About the Blog:

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

Friday, October 17, 2008


This is the 70th, and final, posting of the Guelph By-Election '08 blog, and what a ride it's been. Our little six week by-election turned into a 12 week free for all as a full blown Federal campaign got underway.

Now normally, I consider anything to do with politics to be a happy occasion, but as this race closed on Tuesday, I saw a lot of sadness. I saw disappointment. And I saw humility.

Tuesday night (or Wednesday morning, whenever it was), I saw a lot of humility from the winners. Whether it was Stephen Harper glumly accepting the election results and the fact he just might have to get along with the other parties, or, more locally, with Frank Valeriote's words of co-operation that probably stem from the fact he's the only Liberal MP from Mississauga and North London.

But mostly I remember the disappointment; like the day after "Keep on Truckin'" e-mail from the Department of Culture or the melancholy looks of Green and NDP supporters, especially after they tasted victory during the care-free, summer days of the by-election.

As for the sadness, that's probably all me, I think. The by-election made Guelph special, more special than we usually think it is, anyway. I loved the cavalcade of special politician appearances and the regular chats with leaders and high profile MPs, and townhalls and press conferences and such. It was awesome! For a time. And then Harper canceled the whole thing and we had to start from scratch with much less fanfare.

So it goes.

But now it's time for my final thoughts.

1) I hope Frank Valeriote's sincere about working to build bridges with the other parties, though I have no reason to doubt he isn't. Over 60 per cent of the country voted for someone who's not a Conservative, so it's important that the centre-left parties work out their petty differences to focus on their greater commonalities.

2) Maybe next election, Jack Layton should focus on a different battleground than Ontario, Western Canada. The NDP won 9 ridings in British Columbia, 8 in Central Northern Ontario, 4 in Manitoba, and most importantly, one in Edmonton-Scrathcona. Plus the party finished second in a great many ridings, a distant second mind you, but it's a base to build on nonetheless.

3) Don't get Stéphane Dion angry. You won't like him when he's angry.

4) Greens shouldn't look on this election as a failure. You got Elizabeth May in the leaders' debate and that's a monumental achievement. There were strong Green finishes it terms of both vote share (like Mike Nagy's 21 per cent share in Guelph) and placement (like a second place finish in the Macleod riding in Alberta). There's some incredible political ground to capitalize on here.

5) Stephen Harper liked to brag about leadership, well now he has to show some. No provoking the parties into bringing down Parliament. No making every vote a confidence motion. And no jockeying and fronting like you've got a mandate from the Canadian people, especially when 62.37 per cent of those people don't want you there.

Anyway, that's all for now. Before signing off I want to thank all of you who read my blog and especially the ones who went so far as to leave comments. It's been a heck of a commitment, but it's been a blast. Keep following my stuff in Echo, which I hope will be more municipally focused in the weeks to come. And who knows, maybe we'll try this again in a couple of years.

From all of us at Guelph By-Election '08, and by 'us,' I mean 'me,' I say, "Good Night and Good Luck."


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Post-Election New Rules

After every election, I like to take stock and outline briefly some of my thoughts and opinions about the spectacle we all just witnessed. To facilitate the organization of thought, and to inject a little humour, I take a page from the book of Bill Maher, literally...

...and come up with some New Rules of my own.

New Rule: Danny Williams has to be the new leader of the Liberal Party.
- Granted he's currently the Progressive Conservative Premier of Newfoundland, but the idea of prominent party leaders crossing the floor is not unheard of - ask Jean Charet. Williams, mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, effectively cock-blocked Harper from getting a seat in NFLD. First he denounced Harper for backing out of the Atlantic Accords, then he started the "Anyone But Conservative" campaign and then he told the fundraisers in his province that if they wanted to keep doing business with him, they won't do business with Harper. The only thing left for Williams to do is take this thing 'cross Canada.

New Rule: If you say you're going to co-operate in Parliament, you have to mean it. - This is the third minority government we've sent to Ottawa, and for the third time, all the party leaders came out afterward saying, "We are going to work together to make Parliament work." But instead of a collegial atmosphere of dialogue and hard work, we've gotten this:

New Rule: Alberta has to get over it.
- Remember: "The West wants in." Well, the west is in now. The party they back is the party in power. The oil sands of Alberta power our economy. So why, oh why, is that province still all coloured blue. I know that Canadians have an inferiority complex, but come on!

New Rule: Ignatieff supporters can't say I told you so to Stéphane Dion. - I know a lot of you out there are saying that this wouldn't have happened if Iggy was running the boat. But the fact of the matter is he's just as professorial as Dion, and he has the notable demerit of having only returned to Canada 2 years ago after some 30 years abroad and only came back after practically being begged by Ian Davey and Daniel Brock. Harper may have called Canada a "northern European welfare state," but at least he was here when he said it.

New Rule: Don't break you're own fixed election rule.
- $300 million is a lot of money to spend in order to realize that most of the people in this country, still don't really like you that much.

New Rule: John Turmel has to keep running.
- With the long list of candidates, the rules at many of the debates were kind of stringent. But Turmel's off the cuff and brutally honest debate responses kept things lively, no matter where you sat on the issue of LETS or professional gambling.

New Rule: Dalton McGuinty should get off the pot.
- He didn't endorse his own party, saying that he was just looking out for the best interest of Ontarians because he was going to have to work with the person that formed the government, whoever they may be. I recognize the political tact of hedging your bets, but does the Premier really think that his relationship with the Conservative government can get any worse?

New Rule: Manuel Couto has to reveal himself so that we know he's real.
- To my knowledge, the Marxist-Leninist candidate didn't give one interview, make a single public appearance or participate in any all-candidate forum or debate. You've gotta play to win and for me the biggest surprise of the evening was that 29 people knew enough about Couto to want to vote for him.

