I’m listening to Stephen Harper’s parroting of Australian war hawk John Howard’s speech on Iraq, and looking at polls showing the Tories slipping in Quebec and Liberals gaining in Ontario. I’m thinking: there goes the Conservative majority?
It was supposed to be a quiet day on the hustings, with the leaders prepping for the debates. Stephen Harper walked his daughter to school and Stephane Dion visited a (can you believe it) life support facility where a dummy was laid on on a gurney, looking like something resembling a prostrate Liberal party.
It was left to Bob Rae to unveil a devastating video of Stephen Harper, when he was Canadian Alliance leader in 2003, speaking in Parliament in support of George Bush’s war in Iraq. What made it news is that nearly half the speech was identical, word for word and paragraph by paragraph, to a speech given in the Australian Parliament the day before by then Prime Minister John Howard.
Did Harper plagiarize Howard’s speech favoring going to war in Iraq? Or vica versa? Or did they both get the script from some other source, say Washington?
At first, the Conservatives tried to brush this off by saying they won’t allow an old speech to distract them from the issues facing voters. But by mid-afternoon, campaign worker Owen Lipper fessed up to being the guilty party. He’s gone. I still think that for a guy who’s such a micro-manager, it’ll be hard for Mr. Harper to pass this off as something handed to him by an aide.
As for it being an old speech, Bob Rae’s point is that it reveals the PM as a man without a serious approach to foreign affairs. And the main grist of Conservative fault-finding ever since Mr. Harper took office has been sharp attacks on past Liberal management. And they’ve never let Bob Rae forget the problems he had as Premier of Ontario nearly 20 years ago.
On the polling front, there’s something strange going on. Some of the polls are wildly different. Angus Reid gives the Conservatives a 19 point lead, Harris Decima and Nick Nanos have the Tory margin at 10.
Today, polls in Qubec have firmed up the Bloc lead and show support for the Tories sagging. Harper’s attacks on arts and culture and his scheme to jall for life 14-year-olds convicted of murder have gone over “like a lead balloon,” according to Peter Donolo of the Strategic Counsel.
And Frank Graves of Ekos says his latest poll shows the Liberals are “eking out a small lead in Ontario.”
It’s worth keeping in mind that these polls are all telephone-based but do not reach people — mostly young and web-centered – who have abandoned land lines and rely on cell phones. Who knows how they’d vote, or if they’d vote atall.
But missing these key folks is something like the famous 1936 poll by Literary Digest that predicted a landslide for Republican Alf Landon over FDR. Trouble was, they surveyed only registered car owners — and missed out the great unwashed who were traveling by shank’s mare at that time. The Digest went out of business soon after.
In a shrewd move, the PM has asked for an extension to an hour the time allocated in this week’s debates for discussion of problems facing the economy.
In dangerous and uncertain times, people usually go with the status quo. Trouble is good for getting a government re-elected, providing the trouble doesn’t go on for too long before people get a chance to vote.
Yesterday, Mr. Harper changed his strategy on the matter of a Conservative majority. When he called the eleciton, he suggested another minority would be the likely outcome. Didn’t want to frighten off potential supporters.
Now, apparenrly, he’s so confident that he can afford to talk about his party’s need for a “stronger mandate.” Big mistake.
Looking at the latest Tory gaffe (if the PM’s old speech can be called that). and putting the slipping polls up against the early lead the Conservatives enjoyed, one can ask whether Harper and Company have not peaked too soon.
Before trying to answer that, I want to see the debates.
While suturing a cut on the hand of a 75 year old rancher, whose hand was caught in the gate while working cattle, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually the topic got around to Sarah Palin and her bid.The old rancher said, ‘Well, ya know, Palin is a ’Post Turtle”.
Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a ‘post turtle’ was.
The old rancher said, ‘When you’re driving down a country road you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that’s a ‘post turtle’.The old rancher saw the puzzled look on the doctor’s face so he continued to explain. ‘You know she
didn’t get up there by herself, she doesn’t belong up there, and she doesn’t know what to do while she’s up there, and you just wonder what kind of dummy put her up there to begin with’.
The gyrations of the stock market this week over the sub-prime mortgage panic and the American credit crisis, would have come as no surprise to Scott Joplin, the great African-American composer of ragtime music.
One hundred years ago this year, after having observed the furor of the 1907 Panic on American stocks and the banking and railroad industries, Joplin composed one of the most remarkable pieces of his career. It was Wall Street Rag, a piano instrumental that captured the delirium, the dismay, the hope, and the smug satisfaction of bankers and stock brokers living with the recurring cycle of boom and bust in financial markets.
