Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Candidates: Sandals and Gordon

James Gordon Sings a New Tune

In politics, like show business, name cache matters. Just look at Julian Fantino, the former OPP Chief, who has run twice for MP of Vaughn and has won twice despite the fact that he gave no press access, and participated in no public forums. But Gordon’s not that complacent. As a singer, song-writer, playwright, and radio man, Gordon knows how important the public forum is.

Now, after being an active member of the NDP for years, and after years of having party members try and entice him to run for office, Gordon is now putting his name on a ballot, and aiming to get himself elected as Guelph’s MPP. “I think it’s because they presumed that I had a profile in the community already that would work well,” says Gordon on his appeal as a candidate. “But in the arts sector we have a natural outlet for trying to communicate messages and issues, so I’ve always said no to them because I’m already doing that work, and enjoying what I do and having fun while doing it, so why would I want to change it up?

“This is the first time when they’ve asked when, you know what, I’m ready for a change up,” he adds. “I think this is an exciting opportunity and that there’s a unique window of opportunity with this particular election.”

Gordon’s campaign has been as much about hearing what the people have to say as it is about promoting the NDP platform. Gordon’s says his summer listening tour, going to constituents’ homes and hearing what they have to say, was a smash success. “It was a great experience,” he says. “They’ve almost disappeared because every evening now is filled with debates and events. But it was such a great learning process for me, and everybody was actually surprised by the process that ‘Hey, people want to know what I have to say,’ and you realize how seldom it is that people gather for the purpose of sharing ideas and visioning.”

Liz Sandals Has More Work to Do (And Wants Your Vote to Do It)

Liz Sandals has represented Guelph for the past eight years in Queen’s Park. That’s a large amount of time to hold any political seat, so it’s no wonder that a lot of her colleagues took the opportunity this fall to retire from provincial politics to explore new ventures and new challenges. But Sandals felt that her current job still had some challenges left to conquer.

“I think we’ve made really exciting progress so far in turning the province around,” says Sandals. “It’s been tough work the last few years because we’ve had worldwide recession, but all things considered Ontario has pulled through that pretty well. We’ve recovered the jobs, but there’s still a lot of work we have to do rebuilding the economy here in Guelph, making sure we’ve diversified the economy so that we don’t take such a deep hit when there’s a recession. And I’m really excited by some of the things we’re doing with education because that’s my background.”

In the campaign, Sandals has been hitting back against the impression that she doesn’t represent the people of Guelph as much as she represents the Liberal Party in Guelph, but Sandals says this depiction is wrong. “I think if you look at some of the projects that I’ve personally been involved with advocating for here, they actually are a result of listening to people in the community,” says Sandals. She points to the development of an emergency mental health ward, working with Guelph General Hospital and Homewood, to better serve the community, particularly people in mental health crisis.

“It took a lot of work, working with all the different players of Guelph, it took a lot of bugging the Minister of Health of the day because this was a uniquely Guelph problem,” she adds. “This wasn’t something for which there was a provincial funding line, but we were eventually able to get Trellis, Homewood and Guelph General to all come together, and now there’s an emergency mental health ward at Guelph General Hospital that has the proper secure facilities.”

To hear the complete interviews, check out the Guelph Politicast, available at

The Horse Race As It Is

With one week to go until Election Day, the polls are coming fast and furiously, and with every announcement it one thing is perfectly clear: it’s a toss up as to what the political landscape in Ontario is going to look like next Thursday. Province-wide, the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives are in a statistical dead heat, with the NDP in a respectable, but distant 23 per cent. With these numbers and others,’s seat projection model shows that the Liberals are likely to win 55 seats, which is one more than they need for a majority. It’s a loss of 15 seats for the Grits, but just barely enough to win their third majority.

Locally, the results seem much clearer. A Forum Research poll released last Saturday showed that Liberal Liz Sandals will walk to re-election with 37.6 per cent of the vote. PC Greg Schirk comes in second with 30.3 per cent followed by NDP James Gordon and Green Steve Dyck with 21.9 per cent and 8.8 per cent respectively. Next Thursday should be very interesting indeed.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Candidates Speak!

After a busy couple of weeks covering some anonymous film festival in Toronto, I finally got down to the real process of politicking by interviewing the candidates running for Member of Provincial Parliament of Guelph. Of our riding’s seven declared candidates, here are some words from three who are looking for your vote on October 6th.

You Don’t Know Dyck

Green Party candidate Steve Dyck faces a similar dilemma as he campaigns for Guelph MPP that his Federal counterpart John Lawson did in this past spring’s election. Like Lawson, Dyck follows a candidate with two elections under their belt and a wave of popular support. But unlike Lawson, Dyck hopes to break though and build on Ben Polley’s third place finish in 2007, and he hopes to do that by tackling his party’s core issue, and doing so more thoroughly than the other parties.

