About the Blog:

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

Sunday, August 31, 2008

How Far We've Fallen

I looked at the front of the Guelph Mercury yesterday, and what did I see? Apparently taking blowtorches to election signs isn't enough anymore, but defacing property and cutting brake lines in cars is the new normal in an election that already has made the emotions of so many run high. Scott Tribe has many pictures of the damage on his blog, as well as a joint statement from Frank Valeriote, Tom King, Gloria Kovach and Mike Nagy:

"'What happened in the early hours today is a despicable and cowardly act that endangered innocent people’s lives,' said Valeriote. 'The cutting of the brake lines was intended to at the very least to severely injure people, who have chosen to participate in one of the most important processes this country has to offer to its citizens- they chose to exercise this right and have a political sign on their lawn. We live in a lawful and peaceful society where we have the freedom to express ourselves politically. No one should be subject to this kind of violence and intimidation,' Valeriote concluded.

"Frank Valeriote and Tom King spent most of the day visiting and consoling the owners of the houses that have been criminally vandalized. 'I join Frank Valeriote in condemning these vicious attacks in our community,' said Tom King. 'The vandalism to political signs and the targeting of private homes and property must stop immediately. This kind of activity has nothing to do with the NDP or the Liberals. We’re sad to see politics take such an ugly turn. We hope the police will find the criminals responsible and prosecute them to the full extent of the law.'

"'Greens totally disapprove of any acts of vandalism. Political motivated attacks on people’s homes and property insults the values that Canadians hold sacred regarding safe a free elections' said Mike Nagy.

"Gloria Kovach agreed with all the candidates stating 'This is an escalation in behaviour and his kind of activity has no place in Guelph especially when we all strive for free and fair process.'

"All the candidates denounce the criminal violence, and give their sympathies to the victims whose private property was damaged."

One of the homes vandalized belonged to Frank Maine, who was the Liberal MP of Guelph under Trudeau in the 70s and later went on to sit as a Guelph City Councillor. The picture above, the graffiti mentioning C-68, is referring to both Canada's gun control laws and the first version of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Valeriote called the vandalism "voter intimidation" and the fact the the only houses targeted were ones with Liberal lawn signs out front is proof of that. What's especially disconcerting is the added danger of the brake lines of cars being cut. U of G professor Matthew Hayday mentioned in his blog that he had friends who lived "a few doors away" from some of the vandalized homes, and that leaving that neighbourhood is all downhill. Can you imagine what would have happened had police not been on the ball like they have? How many would have/could have died? Or at least been seriously injured.

Over on David Graham's blog the claws came out. First with a man that indentifies himself as Tom Robinson, who added this little gem to the debate:

"I wish someone would blow up the Liberal office, those fucking criminals.
Liberal are biggest theives, degenerates and scumbags in the world.
Fuck the Liberals, those dirty, fucking commies."

Tough talk that can only come from blanket of anonymity that internet all-too easily provides. Is this really the level we want to stoop to? Is this the country you want? Is this the town you want to live in? This kind of action doesn't win favour with anyone. How many more Frank Valeriote supporters do you, the fly-by-night bandits, think you've converted? Because the truth of the matter is you've probably created more sympathy for him. If Valeriote's supports are being terrorized by a bunch of thugs with spray cans and wire cutters, than he must be doing something right.

There's also the conspiracy theorists. The graffiti said NDP, but who really thinks that the NDP was behind this? I've talked to Tom King on many occasions and nothing about him really says, "Cyrus from The Warriors" to me. The next option being brandied about is that the Conservatives are behind, but really... what's the point? It seems a little low brow for the Conservatives, no matter how desperate they want to win Guelph. Gloria Kovach has condemed these actions and I have no reason to doubt her sincerity.

The other, slightly more wacked out, theory is that the Liberals defaced their own signs and the property of their supporters. Somebody mentioned Karl Rove at the thought, well I don't think even Rove would stare in the face of probable, bodily harm in order to score points with the public. Even you have to admit, right-wing bloggers, that's pretty cynical. That's sitcom politics, like something Homer Simpson would come up with. Actually...

SCENE: Sprigfield City Hall. The stage is set for the debate for santitation commissioner. Homer stands alone on stage. ENTER: his opponent Ray Patterson (voiced by Steve Martin), Patterson comes into the hall winded...

Patterson: Sorry I'm late, (accusingly to Homer) somebody tampered with my brakes.
Homer: Well you should have been on time then.

This entire, unfortunate situation smacks of immaturity at best, terrorism at worst. That's not a word I use lightly, but clearly the point was to scare people for their political opinion. But I wonder, why were the Liberals targeted? They're not the ones in power. Is it because of the recent Klr Vu poll that says they're ahead amongst voters, and thus that Guelph will stay Liberal. If you don't like that thought, then get out and volunteer for the candidate you do think is worthy of your vote and Guelph's. And if you don't have something positive to contribute than just don't bother to do anything. I think we call that the rule of Bambi's mother.

Anyone with information on these crimes is asked to call Guelph Police Sergeant Paul Crowe at 519-824-1212, ext. 344, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

One Green MP, no election required

This man is the first Green MP in Canada.

