Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Life catches up with a lot of candidates

Has Google cost most Canadians their chance to run for Parliament?
One of the oddest aspects of this election campaign is the number of candidates who have been fired by their parties, dropped out or at least embarrassed by their pasts.
There are four possible explanations. This could be a flawed group of candidates, but it's hard to see why that would be true. We - the public - could have become more judgmental. But again, why would we?
The parties are likely more intent on digging dirt on their rivals. One of the most offensive aspects of elections today is the "war rooms." These are big budget operations set up mainly to snipe at the other side. The concept assumes both that politics is a game, and the object is annihilation. Surely we've gone beyond tribal warfare?
The biggest factor is the online world. Our pasts are much more with us than ever before.
On some level that's good when it comes to political candidates. They should be accountable for the lives they've led. But the peccadilloes being picked on vary wildly in significance.
And will any reasonable people run in future, knowing that they will be judged on such small aspects of the lives?
The New Democrats have lost three candidates here in B.C., One was linked to a business that sold coca seeds and had been broadcast on the Internet driving after smoking pot, as a demonstration that it wasn't risky. Another had been broadcast judging various strains of marijuana on a webcast. It was hardly a shock - both were long-time marijuana activists.
The Conservatives have lost a candidate to drugs too. A Saskatchewan MP said he wouldn't run because he had to deal with an addiction to prescription sedatives. (Though based on the number of Canadians reporting drug and alcohol dependencies, about 30 MPs should be representing their concerns.)
Nudity has come up a few times. Liberal candidate Briony Penn did a stylish Lady Godiva ride in 2001 in downtown Vancouver to protest logging. Conservative candidate Sharon Smith was briefly famous in 2003, after she had been elected mayor of Houston. Her husband had taken photos of her in the mayor's chair, wearing just the chain of office. Her kids had a party, someone peeked at the computer and Houston was on the map. Neither candidate has faced any real criticism.
But New Democrat candidate Julian West's candidacy came to an end this week over reports he was too keen on skinny dipping at a 1996 environmental conference attended by young teens. He also reportedly dropped his pants during a body painting session. He was 31 at the time. It sounded creepy, really.
What's weird is that this wasn't really a surprise. The allegations were covered at the time.
West's withdrawal came too late for the New Democrats to replace him and made things very interesting in the riding of Saanich-Gulf Islands. Gary Lunn, the Conservative natural resources minister, looked a good re-election bet, in part because Green Andrew Lewis, New Democrat West and Liberal Penn would split the vote. With the NDP out, Penn has a better chance.
The Conservatives have had their own creepy episode. Toronto Conservative candidate Chris Reid quit the race, suddenly too busy to run, once his blog postings became public. He had written that gays and women should be carrying handguns to protect themselves. Canadian gun laws, he said, had created "a castrated effeminate population."
A Conservative candidate in Burnaby-New Westminster is hanging in, despite reports he's been disciplined three time for incompetence and misconduct by real estate regulators. And two Quebec Conservatives were dumped over anti-aboriginal comments.
This kind of candidate attrition is new. And worrying.
Worrying because some quite bad candidates seem to make it through the nomination process, which is mostly a sign of a lack of involvement in candidate selection.
And worrying some good candidates are being hassled over long-ago, minor stumbles.
Footnote: This should be a useful lesson, especially for young people. The YouTube video from a party that seems so funny today, or the blog that sets out to provoke with outrageous comments, is permanent. In 20 years, it might be awkward to explain why it seemed such a good idea.


Anonymous said...

Paul, I've written a response to this piece.

Gazetteer said...

And astroturfing.....

Wonder if that will boomerang on anybody down the road?


Anonymous said...

Gazetteer, believe it or not--real people are involved in Get Moving BC because they support balanced transportation improvements.

As for me, I don't think being a member of a political party should dissuade or prevent anyone from speaking out on issues important to their community.

Azrolboyz said...

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Gazetteer said...

Mr. Bateman--

Well, believe it or not, I probably could believe it.

At least for that huge group of six (!?) concerned citizens, yourself included, that make up, as you put it during your recent interview with Mary Frances Hill of The Vancouver Sun, your'ad-hoc' organization.

However, I have a great deal more difficulty believing that, as has been pointed out previously by Sean Holman of Public Eye and Matthew Burrows of The Georgia Straight", that your fellow British Columbia Liberal Party members/operatives, Mr. Brian Bonney and Mr. Greg Moore, are involved with and/or have asked business and industry groups to support your ad-hoc organization 'Get Moving BC' because they are, in your words, "real people......speaking out on issues important to their community".

