As we enter week 271 of the Canadian federal election I thought it might be useful to do a quick review of the situation on the ground here in the Charlottetown electoral district.
I’ve a feeling that, if I were allowed access to the Conservative Party demographic profiling database, I would find our neighbourhood coded as “Bolshevik.” At least that’s what the evidence would suggest, as their candidate Tom DeBlois has no presence down here whatsoever: nothing’s appeared in the mail, I’ve yet to come across a campaign sign, the campaign HQ is way out at Oak Tree Place, and, short of a brief sighting at a party on Friday night, I’ve yet to lay eyes on the man. Of course this may just be prudent use of campaign resources on his part: if there is a centre of Bolshevism in the city, it’s probably centred in south-east Charlottetown, and maybe his time is better spent in the tonier suburbs.
Contrast this to the campaign of incumbent MP Shawn Murphy: there’s a big four-by-eight campaign sign up at the corner of Prince and Grafton, we’ve received two campaign fliers in the mailbox, Shawn’s headquarters are two blocks over in the heart of the downtown, and it’s hard not to run into Shawn making the rounds in the neighbourhood.
If the Murphy campaign literature is any gauge, the Green Shift is not playing well with the local electorate: there’s only a brief allusion to the plan in the latest flier, and the campaign home page contains neither the word “green” nor “shift.” This is a too bad: no matter whether the plan is the right one or not, the Conservative response to it — childish attack ads and “Stéphane Dion is going to take your children and send them to green energy tax camps in Uzbekistan”-style rhetoric — demands an impassioned, forceful defence.
The NDP has officially nominated a candidate, but haven’t yet gotten around to updating the party website, which is a metaphor for the party’s presence in the district (non-existent). It doesn’t help that their opening sound-bite of the campaign from their candidate was “I was hoping it wouldn’t be called because I knew that they were going to ask me to run, but when the election was called, all of a sudden it occurred to me that this could be the one that the NDP wins,” a statement with a perfect mix of regret and delusion. Makes me pine for the fiery partisan passions of Dodi Crane (the only federal candidate whose campaign ever prompted me to make a political donation).
To date the Green Party doesn’t have a Charlottetown candidate, which strikes me as being weird, as you would think that if there was a natural concentration of the Green constituency, Charlottetown would be it. Of course in a province where running for the NDP means you must reconcile yourself to a life on the fringes of polite society, I can’t imagine what running for the Greens would do. So recruitment must be an issue.
Oh, and there’s Christian Heritage Party and their candidate Baird Judson, someone who, if nothing else, deserves credit for tenacity. For tenacity and also for being the largest single financier of the democratic process in the district in the last election.
On a national level, the campaign has been reduced, in my ears, to a daily barrage of “Leader X today promised to immediately inject $700 billion into issue Y if elected.” The names and issues are interchangeable, and the amounts of money are so divorced from my reality as to be meaningless.
So whether it’s the Liberals (“A new Liberal government will double the budget of the Canada Council for the Arts to $360 million annually”) or the Conservatives (“Providing $100 million over the next five years for geological mapping focused on Canadas North and our polar continental shelf.”) or the NDP (“Layton said the New Democrats will commit $100 million a year for an expanded Canadian Training and Apprenticeship Tax Credit.”) it just feels like a meaningless nightly pummelling by Peter Mansbridge.
Makes me pine for the fiery passions of Pierre Trudeau.
As regards the local punditocracy, Kerry Campbell’s my man: he’s the radio news reporter covering the election for CBC Prince Edward Island, and his weekly roundup of the campaign is witty and wise.
Over at Compass they’ve rolled out Dr. Ian Dowbiggin again to be one half of their political panel. It’s not so much that Dowbiggin doesn’t have insights as that it would be nice, for once, to hear insights other than his. Are their no other political scientists on Prince Edward Island that they could call on?
And then there’s the weekly political panel on Island Morning: completely free of insight of any kind, what with all the joshing and catcalling. It may be “must listen” radio, but in more of a “last episode of Survivor” kind of way than for any elucidation on election issues it might offer. The best thing that ever happened to the panel was the one-time inclusion of Daniel Schulman as the “not in the mainstream” panelist during a previous election campaign. Schulman’s considered and honest discourse showed the hollow name-calling of the others for what it was, and made me wish that a new panel could be built around Schulman and others who actually have something to say.
We’re off to Iceland tomorrow for a week, which will give us a break from all of this. Looking forward to returning for the last two weeks of the campaign.