His name is Blair Wilson, a former Liberal MP from Vancouver that was turfed from caucus after it was revealed that there had been some spending irregularities in the 2006 campaign. He's been sitting as an independent ever since, only to today announce that he was formally signing up with the Green Party.

"Today we make history," said Party Leader Elizabeth May. "I am grateful for Mr. Wilson's principled belief that the Green Party deserves a voice in Parliament and for his firm commitment to democracy. With a Green MP sitting in the House of Commons, it will now be impossible to exclude the Green Party from the televised leaders' debates in the next election."

Which seems to be the goal, of course. The Greens have been a part of a nationwide campaign called "Let Elizabeth Speak," which has been petitioning politicians and broadcasters to include May in the televised leaders debate in the next general election. Many Greens, including Guelph's Mike Nagy, have believed that the only sure-fire way to ensure that was through a Green Party presence in a seat in the House of Commons.

"Not only do I embrace the policies of my new party, I will feel that all my past difficulties are justified if, by my actions, I can make a real difference by ensuring Elizabeth May is included in the leaders' debates," said Wilson. "There is a democracy deficit in Canadian politics and this is one step in restoring effective democracy in Canada."

Of course, this is anticipation of the fact that it looks increasingly likely that Prime Minister Harper will dissolve Parliament next week for a post-Thanksgiving election. Read the Globe and Mail article here.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Falling for a General Election

So, according to the Toronto Star, senior officials inside the Prime Minister's office are saying that most likely a full-on election call will be made next week. All I can say is, so much for my by-election voters' guide in next week's Echo.

Here's what the Star's article has to say: "The prime minister's officials cast the ballot question as a choice between the stability and certainty provided by Harper versus the risk entailed in giving Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion the keys to the treasury."

And whose fault will it be: Gilles Duceppe and Jack Layton for not being co-operative. Oh, and Stéphane Dion for not manning up and bringing the government down himself. Never mind that Harper is breaking his own notion of fixed election dates because he can't make Parliament do what he wants.

Anyway, even though the general election's not been announced, the campaign is already in full swing with a new Conservative TV. It's called (gag me!) "Main Street Canadians" and shows a variety of "ordinary Canadians" talking about why Stephen Harper is awesome and why his government is the best ever.

Check it out.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Old Man Yells At Cloud and Other Stories

I taped the all-candidates debate hosted by the Chamber of Commerce Monday night because I was unable to attend in person. Apparently I missed the best part when Independent candidate John Turmel spent the better the first 25 minutes of the debate - oh, how did the Mercury blog put it - "having a tantrum." Turmel was upset because the debate was limited to the four main parties. Apparently the whole thing ended with the Guelph Police escorting the candidate from the Co-Operators' Hall at the River Run Centre. You can read the Merc's story about the incident here.

But back to the issues, and there's a story in the ether this week that says that Linamar will announce sometime later this week the layoff of upwards of 1,000 works or less. A spokesperson described the layoffs as "temporary," whatever that means, but it's another strong indication for everyone that's yet to get the message that our manufacturing sector's in trouble. Linamar is probably Guelph's biggest corporation with offices based not only across the city, but across the globe. The impact here of even the loss of 1,000 jobs is tremendous, not to mention a terrible indication that the economic downward slide is still in full motion. This will surely be a hot button in future debates.

As for the actual campaigning, it looks like sign vandalism itself continues to find new lows to plummet to. If there's been anything that can be done damagingly to a sign in the ground, it's been done in this election. Here's what one Frank Valeriote volunteer said about the sign horrors he's seen on the trail:

"Valeriote signs have been set alight, cleaved in half with a blowtorch, slashed into pieces, tossed into cornfields and vanished all together, they said."

Okay, kicking down signs, although ultimately stupid regardless, is one thing. But if you've got a Li'l Bastard Election Sign Vandalism Kit and you're setting fire to signs, your problems go deeper than politics. Hearing this, I felt like I was in the middle of a "Criminal Minds" episode: "The unsub clearly has difficult expressing himself in a manner befitting a human being... Oh, and he burns election signs because he hates his mother's politics."

This is more than a waste of material, it's a waste of time and money and I don't mean in the cost and production of these election signs. Do you really think that the campaigns are going to see their damaged signs and go, "Meh... Oh well." Of course not! Now you're wasting some poor volunteer's time cleaning up your mess, not to mention the fact that probably entrenching them in the opinion they're backing the right horse because obviously the mental defective taking a blowtorch to an election sign is someone whose mindset, I don't want to share.

Phew. What else is going on? Well, there's still no news as to whether or not the entire Canadian electorate is heading to the polls, although it pretty much seems the safe bet if you listen to the news. The Word of the Day prize goes to CKCO's Frank Lynn, who noted in his story about the Guelph by-election that Mike Nagy was "perturbed" by the possibility of a general election stamping out the pressing need for a by-election. Now the thing I'm wondering is if "perturbed" was Nagy's word or Lynn's. If anyone from the Nagy campaign is reading this, than let me know in the comment section as to whether he's truly perturbed or merely flummoxed.

