This interesting article was written by
Nikolaus Maack (former owner of this website)

Candidates Meeting #5

 

The last Ottawa centre All Candidates’ Meeting was being held at the Carleton Heights Community Centre. I figured Andrew and I would have to take the number 3 bus to get there, or else walk for an hour and a half. It was hard to believe that part of town, so distant, is still considered Ottawa Centre.

As Andrew and I headed to the bus stop, we walked past Richard Mahoney’s campaign headquarters, near the corner of Bank and Somerset.

“We should ask Mahoney for a lift,” I suggested. “He recognizes us by now. Do you think he’d do it?”

“I don’t think they’d even allow me inside the campaign headquarters,” Andrew said.

We decided not to ask.

It was a rainy evening, around six o’clock. A few commuters were trying to get home. We had a fifteen minute wait for the bus.

“I wonder if David Chernushenko is going to bike to the meeting in the rain,” I said. “If he drove there, would he still walk into the meeting carrying his bicycle helmet?”

(I’d noticed that as he arrived at these meetings, David usually had his bike helmet under one arm.)

“I never thought of that,” Andrew answered. “You’re even more cynical than I am.”

The bus arrived, we got on, and sat way at the back. A few stops later, Robert Gauthier, the Independent candidate got on. He sat way at the front of the bus.

“Hey, that’s Robert Gauthier!” I said excitedly.

People sitting nearby overheard me and looked towards the front of the bus for the “celebrity” I’d spotted. All they saw was an older gentleman wearing a shiny suit.

I put away my map. “Let’s just follow him — assuming he knows where he’s going. Hard to believe he’s not going to pull up to the meeting in a limo,” I joked. “Then again, should we trust him? He’s running as an independent. Maybe he has no idea where he’s going.”

“I like him,” Andrew admitted. “He’s crazy, of course. But that’s why I like him. Richard Mahoney is too sane, which is why I’ll never vote for him.”

When Robert got off the bus, we did too. As he stood waiting at an intersection, we walked up behind him.

“Robert!” I called out as we approached.

He turned and smiled at us. Andrew and I had spoken to him briefly at the Glebe meeting, so he recognized us.

“Do you know where you’re going?” I asked him. “Because we’re following you.”

He nodded and pointed down the street. “It’s a bit of a walk.”

The three of us headed off together. What did it mean, I wondered, that we had joked about getting a ride to the meeting with Mahoney, and instead we ended up riding the bus and walking with Gauthier? Something about it struck me as sort of creepy — as if Andrew and I were being relegated to the lower ranks of a social club.

Andrew asked Gauthier a bunch of questions while I listened in. This is why Andrew is so very convenient to have around — he asks tough questions while I take mental notes.

What was involved in running a campaign? You had to get one hundred signatures. “So I stood on Elgin and Bank and asked people,” Robert said. “I had to ask 700 people in order to get 100 signatures.” He had to pay one thousand dollars (refundable) up front. He needed an agent to deal with the money, and an auditor.

“The agent is doing it as a favour, and the government provides the auditor,” Robert said.

“If it weren’t for Ed running, you’d have my vote,” Andrew said.

Robert was pleased with that. I was a little surprised at Andrew’s comment. Then again, Gauthier’s notion of running without a party, just as a regular individual, did echo Andrew’s notion of anarchy. Anarchists believe everyone needs to be involved on a personal level — exactly what Gauthier was doing.

“What do you think of Mike Murphy?”

“Mike? He’s a decent guy,” Gauthier said.

“You really think so?”

“They’re all decent guys,” Gauthier insisted. He wouldn’t badmouth them, and that impressed me. They were all doing their best, and they had to be respected for that. “There’s one thing you need, if you’re going to run for office, and that’s decency. Everything else, you can learn.”

“You’d probably get more votes if you dropped the whole ‘abortion is murder’ issue,” Andrew pointed out.

Gauthier said he would never drop that. He believed in it too strongly. It was too important to drop. While I disagree with his position, I had to admire his tenacity.

We’d been walking for quite a bit, and Gauthier didn’t seem 100% certain of where we were. Andrew and I started to wonder if following him had been a good idea.

