This interesting article was written by
Nikolaus Maack (former owner of this website)
Candidates Meeting #2
I’m not normally into politics at all, but I felt myself compelled to go to yet another All Candidates Meeting. The first one was just so entertaining, I had to get more. Better than any action movie or any sitcom, the candidates joust and dance for two hours, all while trying to keep their poise. Loads of fun.
I invited Andrew, my anarchist friend to join me. Andrew is over six feet tall, and hasn’t shaved or had a haircut in years. His appearance intimidates everyone, but he is generally a polite, well spoken, kind person – although he’d probably hate to hear me say that. It flies in the face of his reputation. Anarchists, after all, are supposed to be angry and mean.
When I called Andrew at 8:30 AM on a Saturday, I was surprised he agreed to go. Then again, he’s a “good sport” and a big Ed Broadbent fan — he once said that everyone on earth is evil and deserves to die, except for Ed Broadbent and the pygmies. On the other hand, he’s an anarchist, and doesn’t believe in leaders. He’s making his own signs up for the elections — in black and red paint — to encourage people not to vote. He also confided to me that he, personally, is voting for Ed.
The idea of an anarchist at a meeting of would-be leaders seemed like a good mix. I like bringing these kinds of paradoxes together.
The Vietnamese Canadian Centre is a small building that must have once been someone’s home. The inside was cramped, full of fold-out chairs. In the front of the room, built into the wall, was a shrine of some sort. Pardon my western ignorance, but I believe it was one of those Buddhist shrines I see all over Chinatown, usually tucked off into the corner.
In front of the shrine was a long table for all the local candidates to sit at. And I do mean all of them. They were:
Ed Broadbent – NDP
Carla Marie Dancey — Canadian Action Party
David Chernushenko — Green
Mike Murphy — Conservative
Robert Gauthier — Independent
Richard Mahoney — Liberal
Louis Lang — Marxist-Leninist
Stuart Ryan — Communist
Andrew leaned over to me as we sat down near the front: “I wonder how the Communist and Marxist-Leninist candidates feel, having to sit in front of a shrine?”
“What’s the difference between Communist and Marxist-Leninist anyway?” I asked.
“There is no difference,” Andrew said. “Well, not really. The Marxist people are more hard core, supposedly, while the Commies think they should change with the times.”
I’m going to describe the lesser-known candidates first, because they’re much more fun than the respected candidates. Frankly, the lesser-knowns all came across as a little nuts and on the margins of society. Less polished, more earnest, and dedicated to lost causes. What’s not to love?
Louis Lang (Marxist) looked like an older, balding Super Mario, with glasses. Although he tended to ramble, he wasn’t a bad speaker. Naturally everything he said had to do with the rights of workers — for example, he complained that the Charter of Human Rights doesn’t protect workers at all. I instinctively liked him. He at one point admitted he’d worked for the post office for 34 years. Somehow, in some indescribable way, it showed.
Stuart Ryan (Communist) was a terrible speaker. He had brown hair, white eyebrows and a white moustache. When he spoke, it was like he had a mouth full of marbles, with lots of pauses and hesitating to avoid swallowing them. When not speaking, he stared off into space and his mouth hung open. He had a beer belly and wore a shirt too small for him. The round pink curve of his gut was visible through the gaps of his buttons. As the meeting progressed, one of the buttons popped open. Stuart didn’t notice. I worried that buttons would soon be popping off and flying everywhere like shrapnel.
Andrew told me that Stuart is “a fucking Trot” and shows up at a lot of protests. Anarchists don’t like “Trots” due to some ancient history Andrew once explained to me. Something to do with “fucking Trots” killing lots of anarchists.
Robert Gauthier (independent) seemed to be a one issue candidate. He repeatedly stated that an independent would better represent us as an MP, because such a candidate wouldn’t be caught up in the big party machine, forced to follow a party platform. Not a bad idea, really – except Gauthier is not exactly representative material. He ranted about Parliament not following the charter of human rights — somehow blaming this on Broadbent — and near the end said that abortion is murder and always wrong. Which lost him a lot of support from the crowd, for sure.
Gauthier also said something about being the publisher of a newspaper of some kind. He said he started it shortly after The Ottawa Journal went under. The paper used to be delivered by electric cars — “we’ve had the technology for ten years!” — but then somehow the government interfered and the cars have been “up on blocks” every since.
I have no idea what that was all about, but would love to know.
Carla Marie Dancey, the only female candidate, looked like somebody’s mom from the suburbs. She didn’t say very much, and I couldn’t figure out what the heck her party is all about. Carla was very wishy-washy. The only interesting thing she said was the following story.
Carla used to be a Reform Party member. Then she decided to study political science, and got a BA. She learned a lot, and when she came back to the reform party she started telling them all the things she’d learned. Because of this, they asked her to leave.
That’s the story she told, anyway. It was one of those great stories people tell, where half way through they start wondering if they should be telling you this story. Then they realize they’re committed to finishing the tale, and look all embarrassed after they’re done talking.
Andrew told me that the Canadian Action Party is “fascist”, and broke off from the Reform Party because they felt Reform was “too left”.
(Incorrect, it turns out. The CAP actually split off from the Liberals – but they seem to have more in common with the Reform folks.)
At one point, Carla gave a little speech about how it’s easier for French people to speak English than it is for Anglos to speak French. She seemed to believe that the tests were all geared towards the Francophones, and that the whole system is biased in favor of French people.
David Chernushenko stood up once she was done, and said, “I simply cannot let that pass.” French people learned English because they “busted their butts” working hard to learn it. He himself was born to English speaking parents, and worked hard to learn French. He was sick and tired of listening to Anglos whine about the situation.