New Rule: Jack Layton has to stop comparing himself to Barack Obama.
- Okay, he never said it out right, but we all saw the little wink when he said, "Vote for the New Democrats." Because we all know who else is a Democrat...

New Rule: We need to have a serious conversation about reforming our democracy.
- Now, I've never been a fan of proportional representation. And the form of mixed-member proportional representation proposed by the Ontario government last year never explained where the proportional members would come from, which is one of many reasons why it failed.

But when a party nearly gets majority status with less than 40 per cent of the vote, it's time to look at how and why we elect our government. The fact that the Bloc Quebecois got 50 seats with 10 per cent of the vote, while the Greens got zero with 7 per cent really says a lot about why people might think their vote doesn't count.

Beyond simple numbers though, look at the geography. If NDP or Green voters in Guelph really think their voices aren't heard hear in Ontario, imagine what's like for your colleagues out in Alberta.

In Quebec, it looked like the fortunes of the Bloc were going down until the Conservatives imploded in the fallout of the arts cuts, and went on to win two-thirds of the seats in Quebec. This despite the fact that in Quebec, the Parti Quebecois has become the third ranked party, suggesting that separation isn't the hot topic it once was. But now Quebecers find their fortunes represented by what is essentially a special interest party, and you've got to figure that there a lot of voters displeased. Look at the numbers in Quebec and it's practically a reflection of those nationwide with the Bloc getting only 38 per cent support.

So what to do? Well, Harper's such a big supporter of Senate reform, why not let the Upper House be elected, and elected through proportionality, along with the other proposed changes. Let the Senate have greater influence on policy, by making it more reflective of proper party support, and their policies there in, while the House members remain chosen as the representatives of their riding in the Parliament by being elected by majority.

Now I admit, I haven't thoroughly thought out the details of this plan, and it might not work, but let's at least start the discussion. Otherwise, I fear we're going to do this again and again till either a majority like Harper or the Liberals get smarter. In other words: forever.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Nothing Changes; Everything Stays the Same

So here's what is:

*The Conservatives get a minority government

*The Liberals face a leadership dilemma

*The Bloc finishes with some surprisingly strong results

*The NDP get a few more seats...

*...while the Greens get none

I'm confused, are we talking about the 2006 election or the 2008 one?

Yep, not much shifted on the old toll board last night, except that the Liberals now have fewer seats, the Conservatives have a bunch more and the NDP picked a few new caucus members as well. It breaks down like so, but remember that a few contest may be contested being that they're so close:

*The Conservatives: 143 (+19)

*Liberals: 76 (-27)

*Bloc Quebecois: 50 (-1)

*NDP: 37 (+8)

*Green: 0 (-1)

*Independent: 2 (+2)

Weirdness abound last night as many tight races nationwide yielded some unexpected results. One of those tight ridings was Guelph, whose fate wasn't determined until well around midnight. In the end, it was Frank Valeriote winning the day and the riding with 18,977 or 32 per cent of the vote. Gloria Kovach placed a very strong second with 17,185 votes, or 29.18 per cent. Interestingly, that was Brent Barr's vote share in '06, though Kovach closed the gap between Liberal and Conservative to just under 2,000 votes. And though he finished third, Mike Nagy can't be disappointed having secured 12,500 votes in Guelph.

But Guelph will be lonely wearing red this time, as we're surrounded by Conservative blue in all three Kitchener-Waterloo ridings, Cambridge and Wellington-Halton Hills. Also lonely is the Saskatchewan riding of Wascana, which was the only place in the province to elect a non-Conservative, Liberal Ralph Goodale. And it wasn't all good news for the Conservatives as their Alberta stronghold sprung an orange-coloured leak in the riding of Edmonton-Strathcona. Linda Duncan beat Rahim Jaffer by a little over 500 votes.

Not so good news is that voter turnout reached an all-time low: 59.1 per cent. Boo, Canada. Boo. What's the excute this time? Washing you're hair? Too much homework? Couldn't find a ride? All right, enough sarcasm. What was interesting in watching the CBC's coverage last night was the number of people writing in to advocate the need for electoral reform. Looking at the seat to vote percentage ratio, it's not hard to imagine why. The Conservatives have a near majority even though 63 per cent of voters but an 'x' beside the name of another party's candidate. The Bloc gets 50 seats for their 10 per cent vote share, while the Green party gets none with almost 7 per cent.

There's a lot going on in the minds of politically engaged right now, myself included. I'll have some more analysis over the next couple of days so keep checking back.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Happy Election Day!

So here we are gang! The day you get to exercise your franchise and help choose who will lead the country for however long they can lead in a minority government situation.

Just joking! ...Or am I?

I got back from my polling station about half an hour ago. Business was steady, but not overwhelming, then again it was only 11 o'clock. On the CBC this morning, it looked like Atlantic Canada was coming out in droves to vote, but generally speaking, a lot of analysts half expect low or average voter turnout, I guess we'll see.

It's sunny now, but when I walked up to my polling station is was dark and windy. A harbinger? Who knows. But what I did see was the line of election signs on either side of the road. Across the street from me their was a row of Gloria Kovach signs and a row of Frank Valeriote signs.

Meeting in the middle a sign from either candidate was bouncing back and forth in the breeze and my dirty mind thought vaguely for a moment that it looked like the two signs were fornicating. Naturally the Conservative was on top. Snicker if you will, but that was pretty much the point of many NDP talking points. Is it terrible that you're still looking for new political metaphors on Election Day?

I hope all of you are planning on voting today. Although if you read this blog you probably are someone who votes early and votes often anyway. As everyone should, I reinforce, because I heard it again last night...