Monday, August 25, 2008

All Candidates Tonight!

This is the big one tonight boys and girls: the Chamber of Commerce sponsored All Candidates debate at the River Run Centre in the Co-Operators Hall. If you can't make it down to the River Run, then you can tune in to the debate televised live on Rogers Channel 20 on your cable dial.

The CoC did a survey of the major candidates and posted their answers on their website. Click the link to find out what they had to say on the issues important to the Chamber of Commerce.

On a similar note, there was talk this weekend about a full-on general election being called as early as September 2nd. Unless I'm mistaken, in such an event, the by-elections will be scuttled and we'll simply vote with the nation. That of course will mean another month of campaigning for our long suffering candidates.

C'est la vie in a parliamentary democracy, I suppose.

I still intend to post my Stephane Dion interview by the way. I spent the weekend at Fan Expo (hence no post yesterday), so I'm still playing catch-up.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Gloria Kovach: Ready to Go Big Time**

(**The Director's Cut)

This is the version of my interview with Conservative candidate Gloria Kovach that was published in Thursday's Echo. If it seems shorter than the others, it's because it is. I only had 15 minutes with Ms. Kovach on the phone versus 30-40 minutes in person interviews with the other candidates. But there were a few good extra details that I wanted to publish, so here they are.

Gloria Kovach is no stranger to tough races or Federal politics. The stalwart city councillor has represented the people in her ward for 18 years now, as well as representing the interests of Canadian urbanites nationwide for a times as President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Now it’s her desire to take things to the next level and be elected as the city’s first Conservative Member of Parliament since 1993.

“Certainly I’ve had a lot of exposure in representing cities and communities across Canada at the national and international level,” says Kovach during our phone interview last week. “I’m dedicated to building a better and stronger Canada and I think that my experience in Guelph, both as an elected official and in my other capacities, will help me fully represent Guelph’s interests in Ottawa.”

Aside from her high–profile work on behalf of Guelph residents and other Canadians, Kovach highlights working in Uganda with women’s and children’s groups, dealing with emergency planning and waste management issues in the Czech Republic, and working with people in El Salvador, Columbia, and Vietnam as examples of her qualifications. Back home on council though, she’s most proud of her work on creating the youth council as a way to bring the needs and concerns of young people to the floor. “Also being a nurse and working directly with the people in a healthcare field, understanding the challenges they face, their needs, and just directly working with people on the ground is good experience,” she says.

On a national level, Kovach says that her experience is extensive here as well. "Also as, President of FCM, it gave me the opportunity to talk with people from coast to coast to coast and hear what issues are affecting them, what are their needs, and being able to get a good appreciation for that, being able to dialogue with our Federal government and to articulate the needs of cities and communities across Canada."

As for making the shift to federal politics now, Kovach says she was asked to consider running eight or nine years ago, but like a lot of women with young families, she didn’t like the idea of being away from home and doing all that traveling. “I’m a roll–up–your–sleeves kind of person; wanting to get things done and always willing to pitch in,” she explains. “It’s a huge dedication. For me it was important for my children to be grown before I entered into the federal field.” She adds that, “This is the best time for me and given my experience this is the time for me to run federally.”

I asked Kovach about the fact that she was the only female candidate of the major parties. “Women are underrepresented in the Federal government so its important to have a voice there," she says. “I’ve been involved in campaigns to encourage women to participate in all orders of government, talking to women about what some of their barriers are and what they would need to empower them to become interested in politics and willing to serve."

Kovach says that those years working and living in Guelph have given her an appreciation for the diversity of the city as well as its needs as outlined by the people. Getting out and meeting the people has been key to her campaign, says Kovach. “Our focus is still getting out with the people of Guelph and door–knocking and seeing what issues are most important to them. So I’ve continued to do that and I’ve continued to go out to events and really connect with the people of Guelph.”

The big issue and challenge that people are concerned about, Kovach says, is taxation, and whether the Liberals’ proposed Green Shift plan will have negative impact on their pocket book. “People are concerned generally about how they’re going to be able to afford to continue to live in their homes, or perhaps purchase a home, or how their children are actually going to be able to afford to live with the increased cost of living,” she says. “They’re concerned with the overall picture, they don’t necessarily differentiate between federal, provincial and municipal.”

Kovach says that she’s concerned about the Liberals’ assurance that the Carbon Tax, as outlined in the Green Shift, will be revenue neutral, saying that, “If you look at the Gun Registry, that cost us billions of dollars and that was supposed to be neutral as well.” She believes that under the plan, families will have to struggle, and writes off the plan as simply “a way for rich people to not have to reduce their greenhouse gases and be able to buy their way out.”

Kovach says that she's hearing from constituents the following questions: “'How am I going to be able to afford an $8 head of iceberg lettuce for my family? How will I ever be able to make ends meet?' Mr. Dion is saying it won’t impact the cost of fuel, but we all know that it’s diesel transports that brings gas to the pumps. It’s going to be quite damaging.”