“You see what happens?” Andrew teased. “Never let a politician lead you.”

“We’re going to have a very small candidates’ meeting,” I joked. “Us and Robert Gauthier.”

We saw a young kid on the street. Gauthier asked, “Do you know where Apeldoorn avenue is?”

The boy pointed down the street we were on and told us to keep walking straight.

“Thank you, sir,” Gauthier said, and on we went.

We found it. This wasn’t Ottawa Centre — these were the suburbs. There was little or no downtown feel. The community centre was next to a large, green park. There was little traffic and lots of trees. Who decided this place had any relation to the Glebe and the downtown core?

Outside the meeting stood some Conservatives holding their usual signs. And there was the smooth-skinned man in the hat who organized them. We chatted for a bit, said hi, and then Andrew asked:

“Do you remember, at the last meeting, when the person asked the question about Mechanicsville? That was one of your guys, right?”

Andrew asked the question very casually. It would have been easy to say yes.

“I saw him,” said a guy holding a sign. “He wasn’t one of ours.”

“No, he wasn’t one of us,” the man in the hat said. “We ask intelligent questions.”

When we were inside, I asked Andrew, “Do you think they’re lying?”

“I don’t know,” Andrew said.

It was impossible to tell.

The auditorium – more of a gym, really — was full of chairs, with a long table in the front. The moderator was a little biased towards his own community. People could ask questions, but he would prefer they come from Carleton Heights residence first.

There were 8 chairs up front, but only 7 candidates. Carla Dalancey (Canadian Action Party) came in late a half hour later. She explained that she’d had an opportunity to be on CPAC, that it was a “national audience” and she just couldn’t say no to that. She seemed a little giddy from her TV appearance.

Once again, the Marijuana Party candidate never showed, or perhaps wasn’t invited. It was hard to say which.

Mahoney had a bag at his feet, so I knew he was going to provide us with a repeat performance of Tuesday night’s rap with his Mohammed Ali gloves. But he was upstaged before he got the chance. It was David Chernushenko’s turn to sing.

David was upset because he – and many other Greens – had received packages in the mail telling them not to vote Green and to vote NDP. He said the material attacked him personally, but the accusations were easily refuted. Up until now it had been a clean campaign, and he thought Ed really was a good honest man. Now David knew better. “Check out ottawagreens.ca for more information,” he said. Then he sang a little rap song about it.

Ed never responded to the accusations.

Richard Mahoney admitted he’d sung his rap song previously at the Glebe meeting, but provided us with a repeat performance. After he was finished, no one else sang, and we were all very grateful.

Mike Murphy made his same stupid joke he made at the Glebe – he hoped that Ed, David, and Richard all had time to work on their music careers after June 28th. Mike never did rise to Ed’s challenge of a “rap off” — the big coward.

Because I have been to five of these meetings, I know most of the speeches the candidates make. It’s like seeing a movie five times – you know the lines before the actors speak. So when someone asked about jobs and the economy, I knew David Chernushenko would give his “wind farm speech”.

There’s a lot of wind in Saskatchewan and it’s an untapped resource. Green collar jobs. Jobs people can be proud of. Energy generated could be used for other industries. Yadda yadda yadda.

The candidates prepare tapes in their heads. When Someone asks a question on an issue, they play the prepared tape. This makes sense – only crazy people like Andrew and myself go to five meetings in a row. Most people only attend a single meeting.

Mike Murphy used his “accountability speech” as often as he could at every meeting. He starts it with, “I believe your question is about accountability,” and then he launches into an attack on the Liberals, saying how they can’t be trusted. Vote Conservative because they keep all their promises.

Someone asked a long rambling question about issues like Monsanto and pesticides and what role Health Canada plays in these issues. Mike Murphy stood up and said, for the third time that night, “I believe your question is about accountability,” and the audience laughed and groaned. As always, Mike looked startled by the reaction – but once the tape starts, he can’t stop it. The tape ran to the end, and he sat down.

Someone in the audience yelled out, “It was about pesticides!”