"There's no one I can get behind."
"I can't trust any of the leaders."
"There's no one that speaks to me."
"They're all the same anyway."
"I don't know any of the issues."

Wrong. Wrong. Really? Wrong. And go back to Alaska Sarah Palin.

Seriously, if you can't bother to get informed, I don't want you to vote. I don't like the idea of choosing a government representative by the Eeny, meeny, miny, moe method, so don't bother because I know you won't.

As for everyone else: clam up! In Guelph, there are 10, count 'em, 10 people on the ballot. You mean to tell me that there is no one on the Guelph ballot whom you remotely agree with? I realize this may be harder in other ridings where your choices are limited to the Top 4 (Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Green), but in Guelph you're covered from the Far Right (Libertarian) to the far left (Communist, Marxist-Leninist), and all points in between (John Turmel?).

But in the off chance you still can't bring yourself to pick a candidate, try this: cast a blank ballot. You heard me. Go to your polling station, get your ballot, take it behind the divider, don't mark anything, come back to the ballot box and cast.

Why? Because all blank ballots have to be accounted for, along with spoiled ballots and those cast for the various candidates. If you don't go to the polls and get your name crossed off the voters list, it says nothing. Not a thing. It says simply that you didn't show up to vote, not that your politically apathetic, disenfranchised or otherwise just Palin-like in you engagement with the issues.

But casting a blank ballot truly sends a message. It says with certainty that no one on the ballot represents you, and you're still standing up to be counted. Imagine if everyone that said that they didn't vote because there was no one on the ballot they wanted to vote for cast blanks. Can you imagine if the CBC reported that 100,000 Canadians went to the polls and didn't vote for anyone?

So please think twice about not voting for those of you who subscribe that way. And for the rest of you, you know what to do.

Monday, October 13, 2008

One Day at a Time

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all! And happy Election Day's Eve to the same, although I say this especially to the citizens of Guelph. Remember the last Election Day's Eve when our by-election was canceled less than 24 hours before the polls opened in favour of a Federal race? Oh, good times!

But seriously, it seems we have no idea what's going to go down tomorrow. In town its a tight race, and across the nation, in a poll cited on CTV News last night, 46 per cent said that they haven't firmed up their decision about whom they're voting for with 12 per cent adding that they probably won't make their minds until they get to the ballot box.

What does this mean? Strategic Voting, my friends. A poll done by Ipsos-Reid for the Canwest News Service back during the first week of the campaign showed that 54 per cent of Canadians were not in favour of a Conservative majority government and that 38 per cent of them were prepared to vote strategically to prevent it.

The CTV/Global and Mail poll showed the Election Day numbers thusly:
* Conservative: 33 per cent (-2)

* Liberal: 28 per cent (-2)
* NDP: 18 per cent (none)
* Bloc Quebecois: 10 per cent (-1)
* Green Party: 11 per cent (+6)

The only party to make gains going into the last weekend of campaigning was the Green Party and one would figure if the trend was going towards strategic voting, than they'd be showing a loss. Confused yet? Yeah, me too.

Now pollsters say that 40 per cent in the polls is a good indication as to whether or not a party is going to end up with a majority government and with the Conservatives hovering around roughly a solid third of the nation in support, things seem unlikely for Harper's majority hopes. So it begs the question: if the Conservatives win, does that mean we'll get another Conservative-led Parliament? Not necessarily.

Many think that should Harper win another minority, it might spur a couple of the other parties to set aside differences out of the common interest in not seeing Harper as PM. The likely team-up would be the Liberals and NDP, it's been done before in Ontario, and a lot of people are wondering why it can't be done again. Even Gilles Duceppe has swallowed hard and said that he'd be interested in a limited partnership with the Liberals, on issues such as the environment, so long as it's in the best interest of Quebecers.

In the same CTV/Globe poll, 46 per cent of the responders said that they'd favour a Lib-NDP coalition to usurp the Conservatives, while 41 per cent said that they did not. Pollsters said that these numbers fell mostly within party lines. You will note however that pollsters are the only ones open to the possibility right now. In Halifax Thursday, Dion emphatically ruled it out, and when I broached the subject with Bob Rae in our brief talk on Friday, he said that the Liberals were focused on winning a majority and that any talk of coalitions was extremely pre-mature.

So it should be interesting to see the reutrns tomorrow night, to say the least.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Lazy Sunday

The Mercury's Brad Needham posted this list on the paper's Guelph Votes blog Wednesday, and I loved it, so I felt like sharing.

Top 10 signs the election campaign, which started in Guelph on July 25, has gone on too long.

10. Prime Minister Stephen Harper almost made it to Guelph.
(Editor's Note: Remember: Wednesday, the PM did, in fact make it to Guelph)
9. NDP Leader Jack Layton has run out of Stephen Harper sweater jokes.
8. Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion is actually starting to make sensee.
7. Karen Levenson of the Animal Alliance Environment Voters party has been talking about giving a voice to animals. Beverly Hills Chihuahua is the Number 1 movie in the country. Coincidence? I think not.
6. The kids riding bikes outside Green candidate Mike Nagy’s Gordon Street office are thinking about university.
5. Independent candidate John Turmel hasn’t been arrested in weeks.
4. The NDP’s Tom King is out of stories.
3. Even Liberal Frank Valeriote would admit that getting his law degree was easier than trying to explain the Green Shift.
2. Conservative Gloria Kovach has been spotted at some all-candidates debates.
1. Even the vandals are getting bored. Guelph’s election signs have never looked better.