Joplin, a young black man who had grown up in the small towns of Texas and Missouri before moving to New York in 1907, was keenly aware of happenings around him.
In New York, he frequented the watering holes of the new Tin Pan Alley district and the burgeoning Black Bohemia of Lower Broadway. But he did not confine his curiosity to just the goings-on in musical circles. While playing piano at the historic Fraunces’ Tavern, the inn where George Washington had given his farewell address to his officers, Joplin often encountered stock brokers who would come in for drinks after a day spent hustling stocks.
The panic of 1907, like those that came before and have followed it since, cost many investors their life savings and thousands of workers their jobs. In a matter of weeks, the stock market fell 50 per cent and brought on to the failure of banks and trust companies. Its biggest victims were the Knickerbocker Trust Company, New York’s third largest, and the big brokerage house of Gross & Kleeburg. They had over-invested in copper stocks and when prices collapsed both institutions were caught in a liquidity crisis. But for the intervention of J.P. Morgan, who extracted $35 million from the U.S. government for a rescue fund to help other banks, the entire financial system could have collapsed. Just like what George Bush and the mavens of Wall Street (to say nothing of an innocent public) are going through today!
It is unlikely that Joplin, whose main source of income was royalties from his 1899 hit, Maple Leaf Rag, had much, if any, money in the market. Joplin was perceptive enough to recognize that financial markets pass through distinct cycles which constantly repeat themselves.
He identified four stages of the cycle:
1) Panic and collapse;
2) Confidence that good times will return;
3) Fulfillment of that hope with a return to higher stock prices;
4) And finally, the carefree days of a bull market before another(inevitable) panic.
Inspired by the 1907 crisis, Joplin translated these episodes into music to create one of his most memorable compositions, Wall Street Rag. Its four sections carried titles that evoked the atmosphere of each phase of the financial cycle. He began with a section entitled Panic in Wall Street, Brokers Feeling Melancholy , and followed it with Good Times Coming, a segment chorded in a happier tone. Its successor, Good Times Have Come, is filled with a merry lift in its trademark syncopation, the key component of ragtime music.
The closing section of Wall Street Rag, called Listening to the Strains of Genuine Negro Ragtime, Brokers Forget Their Cares, reflects the complacency of the market once prosperity has returned. The rhythm harkens back to the traditional folk patterns of an earlier time.
Scott Joplin’s perceptive insights into the stock market’s behaviour were remarkable for someone with so little education in financial matters. Ninety years later the Museum of American Financial History would argue that “this rag can be used to introduce a principle that has long been known on Wall Street: panics are generally followed by periods of recovery and stability.”
The 1907 Panic led to demands for reform of the financial system (just like today!) and led to the establishment of a central bank. Congress formed a National Monetary Commission to carry out an investigation. Its report resulted in creation of the Federal Reserve System in 1913 that has functioned as the U.S. central bank ever since.
Joplin went on to write a much-lauded but financially unsuccessful ragtime opera, Treemonisha. He died on April 1, 1917 at the age of 49, a victim of syphilis.
The music of Joplin’s ragtime era languished in obscurity during the rise of the blues, jazz, swing and rock and roll. His composition The Entertainer was used for the theme music in the film The Sting in 1973, leading to a renaissance of interest in ragtime that continues to this day.
Today, many musical authorities regard ragtime, of which Joplin was such a brilliant creator, as “the trunk of the tree” of modern music.
(My book The Ragtime Chronicles, a bio of Scott Joplin and a look at the times in which he lived, will be published in 2009 by McFarland Publishing, Jefferson, NC).
Infrastructure is a big word, and it is, or should be, a big issue in Canada’s federal election. All the parties are offering solutions of one form or another. The Liberals would work with municipalities and the provinces to implement new funding programs. The Greens want to put the GST back up to six per cent to fund new infrastructure. The cities want a penny from the gasoline tax.
Meanwhile, Toronto’s public transit debacle continues to unfold. The latest misfiring comes from Metrolinx, the public agency charged with finding solutions to traffic gridlock in the Toronto-Hamilton area.
It issued a blue-sky report yesterday promising a 25-year plan, but without saying a word on how to cover its $50 billion cost.
Metrolinx chairman Rob MacIsaac offered this take-it or leave-it choice: “The cost of not proceeding with this plan would be higher than the cost of proceeding with it. We cannot be scared away from this challenge.” Sounds a bit like what the U.S. Congress is being told about the Wall Street bail-out.
