I was one of those “organisers” of an all-candidate debate / meeting that the news articles often refer to. Our debate last night in the riding of Ottawa South was quite well attended with around 500 members of the community showing up at a local high school auditorium to hear what the all the candidates had to say about some of the issues that have dominated this election.
Um, well not exactly all of the candidates…
It seems to have become a regular practice in this election for Conservative Party candidates to skip these meetings, citing reasons like “too busy door-knocking” or having “previous commitments”. Notice of their non-attendance is usually given at the last-minute or close to it, forcing organisers to scramble a bit as the plans and logistics were geared to a defined number of candidates showing up. But so what… we manage… that’s not really my point.
My point / bone to pick is that by nonchalantly choosing to skip an event like this is a major slap in the face to those who have spent many, many hours of volunteer time to set up such an event. I figure that I alone spent about 20 hours on this event. I work full-time and have kids with activities, etc., etc… so my time is precious.
There is also a real and significant financial aspect. Auditoriums have to be paid for, microphones rented, security guards paid for, tech support booked and paid for… in our case it amounted about a thousand bucks total… not a fortune but significant given that these costs are paid for and labour provided by volunteer-driven not-for-profit groups.
And most of these organisations don’t have bags of cash just lying around looking for somewhere to go.
Now, I’m not going to slam the local candidate. I know the CPC candidate. I worked with him volunteering for Parent Council activities at our kids’ school. Our politics may differ but the guy did step up more than most. My displeasure is squarely on the party that has apparently made it their policy to order – with few exceptions – all of their candidates to skip debates, meetings or any interaction in a crowd where media might be present. They want the to stick with the “door-to-door” where a misstep outside the approved party script would likely not do a lot of damage. I kind of feel sorry for these candidates as they signed on to engage their voters wherever and when possible and they are being told that they cannot.
To that party and those who made this disengagement decision I say that they have made a big mistake. You have played into the hands of the opposition that likes to portray Harper and the CPC as cold, heartless and out of touch. I say too that you have angered a great many community leaders who make up these community groups. You have spat in the faces of these folks that are, by and large, respected in their communities and their words carry some weight – not saying mine does… but there are some really influential men and women in these organisations.
And that, ladies and gentlemen will come back to bite the blue party in the end.