Anyway, in actual news, while Mike Nagy managed to score the endorsement of the Guelph Mercury last week, Tom King managed to find some press in another paper... the New York Times. King was the subject of Saturday's Profile by Ian Austen, who talks to King about his life, career and political campaign. "Now Mr. King, 65, has set aside the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s microphones to make his first foray into electoral politics," it goes in the article. "His decision to run for a seat in the House of Commons in a campaign that ends Tuesday is, in an American context, about as predictable as Garrison Keillor abandoning Lake Wobegon for a shot at Congress."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Leaders take it to us, as Election comes to close

As the final weekend before the Election begins, the Royal City is getting some royal treatment again as leaders make a list ditch effort to score points.

It began today with Stephen Harper's very brief layover at Gloria Kovach's campaign office, in an appearance that was sandwiched between two others in London and Quebec. It came by long enough to greet voters, attack Dion and spark a small protest before he was on the road again.“It’s a choice between staying the course and moving forward, or throwing caution to the wind, embracing expensive schemes," said Harper. “Mr. Dion may be a professor, but he hasn’t had much luck teaching Canadians about the carbon tax.”

Tomorrow night, Jack Layton will pull into the Woolwich Arms for a pre-election push for Tom King called "Momentum: United for Change." This will be the first appearance of Layton in Guelph since an outdoor event with Naomi Klein way back on September 5th in Royal City Park. Politicos will remember that Layton was a frequent flyer in the riding during the by-election. He's scheduled to appear at the Wooly at 9 pm.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Rae Gets Taken to School

As the election winds down, former Liberal leadership contender Bob Rae popped into the Royal City and campaigned with Frank Valeriote by taking students questions at Our Lady of Lourdes High School and then touring the Guelph Food Technology Centre at the University of Guelph. Rae said that it was a nostalgic trip for him to see the GFTC, an initiative he helped create when he was Ontario's Premier.

After a meeting with GFTC administrators, Rae toured the facility and talked to the scientists and staff members that worked there. From those brief discussions came a definite feeling that the day fit right in with Valeriote's platform of using research at the University to create jobs in town through the commercialization of that research.

Rae and Valeriote talk to a pair of scientists that work in a lab where they test various types of added flavours to beverages.

In one of the seminar rooms Rae and Valeriote are told about the thousands of other scientists and researchers that the GFTC host yearly. Here, the two men are being told about a recent conference hosted about the listeria outbreak though Maple Leaf Foods and how such an outbreak can be avoided in the future.

In this lab, scientists use the glass box on the counter to test the caps on beverage bottles to see how well they're able to stand up to punishment.

The tour ended in this lab, where small amounts of a new beverage are created for sample testing. The GFTC has numerous big name clients, including Wrigley's, who all use the capabilities of the facility to test their products or help develop new ones.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Let's Get Ready to Rebuttal!

As I'm sure you know, Tuesday was debate night in the Royal City. The combined forces of the Guelph Mercury and Rogers Television was what it took to bring together 9 out of 10 of the candidates running in Guelph, which begs the question: is Manuel Couto real? I mean is he a real person, or does he merely exist on our ballot every Federal election?

But the nine that did show created a lively evening of debate which was often more like an 8 on 1 with everyone else taking shots at the Conservatives and Stephen Harper, leaving Gloria Kovach to defend not just her own designs on the MP job, but the record of the Conservative government as well. Here's how the debate broke down:

John Turmel - At the University debate, J.T. closed with the 9/11 conspiracy theory version of our involvement in Afghanistan and that's how he started this one, before pretty much stuck to his guns about LETS and getting interest free credit from the Bank of Canada for the rest of the night. On taxes, he says that he doesn't mind paying them so long as they're going to something and not paying down the debt. Among his highlights Turmel proclaimed that he should decriminalize "all victimless crime" including gambling, smoking pot and prostitution saying that "Even shy and unattractive people have the right to get laid." Also, Turmel dropped some science on the crowd saying that pot should be legalized because it can kill cancer and regrow brain cells, and that humans aren't responsible for global warming because there's global warming on Mars too.

Drew Garvie - The Communist Party nominee came off cool, informed and collected, and handled a question about the human rights practices of "Communist China" with a lot of grace. Garvie hit hard at the Conservatives for cutting social programs and their support of the Afghan mission. He referenced Harper's infamous 1997 speech to Americans in Montreal several times as a reason why a Harper majority government will be dangerous to the country. "We need to think about what a functioning economy really is," he said adding that the Harper government has a very narrow focus in these terms: profit. I must add that Garvie had tremendous control of his party's platform in this debate; he was practiced, polished and professional. He really came out to play on this one, and looked good enough to play ball with the majors.

Karen Levenson - Although I don't think she's really impressed in her past debate appearances, Levenson seriously came out swinging in this one asking, "Who are the real extremists: those that are trying to save the world or those trying to destroy it?" She swung hard at every pitch and while she didn't always connect, she worked to gain ground. During a question about the economy, Levenson answered that there are limits to economic growth because the Earth is finite. During a question about support for safe injection sites, Levenson said that the roots of drug use are from the fact that many people in society don't see themselves as being counted. And when Gloria Kovach said that as a nurse and a mother, she supported universal healthcare, Levenson said that it was unconscionable for a nurse and a mother to support the heavily polluting tar sands. Levenson was solid from start to finish.

Philip Bender - The even-tempered Bender did what he does best, and put a harmless, congeal spin on the Libertarian point of view for the issues in this election. He tested the assertion that government can create jobs, challenged that protecting the environment comes from a lack of property rights, and reiterated his belief that our healthcare system is a monopoly that insulates us from proper improvements and innovation. In a question that mentioned Martin Luther King Jr., Bender used him as an example of Libertarian ideals since he incited great change without being part of a government and getting people to join him in "volunteer association." Bender did take a serious hit though when he joined Turmel in his assumption that the jury was still out, so to speak, about whether human activity was to blame for global warming.