Obviously, there’s a lot of hope amongst the Conservatives to make a breakthrough in Guelph, which could hopefully lead to an increase in the Tories’ fortunes throughout Ontario. A number of high–profile members have come to the Royal City to offer support; from Defense Minister Peter MacKay to Environment Minister John Baird to the Prime Minister himself. “There’s been a lot of support coming in from my colleagues and I’m very appreciative to them,” says Kovach. “[They] are very understanding of meeting with everyday Canadians and finding out what their issues are and what they’d like to see.”

As for saying goodbye to her days on city council, Kovach says she's anxiously looking towards the future. “When I’m elected it will allow me the opportunity to continue to serve the people of Guelph in a different capacity and take their needs and be that strong voice in Ottawa and I have had the opportunity to work grassroots for 18 years now, and I think I’d be the best choice for Guelph to represent those needs."

Friday, August 22, 2008

Dion to Flaherty: Sit on it!**

(**Note: Stéphane Dion did not tell Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to sit on it. But that was the gist of his opening remarks at an announcement at Guelph Tool today. There was more as you'll see.)

"It's rather prophetic that we've come into one of Guelph's leading manufacturing plants and find it empty today," said Frank Valeriote ominously. "It's a sad reflection of what's going on in our economy."

This gathering at the Guelph Tool, Inc. plant on Lewis Road was part of Liberal leader Stéphane Dion's swing through Cambridge and Guelph to see first hand the impact of the economic slowdown in the region. Bob Ireland of Guelph Tool says his business, auto parts, has been hit hard by the bad times in the US, forcing him to cut the Friday shift and close one of the company's factory floors here in town.

Valeriote took the opportunity during his remarks to mention once again Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's words earlier this year about Ontario being the last place anyone would want to invest in. The Liberal candidate added that Flaherty's promise of tax breaks, in terms of impact on businesses like Guelph Tool, is like not throwing a drowning man a life preserver but promising to buy him a meal when he reached shore on his own.

"We need to have a good strategy for working families, now," said Dion," And right now there is no strategy under the leadership of Stephen Harper."

Dion accused Flaherty of not knowing where the economy's going, citing the Minister's revision of the estimate of economic growth four times since last year's "rosy budget." The Liberal leader then continued on to say that Flaherty should have been fired by Harper over the "last place to invest" statement, and that unlike Jack Layton, he's not just [in Parliament] to oppose, but he's there to replace. "To replace we have to convince Canadians that we have a much better strategy," he said.

First, said Dion, we need to set out to recognize the importance of manufacturing jobs and protect them. He pointed out that while we're loosing the well paying manufacturing jobs, the new jobs being created are ones where workers are not making as much money, and as a result, cannot strengthen the rest of the economy. Dion said that he's been told on trips abroad to hold on to the manufacturing sector and not lose it. "We have an understanding of what the manufacturing sector means to the economy," he added.

Secondly, Dion continued, the Federal government with him as prime minister will work to build partnerships with all levels of government and business to attract more investment. We all need to work together, he said, to seriously tackle the problem and look for ways to reverse it, which led to step three of his strategy...

"Make sure that you are building the products of tomorrow," Dion said, "Make Green, clean products a part of the economy, make sure you're creating the products of our time."

Naturally this includes the Green Shift plan, which Dion says will see the cost of pollution through the carbon tax be turned around and spent on creating a Green economy and investing in Green solutions. It will also breed research and development, he added, saying, "If you don't innovate, you're not competitive and your competitors will be better than you and offer better jobs."

For the workers Dion said that the income tax cuts on the Green Shift will mean for a family with two kids making $30,000 per year a savings of $2,000 by the fourth year. "These tax cuts will be especially attractive for middle and low income workers," said Dion, who believes that this saving could turn around and be invested in education or stimulating the economy.

Finally, Dion said a government led by him will return to the "great traditions" of Jean Chretien and Paul Martin in terms of fiscal responsibility and stewardship.

Following the event at Guelph Tool, Dion retired to the Valeriote campaign office for media interviews and later go canvassing with volunteers.

"Media interviews," did I say? Yes, actually, look for my interview with Dion in this space in the next couple of days.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Guelph: Liberal Forever?

Finally, we got some poll data yesterday. From a company called KlrVu Research, we get the following breakdown:

Frank Valeriote (Lib) - 37 %
Gloria Kovach (CPC) - 26 %
Mike Nagy (GPC)) - 19 %
Tom King (NDP) - 18 %

Here's what KlrVu has to say about the poll: "This poll was completed in two rounds on July 27th and August 13th, sampling over 3396 random residents of the Guelph constituency representing nearly nine percent of households with a 95% confidence level and a margin of error of 2%"

Almost 3,400 people. That's a pretty big sample size, especially when you... Wait. What was that? "It’s been pointed out in comments that this polling company is the same firm that was used by pro-life groups a month or so back to try and justify that a majority of Canadians opposed Henry Morgentaler’s receiving the Order of Canada, which was questionable to say the least, since only 7000+ respondents out of 157,115 called actually responded to this poll question." - from Scott's Diatribes.