Mike’s handlers must have told him that the way to reach people is to echo back their questions. How does he feel about health care? “The Conservative party is concerned about health care.” What’s their stand on the environment? He cares about the environment. When someone asked about child poverty, he started his response with, “I care about child poverty. What’s important is tax relief.”

You see, the Conservatives feel that the way to help poor people is not to tax them as much. Evidently they are unaware that the poor are poor. Even if you don’t tax the little money they have, they’ve still got very little money. So how does tax relief help?

While Mike was talking about tax relief, Andrew leaned over to me and whispered, “It’s fucking Reaganomics.” And it was.

When someone asked about the arts, Mike Murphy said… Can you guess? “The Conservative party supports the arts.” That was all it took to have the audience openly laughing at him.

Stuart Ryan (Communist) stood up after that and said, “I question the Conservatives commitment to the arts.”

The audience roared their agreement, applauding him furiously. The other candidates applauded too. Stuart looked terrified by all the praise.

“Elaborate, elaborate!” Ed yelled out to Stuart.

“I will,” Stuart said. “Uh… The CBC.. Uh…. The corporate media… Um…”

And the moment was lost, as Stuart really didn’t know what to say. He mumbled for a while and then gave up. Still, it was his greatest moment in the campaign.

Carla Dalancey is too honest to be a politician. When the question of The Clarity Act came up, she said, what’s the clarity act? If it’s about preventing Quebec from being able to even answer the question of whether they can leave or not, she’s against it. If it’s just a set of rules that determine what Quebec has to do in order to leave, she’s for it. That sort of honesty just doesn’t work in political circles.

There was a moment when people laughed at Carla. Throughout all the meetings, she kept giving the same two speeches over and over. At first they made no sense to me, but either she got better at saying them, or repeated exposure helped.

One speech can be summarized as “NAFTA is bad” – she summarized it that way herself, when pressed for time. The other issue is Canada’s debt.

Right now, our debt is with private banks. It wasn’t always this way. Why not return this debt to the Bank of Canada – “our own bank” – and charge ourselves less interest? It’s like taking the debt on a high interest credit card and transferring it to a lower interest card. That way we’d have more money for all the programs we want.

A member of the audience asked a question – given that the Bank of Canada has such-in-such dollars in assets, and the exact same number in liabilities, they’re broke. How could they possible afford to buy back the debt Canada owes?

Carla claimed that banks don’t work that way. When you go to a bank, they don’t lend you a thousand dollars based on the money other depositors have given them. They effectively just print up the money out of nothing and give it to you. That’s when people started laughing, talking over her, and shaking their heads. People refused to believe what she was saying.

The person who asked the question yelled out, “But they’re broke!”

“She’s right,” Andrew whispered to me. “That’s exactly how it works.”

Later that night, Andrew said he found Dalancey very intelligent, and it was too bad she looked like a mom from the suburbs. That’s why no one believes her. She’d gone off to university, learned things about the world, and now in a fit of zeal she was trying to share her knowledge. Only the world thinks she’s nuts, because they don’t know what she knows. And there’s no way to communicate the facts in one minute sound bites.

“It would take more than four hours to explain the whole thing,” Andrew said.

“Okay, let’s say that she’s right – that we could just have the Bank of Canada print out a whole lot of money, and transfer our debt to them. Wouldn’t that decrease the value of our dollar?”

“No.”

“But how would other countries react if we did this?”

“Very badly,” Andrew admitted.

I know absolutely nothing about economics, so I can’t tell you if Carla is a misunderstood genius, or a fool. But I do feel sympathetic to her cause. She reminds me of those 1950s horror movies where someone is trying to convince the townspeople the martians are coming, and everyone just laughs.

At the end of the night, after nearly everyone had their say, Robert Gauthier stood up. He was the very last speaker at the very last All Candidates’ Meeting. Like many of the other speakers, he thanked the audience for inviting him, and said what a great time he’d had campaigning.

Remember these people, he said, indicating the other candidates. “Because you won’t see them for the next four years.” Once the election is over, that’s it. They’re gone. Next time you see them, they’ll be trying to tell you, all over again, what great people they are.”