Mike Nagy - The Green Party candidate came out in the lead and close enough stayed there through most of the debate, jocking for position with one other candidate. His opening remarks set the tone, "Canadians have always feared change, but have always embraced improvement." And then referencing the pro-environment turn of the other parties added, "There is only one Green Party." Nagy ably proved his dual points that his party has a complete platform and that economic and environmental concerns are irrevocably tied. He dodged Conservative charges that we need to stay the course in these difficult economic times by employing a Titantic metaphor and attacked Turmel and Bender when the implied that there's no human factor in global warming. The normally soft-spoken Nagy was on fire all night; he was scrappy, determined and extremely effective in making his points.

Gloria Kovach - As I said earlier, Kovach had in unenviable position to defend a government she hasn't been a part of but did so admirably. She hit out strong about the Liberals', and other parties', plan to "tax people to death," but it seemed to connect with the audience about as well as Bender's call to dismantle the Federal government as we know it. I think what did connect was her correlation of the recent the job loss at Woods over transportation costs and the idea of the Green Shift; it might make a few undecideds take pause. What continues to work in Kovach's favour is her standing in the community as a city councillor; people know her, people like her, so they can look past a lot of the boogeyman stuff about the Conservatives. She held her own, but to borrow a colloquialism from the American journalists, this wasn't a game changer for her.

Kornelis Klevering - If there was a game changer for anyone it was Marijuana Party candidate Brother Kase who made a strong argument for his election by turning his perceived candidacy around. "If you think I'm up here to advocate the case for smoking pot, you've got the wrong idea," he said. He attacked the half-hearted stand of decriminalization and talked about making Guelph a centre for hemp-based research and using the old Guelph correctional facility as a medicinal marijuana cultivation centre, since it was the appropriate security infrastructure in place. Brother Kase was very strong on all the issues brought up, from healthcare to Afghanistan, but at the same time, never lost sight of his own platform. I was impressed.

Tom King - Unfortunately, I think King was looking a little tired Tuesday, possibly the rigors of the long campaign. But his perfected, professorial tone came through loud and clear at times, especially when talking about soical justice issues. He went against the curve on the environmental question by suggesting that you can't divorce local from national concerns. He lashed out at the Conservatives and Liberals for allowing P3 healthcare to creep into the country and then hit the Liberals again for not standing up to the Conservatives in the last parliamentary session. On the question about China and human rights, he was strongest though saying, "Human rights should never be the price to be paid for trade," and then took a swipe at Kovach's mention of native issues saying that the Conservatives "couldn't find a reserve if I gave them a map." He wrapped by encouraging the crowd to "vote for what you want. Vote for what you believe."

Frank Valeriote - The Liberal candidate was also a standout in the debate not so much for anything he said, but the way he said it. Baited once by one of his colleagues, Valeriote politely refused rebuttal, showing strength and confidence in his message. He kept a local focus, tying Harper policies to their impact on Guelph. In his opening remarks he said that neither Canada or Guelph is better off now than it was two and a half years ago, and then he slammed Kovach by namedropping Brent Barr. Later he spoke strongly in favour of safe injection sites and the benefits of them and slighted the Conservatives saying that ideology prevents them from giving the idea their support. For the most part though he stuck to his guns and the Liberal playbook. He ignored the attacks on him and threwout a few of his own.

In the end, I don't think the debate probably had a radical impact on the numbers, but it certainly highlighted the possibility that the race truly is between Valeriote and Nagy.

Before I sign off, I noticed on the Guelph Mercury blog that David Graham, a noted Valeriote supported, was accused of asking the question about living in a riding to run there,of being politically motivated. Graham talked about it on his own blog, but I couldn't find the comment on the Merc blog again. Anyway, yeah - that was political. (Sorry Dave, you know you're my homeboy.) But no more political than when U of G Young Conservatives member Michael Sona asked the question about strategic voting, which was clearly a measure to get King and Nagy to attack Valeriote, who's previously made comments of looking to get co-operation between the left and centre-left parties to beat Harper.

Politics at a debate?! Who would have though?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Merc Gives Nagy Thumbs Up

I know I said I was going to talk about the debate today but I was at a music video shoot last night, so I taped it, and then I spent the better part of today watching the Director's Cut of Nixon for an article I'm writing for Lucid Forge. So long story short, it'll have to wait till tomorrow.

In the meantime, the Guelph Mercury today published its candidate endorsements for the ridings of Guelph and Wellington-Halton Hills. The Merc's choice for Guelph was none other than Green Party nominee Mike Nagy. In the last election, the paper put up NDP candidate Phil Alt as the choice for Guelph, but here's what they had to say about Nagy:

"But the economy and the environment are not mutually exclusive, and of all the Guelph candidates, Nagy has best grasped that. He has a solid vision of green-job creation here, and a complex understanding of local and national environmental issues.

"There was clear momentum and optimism during the byelection that the Greens had a legitimate shot at electing Canada’s first Green MP. The outward signs are that the party retains that enthusiasm, even if polls indicate otherwise, and that’s something in itself.

"The concept of strategic voting should be a non-starter. Think instead of a Nagy mantra: vote for what you really want."

The paper also talked about why they didn't choose the other candidates. The most surprising discussion came about when talking about Gloria Kovach:

"We see Kovach as having cabinet potential. But if she heads to the House of Commons, will she show a greater appetite for challenging her party platform where warranted or articulating alternate policy courses?

"Her smart, but careful, controlled and strategic campaign offered little evidence of her willingness to think out loud on policy matters or reveal how she would like to grow her party’s policy framework."

It is something I've always wondered. Kovach has played the game well and nailed the Harper talking points with skill. But the thing of it is, Kovach has been one of the more progressive voices in the city council, which was especially pronounced when the development friendly government of Kate Quarrie was in power from 2003-2006. If elected would she be able to influence her party from the inside, or eventual give up and switch parties or just fade into the back bench?