Okay, but even if this is a Conservative leaning polling company, and they've cooked up an allegedly bogus poll, why put out Valeriote as the front-runner. The theory over at Blogging a Dead Horse seems to be that the Conservatives want to position this as a race between just them and the Liberals, and thus marginalizing the NDP's Tom King (And presumably Mike Nagy as well).

I'm not sure where the benefit is in that for the Conservatives. My own concerns are the fact that this is a poll from a company I've never heard of and whose only other poll is dubious at best. Basically, I don't think Valeriote should take the weekend off and kick up his heels secure in the knowledge that he has a 10-point lead. I agree with Scott's take and suggestion that "the Liberal team is to continue to work on the ground as if you’re 10 points down, not 10 points up."

In other news the final list of all of Guelph's by-election candidates was released this week. And your options are:

Libertarian Party of Canada - Philip Bender
New Democratic Party - Tom King
Marijuana Party - Kornelis Klevering
Conservative Party of Canada - Gloria Kovach
Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada - Karen Levenson
Green Party of Canada - Mike Nagy
Independent - John Turmel
Liberal Party of Canada - Frank Valeriote.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Harper Grills Up Some Support

Photo Courtesy of the Guelph Mercury

Not to confuse the issue, but I actually like Stephen Harper. I like him in the same way I like George W. Bush. If Bush is the wacky neighbour you'd like to hang out with, whose Tim Taylor like ineptitude always has him getting into one kind of hijink or another, than Harper is Mr. Furley, the landlord that's constantly peeking around corners and misconstruing simple misunderstandings for something gay.

If there's one thing that keeps me put-off about Harper it's his forced allergic reaction to the press as if they were leapers. Contagious with the bubonic plague. And covered in slime. All right honestly, I sometimes think that Harper sees a gaggle of reporters at a scrum and thinks about the escape from the mall scene in Dawn of the Dead.

Witness friends, another example of the PM's quarantine treatment of the media at yesterday's barbecue in Kitchener. The last line of the Mercury article read: "The prime minister did not take questions from media, but did pose for pictures with the public after the barbecue."

Hm. That sounds kind of familiar:

"Journalists' movements were seriously controlled and monitored. Once members of the media had entered the venue, they were not allowed to step out only to come back in. That would have presented a problem if an incident had occurred among protesters while Harper was talking. Journalists could not stand on the sidelines to throw out questions when Harper walked by. They were asked to leave as soon as the speech was over. If they could not approach Harper, he would not have to confront them." -

"If he is truly not interested in influencing the Guelph byelection, it would seem to make sense that he would steer clear of Kitchener as well - where presumably questions about the Guelph race could be raised - until after Sept. 8."

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

(Almost) All Candidates Meet Again

Today there was another all candidates meeting, this time at Action Read in the Park Mall on Quebec Street. Two notable things right off the bat: 1) this one had the first appearance of Karen Levenson, candidate for the Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada, and 2) Gloria Kovach was again conspicuous by her absence (Although that was not unexpected *see Sunday's blog*).

I arrived at Action Read as an audience member was asking about the correlation between global warming and foreign policy. Mike Nagy responded that most wars are fought over a lack of resources and that we can look forward to more wars unless we learn to share. He also said that Canada should be dedicated to giving .07 per cent of the country's GDP to foreign aid.

Tom King agreed with Nagy on foreign aid, but added that we need to get the World Bank out of developing nations so that they stop interfering and dictating what those countries can do through restrictions.

Levenson said that the government does not have a good record on battling climate change and that even though Canada is one of the world's biggest polluters though that fact is unlikely to change under the Harper government.

Frank Valeriote dropped this one on the crowd, "We used to be global leaders and now we're global lagers." He took that chance to put in a plug for the Green Shift plan and the need to make an immediate commitment to battle the issue.

The next question was about housing and the parties' plans for helping people secure low-income accommodations. King, not one to be out-quipped, said that past promises about housing have been like sugar cubes in a cup of coffee: you see them and then watch them dissolve away. He went on to say that the NDP has always had a very strong commitment to this issue and will be aggressive in pursuing it.

We need to bring society to a level where the voiceless, people and animals, can have a voice, said Levenson. While Valeriote said that we need a commitment of millions of dollars from the Federal government and that his party's attempt to bring about that funding in the last Liberal Parliament was undercut by the Conservatives when they took office.

Speaking last, Nagy said that homelessness was a growing problem in Canada and that we need 40,000 low income housing spots immediately. He also said that he'd like to see more focus on the creation of co-op housing in this country as well.

Levenson got to speak first on the next issue, healthcare. She said that we need to start working to create a healthier society and that includes the elimination of air pollution citing a study that said this year 22,000 people will die from pollution-related respiratory illnesses. Levenson added that with more pollution-related illnesses in combination with the aging population could cripple our healthcare system.

Valeriote said that we need to fortify incentives to bring more doctors to the region and help foreign-trained doctors more easily secure the credentials to allow them to practice here. He added that we should also fund more spots in medical schools in order to get more Canadians trained and practicing right here.

