No, really. I realize that Burke's overwhelming silence during the campaign had a lot to do with prevalent Conservative strategy where in the candidate need only keep their head down, limit their public comments, and keep to the party talking points, and election should be a foregone conclusion. But the election is now over, what does Burke have to lose by opening up to the press and the people, and give us his point of view on the campaign that was?
Instead, the response from Burke post-election has been remarkably muted, or it would be remarkable if silence had not have been the general theme during the campaign. Requests by the Guelph Mercury have gone unanswered, and Burke even failed to make a call of concession and congratulations to re-elected Guelph MP Frank Valeriote, even after both Bobbi Stewart and John Lawson offered their's in person Monday night.
The worm has quickly turned though. Many Conservative supporters, including Dick Chapman who e-mailed me, ask what the point is of Burke talking to the media when we were clearly biased for Valeriote. This argument didn't work for Sarah Palin, and it doesn't work for Burke either. Heck, the right can't even trust their own news network to not step on any toes in delivering flawlessly positive campaign coverage. Like it or not, the media is how you reach more eyes and ears than can ever be possible in one-on-one meetings, no matter how prolific you are at banging on doors.
However, there was one media outlet in town that Burke had no problem reaching out to: The Guelph Tribune. In one of his characteristic e-mails, Burke told the Trib that Guelph really lost out by not electing him. “The pity for Guelphites, unfortunately, is that their already weak voice has been diminished further in Parliament. Backbench MPs in last place parties have difficulty getting glasses of water, let alone getting things done for their riding,” wrote Burke. “Canada’s so-called natural governing party has been reduced to a small rump – dead last in the parliamentary pecking order.”
For all the people writing on comment boards and blogs about what a great guy Marty Burke is, I'm waiting to see that translated into his own actions."Backbench MPs in last place parties have difficulty getting glasses of water?" Classy, Marty. Very classy. It makes you wonder though, where exactly did Burke see himself in the pecking order in his own caucus if he had won? Did he see a cabinet position in his future as reward for winning Guelph for the home team? If the final vote is any indication, it seems that Burke's argument that Guelph would be better represented by someone in the majority government, was soundly rejected. Not just by the people that voted for Valeriote, but the combined two-thirds of voters who put an 'x' next to someone else's name, other than Burke's, on the ballot.
And to Burke's point, I don't think Valeriote's going to have any trouble finding water in Ottawa. Where would Guelph's distinct voice be heard louder: in a small caucus looking to rebuild, or in a chorus of 160-some-odd others under a powerful leader committed to his own, pre-established agenda? Unitl this last Parliament I have always lived in a riding where the MP was part of the sitting government, and I have to say, I saw a lot more public interaction between the MP and his constuents while our representative was a member of the Opposition than when he or she was not.
As for Marty Burke, I'm not sure what political ambitions he has left; Guelph is his third loss in three ridings and three elections. The next election will probably see another candidate step forward for the Conservatives, though attention will probably not be paid as completely in the next round. Despite high-profile guests and a campaign of calculated engagement, Burke was still unable to make a case to upset Valeriote, and indeed, the margin of victory was greater for the Liberals, despite the fact that Burke did manage to get more votes.
The lesson is that unless you've got name cache, or are riding an unprecedented wave of national support for your party, an election victory, on a per riding basis, cannot occure without engaging the media by being available and by going to the public through all-candidates debates and forums. One cannot win on their own support alone. And if local Conservatives pick up on one thing, than maybe its better going with the enemy you know, than being your own worst enemy.