Kovach's fellow Conservative Michael Chong got the nod for Wellington-Halton Hills saying that the former cabinet minister was a "Maverick" for the way he takes stances different from his party, particularly when he stepped down after Harper announced his intention to recognize Quebec as a nation. The article went on to say that,

"Chong’s contrarian side was on display at a candidates’ meeting in Fergus Monday, where his support for the repatriation of Canadian Omar Khadr, who is imprisoned at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo, is also at odds with his party. Perhaps it’s little surprise, then, that Harper has not visited the Wellington-Halton Hills riding during this campaign to lend support to his candidate."

To be fair to Chong I'm from that riding, Georgetown to be precise, and I can't remember a single time, at least since I became of legal voting age, when a national party leader came to town. Heck, Big Bird's been to Georgetown more than Harper, Dion and Layton combined, I'd wager.

Anyway, debate stuff tomorrow. Promise.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

One Week to Go

Well kids, we've almost made it through this 12 week odyssey (six for the lucky majority). One week from today, Canadians from coast to coast to coast will going to the polls and voting for the next Government of Canada. So what better time for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to unveil his party's platform. Yes fans, after getting junk piled over the issue at the leaders' debate last week, the PM took the stage in Toronto to say, "Hey, here's what we're going to do."

So what are they going to do? Well, the plan called "The True North Strong and Free" (gag me), list amongst its goals the following:

Harper, speaking to the Canadian Club in Toronto, said the Conservatives would add $200 million to the Automotive Innovation Fund and another $200 million to the Strategic Aerospace Defence Initiative.

The Tories would also abolish tariffs on a wide range of imported machinery to bolster manufacturing efficiency, he said.

The party would also abandon its controversial changes to film and television tax-credit eligibility

The Conservative platform also includes previously announced proposals, such as:
  • A two-cent-a-litre cut in taxes on diesel and aviation fuel over four years totalling $600 million a year once fully implemented.
  • Maternity, parental leave benefits for entrepreneurs who pay into employment insurance.
  • $85 million in tax breaks for families where one spouse forgoes full-time work to care for a disabled family member.
  • Maximum life sentences for offenders as young as 14 convicted of first- or second-degree murder; maximum 14-year sentences for youths who commit violent crimes.
  • Teens over 14 who commit serious crimes would no longer have their identities protected.
  • Ending conditional sentencing, also known as house arrest, for 30 serious crimes, including robbery, theft and arson.
  • Pledging $113 million over five years to crack down on environmental crime, including maximum penalties of $6 million for companies and $1 million for individuals.
  • New tax credit totalling $150 million a year for parents of children under 16 enrolled in eligible arts programs
Did you notice that third paragraph there? Hm, I wonder why that would be....

But seriously, speaking of debates, tonight is debate night in the Royal City. The action goes down at Guelph Place banquet hall tonight at 7 pm. But if you can't make it all the way up to Michener Road, then you catch the blow-by-blow on Rogers Television, which is showing the debate live to air starting at 7. I'll have my debate coverage in tomorrow's post.

In the meantime, enjoy this bit of election hilarity from the Rick Mercer Report.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Election vandals hit Toronto

Guelphites will recall that in the waning days of the by-election, an incident in the east and south ends where a number of homes proudly displaying the Liberal sign of Frank Valeriote were vandalized. Dangerously vandalized too, because a number of cars had their brake lines cut along with anti-Liberal graffiti smeared over the outer walls of their home. I blogged about it at the time.

Well, over the weekend a ghastly similar occurance happened in two Toronto ridings. In the riding of St. Paul's and Parkdale-High Park at least 32 cases of vandalism were reported with 17 of them involving the dangerous act of cutting brake lines. A full-scale criminal investigation is currently underway.

"Some incidents that we were investigating, when the officers were on the scene, they actually walked the street and found evidence of brake fluid in other driveways but these people happened to be away for the day or for the weekend, so they're the people that are basically reporting it now," said Insp. Larry Sinclair to the CBC.

The two ridings are currently being held by two high-profile Liberals: Carolyn Bennett and Gerrard Kennedy. And like the incidents in Guelph, the list of acts ranged from the keying of cars to tearing up campaign signs to spray painting slogans like "McGuinty lies" and "B. Rae lies." Andrew Lane, a Bennett suporter, had his break lines cut but didn't notice until he'd left in his car and tried to break only to run a stop sign and almost get hit by a TTC buc. Liberal Leader Stèphane Dion came out strong against the incidents calling them "hateful and dangerous."

"The cutting of brake lines on people's cars is clearly not a simple mischievous act — it is putting people's lives at risk and raises some very serious questions. [...] Everyone — all Canadians and political parties — must speak out against what is happening in Toronto. It is an obscene violation of the principles of democracy, where Canadians are entitled to express their political opinions without repercussion," he said.

Th pity is that some of the comments generated on other news sites seem to reflect those posted during the Guelph incidents. From chastising Stephen Harper's silence on the incident ("What does the leader of the Canadian government have to say about political candidates being put at risk of death?"), to suggesting that it's Conservative payback ("Should I call the cops? I swear i saw a older guy w/ grey hair and a blue sweater out there vandalising some vehicles..."), to suggesting that the Liberals did it themselves ("Steven Harper should make a statement denouncing these acts so that the Liberals can get on with it and claim Harper's statement to be an admission to guilt. That seems to be the Liberal way"). Oh, and Nazi references ("This is the 2008 Canadian Federal Election. Not the 1930s and this is not Germany!")

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Ladies First

As the leaders were revving up for their debate Thursday night, the Kovach campaign put out a press release:

Equal Voice, a non-partisan action group, is calling on women voters to support female candidates at the ballot box, and with their cheque books.