“I’m so passionate about the issues,” says Dyck who officially kicked off his political career as the Green Party of Ontario’s energy critic on The Agenda with Steve Paikin. “I feel like the Liberals, the Conservatives and the NDP really have abandoned the environment.”

The environment doesn’t get a lot of air in these difficult economic times when jobs and budgets are more worrisome, so how does the Green Party candidate reach voters? “I often don’t speak about the environment, what I mostly talk about is the economy and building an economy that makes sense, and works for people,” explains Dyck. “The Liberals have imported the Green Energy Act from Germany, and when they did that I wanted to applaud. But they imported the technology and left the community out. Renewable energy in Germany is overwhelmingly community-financed, community-based, which allows rate-payers the ability to gain the benefit.”

Fourth Time Around for Garvie

By running again for the Communist Party of Canada in Guelph, Drew Garvie holds up a proud Royal City tradition as the Canadian face of the revolution began here in 1921. Garvie is running for the fourth time for political office in Guelph, his second attempt at the MPP seat after two Federal runs.

Amongst his campaign promises, Garvie, and the Communists, are pledging to do something that, surprisingly, no other party has said that they’ll do: completely eliminate the HST from Ontario’s bookkeeping. “I think what the HST basically is, and the voters of B.C. obviously understood it, the majority of voters see it as placing the burden on them rather than the people who actually have the ability to pay,” explains Garvie.

Garvie also wants to bring attention to another issue that’s not being discussed a lot in the campaign: the demand for an inquiry into police action during the G20 protests in the summer of 2010. “It was the largest crackdown, the largest mass arrest in Canadian history, and it was facilitated by the McGuinty Liberals and the Federal Tories,” Garvie says emphatically. “[They] gave police sweeping powers that they need to go in bust heads, arrest 1,100 people and ended up not charging a lot of them. People were in terrible conditions in ‘Guantanamo North,’ as they called it, and AndrĂ© Marin, the Ontario Ombudsman, has said that this was the biggest compromise of civil rights in Canadian history.”

Schirk is Lovin’ the Campaign Trail

Greg Schirk talks about missing his morning coffee, but he doesn’t seem like it. The Progressive Conservative candidate was the last of the major party candidates to be acclaimed by his riding association, but Schirk says it’s been an easy transition to full-on campaign mode, and he’s ready to help PC leader Tim Hudak form the next government of the Province of Ontario. But first things first: the issues.

For one thing, Schirk maybe campaigning on eliminating Smart Meters and undoing some of the McGuinty government’s deals to create Green energy, but Schirk doesn’t want you to think he’s not environmentally friendly. “Guelph has a reputation for being a green community, and that happened long before the Green Energy Act,” he explains. “It was grassroots driven, it wasn’t top down. You look at this community and I just can’t see us shutting that desire to be a community and contribute to a better environment. When you look at this push from the community, I think it’s going to continue regardless of what legislation is in place.”

Schirk has been busy campaigning and attending events and debates, and says that he wouldn’t mind campaigning full-time. “I’ve got to tell you how much I love doing this,” Schirk says with obvious joy. “This is so much fun. I get to meet so many people, I’ve always liked talking politics, and I’m learning so much, that’s the great thing. And I’m not only learning fro the PC caucus, but from the average person that answers the door.”

To listen to the complete candidate interviews, go to my blog at where you can listen the complete podcast of my candidate interviews, as well as get all the latest election scoop.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Garvie's Back, Sign Issues and Debate Prep

Fourth Try for Fifth Party Candidate

The day after the writ was officially dropped for the 2011 Ontario Provincial Election, Communist Party candidate Drew Garvie announced his intention to once again run to represent Guelphites.

“Youth and working-people in Ontario are justifiably angry at the Liberal Government for protecting corporate wealth and privilege while real wages and living standards are falling, real unemployment is rising and the real economy is tottering on the edge of another deep recession,” said Garvie in a press release. “But voting Tory to punish the Liberals is like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.”

Garvie first ran in the 2007 Provincial Election, eventually winning .4 per cent of the vote. Running the next fall in the Federal Election, he didn't finish as well with only .13 per cent of the popular vote, but he did however capitalize on that in this past spring's Federal Election, increasing his vote share to .17 per cent. True it doesn't sound like much, but for a so-called third party candidate, literally every vote counts. Garvie’s entry into the race takes the slate up to five, although potential candidates have until 2 pm today (Thursday) to file their nomination papers.

Fun fact: the Communist Party of Canada was actually founded just outside Guelph in 1921. Of course, “just outside Guelph” is relative because what was outside of Guelph 90 years ago is now way inside the city limits. Some may say Garvie’s being a nuisance, but to the rest of us he’s keeping up a proud Royal City tradition. Welcome back to the race, Drew.

