Well, nothing like a dose of cold reality to bring one’s feet down to earth.
Just a few days ago it was easy enough to be fooled into thinking it was still summer, that the possibility of frost and even snow was still somewhere in the future. But a couple of mornings ago I looked out the upstairs window of this old farmhouse and saw the cold, brisk east wind blowing the clouds in the wrong direction – always a bad sign; and the need to take certain steps to batten down the hatches for the winter, and so on, suddenly seemed urgent.But not so urgent that I was going to take a pass on one of only two candidates’ meetings for the Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound riding and use the increasingly precious daylight hours to start working on the get-ready-for-winter “to do” list. Yet another one, and I still haven’t finished the summer list. But that too is reality, I suppose. You set your priorities, and then, rightly or wrongly, live with the consequences. So, with this long federal election campaign finally into the home stretch, the meeting in Owen Sound seemed like the place to be.
And so it was. First of all, the hall at the Harry Lumley Bayshore Community Centre was full to the point of standing-room-only left for some of the several hundred people who showed up. I’ve been to quite a few all-candidates’ meetings over the years, but this seemed to be a less partisan, or decided, crowd of voters than I’ve seen before. There were a few blue and orange t-shirts here and there, and a fair number of people sporting red “Love” buttons. But overall I got the impression most people were there to gather information or get impressions of the candidates that might help them make up their minds how to vote.
Is there something blowing in the wind here in Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound? I looked up from my seat quite a few rows back in the midst of the crowd and tried to see what I could maybe read on the faces of the candidates. There was NDP candidate David McLaren who I have known for quite a few years and whose intelligence I respect, especially in regards to First Nation and environmental issues.
Beside him was Larry Miller, the veteran Conservative MP seeking re-election. Otherwise they were as far apart as its possible to be in the context of this local election campaign, at opposite ends of the left-right political spectrum.
But they appeared to have one thing in common: neither looked very happy to be where they were. Why, I don’t know, though Miller is no great fan of all-candidates’ meetings and initially, at the start of the local campaign, said he wouldn’t take part in any, but later changed his mind.
In comparison Liberal candidate Kimberley Love, and the Green Party’s Chris Albinati, looked much more relaxed and comfortable.
But all four candidates did a good job of handling questions submitted in advance, including on-line, and from people in attendance, on a wide variety of topics ranging from the long delayed dredging of Owen Sound Harbour, to Canada’s current response to the refugee crisis, to funding for the CBC, and more.
A few times Miller’s responses drew moans from some in the audience, like when he said in regards to CBC funding that the public broadcaster’s ratings were “so low” it couldn’t attract enough advertising revenue to help pay its own way.
But Miller also got some solid rounds of applause from others, when in response to a question about the refugee approval screening process, he stressed the importance of keeping “everyone in this room safe” from the threat of “ISIL” (Islamic State) terrorists getting into the country.
But I found myself thinking about the old “elephant in the room” expression as I left the meeting. Each candidate was given a minute for closing remarks as it wound down. Albinati used part of his minute to say one of his goals if elected would be to restore the “honour” back to the title of “honourable member.”
He referred to remarks “known around the world” that put the local riding in a bad light. He didn’t mention Miller by name, but it was clear enough he was referring to intemperate language Miller used on a local, open-line radio show last March about a devout Muslim woman who refused to remove her face covering while taking her oath of Canadian citizenship.
It was certainly clear to Miller who said when his turn for closing remarks came, “I’m not going to sit here and take pot-shots like Mr. Albinati.” That was, of course, a pot-shot.
Let’s be clear here finally about one thing: Local elections for a seat as a Member of Parliament are most of all about the various candidates’ fitness for office, the newcomers as well as the incumbent seeking re-election.
What Miller said, he said. Nobody else said it. The fault was Miller’s in the first place, not Albinati’s now for bringing it up. What Miller said doesn’t bear repeating here. It’s easy enough to find on the public record. It’s as much a part of his political record as anything else, good or bad, and he has to live with the consequences. It’s his reality.