Now, why do I have this difficulty?

Well, because 'Get Moving B.C.' has a website. And on that website six individuals are named as being members of the 'Advisory Board' of 'Get Moving B.C.', none of whom are Brian Bonney or Greg Moore. Furthermore, in searching the entire 'Get Moving B.C. website I could find little or no mention of either Mr. Bonney or Mr. Moore.

Interestingly, however, as Mr. Burrows of the Georgia Straight also pointed out, it was Mr. Greg Moore who paid to register and retain the '' wb domain. It was also Mr. Moore who originally built the 'Get Moving B.C.' website before he, as Mr Burrows notes, "handed the running of the site over to (Mr.) Bateman".

Now, Mr. Bateman, here's the thing.

I, too, believe that being a member of a political party should not be a reason to disssuade anyone from speaking out on issues that they believe are truly important to their community.

And I applaud you for doing so.

However, I do have a problem with people who start up 'grassroots' groups while acting as political operatives and then do not make their involvement clear to all concerned. Furthermore (and this is a much more important point because it involves obfuscation and takes advantage of the best intentions of 'real people' who really are working only for 'in the best interest of their community'), I have a huge problem with poltical operatives that tell business and industry groups to support a 'grassroots' group when and/or because there is a clear indication that the success of such a'grassroots' group will help their bottom line.

Therefore, based on the evidence so far, it is my opinion that, ad-hoc or not, 'Get Moving B.C. is an 'astroturf' group, not a 'grassroots' group.

Now, Mr. Bateman, if you would like to provide further facts that might dissuade me from continuing to hold this opinion please feel free to leave another comment here.

Alternatively, you could contact me directly at pacificgazette at yahoo dot ca or, if you would like to act through an intermediary to ensure that any and all facts will be fairly presented, I'm quite sure Mr. Willcocks would be happy to oblige.

For those who would like a fuller explanation of how I came to form the opinion stated above, I too have a website, but it is run only by me - no political operatives have paid for the domain name, nor have any operatives lobbied business, industry or citizens groups to support it - promise.


West End Bob said...


Six freaking residents???!!!!

Heckfire, in my neighbourhood more of us can be found clustered around any one recycling bin on any given pick-up day.

It appears the "grassroots" could use some water and fertilizer.

Surely there is an ample supply of the fertilizer . . . .

Stephen K said...

Thanks for the info, Gazetteer. As someone who believes that Gateway must be stopped, I've been wondering about this Get Moving BC group.

Bob Broughton said...

Not exactly an example of "astroturfing", but voters in Surrey should know that Liberal candidate Brenda Locke has a history of working against the public interest:

Anonymous said...


A few things need to be straightened out from the various pieces of coverage. I am a member of Get Moving BC's advisory board, a group of six (two from the south Fraser, four from the north) who chat about transportation issues. GMBC, an ad hoc transportation group, is powered by about a dozen core volunteers (of all political stripes--including we apparently-unallowed-to-discuss-public-policy-issues BC Liberals), and we have a supporters' list of more than 300 people. They like to joke that I'm the token politician. I also blog from time-to-time at the GMBC blog, but am ashamed to say I haven't done so since April. Where does time go?

The report itself was put together by a volunteer, Patrick O'Connor, with a research background. Patrick (yes, a BC Liberal) is running for School Board in New Westminster as part of a non-partisan slate there.

Initially, I was the GMBC spokesman for a few issues, as the other advisory board members got their feet wet in dealing with the media. Recently though, the other members (especially Sheri, Ian, and Mike--none of whom have provincial party affiliations) have done a great job with the press. For this report, they asked me to take the lead as the time commitment was going to be significant--interviews through Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. I was happy to do it, as I believe strongly that the Lower Mainland is underserved in all forms of transportation and transit infrastructure--and I believe we need to invest continually in multi-modal bridges that can handle cars, HOV lanes, light rail, cycle paths, and pedestrian facilities. We need it all.

The Province's editorial today hit the nail on the head:


Just because the transportation group, Get Moving B.C., has ties to the B.C. Liberals doesn't mean we should ignore the results of its new study which warns that "total gridlock" throughout the Lower Mainland looms unless we build more bridges across the Fraser River.

Anyone who commutes daily over the Fraser knows full well that the eight regional bridges now in use are woefully inadequate to handle the traffic volumes.

And as the study -- Bridging the Infrastructure Gap -- points out, even with the addition of the new Golden Ears Bridge in 2009 along with replacement of the aging Pattullo Bridge and twinning the Port Mann Bridge within the decade, the Lower Mainland will still be behind the eight-ball in terms of too few bridges.