Sign Language

A bit of controversy to kick off the election as the Liz Sandals campaign put up election signs on Tuesday afternoon, several hours before the writ was official dropped for the start of the campaign. This is a bit of a murky area because while limitations for fundraising for a campaign are very well defined, advertising your campaign with the placement of signs is not. “Our read of Elections Ontario is that there is not a distinction,” between pre-writ and post writ advertising with signs, Sandals told the Guelph Mercury. She added that the reason her campaign didn’t put out signs earlier is out of respect for the public. “It’s more a case of respecting the public’s tolerance for wanting to look at signs, as opposed to any particular legal rule,” she said. An Elections Ontario official said that elections signs can appear anytime before the writ so long as the campaign can identify who paid for the signs.

Opening Arguments

The first all-candidate meet of the election happened last Thursday at the main branch of the Guelph Public Library. Liberal Liz Sandals, NDP James Gordon and the Green Party’s Steve Dyck were each in attendance, while the PC’s Greg Schirk and Communist Drew Garvie were unable to attend.

Not surprisingly, one of the major issues discussed was library funding, a hot button for library-lovers given Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s recent efforts to cut the municipal library budget in that city. Gordon was quite adamant in his support saying, “Investing in libraries and cultural activities brings money to a community. It’s not ‘throwing money at a problem.’ Libraries are income generators.”

Gordon then promised to cut the wait time for the construction of a new library in half saying that 10 years is too long a time to wait. But Sandals rebutted that while libraries are a good thing, the library funding isn’t really a matter for the provincial government. Dyck, meanwhile, wanted to talk about the provincial budget and getting Ontario out of the red, which means not much room for new spending. “The Green party would hold the spending in all ministries except health care,” he said. “We can’t tax more and we need to get our debt in line. So we’d have to hold the spending for now.”

Look for several debates and candidates forums in the next couple of weeks. Two of the biggest ones will be the University of Guelph debate on September 28th, which will feature questions from students, and the Guelph Chamber of Commerce debate, which took place this past Tuesday, but will probably be repeated ad nauseum on Rogers TV.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Schirk Smarts, Garbage Woes, and Gordon Plays

Get Smart

It seems one of the big issues in these early days of the election is the newly installed hydro smart meters. The intention of the smart meters is to charge a premium during a peak hours in the effort to get consumers to pay a fee closer to the true cost of electricity and to promote conservation. But some people are calling it an unfair hit to the pocket book of Ontarians, including Guelph Progressive Conservative candidate Greg Schirk.

Schirk was joined in town last week by PC MPP Jim Wilson (Simcoe-Grey), and the two not only campaigned against the smart meters, but what they’re calling the “Smart Meter Tax,” which is a charge to administer the monitoring of the smart meters. The Tories say that under Dalton McGuinty, hydro rates have gone up 84 percent and 150 percent for homes with a smart meter, not to mention the $1 billion ($200 per household) price tag that came with installing smart meters.

“The choice Ontario families face is clear,” says Schirk in a press release. “Dalton McGuinty who plots tax hikes in secret. The NDP who plot tax hikes out in the open. Or a Tim Hudak Ontario PC Government – that will cancel the Smart Meter Tax, unplug the mandatory smart meters, and give families the relief they deserve.”

Current Guelph MPP Liz Sandals responded in the Guelph Mercury calling the Tory allegations “a campaign stunt.” She also said that the added costs to install and maintain smart meters were included in long-term energy cost projections and are public knowledge. And then, for the final blow, Sandals said that if the Tories are only finding this out now is “their problem,” and that “they have not discovered anything new.” Ouch.

Look for this to be an ongoing campaign issue in the next couple of weeks.

Garbage Woes

So was your garbage picked up last week? If it wasn’t it might be because you’re not aware of the new regulations concerning what garbage goes into what bag. On September 1st, some slight modifications were made to what type of garbage should be put in what bag. Dirty diapers and tampons can no longer be put in green bags, and plastic coffee cups and Styrofoam can no longer be placed in blue bags. These changes are but the first phase of as the city tries to follow provincial mandates and new standards concerning waste collection, including the elimination of plastic bags and the introduction of bins for household waste collection.

The Music Man

There were cupcakes with orange coloured icing, orange coloured punch, and, of course, oranges. So it must have been an NDP campaign event. James Gordon and staff officially opened their campaign office last Wednesday offering a cozy atmosphere, light refreshments and some tunes in the old Alma Gallery space. Considering that Mayor Karen Farbridge used the space last fall in her successful re-election campaign bid, perhaps the Gordon crew are hoping the good karma will rub off. "It's new what we've got here," said Gordon kicking the night off in front of over 100 supporters and well-wishers, "It's democratic and it's a party."