This follows their call in 2007 to the major political parties to increase the number of female candidates. In response, the Conservative Party of Canada increased its slate of female candidates to 19 per cent, from 12 per cent in the last election.

“The key now is for Canadians to support women candidates of their choice, by voting for capable women in their own ridings, or sending cheques and supporting women in the party of their choice in other ridings, Equal Voice Chair Raylene Lang-Dion said in a recent press release.

“I appreciate the call from Equal Voice to elect more women in Parliament, and their endorsement of my campaign,” said Guelph’s Federal Conservative Candidate Gloria Kovach. “I also appreciate that Equal Voice acknowledges that the Conservative Party has met their challenge of having more women stand for election.”

Of course, the thing is that the Conservatives are still fifth out of the five major parties in terms of ratio of male candidates to female. According to Canada.com, the Liberals lead with 113 out of 307 candidates, or 36.9 per cent, being female. As you'll recall, Liberal leader Stéphane Dion had promised to increase the number of women candidates in his party to one third. Coming in second is the NDP with 104 out of 308, or a full third female representation. Greens finished third with 87 out of 305, or 28.5 per cent. With 28 per cent, the Bloc Quebecois has 21 of its 75 Quebec ridings covered by women.

Overall, its a positive trend to be sure, but I have a couple of things to add. First, I'm not sure if the Equal Voice press release can really be taken as an endorsement of Kovach's campaign specifically, which is kind of how she makes it sound. It's really kind of an endorsement of all the parties from their work in adjusting the imbalance, and that we still have a ways to go.

Second of all, the group (and Kovach) seem to be advocating the notion of voting for a female candidate simply because she is a female candidate. “Equal Voice is asking voters to improve those women’s chances of winning,” said Raylene Lang-Dion, Equal Voice's National Chair, in the press release. “When you can support a woman at the ballot box, vote for her. And support her and other women candidates financially. It is time for a breakthrough.”

Okay, fair point. But is this not the argument being used to promote Sarah Palin's bid for the Vice-Presidency in the US? Getting more women in the House of Commons is all fine and well, but isn't it more prudent to have people of any gender that are qualified, driven with purpose, and most importantly, are in line with the values and opinions that you believe in? Women add a diversity in voice to politics, not to mention a different perspective than their male colleagues more often than not, but I thought we were in near unanimous agreement: we know Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin is no Hillary Clinton.

And if Equal Voice is endorsing Gloria Kovach because she's a female candidate, then you know who else their endorsing in Guelph: Karen Levenson. Yes Virginia, there are two female candidates in this race in the Royal City, and if we're talking on terms of equality than one's as good as the other.

Also, read my Community Editorial in the Guelph Mercury this weekend. This ends my shameless plug.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Leader's Debate Tonight - Follow My Live Blog

11:02 - Okay, so that was pretty lively. Harper got smoked in a junk pile though. Dion stood pretty strong, but I'm not sure if it was strong enough. Layton was solid, Duceppe got in numerous well placed points and May was a breath of fresh air I thought; I'm glad she finally made it. Well, that's it for tonight. Daily Show time, and then I want to see the repeat of Biden/Palin.

But this was fun, I liked it. Sorry, but Jon Stewart made a Balki from Perfect Strangers jokes and I can't focus.

10:58 - Time out. That went fast.

10:57 - Ah, Dion. So polite...

10:55 - Those lav mics really pick up sound good. Oh, and May had a good point there.

10:54 - Yeah, but Danny Williams never hated Chretien or Martin the way he rrrreeeeaaalllllyyy hates Harper

10:53 - Gotta love the way Layton can talk broadly despite never forming a government

10:52 - Layton refers to self in third person - not good.

10:51 - The sweater is nice. Very Cameron Frye.

10:51 - Yes, take a look at the invisible Harper platform

10:50 - 10 minute mark, folks

10:47 - Ugh. I hate this discussion. "I don't know who to vote for." "Nobody talks to me." "I don't trust politicians."

Look, if you don't think anyone on the ballot talks to you, (and that's a hard place to be in Guelph with 10 people on the ballot) you can cast an unmarked ballot... and it's still counted. Can you imagine if everyone that didn't vote cast blank ballots and what kind of statement that can make?

10:46 - Income trust, Harper's fatal weakness

10:44 - Interesting. We can't afford $5 billion on income splitting, but we can afford all these new tax credits

10:43 - Uh, oh... Okay, that wasn't going were I thought it was going.

10:40 - "Keep surpluses!" That's a bold statement considering the global economy, and probably untrue given some of the rumours coming out of Ottawa that we're already in deficit country.

10:39 - Dion's answer surprised me, I thought for sure he was going to lean on the Green Shift. But shoring up the economy - good call.

10:37 - Big burn by Duceppe, but at least he's honest about his chances

10:36 - 2 to go.... time flies

10:35 - This pie in the sky for Layton.

10:33 - Nice try. I think we all know that if Harper was PM in '03, Canadians would be dying in Iraq now.

10:31 - Oops, potential trap for Harper.
"Absolutely in error," Harper on invading Iraq. You heard it here last

10:31 - Eep, heard that before. And I don't just mean the Liberals

10:27 - "History free zone," exactly. No one wants to see Afghanistan fall backwards again.

10:23 - Ooh Kitchener... But I don't know that guy.

10:21 - Exactly. If any example proves the correlation between poverty and crime it's the case of Canada's Native peoples .

10:17 - Exactly. Ask a lawyer about the practicalities of the law. The neo-con view of the law is so far from the intent enshrined they're not nearly the same.

10:16 - I love that. "We didn't cut literacy, we just cut literacy programs."

10:15 - I'll do Layton one better, do we need hand guns period? Are you going to go hunting with a hand gun?