In fact, the study concludes that in addition to the current bridge expansion projects, a further three new eight-lane bridges need to the built.

Most of that additional lane capacity needs to be constructed across the Fraser River because another one million people will take up residence south of the Fraser over the next few decades.

The study tells us that compared to four other western Canadian cities -- Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, and Saskatoon -- Metro Vancouver is extremely poorly served by its bridges.

For example, while Metro Vancouver has more than twice Calgary's population, it's served by fewer that half the number of bridge lanes (31 to Calgary's 75).

Even Edmonton, with half as many people as Metro Vancouver, has 60 per cent more bridges.

And on a per capita basis, one Vancouver bridge lane serves 74,194 people compared with Edmonton (26,190), Winnipeg (18,000), Calgary (14,667) and Saskatoon (10,909).

But environmentalists slam this report on the basis of its political connections to the B.C. Liberals and on the premise that if more commuters abandoned their cars in favour of public transit, bridge expansions wouldn't be necessary.

Although well-intentioned, this is wishful thinking and it ignores the reality that this entire region will continue to grow rapidly for many years.

This means there will be more trucks delivering our groceries and other products to super markets and shopping centres and they'll need additional bridge capacity. And yes, additional commuter buses will also need more bridge lanes to cross local waters.

The point is even with expanded use of public transit, there will be more cars so we'll still need more bridges.

It's time our politicians recognized this need and started an intelligent and practical planning process.

romeogolf said...

Because GMBC is run by Liberal apparatchiks, should not be a reason to ignore the study, although it should make one very skeptical. The reason to ignore it is because what it calls for is utterly divorced from reality, from what is known from international experience in transportation as studied by experts in transportation.

Expansion of roadway does not encourage people to take transit. It enables single occupant vehicles to be competitive with transit, completely undermining that investment.

If you look at large freeways in other cities, which city is better than ours with respect to traffic and congestion? Which city do we want to emulate?

Gordon Price has been asking this of Gateway proponents for years and has not gotten an answer yet.

Anonymous said...

Supporting the Gateway Project, Hwy 1 expansion and Port Mann Twinning at this time while ignoring that driving a car is getting more expensive every day is completely irresponsible. The world has seen huge increases in fuel prices in the last 1.5 years, with no relief in sight. Many of us have downsized to smaller vehicles and some have gone car free.

Gordon Campbell and our Minister of Transportation, Kevin Falcon have done precious little to facilitate commuting for the general public that chooses not to pay for the high costs of private car ownership.

We don't need more roads, we need more mass transit for the existing population that can't currently find room on Translink Buses. We also will soon urgently need more buses and trolleys for those that can either no longer afford private cars or those that understand that climate change requires that we "all" need to consume less if we want to have even a chance of protecting our way of life.

Gazetteer said...

Mr. Bateman--

Thanks very much for the cut and paste update.

In particular, I found this excerpt to be most informative regarding the matter under discussion:

"Just because the transportation group, Get Moving B.C., has ties to the B.C. Liberals doesn't mean we should ignore the results of its new study which warns that "total gridlock" throughout the Lower Mainland looms unless we build more bridges across the Fraser River."

And the reason that I found the above passage most imformative is that it both confirms my stated opinion and contrasts very sharply with your earlier attempts to obfuscate, as demonstrated by following quote from you made earlier in this thread:

"Gazetteer, believe it or not--real people are involved in Get Moving BC because they support balanced transportation improvements."

Therefore, with that, I leave it to Mr. Willcocks' readers to decide.....Get Moving B.C...... organic 'grassroots' organization or obfuscatory 'astroturf'?

I believe my position on the matter is clear.


West End Bob said...

Put me down for "astroturf".

And make it To Go, please . . . .

paul said...

I'm in New York and missed the exchange. Thanks for keeping it courteous and informative, since it involves a lot of people I respect.
Instead of paying attention here, I hit three plays, a Lucinda Williams concert - she was in full rock mode - and an amazing show.
Richard Barone, ex of the Bongos, has written a book, part memoir and part look at the role of the frontman in rock bands. He staged a concert with readings and songs, and we sat in the second row as a couple of the Roches, Carlos Alomar (with Bowie and Iggy Pop for years), Moby, Marshall Crenshaw, Joyce DeWitt (she read), Garth Hudson and others all sat in for various songs.
Thanks for being nice. Warren Zevon would approve.
Paul Willcocks