This interesting article was written by
Nikolaus Maack (former owner of this website)
Candidates Meeting #3
The third All Candidates Meeting I attended was organized by CHASEO (the Co-operative Housing Association of Eastern Ontario). It took place in the courtyard of the Cartier Square Co-op on Cooper st. In back of their apartment building is a sort of ground-level patio, surrounded by tall buildings. It was kind of like having a BBQ at the bottom of a canyon.
For those of you that don’t know, a housing co-op is a collection of members who, together, “own” the building they live in. They vote on everything — how every penny is saved, what bylaws apply to themselves, how much the rent is going to be. Most housing co-ops in Ottawa have a certain percentage of their units going to low-income housing, where the tenants receive subsidy. This subsidy, in part, is paid thanks to government funding.
Co-op housing is incredibly socialist in nature. I live in a housing co-op myself, and everywhere you look are signs supporting the NDP. This might explain why the events of the evening went as follows:
1. Mike Murphy, the Conservative candidate, declined an invitation, despite being offered three potential dates for the event.
Ed said Mike must be practicing for the “rap off” challenge he asked for, when Mike took Ed to task for his “rap video”.
Richard Mahoney suggested Mike didn’t show up because he’s afraid to repeat the Conservative platform on housing: “Affordable housing is a provincial matter.”
2. Everyone politely ignored Stuart Ryan (communist) and Robert Gauthier (independent) when they spoke. Opening acts are never any good.
Stuart is a terrible public speaker, and mumbled into the microphone for a little while, and then just sort of stopped. Gauthier fared a little better, but finished by saying, “In my opinion, abortion is murder!” which alienated the crowd as it always does.
3. People were keen on David Chernushenko (Green) as he helped found the Conservation Co-op — a housing co-op built on environmentally friendly principles. I was surprised when David admitted that he didn’t actually live in the co-op, he just helped get it off the ground as one of the founding board members. He seemed slightly embarrassed by this confession.
David wore khaki shorts and a green shirt, which made him look like a Boy Scout. Andrew (my anarchist friend) said — what with David’s blonde hair and youthful appearance — it made David look like a Hitler Youth. A little too harsh, I think, but I repeat the comment for what it’s worth.
4. Ed Broadbent was greeted like a conquering hero. Once Ed was done talking and answering questions, he sat in the corner, and didn’t say much. He seemed to make little effort that night. He looked tired.
5. Richard Mahoney (Libneral) spoke for what felt like hours, desperately doing a song and dance routine, trying to get anyone — ANYONE — to consider his party. I think he knew way in advance it was a lost cause, but damn it, he had to try. And I was forced to admire his pluck.
Andrew said Mahoney looked like a lounge singer. He had a swagger and a snap as he talked, wore a shiny jacket and no tie, with a gray mass of hair verging on a pompadour. Personally, I thought Mahoney did a good job that night — he impressed me with his attempts at being personable and open. Y’know — as personable and open as a poltician running for office can be.
Then again, Mahoney repeated — for the third time at three meetings — the Liberal TV commercial line: “Mr Harper says we won’t recognize the place and I think he’s right.”
Most of the people in attendance lived in local housing co-ops. I know that our co-op received flyers in our mailboxes, letting us know this event was taking place. (I was the only person there from our co-op.) There were many people in wheelchairs, as Abiwin Co-op on Somerset, and many other co-ops, focus on assisting people with disabilities.
And there were a dozen children underfoot, which is typical of co-ops. As Ed Broadbent spoke, two kids on one of those spring-mounted teeter-totters gleefully bounced back and forth. Kids ran all around, laughing and stealing food while their parents shushed them and told them not to take so much watermelon. It was all quite distracting, but funny. Richard Mahoney was in the middle of a serious reply to a question about the cost of tuition when he couldn’t help but smile as a little girl in a bright blue t-shirt carefully wobbled her way past him.
It was pretty chaotic. Two well-rounded men were in charge of the BBQ and loving it. Over two dozen chickens were cooking on there, the smoke blowing into our faces. They also cooked hamburgers, hot dogs, and vegetarian fare. When I snagged myself a hotdog, I could see the cooks were gleefully burning everything.
“Really burn that one patty,” one cook said to another. “I like my meat really burnt.”
There were enormous tubs of potato salad, couscous, Greek salad, and more. All of it was free. The organizer of the event — herself in a wheelchair and (I believe) the president of CHASEO — said there was enough food for 100 people.
Free food, and yet the turn out was still pretty lousy.
Andrew and I spoke briefly with Stuart Ryan, the Communist candidate. It was interesting to see that, when not on stage in front of a crowd, he actually seemed intelligent, sort of. Andrew teased the communist by talking about Stalin and the massacre of anarchists at the hands of communists.
“We’re not like that,” Ryan said. “We’re the Canadian Communist party.”
Andrew tried to convince Ryan that working within the system will always lead to corruption. Whoever becomes leader will accept the power they get, and not change anything. Reluctantly, Ryan admitted this was true, but still held some hope for the system. Judging by his general apathy, not much hope.
“You know, my parents are voting CRAP — Conservative — but they said they’d vote Communist if Marvin Glass was running,” Andrew said. Marvin Glass is a university professor at Carleton.
