I thought that the series of federal candidate meetings we had here last week would allow me to do one of two things: either conjure up a enthusiastic endorsement of one of the candidates, or, at least, to write at some length about the candidates and their ideas.
I find myself unable to do either.
I think, in my heart of hearts, I wanted the candidates to fall into the stereotypes I had pre-assigned them. I wanted Will McFadden to be a lunatic. Or to be some sort of Green Trudeau. I wanted Dody Crane to appear muddled and beholden to big labour. I wanted Darren Peters to be the devil. And I wanted Shawn Murphy to appear irrelevant and worthy of casting aside.
Alas, none of the candidates matched my stereotypes.
Will was neither a lunatic nor an Ubermensch: he was an enthusiastic, well-spoken environmentalist one-worlder who had been asked to run, and accepted.
Dody was smart, and passionate. She’s a True Believier in what the NDP stands for, and she’s back for her fifth election because she thinks she can make a difference.
Darren appeared to be more sympathetic to the Greens than to his own party, and wasn’t at all devil-like. He reminded me of myself (albeit with more musical ability, family connections, and facial hair).
Shawn convinced me that he’s a hard-working guy who understands that it takes a long time to get things done, and that he has the patience to see things through. He came across as scrupulously honest, and although he’s very much a Team Martin player, he was willing, at times, to poke holes in the platform.
In the end, I’m no further ahead, decision-wise, than I was before.
I suppose it’s time now to dig into the party platforms and see what the meat of each party’s ideas looks like.
Policy and platforms aside, here’s some anecdotal evidence of our sessions:
Will bought his snazzy green suit at Value Village. He walked in, picked it off the rack, and it fit. During his time in the military, he went overseas to Bosnia, where he had something of an epiphany, and realized he wanted to work on the peace side of the equation, not the war side. He lives in his van, which has solar powered Christmas lights.
Darren is an accomplished folk singer, no doubt due his Carmichael roots. He’s anti-choice on abortion, but pro-legalization of marijuana. He considers himself a progressive. His campaign vehicle is a Toyota Highlander; it gets 27 mpg in city driving.
Dody truly believes there are good people and bad people in the world, and she has no fear of pointing of which are which. She seems to take the existence of the Greens as a personal affront, even more so the notion that someone on the left would consider voting for them. When the new office building on the boardwalk in Charlottetown opens, her law office will be located just under the giant heart window. Her campaign vehicle is a VW New Beetle; it gets 27 mpg in city driving, the same as Darren’s.
Shawn spends 36 weeks of the year in Ottawa. He leaves Charlottetown every Sunday, spends Monday through Thursday in Ottawa, returns to town for a full day of constituency work on Fridays, and repeats. On principle, he doesn’t use his accumulated Aeroplan miles himself: he donates them to efforts like flying a student up to Ottawa each session to tape a TV program.
That’s simply a collection of the enduring images; there was 6 hours of conversation in and around all of that, and I think all in attendance learned a lot. Thanks to all the candidates for attending; I think everyone, candidates included, came away thinking that that this is how politics should be done.
Based on the success of our meetings, we’ve made a tentative decision to carry on our “Sessions at 84” series of informal meetings, expanding our scope beyond the political; think of it as Zap Your PRAM without the lasagna. Watch this space for details.