At the other side of the table, Nagy echoed some of the previously made comments before going on to talk about the Green Party's plan to put more of an emphasis on preventative care. He also said that we need to promote the nobility of being a General Practitioner, rather than just going in to be a specialist for the money.

King finished by saying that there's a nationwide shortage of doctors and nurses that needs to be addressed and that while poaching foreign trained and putting them to work here certainly solves our problems, it leaves these doctors' countries without.

Next from the audience came a pertinent question about layoffs and job security in the region and the matter of retraining them. To which Valeriote says he endorses the support of retraining programs, but that the opportunity exists in Guelph to improve are local economy by commercializing environmental innovations coming out of the University of Guelph.

Along similar lines, Nagy said that he'd like to see the food processing industry open up more, rather than shipping local produce elsewhere only to have it end up back here after being turned into frozen vegetables and the like. (Interestingly, the local news today had a story about the fact that most Ontario peaches slated for canning are sent to US factories.)

King looked at the issue differently saying that we should look to preventing layoffs by changing our trade policies and focusing on changing corporate thinking. Levenson agreed saying that we want to keep our jobs while paying the cheap prices made possible by cheap labour in China and India. She added that we should also work harder to create new, Green jobs.

The next all-candidates meeting will be a debate at Reid Hall at 7 pm in the Village in the Arboretum.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Harper Returns (Sort of)

It was announced today that Prime Minister Stephen Harper would be returning to Southwestern Ontario to campaign with Gloria Kovach. But in an ironic twist, the rally won't be held in the Roayal City, but in Kitchener. Yes, that sound you're hearing is you scratching your head in confusion. According to the CTV affiliate in Kitchener, the reason Harper isn't coming to Guelph is because the Kovach campaign couldn't or wouldn't foot the cost of hosting the PM, which I presume is substantial.

The event is a barbecue at the Romanian Cultural Centre at 2150 Bleams Road in Kitchener. If you look here on Google Maps you can see precisely where the event will take place, and how far it is from the vast majority of Kitchener. Now, when Harper was here in Guelph back in March, it was at the Guelph Place banquet hall on Michener, a location at the time I noted as being as far away from the University of Guelph as you can get before leaving town. But at least the event is open to the public, so long as you register and pay up $25 each. For more info, go to Kovach's website here.

In other news, a fourth riding is now going to the polls in a by-election: the Toronto riding of Don Valley West. They'll be going to the polls on September 22nd, an announcement that has thrown more fire on the speculation that a full-out general election will take place sometime this Fall. Perhaps it'll be a good idea for the winner of our election to hold off on taking down their signs on September 9th.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Green Supporters Bike For Mike

It was perfecting biking weather today. Good thing too because the Green Party's Bike for Mike was scheduled for earlier this afternoon and there's really nothing too much worse than having to ride around in the pouring rain.

At 12:30, Green volunteers and bike enthusiasts began showing up at the Nagy campaign office. Some had Green signs taped to their bikes while the more bold hitched up a trailer to the back of their rides.

The woman on the left is Wendy Morley, a former Guelph resident that came out to ride today. She currently lives in Orangeville and rode on her bike from their to Guelph. That's a 100k round trip, excluding the Bike for Mike root.I took this picture from the railway bridge on Wyndham near Carden.

This one was at the finish point, as riders returned to the Nagy campaign office.

When everyone had returned, the Greens celebrated the ride (and volunteer Stan's birthday, here, standing on Nagy's right) with some cake. Nagy thanked the crowd saying that this was a critical bike ride; critical for the health of the planet and critical to get a Green MP in Parliament.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Liberal Roundtable Part II

From left to right: Kathleen Wynne, Carolyn Bennett, Frank Valeriote, Liz Sandals, and Karen Redman.
Photo By Anna Muselius

Here’s part two of my roundtable with Frank Valeriote, Liz Sandals, Karen Redman and Carolyn Bennett. In this half we get into Federal/Provincial relations, problem solving and more on the by-election

Now I turned to Sandals and asked her if the relations between the province and the Feds is really as frosty as it appears. I mention Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s comments about Ontario being the last place anyone would want to invest in.

“What I find is that people really resented that,” Sandals says, adding that Ontario is the economic engine of the country historically, so why would you go out and deliberately attempt to undermine the confidence in the economy of the country’s largest province? “The feedback we’ve gotten at the constituency office has been really quite angry about some of the comments he’s said.”

Sandals also says that her government has spent the last five years cleaning-up from Flaherty’s style as finance minister in Ontario and repairing the structural deficit they inherited. She also said that she fears that something similar will happen to the Federal treasury before Flaherty is done. “There’s a sense that traditionally that Conservative governments are good managers and it’s just not borne out by the evidence, certainly not here in Ontario.”

“I think ideologically they want the cupboard to be bare so that they have to cut programs because they don’t want to support programs,” adds Valeriote who referred to the cut to PromArt, the program that funds Canadian artists to go overseas. The announcement to cease funding PromArt was made that morning.