This made Ryan smile. He launched into a story about Marvin, the punchline to which was that Ryan thought Marvin was going to run for Ottawa Centre “and let me off the hook” — but no such luck.
It was impressive to see that, even though Ryan is a reluctant politician, knows it’s a lost cause, is well aware of how few votes the Communist party gets, he still sticks to his guns and is out there trying. Not trying very hard, because it’s a lost cause, but trying.
The shocker of the evening was after Richard Mahoney spoke — a candidate for the Marijuana Party was there! It wasn’t actually the candidate for the centretown riding. And he wasn’t really invited, exactly, but they still let him speak, which was nice of them.
He was John Akpata, an eloquent, intelligent, energetic, in-your-face black man. When John got the mike he admitted he’d crashed the party. Both to promote the Marijuana Party, but also, “because I’m a poet and I heard there was free food.”
He had two questions for the candidates:
1. What are they going to do about the prisons in Guelph where people are being held without charges, without being provided reading material, in one case a man wasn’t allowed any socks, where they have been held for months, not allowed any visitors of any kind?
2. What purpose does the prohibition on marijuana serve?
John also spoke about immigration laws in a post 9/11 world — how his parents wouldn’t be allowed into Canada now, thanks to the new laws. Not his mother, a teacher who speaks three languages, nor his father, a surgeon.
Ed Broadbent looked tired, and like he came to the housing co-op to relax. He made no effort to talk to John. Richard Mahoney went over and spoke to John at great length. Not in front of a crowd, mind you. But Andrew and I rushed over, so we could hear what was going on.
First Mahoney asked about Guelph and the prisons there. John provided as much information as he could, saying the prisons were called “Heritage Inn” and the “Celebrity Centre”. John wanted to know how Mahoney felt about these prisons and the “arrests” without charges.
“I’m against it,” Mahoney said.
John seemed flabbergasted. That’s it? That’s all? He pointed out that Mahoney was a political candidate for the Liberal party, that he’s got some authority and power. What is he going to do about Guelph?
“What are you going to do about it?” Mahoney asked back. Which seemed to throw John for a loop.
Mahoney tried to explain his position — which sounded like a lot of spin — and John kept interrupting. This caused Mahoney’s blonde side-kick (his personal assistant?) to say, “You’re not listening to him! You need to have an open mind!”
I think what John wanted to hear was Mahoney say he was going to investigate the matter further. No such luck — at least, I didn’t hear him say it. Who knows if he will or not?
Then they spoke about marijuana. ‘What purpose does the prohibition on marijuana serve?” John asked repeatedly.
“I’m not sure that it serves any purpose,” Mahoney admitted. He said that you couldn’t legalize it, but decriminalizing it was a first step, etc.
“Do you smoke pot?” Andrew asked.
Mahoney responded quickly and with humour, “All the time. I’m stoned right now.”
Believe it or not, the answer impressed me, because:
1. It was funny.
2. It wasn’t an answer to the question but an excellent deflection of the question.
3. It still managed to indicate that Mahoney doesn’t see the issue as incredibly serious. He can at least joke about smoking pot. This was his attempt to connect with us.
I don’t think Andrew and John were as impressed as me. They saw it as a politician’s answer — dismissive and glib, with no real commitment.
The conversation quickly eroded, with Richard Mahoney basically taking the stance that if you guys don’t want to listen, what choice do I have but to walk away? And so he did.
Andrew immediately started talking politics with John — which means he tried to convert John to the cause of anarchy. John wasn’t going for it, and tried to suggest that anarchy leads to chaos and destruction and people setting their workplace on fire. Andrew said that’s not anarchy. All anarchy means is a system without rulers.
I’ve heard Andrew try to convert people on many occasions, so I just interrupted him and put questions to John.
“Have the Marijuana Party candidates been invited to any of these meetings?”
John said no, not really. He went on to explain to me his perspective — their party exists on the fringes of society, with zero donations. Why? Because if you give money to the Marijuana Party and they give you a receipt, that could be interpreted by the powers that be as possibly a criminal act worthy of investigation.
John also told us that they can’t put up signs or posters. Why? “Collectors love that stuff.” None of it stays up. It gets snatched and sold all across the country, and even to other countries.
Both Andrew and I got Marijuana party pins from John, and I know — after he told us all this — we were wondering how much we’d get for them if we auctioned them off on Ebay.
John openly admitted that the Marijuana Party was a lost cause.
“So why do you do it?” I asked him.
“Because I don’t want to be one of those people who just talks.”
And he described a philosophy of participating, questioning, and being there. He didn’t want to be one of those people that chatters all day, pops open a beer, watches the hockey game, then goes to bed. The next day they get up and they start chattering all over again.
“I do it because I get to meet scumbags like him,” John said, waving a hand at Richard Mahoney’s back. Mahoney was off to one side, chatting up some people.
“I’m always the last candidate to leave these things,” I overheard Mahoney say with a laugh. Given that John admits he’s not a real candidate, I guess he’s right, even though we were there after Mahoney left.
“All politicians are scumbags,” John said.
“I’ve got some bad news for you,” I said. “You’re a political candidate, running for office! You are a politician.”
“Dude,” John said, shaking his head and smiling, “I’m running for the Marijuana Party.”
Clearly it counts for something and counts for nothing at the same time. An interesting paradox.