10:12 - Oh, here we go...

10:11 - Right on! It's a perception that violent crime is going up, it's not really. Listening to some people, you'd think we're living in Gotham City.

10:10 - That was brief.

10:09 - I just noticed this, but Harper is wearing a Canadian flag pin. Give. Me. A. Break. Really? Is this the kind of mind game the PM is playing here? The "I'm a real patriot because I wear the flag game." Come on!

10:08 - Right on! Don't tell me its not ideological.
"More fun in Canada." Well, I'm all for that.

10:06 - Yes, they were so ineffective. Which is why there was such a big outcry about the cuts, it's not like anyone's taking advantage of these programs.

10:03 - Barbarians? But I like Dion's answer, I think, like US neo-cons, Harper sees artists as the enemy

10:02 - Tax credit for the arts. That makes me laugh. We'll give you a tax credit to enroll your kids in the arts, but when they're adults we won't help them to make a living.

10:01 - I love that. The arts are fun, says Dion

9:59 - Sweet. Good topic.

9:56 - That was a weird camera angle (Duceppe and Harper)

9:55 - Word.

9:53 - SINCE WHEN? Again, read that speech!

9:50 - Sorry, but Harper's critique of 90s Liberal cuts really leaves a bad taste in my mouth considering his past remarks. And considering that Tony Clement is now our federal health minister after everything that went down when he held the job in Ontario...

9:49 - That's a killer for the Liberals. Their fiscal policy in the 90s did some harm in the healthcare sector.

9:46 - Whales? I guess that's something.

9:44 - Visual aids, Mr. Duceppe?

9:43 - "How we're dealing with the tar sands..." Now that's "lazy fair" policy.

9:39 - "Don't believe this man." Man, I don't want to mess with Dion right now.

9:38 - I've never seen Dion snippy. Man, he's getting intense.

9:35 - Finally, address the questioner Layton!

9:34 - He knows what page its on in the French version?

9:33 - That was a good point about Bob Rae.

9:31 - Again, who said increase taxes?
"Under the sweater!" Layton, that was awesome!

9:27 - ...yet.

9:27 - "Lazy fair?"

9:25 - Harper looks like he's being spoon fed castor oil

9:23 - Well, so many manufacturing jobs have been created to replace the lost ones under Harper's policy, oh wait...

9:22 - Good question!

9:19 - lol. Duceppe really wants that tax credit. ;-)

9:17 - "You should be on the way out too." Snap! That one goes to Layton.

9:17 - Boo ya! If you haven't read that speech, read that speech. It'll make you want to punch someone out.

9:14 - Right on, Dion! he's got to be strong like this if he wants to come out of the debate better off than he went into. He has to come up more to May and Layton's level of attack. I want to see passion!

9:13 - I've gotta say, I'm lovin' this format.
Oh, and Harper's getting smoked.

9:12 - Uh, which opposition parties have announced tax increases?

9:08 - THANK YOU! Where is the CPC platform?

9:07 - Because Paul Martin told the banks No on sub-prime mortgages.

9:07 - Yeah, thanks to Paul Martin!

9:06 - "The invisible hand is in hand with the oil companies" - Nice.

9:04 - I thought the point was to address the questioner, Harper.

9:03 - Elizabeth May really smoked through that first question, can't say I agree with everything she said, but she certainly showed a commanding control of the issue

9:00 - Here we go

8:38 - The English-language debate gets underway in just over 20 minutes. When it begins, I'll begin to blog live from beginning to end. I've never done this before so it should be interesting. I hope some people (body?) follows along, after all, I'm sacrificing watching the Biden-Palin debate to give my full attention to homegrown politics. Anyway, see you in a few...

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Weltschmerz is Back!

Gareth Lind closed shop on his weekly comic strip Weltschmerz a few months ago, odd timing since the politically-minded strip would have been ideally suited for these political times. Well, we should have known that Lind couldn't stay silent for long because last night I get an e-mail...

Hi Weltschmerz readers,

You are receiving this email because you left a comment on my site, bought my book or emailed me. Let me know if you'd prefer not to receive infrequent updates on my cartooning activities.

Although Weltschmerz has ended, I will be adding a cartoon now and then at weltschmerz.ca, where Harper explains why a prime minister who does watercolours is not worth the risk.

Thanks for reading,

So I jet over to the Weltschmerz site, and there it is: a new Harper-centric strip and a note...

Yes, I know, three months ago I said Weltschmerz is over. But now and then, I may get an idea while I'm still mulling over where my cartooning will lead me. And this is how I will get it out in the world. I don't know if Horst will pop up again. But he does have a cameo appearance on the poster for the Guelph Festival of Moving Media that I just illustrated and designed. It's posted below.

I wrote this cartoon three weeks ago, when my frustration built to a point where I felt I had no choice. But it too three weeks to get it done - and example of what happens when there's no publication deadline breathing down my back. Then, today, Stephen Harper announced a $500 tax credit for kids' art eduction. To show he really does care about the arts. It's not much money -- the most you'll actually see back is $75. But it looks good, just like the day care cheques. Harper seems to love to run a rebate, not a government.

Anyway, this made the cartoon a little less biting, my target a little less fulsome. You can see the Globe's Brian Gable talk about the speed at which issues come and go these days. And he's doing it every day, not every week or three.

Thanks to all those who have voted with their wallets by purchasing my book to express their appreciation for Weltschmerz. One reader purchased 10. You're tops, Chris! I'll think of this support when I'm staring at the ever-intimidating blank sheet of paper.

See the strip here.

Tomorrow night is, of course, the English debate for the Federal leaders. I'll be blogging live during the debate, so grab your laptop and follow along. This time, I'll be shooting from the hip. BANG!