Since I’ve started working on the Guelph Beat column, I’ve kept the focus primarily on municipal politics and issues within the borders of the Royal City. But wait, I thought, isn’t there some very important Federal politics happening in Guelph? Aren’t we currently without representation in the House of Commons, waiting breathlessly for a writ of by-election to be dropped?
Ah yes, I said to myself, I do remember these things correctly.
Brenda Chamberlain’s resignation as Guelph’s Member of Parliament became official on April 7 as she stepped down after nearly 15 years of service. One month later, there’s still no sign that a by-election is forthcoming even though Canadian law deems that one must be called within six months of a vacancy; meaning that the government has until October 7 to call it.
Certainly local candidates appear ready to go anytime between then and now. As I trolled websites this past week, I found a swipe at Chamberlain and the Liberals published on Gloria Kovach’s website. Kovach is the Conservative nominee for Guelph.
“The Liberal Party wasted no time getting out of town,” the April 20 statement said. “Although responsible to maintain the constituency office, they quickly removed all indications that one continues to exist.” The message went on to say that, “No statement has been issued by the departing MP, or local party officials as to how the people of Guelph are to obtain federal government services.”
Well, either in response to Kovach’s website, or in spite of it, an announcement was made two days later that Kitchener-Centre MP Karen Redman would be acting as Guelph’s temporary representative until a new one can be elected. The constituency office on Cork St. remains open even though, yes, it no longer bares the Chamberlain name on the front or any other signing. Redman told the Guelph Tribune that new singing is not usually put up in these instances.
Still, when you walk past the old Chamberlain office, one can’t help but get the feeling of abandonment. For this reporter, when I went by the office myself the other day, I had to stop and think about what was there (and apparently still is there) previously. But what it does do is draw attention to the fact that Guelph currently has no representative in Ottawa, which makes the need for a by-election all the more apparent. Some don’t seem to see it that way though.
Ken Morgan, a candidate for Ward 6 in the last municipal election and current president of Guelph Conservatives, wrote a column for the Guelph Tribune and told Guelphites to “Have patience, Guelph will have a new MP soon enough. We've gone almost a year without one . . . and no one seemed to have noticed . . .”
Morgan also said that, “If the people calling for an immediate by-election were so concerned about Guelph not having representation in Ottawa, where have they been the past few years? Why wasn't Jack Layton standing up in the house almost one year ago demanding that Guelph MP Brenda Chamberlain step aside?”
Well Layton’s man in the Royal City is standing up now. Writing in response to Morgan, in a letter printed April 22 in the Tribune, King said, “As the NDP candidate in Guelph, I want to see a by-election called as soon as possible. Being without an MP to voice our concerns in Ottawa is, frankly, unacceptable and unnecessary. It's rather like playing hockey without a goalie.”
So far, Kovach and King’s fellow candidates, Liberal Frank Valeriote and Green Mike Nagy, have been silent as to where they stand on the immediacy of a by-election. But the smart money says don’t look for a move on any of this until September at the earliest.