MacIsaac’s report raised the usual anti-tax chant from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
“We’re pleased to see that taxpayers have been saved from the prospect of new taxes, new tolls, road fees and congestion charges,” says Kevin Gaudet.
I wonder who he expects will pay for new subways, new streetcars, new roads?
Against this background, the Toronto Transit Commission continues to blunder along, trying to put together its $1.25 billion project to buy new streetcars.
The TTC was going to award the contract to Bombardier after two competitors pulled out, expressing concern about a questionable tendering process. Then it suddenly decided that Bombardier’s cars wouldn’t be able to handle the curves and hills on Toronto routes, so presto, their bid becomes “non-compliant.”
TTC Chairman Adam Giambrone says none of this will hold up the project. His optimism is admirable, if a little dubious.
The question the TTC should be addressing is why it’s even bothering with streetcars. For a city that’s strangling from traffic congestion, one need look no further than the streetcar as a major cause of the problem.
Streetcars hold up two lanes of cars every time they stop to take on or let off passengers, or wait for a left-turning motorist stuck in front of them. Police say there are big safety problems with frustrated motorists trying to get past streetcars while passengers are alighting.
There could be a better way.
TTC Chair Giambrone told me the Commission will be receiving a report this fall on a possible role for trolley buses on Toronto streets. We used to have them, and why they were dropped has never been adequately explained.
Question: Why is the TTC rushing pell-mell (well, crawling really) toward spending more than a billlion dollars on an outmoded system of transportation when many other cities, such as Vancouver, have found trolley buses to be a clean, efficient, comfortable and low-cost alternative?
Trolley buses zip up to the curb, people get on and off, while cars go merrily on their unobstructed way.
In Seattle, a city study found that electric trolleys could be brought in for $7 to $8 million per mile for a system lasting 30 years, compared to the $30 to $45 million cost of a streetcar system good for 40 years.
Toronto seems to have a wonderful ability to go back to the future, thinking they’ve discovered new ways of doing things.
Like the four-way pedestrian scramble introduced a few weeks ago at the Yonge and Dundas intersection. Did no one tell them Vancouver had this system back in 1945 — and abandoned it long ago?
I wonder if Mr. Giambrone and his fellow commissioners have troubled themselves to read Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do, the new book (Knopf Canada) by Tom Vanderbilt that cuts through a lot of the delusions we all have about what goes down on our roads every day.
His main advice: make it expensive. The quickest solution to traffic gridlock, according to Vanderbilt, is to get rid of the bargains. A lot of city traffic, he says, is just people looking for a place to park.
I’m putting on my walking shoes.
Canvassing voters door to door is the essence of the political process. That’s why I looked forward to joining Steve Clarke, the Liberal federal election candidate in Simcoe North, as he made the rounds of Lagoon City Monday evening.
The calls we made reminded me that Canadians are always (well, almost always) polite at the doorstep.
The canvass also reminded me that you don’t get much of a real discussion of the issues during these calls. Candidates of all parties can’t afford the time to get into detailed debate about their party’s platform, or the shortcomings of the other guy’s. The idea is to meet and greet, shake the hand, pledge that you’ll work hard if you’re elected, and then get on to the next house.
A couple of things impressed me about Steve Clarke when we made the rounds.
The first was his obvious commitment to being a good “constituency man.” In Canadian politics, that’s usually where it’s at. He invited people to phone him with any problems and committed to getting action for them.
Steve’s Conservative opponent, the incumbent Bruce Stanton, has “worked” the riding hard since his election two years ago. He’s had the benefit of incumbency (householder mailings, making government announcements, etc) and has a good chance of re-election.
But Simcoe North is a swing riding. It was a Liberal seat for years and in 2006 Stanton took it by fewer than 1,200 votes out of 60,000 cast.
That brings me to the other thing that impressed me about Clarke. He’s got a firm grasp of the issues, and nails hard any point that a voter brings up, whether it’s for or against his party.
Lagoon City is largely a retirement community and he made a good case for the tax reductions and the increased social benefits that seniors are promised in the Liberal Green Shift. The Liberal promise to drop the tax on income trust earnings is also popular with seniors who had bought these funds when the Conservatives were promising to allow the trusts to operate as usual. Then, bam, less than a year after being elected, the Conservatives put a draconian tax load on the trusts on the grounds that they’d enjoyed preferential tax treatment. Maybe, but still, a broken promise is a broken promise.
