Gagnier gaffe didn’t hurt Trudeau

I was planting garlic in the front field near the woods. Yes, the fall of the year is the best time to plant garlic. It was early in the evening, but the light was already starting to fade. Still, I was making pretty good progress. A long row of cloves, some of which were already starting to show signs of sprouting, had gone into the freshly-tilled soil and I was working intently on a second row.

But then the shrill chorus of a pack or packs of coyotes starting their evening hunting prowl opened up. It’s a familiar sound in these parts, in and around the provincial Hope Bay Nature Reserve where a natural wilderness is being allowed to regenerate itself.

The howling of the coyotes, sometimes called eastern wolves, came from the mature hardwood forest on the northern side of the field. I’m tempted to call their characteristic cacophony of yips and barks and howls and unearthly sound. But, in fact, it’s very earthly, part of the natural life of this area. It’s the way those cunning creatures keep track of each other as they instinctively coordinate the hunt. And I suppose it also serves as a warning to other creatures in the vicinity, myself included.

Normally I don’t worry too much about the coyotes, or even the bears I know are out there as well. Give them respect, do your “due diligence,” and try not to do anything foolish – that has so far worked for me.

And so when the howls in the woods seemed awfully close by, a few hundred meters, or even less, I decided it was time to get out of the field and go inside. Coyote attacks on humans are rare, but have happened. A few years ago a young woman hiking on a trail in Nova Scotia was killed by coyotes. I left my basket of cloves right there beside the second row and walked back across the field to the house.

It’s just a coincidence, of course, that my little story happened the same day and evening that Justin Trudeau and the Liberal election campaign was thrown off-kilter, to an extent that perhaps remains to be seen, by an email sent by the campaign’s co-chair to TransCanada Corp. executives. Within a day Dan Gagnier had resigned his position, so as to avoid causing any further “distraction.”

But the moral of my story and that one too is, you never know what might suddenly jump up, or out of the woods, and bite you.

I don’t know what Trudeau should have done, or might have done proactively, to prevent just such a thing from happening. I suppose, from his point of view, in the best of all possible worlds, he could have done what Stephen Harper has done: put a muzzle on everyone, right from the start, in no uncertain terms.

That’s the Harper way, and probably explains why Conservative candidates across the country have so often been no-shows at all-candidates meetings. A Vancouver Sun article earlier this week looked into that issue and found that was true of most Conservative candidates in that area. Their excuse often was that most people who go to all-candidates’ meetings already have their voting minds made up, so it’s not a good use of candidates’ time. Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound Conservative candidate Larry Miller initially said the same thing, before agreeing to attend some.

A feature of the Conservative campaign is the extent to which it has controlled news media access at Harper rallies, to avoid unexpected departures from a tightly controlled script. Besides, Harper and the Conservatives have never been fans of the news media.

But they must have a kind thought now for the Canadian Press which somehow obtained a copy of Gagnier’s email to TransCanada, the company behind the Canada East pipeline, advising them how to lobby a new government, including a Liberal one.

It was a problem on more than one level: it suggests an unseemly presumption of a Liberal election victory, and more than a hint of “insider” collusion.

I confess it gave me pause to continue reflecting on my voter preferences. I’m fed up with living in an elected dictatorship. I’m looking for change, “real  change,” as the Liberal campaign slogan says, but not the same-old, same-old political games.

Trudeau said he and other members of the Liberal campaign team “sat down” with Gagnier to discuss the situation and he chose to do “the responsible thing” and resign as co-chair. Trudeau put the best light he could on it later by saying Gagnier’s resignation underlined how seriously the Liberals take ethical standards.

But the timing of the Gagnier gaffe was terrible. Ironically, his resignation was the top Google News headline of the day Thursday, along with the latest Nanos nightly poll results showing the Liberals with the biggest lead to that point so far over the Harper-Conservatives.

And it no doubt took some of the attention away from news the Conservative campaign was targeting ethnic voters in key, Toronto-area ridings with outrageous warnings that a Trudeau-led Liberal government would open bordellos in their communities, make marijuana more available to children, and legalize prostitution.

It’s yet another example of the shameful way the Conservative campaign has been run.

But in a few days it will all be over, hopefully. Unless there’s something else lurking in those woods, including after voting day. You never know anymore it seems.

Originally published in The Sun Times in October, 2015.















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