Several of the local NDP’s familiar faces were in attendance including Bobbi Stewart, who ran federally in Guelph this past May. Charlie Angus, NDP MP for Timmins-James Bay, was also on hand for the opening. Angus played some music, along with the candidate himself, and local favourite Tannis Slimmon. "Suddenly it's okay to for a musician to be an MP, and it's okay to bring music to politics," cheered Gordon before he broke into his first song of the night.”

Gordon’s got a lot of expectations on him being a familiar Guelph celebrity and an active activist in the community. As of last Wednesday, his campaign has raised $8,000 so far, and will be holding at least two other fundraiser, including one at Spice 11 on Monday.

Dyck Moves

Green Party candidate Steve Dyck has been quietly building support, but this Sunday he has his first big campaign event, a dinner and silent auction with special guest Mike Schreiner, Leader of the Green Party of Ontario. The dinner begins as 5 pm at the Woolwich Arms, or the Wooly to the those in the know, and includes salad, choice of meat or vegetarian lasagna and dessert. Tickets are $50 each and are available to purchase by calling the campaign office 519-780-5193. In the meantime, I stopped by the Guelph Greens website to see if, at the start of this election season, it was back up and running at full capacity. It wasn’t

For the latest campaign news go to

Thursday, September 1, 2011

All the Writ Moves

The writ for the 2011 Ontario Provincial campaign officially drops next week, which opens the doors to a tight month of campaigning for local politicians vying for the seat to represent Guelph in Queen’s Park. The slate of the four major party candidates was officially solidified in July, but the question is what moves have they been making in their operations leading up to the official campaign kick-off.

Our current MPP, Liberal Liz Sandals, has been doing what she usual does: her job. The typical series of announcements and commentary have been made by Sandals as she both fulfills her constitutional mandate and defends her party in the face to opposition statements meant to curry voter sympathy. To wit, Sandals was quoted in an August 15 article in the Guelph Mercury saying that the Progressive Conservative’s plan to slash home hydro and heating bills by approximately $275 per year was “nothing more than a shell game.”

She added that the debt at Ontario Hydro can be laid at the feet of the previous Tory government saying that it was driven up, in part, due to mismanagement. “All that money got run up during the last PC government because they were charging less than the true cost of hydro,” Sandals said. “If you don’t charge the consumer, you have to borrow from the bank.”

On the other hand, Sandals has tried to hit some usual constituencies. It was her voice (or e-mail, I supposed) that informed 2,4000 opponents to the mega quarry in Melancthon Township that the Ontario Ministry of the Environment has major concerns about the project. On a slightly more positive note, Sandals was on hand to announce a $77,800 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to be used toward making high school students aware of the opportunities in the burgeoning agriculture sector last week. Obviously this program, if successful, could have a huge impact on Guelph.

Speaking of all things environmental, Green Party candidate Steve Dyck has been quietly getting his campaign together while getting fundraising together and doing some canvassing at local events. He officially opened his campaign office at 497 Woolwich St. N. Additionally, Dyck has been helping to get the word out about the GPO platform and leader Mike Schreiner, and responding to electors’ questions and queries on Facebook and Twitter.

Readers of my blog will already know that NDP candidate James Gordon has been spending some of his summer vacation doing a listening tour of the city. The singer/song-writer asked Guelphites if they might like to gather their friends and invite him over to their homes so that they can ask him questions and voice their concerns. This week he opened his campaign office at 133 Wyndham St. N., the former home of the Alma Gallery, which featured music courtesy of the candidate and his NDP colleague, and Timmins-James Bay MP, Charlie Angus. Gordon also helped organize a candlelight vigil for Federal NDP leader Jack Layton, who passed away from cancer a week ago Monday.

Greg Schirk, candidate for the local Progressive Conservatives, spent much of his summer campaigning not for provincial office, but to get acclaimed as his party’s local candidate. Securing his candidacy in late July, Schirk has hit the ground running by hosting events and doing the leg work to get his campaign off the ground. Despite his late entry in the race, Schirk’s political machine was quick to establish itself and get to work, and with a province-wide lead in opinion polls, the PCs here and across Ontario don’t want to lose momentum going into the race before it’s even officially begun. Especially since recent polls have shown the provincial Liberals starting to turn their own downtrodden fortunes around.

Starting next week, look for Campaign 2011 Coverage Part 2: “The Wrath of Khan.” Also, check out my blog, Guelph Politico, for all the latest updates and election scoops at And if you’re not sick of me by then, I’ll probably be a guest on CFRU’s “Beyond the Ballot Box” political show before too long. Happy election season, folks! Here we go again.