will have a profound effect on their futures.”
Valeriote continued, “all candidate debates are an important part of the electoral process. Burke’s refusal to attend today’s debate confirms that he doesn’t care about youth engagement, or about the opinions of the people he wants to represent. Being a Member of Parliament for Guelphites means attending public events and transparently telling the people how you’re going to represent them in Ottawa. It’s sad that Burke is unwilling to meet the people he wants to represent face to face.”
“It’s amazing to me that Burke refuses to show up in the riding at debates and that he just generally refuses to tell the people of Guelph what he stands for,” added Valeriote.
In the 2006 election, then incumbent Liberal Brenda Chamberlain opted to not attend an on-campus forum, though then Conservative candidate Brent Barr did, and it didn't hurt her in the polls. However, this is part of a disturbing trend with the Burke campaign as the candidate is rarely seen or heard in the presence of media without a high-profile Conservative cabinet minister by his side. For my part, I'm still trying to get Burke to do a sit down with me for both my "Guelph Beat" column in Echo and for you the people here in Politico.