Robert was right. His words hit hard. He had the attention of the entire audience. Then he said he wanted to talk about some issues we haven’t heard talked about – and rambled on about how abortion is murder.

Poor Robert. He had them. He had them all. The moment was just right, and then he wandered off into his crazy little lecture about his own personal foibles. Oh well. Maybe that really is the best way to summarize everything that happened at these meetings.

Once Robert Gauthier was done, the moderator announced the evening was over, and we all applauded the candidates. But when the show is over, the party isn’t. People always stick around and try to have a personal one on one moment with the politicians.

The candidates were tired. They’d been on stage for two hours and they just wanted to go home. As they listened to people ask questions and thank them, they tried to look like they were alert and paying attention, but there was this expression on their faces of repressed pain.

“They look like dogs,” Andrew said, “that want to go outside and pee. They’re just waiting for you to open the door so they can get on with it.”

I wanted to ask David Chernushenko about the Mechanicsville question. It was an issue that was bugging me. But David was deep in conversation with Ed – even as people desperately gathered around the two of them for a chat.

I wandered out to the front room, and found the people who work for David’s campaign. There were several people at the table, and I spoke to one woman working there. I put the question to her – that campaign worker who asked the Mechanicsville question…?

“David recognized him,” she said. “He was a Conservative.”

Victory and triumph! I nearly did a dance. Those goddamn lying Conservatives. I knew it, I knew it.

But something didn’t quite feel right. Something about it was too easy. I went back into the main hall and waited to speak to David. The crowd around him had thinned.

An extremely young man, too young to vote, was asking David about animal rights. David admitted he wasn’t a vegetarian, but said that he didn’t eat a lot of meat. He believed in animal rights, “after all, humans are animals.”

The young man wanted to get into a profound philosophical discussion, and David politely said this wasn’t the time or the place for it. Then David turned to me.

David Chernushenko looks very young. He started nearly every candidates’ meeting by saying, “I’m forty years old and the father of two,” to try to shake that little kid look. But just then, at nearly ten at night, at the end of the long day, he looked older than forty.

“I’m voting for Ed,” I admitted, “but I have great respect for the Greens.”

He thanked me politely, and waited for me to get to the point. So I did. Who was it that asked the Mechanicsville question?

“It was a Liberal,” David said. He had recognized him immediately. Earlier in the week he’d been interviewed on the radio, and the Liberal worker had been there. As soon as David saw him, he knew who the guy was.

I thanked David for his time and wished him luck. He suggested I reconsider and vote Green.

“You never know. Maybe I’ll change my mind at the last minute.”

Not bloody likely. There’s a smugness about the Greens that gets to me. At first I was all for them. The environment – great! But over time I picked up this bad vibe. They think they know what’s best for all of us. They will use their wisdom to cleanse the world. The more I think about it, the creepier it gets.

So the Mechanicsville questioner was a Liberal? Now I had to talk to Richard Mahoney.

Richard had been cornered by a man who worked with the military. And the guy was mad. He stared directly into Richard’s face and went on and on. People in the military were upset. They didn’t like being a political football. They wanted respect.

“I just wanted to say that to you, person to person,” he said.

“And you have, very well,” Richard replied.

They were turning the lights on and off, trying to get us out of the building. As we stepped outside into the rain, I finally got to speak to Richard.

“I’ve been to five of these meetings,” I said, “and I wanted to let you know that you’ve made them very fun to watch. You’re very witty.”

Richard thanked me. I got the strange feeling that this compliment almost meant more to him than a vote.

“I just wanted to ask you about the Mechanicsville questioner…” And I told him what David Chernushenko had told me. “I was wondering how you feel about it.”

Richard said that yes, it was someone from his campaign, and that it wasn’t a very good question. After all, Ed easily turned it around and made himself look good. “Where’s Mechanicsville? I just campaigned there yesterday.” It wasn’t the smartest question in the world, but people who work for campaigns are allowed to ask questions on their own. And that’s that.

Richard saw Andrew and smiled. He held up his fist in salute and said, “Smash the state!”

Andrew laughed and returned the salute.

Then Richard and his team went off to their van and Andrew and I walked off in the rain, headed to the distant bus stop.