Carla turned pink with shame. Or maybe rage. Or both.
Gauthier (the independent) sided with Carla, and said that the French have it too easy in our country. I was ready to dismiss him as a kook, but then he got a little saner — his idea was that each section of Canada should learn the language necessary to exist in that portion of the country. People in Vancouver might have to learn Mandarin, for example. An odd idea, but sort of interesting.
Now for the big party candidates.
If you read my comments about the previous meeting I attended, you know that I think Mike Murphy is a robot. He didn’t disappoint me at this meeting – he was kookier than ever. In a way, I hope he wins, because he’s just so gosh darned bizarre.
The issue of inequity in the public service was put to the candidates. It was generally agreed that the public service does not have enough visible minorities in its ranks. Someone said (I forget who — might have been David) that no visible minorities want to go into the public service because they know they can be promoted only so high, then they hit a “glass ceiling”. All the candidates seemed to agree — more visible minorities need to be hired.
Well, almost everyone agreed. Mike Murphy said that he was unaware of any inequity, but if any was brought to his attention, he’d be sure to put a stop to it. The audience laughed at him. Ed Broadbent rolled his eyes and covered his face.
Another issue was raised — that of immigrants who come to Canada with skills that go unaccredited. For example, a doctor from China or India might come to Canada, but be forced to work a menial job, because no one will recognize that he has the skills to be a doctor. Everyone agreed this was a very important issue — especially seeing as how there is a shortage of doctors in Canada right now.
When Mike Murphy spoke on this issue, he once again came across as strange and out of touch with reality. He said that he understood this issue well because his father had an accident, and they hired a Philippino caregiver to assist him. She was a nurse when she lived in the Phillipines, but here she couldn’t get a better job than caregiver. The way Mike told this story, he made it sound a little like he’d learned a lot from his black butler.
One member of the public asked about reforming the electoral system. Ed agreed this is a necessity, and said he liked the New Zealand model. David pointed out that the Greens believe in this very strongly, and like the Australian model.
Mike Murphy said that he didn’t have a position on this, but would need to do more study. The audience (and many of the candidates) groaned and laughed at him.
And that’s when Mike launched into yet another bizarre personal story to explain why– even though he was ignorant — he was still the man for the job. Once he was hired on to manage a ski lodge — Calabogie, I believe it was. He knew nothing about ski lodges, but looked at many different models, until he found the best one, and copied it. And now, Mike said proudly, Calabogie is one of the best ski lodges ever.
This prompted Richard Mahoney to say sarcastically, “There’s a big difference between running a ski resort and bringing about electoral reform.”
While Mike Murphy was making these bizarre statements, behaving all woodenly, trying to impress us with his French, calling us “friends and neighbours”, I was giggling and shaking my head. I promised Andrew a good show, saying that Mike is a kook and will be sure to entertain. Andrew had a slightly different reaction to Mike than I did. Several times, when Mike was saying something nuts, Andrew muttered, “Fucking asshole,” under his breath and snorted in disgust.
Andrew later told me, “You know if you weren’t there, I would have been on my feet, yelling, calling the guy a fucking asshole to his face. I hope you appreciate that.”
“Maybe next time we’re at one of these things, we don’t have to sit together, and you can do whatever you want,” I replied.
“He was the only one wearing a tie. How come no one asked why Mike Murphy was the only one wearing a tie?”
(We were wrong, it turns out. Gauthier wore a tie too.)
David Chernushenko really impressed me at the last meeting. This time, I wasn’t as impressed. He still came across as strong, sincere, and interesting, but a little stiffer. He delivered the same opening and closing speeches as last time, more or less. At least he had his memorized. Poor Mike Murphy delivered the same speech, but read his off a sheet of paper in front of him.
Andrew said that David is “a fucking suit”. Well, Chernushenko does own a consulting company, telling public, private, and non-profit groups how to be environmentally friendly. So I guess he does travel in “suit circles” a lot. I guess anarchists are opposed to suits more so than I am.
Richard Mahoney again tried to pull the shtick of saying that this election is one strictly between the Liberals and the Conservatives. Then he pointed out why the Conservatives are evil pigdogs. Just like last time, Mike Murphy failed to rise to the challenge, and Mahoney’s argument fell flat.
Maybe if Mike wasn’t so oblivious, he would realize he has to play up this confrontation, so that it really does look like a choice between those two parties. But because Mike is such a weak candidate, and such a lousy speaker, Mahoney’s arguments sound hollow.
Ed Broadbent, once again, was the man to beat. Gauthier quoted the Ottawa Citizen as saying that “Broadbent is unbeatable” and then tried in vain to debunk that notion. It was interesting to see that the quote made Ed blush.
Ed was quieter than last time, but came across as more human than everyone else. By being subdued, he seemed to underline that he was a tactful, trustworthy, reliable man. He closed this time, like he did at the previous meeting:
“I say what I mean, I mean what I say” and he does what he promises to do.
When it was all over and done, I got up to head towards the door. Andrew went in the other direction — towards the candidates. Oh Jesus, I thought, he’s not going to strangle Mike Murphy is he?
No, there was no strangling. Andrew headed straight for Broadbent, and Ed was taken aback — Andrew is an intimidating looking guy. Andrew spoke for a bit, and then came over to me and we left together.
“What was that about?” I asked him.
Andrew replied, “I just told Ed that I was voting for Ed Broadbent, and only for Ed Broadbent. My vote is not for the NDP.”
“Did that go over well?”
Andrew chuckled a little. “Not really.”