Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer Editorial Series – We Used to Be Friends, A Long Time Ago

With July nearing its end, thoughts turn ever so lightly to the offerings of Fall. It won’t be too long till those Back to School commercials start filling the airwaves, and stacks of spiral notebooks and printer paper start taking up the real estate once held by lawn chairs and barbeques (can you tell I once worked in retail?). But when September hits, it won’t just be school some of us are heading back to, but the polls as well.

The Ontario Provincial Election will unfurl over the six weeks leading up to the October 6th polling date. Locally, Liberal Liz Sandals will attempt to defend her seat from the NDP’s James Gordon, the Green’s Steven Dyck and either Robert Demille, Greg Schirk and Bob Senechal for the Progressive Conservative Party. (NOTE: My Echo deadline was before this past Monday’s PC nomination meeting, so to find out which of the three is the one, head over to my blog at

You’ll notice that ‘P’ word in front of the Conservative. That’s important because the leaders and organizers of the Guelph-branch of the Ontario PCs want you to know they’re different. “One piece of information that’s important to know is that the PC Party of Ontario and the federal Conservative Party are not the same thing,” wrote Guelph PC President Allan Boynton to the Guelph Mercury’s managing editor Phil Andrews. Andrews posted the letter from Boynton on the “From the Editors” blog on the Mercury website.

Boynton’s sentiments were echoed in an e-mail we exchanged the week before. “I want you to know that this process is important to the City of Guelph, and it is our job as the local riding association to not guard our candidates but to make them available to you, and the people that vote here,” he wrote. Perhaps it should go without saying, but Boynton, who has some experience putting his name on a ballot after running for city council last year, knows that one can’t get elected in a vacuum of silence.

What’s strange is that Boynton has to make such assurances to begin with. It should be a foregone conclusion that a political candidate of any party should be available to reporters looking to talk to them. At some point a certain segment of the political discourse decided that the press was the enemy, and while some members of the press sometimes behave in a manner unbefitting of our noble profession (*cough*News of the World*cough*), the truth is that “gotcha journalism” is something made up by Sarah Palin to explain why she didn’t know stuff. We’re just asking questions.

That’s a shame because no matter the division that separates us in our politics, there’s always stuff we can come together and celebrate. For instance, I salute Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his appearance this week as a day player on the turn-of-the-20th-century crime procedural Murdoch Mysteries. The Prime Minister is a big fan, and says he’s never missed an episode of the show. After a nudge from his daughter, he reached out to the show’s producers, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Like a number of Canadian politicians, Harper has, in the past, shown no qualms about appearing on sketch comedy shows like The Rick Mercer Report, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, and The Royal Canadian Air Farce. It always amuses me when American politicians laud their own humorousness by appearing on Saturday Night Live or The Daily Show, while in Canada the interim leader of one of our major political parties once dived into a lake naked with a CBC TV host.

I’ve ranted and raved a lot in recent months about the cone of silence that the Conservative Party perpetuated during the last election, and I don’t just mean locally with a certain candidate that will remain nameless. To be clear, elections are about engagement, and included in that are press interviews and debate appearances. But even if there’s something not self-evident in that, Can’t we at least believe that we all mean well, and that we probably have a lot in common once we get past our political alignments.

You see, I, like the Prime Minister, also enjoy the intrepid Inspector Murdoch, who uses up-to-the-date scientific techniques, the then ever burgeoning field of forensics, to solve crimes in Victorian Toronto. It’s like a steampunk CSI. Now do you think that the stars and producers of Murdoch Mysteries were vetted for their politics before Harper arrived on set to play the bit part of a desk sergeant? I hardly think so. Why can’t the same be said for average citizens and journalists?

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