Sandals believes that the Federal Tories are looking for someone to blame the downturn in the economy on, and in their mind there’s no one better than Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Redman calls it retail politics. She says that the Feds are looking for niches to exploit: artists, women’s groups, activists, and then disenfranchise them. She also accuses the Harper government of employing the politics of personality, the way they’ll use a personal barb at the person that asked a question, rather than answering the question.

“I think that’s one of the reasons that all Canadians look at politicians right now, they listen to Question Period and they’re disheartened,” says Redman. “That’s not what they expect from the seat of democracy. This is very sad time for Canada and this [upcoming general] election will determine what kind of country we’ll be for decades.”

“We all try and figure out what we have to do for our community,” adds Bennett. She says that the solutions to the country’s problems have to be dealt with from the bottom-up, and refers to her collaborative work with her provincial counterpart, Michael Bryant, as an example of working together to get things done.

“I think that the future is going to be citizen-centred federalism,” says Bennett. “The citizen is represented by three or four levels of government, knows that those representatives are going to represent the interests of their families and their communities and do the best they can as opposed to running around and blaming someone else for why it can’t be done.”

“Ultimately what the citizen wants is you to solve problems,” explains Sandals. “With so many of the issues; a piece of the puzzle is municipal, a piece of the puzzle is provincial, and a piece of the puzzle is federal. And if you’re going to solve the problem you need the people in all levels working together.”

Sandals added that she and Valeriote used to co-chair the joint committee of the two school boards in Guelph; Valeriote for the Catholic and Sandals for the public. The Guelph MPP says that she looks forward to rebuilding that partnership should Valeriote win the by-election.

In the meantime, Redman will remain the steward of the Royal City until someone is elected to take her place. I asked her about her role as the substitute MP. “The Guelph office is open for business as usual.” she says.

“Brenda Chamberlain was a great representative of this community since 1993 and she has a great staff there and they’ll continue to serve the constituency of Guelph until September 8th when the people will express their wish as to how we go forward. So the office is open as usual, the staff is there to answer questions concerning any Federal issues, I’m there to sort of oversee it and they shouldn’t see any difference in how they’re serviced in the community.”

I asked Valeriote about what he was looking at heading into the last month of the campaign, and if he’s feeling the grind on the trail, he didn’t show it. “I’ve been doing this for two years and I’m remaining focused on September 8th,” he says enthused. “We’re focusing on getting out, meeting people, discussing the issues and sharing with them what we think the solutions are.

“I’m telling people that I want their ideas,” Valeriote continues. “I had a wonderful conversation yesterday who had some great ideas for improving healthcare. She’s a librarian here at the University and I asked her if I could plagiarize her ideas and she gave me permission. I mean that’s the beauty of running a campaign, it gives the opportunity to coalesce everything you’ve been studying, everything you’ve been working towards, it brings it all together. I’m actually excited about this next month.”

As for the youth delegates at the conference, I asked the panel about what they were hearing as to what the important issues are. Redman says that the Green Shift has been huge with the young people, adding that the environment has historically been a topic that they have cared a great deal about.

“This Green Shift has engaged people as well,” adds Valeriote. “Once people understand it, they appreciate the effect and they embrace the whole idea of the Shift. That’s been my experience at the door.”

Bennett says the she’s appreciated the fact that a discussion of women’s issues happened in a plenary session as opposed to a workshop for a change. “It’s usually the add-on in the room you can’t find,” adds Sandals jokingly.

There’s been a great spirit here, says Bennett, as the 250 some young people are all looking and talking about the future. “We will have to decide between a Dion government that listens and uses all the talents in the caucus and in his cabinet, listening to citizens bottom-up, or whether it’s a Harper administration.”

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Mike Nagy: Green With Anticipation**

(**The Director's Cut)

Another Thursday, another candidate profile. For the "theatrical cut" of this interview click over to Echo's website here, or pick-up your copy of Echo Weekly on newsstands everywhere across the tri-cities.

Everything about Mike Nagy is saying “chill” today. The Green Party candidate has just come from John Galt Day festivities, including a couple of hours of canoe–related activities in the river. His t–shirt says “Be Cool” and he kicks back in his campaign office with his feet up. Is the perpetual also–ran getting complacent? No, actually: Nagy’s finally waging the campaign he’s always wanted to.

“Since we’ve been on hold for two years, it’s given us time to plan,” says Nagy, who hasn’t been able to plan more than a few months ahead for the last few years out of his desire to throw himself into this campaign full time. (He also added that “You have volunteers and staff that want to plan their lives too, it’s not just the candidate’s time.”) “We’ve learned a lot of lessons from the other campaigns and that means we’ve become very organized and disciplined. And with that, it’s attracted some very skilled people.” That includes the person that gave Nagy's campaign their near-perfect location on the corner of Gordon and Wellington. Nagy says that it shows that they are running to win, that they mean business.

