So let it be written…
Will the meek inherit Ottawa? Or the undeserving?
This all depends on how many voters are prepared to send strangers to Parliament come Oct. 19.
The electorate, of course, should be afforded some idea as to who the people whose names appear on the ballot sheets really are. And this, of course, requires candidates to make their ideas and principles available for public scrutiny.
Ducking all-candidates meetings is not leadership. It’s cowardice.
I’m not talking about political candidates unavoidably missing a meeting here or there, because hey, life happens and sometimes you’ve just got to be elsewhere.
What I am talking about is when candidates seeking public office shrinkingly acquiesce to dictates from political campaign potentates to keep a low public profile in a cynical effort to avoid controversy and, therefore, accountability.
These kinds of candidates generally don’t speak with the media, and don’t participate in public debates like all-candidates’ meetings. It would seem they hope the electorate, whom they allegedly aspire to serve, would rather mark an “X” beside a stranger’s name than that of somebody who has bothered to take a risk and stand out for what they believe and represent.
Usually, the scrutiny dodgers are candidates being fielded by the current governing party which, by virtue of that, has a record to defend.
On one hand there is rigorous, healthy defence which should be no problem to stage for those who have something worthy of defending. On the other hand, you have sneakiness and sloth…maybe if I bury my head in the sand like an ostrich, my critics will go away and new ones won’t be born.
There’s been recent debate as to whether the Conservative campaign engine has instructed its MP candidates to avoid public scrutiny by avoiding reporters and public debates. Writes Ryan Maloney, of Huffington Post Canada, “Conservative candidates are reportedly being urged to skip all-candidates meetings and avoid talking to the media – a strategy the party employed four years ago en route to capturing a majority government.”
Others, though, say this is a myth. Kate Heartfield, of the Ottawa Citizen, writes that “reports of Conservative disdain for all-candidates’ meetings are greatly exagerated.”
Whatever the case, there certainly does appear to be truth to the alleged Conservative cone of silence.
At least one writer has found themselves asking “Dude, where’s my Tory?”
Indeed, local Tory MPs have drawn some unflattering press over the years.
The Globe and Mail’s clever headline “Nina Grewal’s degree in political silence” comes to mind. I imagine that one still bites down on the veteran MP for Fleetwood-Port Kells.
More recently, Delta Conservative MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay starred in a Delta Optimist story under the headline “Incumbent too busy for forum.” She was the only political candidate, in the riding she represents, who didn’t participate in an all-candidate’s meeting at the Ladner Community Centre.
And this week, Surrey NDP MP Jasbir Sandhu took a shot over the bow of his Conservative rival Sucha Thind, in Surrey Centre.
Sandhu pressed ‘send’ on an electronic smack-down that took the Tory candidate to task for missing an all-candidates meeting sponsored by the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association, failing to answer their questionnaire, and missing a candidates’ forum on U.S. Thermal Coal in June.
“If candidates aren’t accessible and willing to share their opinions with the voters that they are hoping to represent,” Sandhu posited, “how can the residents of Surrey trust them to advocate for the needs of our community in Ottawa?”
Thind did attend the Surrey Board of Trade all-candidates meeting last Thursday night, however. So there’s that. In fact, that meeting was well-attended by all parties.
But not one Tory attended the only Surrey-wide all-candidates meeting on homelessness Tuesday night in Whalley. They didn’t even respond to the invite.
Four NDP candidates and one Liberal candidate were there.
Obviously, political candidates are not strictly obliged to attend all-candidates’ meetings.
They might indeed believe their time is better spent door-knocking, or working the phones or social media.
And that’s all well and fine. Some might think, and with reason, that there’s no new minds and hearts to be won at all-candidates meetings because oftentimes the audience is top-heavy with partisans and folk who’ve already made up their minds who they’ll vote for.
But – BUT – if a candidate avoids public exposure as part of a strategy, either personal or spawned by their party, to not make waves, avoid criticism and hide weakness, for shame.
To those political candidates who would hide, hoping to win by default, you are engaged in an election campaign, not a lottery.
If you’re going to get yourself elected, earn it.
Don’t slip under the wire like a thief in the night.
So let it be done
Tom Zytaruk is a staff writer with the Now. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org