But Nagy’s third go on the ballot was never an assured thing. Green support has been growing steadily in Guelph over the last decade on both federal and provincial levels. But it was Ben Polley’s third place victory, garnering 20 per cent of the vote, in last October’s Provincial election that finally swayed Nagy in favour of running. He added that a victory of 10 per cent, it would have been a different decision, "But if you can get 20 per cent in a provincial general election, that means we can probably do better in a by-election federally.” That combined with the prospect of a by–election rather than fighting a national campaign locally, got him excited with the real prospect of a Party breakthrough. “With this election the enthusiasm is high because they can taste a win and they know that one [Green MP] can lead to five or 10.”

On fighting a nation campaign, Nagy pointed out that
in the last general, Federal election, the Greens got $2 million on national campaign as compared to the $26 million the Big three spent just on TV ads; 13 times more than the entire Green national budget. Things are different in the by-election though, “Everybody’s on, I wouldn’t say equal footing, but our goal will be to beat them.”

There's another bonus to waging a by-election according to Nagy. “The main icing on the cake is that people know in this campaign that they can actually vote for the Green Part, break their tradition just for once, and know that its not going to bring down the government, know that it’s not going to change the power, and they can be part of history to put a Green in Parliament.”

Unfortunately, that victory will have to come without the help of the Greens’ biggest base of support: students, many of won’t be able to vote on September 8 due to Elections Canada rules regarding by–elections. Nagy says he’s disappointed, but regardless of the fact that its summer vacation, the Greens reached their goal in total number of volunteers. Now they’re focused on doubling that number, according to Nagy, who adds that even his main campaign staff, from campaign manager down, are volunteers.

(The exact quote: “He have people from head office coming in every once in a while helping, but my campaign manager’s a volunteer, my financial officer’s a volunteer, my office manager’s a volunteer, so it’s not a paid campaign.”)

Much of the growing support for Green is attributed to increased concern generally about the environment. Nagy explains that a lot of this has to do with the fact that people are coming to see the correlation between the environment and a host of other issues, from the economy to international relations. “The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, and nature always bats last,” he says pointing to the rise in natural disasters. It's evidence, Nagy says, that a lot of our problems in this world stems from a deficit of resources. “Green’s believe in their vote,” he adds. “It’s not something that they take for granted or randomly do. A lot people go through the colour spectrum, land on the green, and that’s where they’re going to stay for a very long time.” Nagy noted that this is usually because they've been let down by the other main parties.

That’s something Nagy can understand first hand. During his youth and years in university he was a staunch Liberal. He had friends and family working in the party and even got Christmas cards from Pierre Trudeau. Nagy says that it’s always been his dream to go the House of Commons as an MP, but his dream has since been amended to get there under the Green banner. “I might have taken the easier route and gone through one of the three major parties, but none of them spoke to me,” he adds.

Victory isn’t a foregone conclusion though, and Nagy knows that this is going to be a hard fought race for all candidates and their parties, but that doesn’t mean he’s not looking towards the future. The Green candidate says that, if elected, he wants to be an honest broker in Parliament and help break the partisan deadlock. "You have these three other (national) parties but they’re not working together. They’re not listening, they’re confrontational, and they’re partisan. And Green’s having no baggage in Parliament, we’re the [ones] that can break the communication gap” “The Green Party does not have all the answers, but we have a lot of new answers,” explains Nagy. “A lot of the other parties have answers and we want to work with them too. But right now, a lot of good answers are stalled. They’re locked up in vacuums and vaults. It’s about who yells loudest in Question Period.”

If that sounds like a big job, you're right and Nagy agrees. But he says that running as a Green Party candidate has given the capability to handle any task no matter the size.
“Being a Green naturally, we’re use to working with very little and having to work extra hard and that means speaking longer and going to more events because you don’t have the advertising and it means a lot of patience and determination.” He also says the he's extremely patient with dialogue, with good listening, negotiation and facilitation skills honed from not just years of campaigning, but his professional background in sales & marketing, managing and business development and staff management.

“Something that my father said several years ago really stuck with me," explains Nagy. "The idea of the opposition is to denounce bad legislation and support good legislation, and all they do now is yell and denounce everything. [...] The Green vision is to go down a new sustainable path for Canada, that’s our overall goal. Really, in the end, it’s a concern for delay for new action. Most Canadians think that the ship is heading in the wrong direction and my goal is to turn that ship around.”

Nagy says that he knows some people see his idealism as naïve, but that attitude has spurred him to prove that he can do more. “I’m determined. When Nagy says he’s going to do something he does it. And I know my limits. If I know I can’t do it I’ll say, ‘Look, I will do it but I can’t get to it for X-number of months. I don’t like breaking people’s hearts or expectations.” It’s what’s led him here: the allure of a potential Green seat in government – the first in North America. “This is the hard path, but it’s a rewarding path. I’ve made so many friends in many different communities out of this over the last couple of years, friends that I’ll have for the rest of my life. People have humbled me with their commitment and their love and support. If I win, I’ll do everything to not let them down.”

Nagy says that as soon as he’s elected, he’s going to reverse campaign and start knocking on doors to see what people want him to take to Ottawa. The idea is to get a larger picture of goals within the community, take he can take back to Parliament as an agenda. People will know his values, he says adding, but at that point it will just be a matter of getting into specifics.

As the website says,
“Vote for the party your children want you to vote for.”