Clarke got a better reception at the door than I’d expected. Quite a few people asked for signs. He got berated by only one person who expressed a visceral dislike of the Liberal leader, Stephane Dion.
According to today’s polls, the Liberals have bottomed out and are starting to recover some support. It’s said this may be the result of voter fear of a Stephen Harper majority. Interesting that Dion says he’ll have no truck with the NDP in an anti-Harper coalition.
If enough Liberals and NDPers are elected that together they can form a majority, I suspect he’ll sing a different tune! Remember the NDP-Liberal accord in Ontario that allowed the Liberals to form a government when the provincial Tories had won the most seats? It could happen again.
The clock is running down on the election campaigns in both Canada and the U.S. And now only one issue really counts – the economic crisis, what the U.S. government is doing about it, and what Canada can do to stay out of the mess.
Senator Obama has edged into a narrow lead in the U.S. polls, while in Canada the Conservative party ends the second week of the campaign with what appears to be a double digit margin over the Liberals.
Canadians may fret over Conservatives gaffes while they try to figure out what the Liberal Green Shift could cost them. But these things are inconsequential compared to the financial armageddon that the U.S. is flirting with.
Don’t think the rescue package announced by George Bush is the end of the problem. Worry about the American dollar collapsing in its wake. Fret about the probabilility of hyperinflation, followed by a depression as bad as anything the world went through in the 1930s.
Yet, the same old malarky is still being spouted by the mainstream media, especially the Wall Street Journal. Take this beauty from today’s online edition:
“The point of this intervention is to stop a global panic caused both by government mistakes and private excess. The goal isn’t to control markets but to revive them.”
Totally wrong. In announcing the U.S. government’s $700 billion rescue effort, President Bush described the action as “a big package because it was a big problem.”
Lack of Regulation the real problem
The big problem, in fact, has been the dominance in the U.S. of a political and economic philosphy that has encouraged manipulation of the economy by a relatively unregulated and unscrupulous financial services industry that has sucked up billions of dollars in return for worthless scraps of paper.
The problem had its origins, a reader has reminded me, in decisions by the U.S. government under Presidents Clinton and Bush to promote home ownership among low income families. It became extreme when the Bush administration decreed that 56 per cent of Federal Housing mortgages should go to this sector. Conveniently, this created a vast new market for an animal called ”subprime mortgages” – 100% financing and $500 down. The story is well told in this Village Voice article.
These worthless mortgages, wrapped into arcane financial packages no one really understands, were peddled to American and Canadian banks. When home buyers began defaulting as higher interest rates clicked in (as every mortgage vendor knew would happen), financial institutions around the world found themselves holding a trillion dollars of questionable investments.
The crisis has hit the UK as wellas the U.S. Canada has avoided the meltdown so far due to its more cautious lending practices and stricter mortgage regulations.
The result is a mass of angry and embittered voters in the U.S., and a bewildered Canadian electorate.
It is almost pathetic to watch the once honorable John McCain rail at Barack Obama for supposedly being a prime cause of the current panic. After all, Obama’s been in Washington four years, compared to McCain’s 22 years. And McCain has always opposed close regulation of the financial industry.
McCain was one of the “Keating Five,” the five American senators involved with savings mogul Kenneth Keating in the great savings and loan scandal that almost ripped apart the American economy under President Reagan — all because of lack of regulation.
American voters will have to decide whether they wish to support a candidate whose main strategy, beside launching baseless smears of his opponent, is to attack the record of his own party that has been in control of the White House for the past eight years and of the Congress for most of the past twenty.
Canadian voters should tell the party leaders that it’s time to drop the pointless “poopin’ puffin”-type attack ads and lay out a real plan to insulate Canada — at least to the extent that we can — against the kind of economic piracy that’s become endemic to the American way of life.
With today’s polls indicating some slippage in Conservative Party support in Ontario and Quebec, Prime Minister Harper finds himself with another gaffe in his face. Will he be able to shrug this one aside as easily as those that bedevilled the Tories in the first week of the campaign?
Last night, when it came to light that his agriculture minister, Gerry Ritz, had made tasteless remarks about the deaths of Canadians from the listeriosis outbreak, it was obvious that Harper had been handed another hot potato.
In comments in Quebec today, the PM said he accepted the apology Ritz had offered, and rationalized his minister’s bizarre behavior by noting he had been under a lot of stress at the time:
“I think this story is obviously very embarrassing for him, very unfortunate, but should not detract from the good work he has done to get on top and understand this matter.”
As most will know, Mr. Ritz, a Saskatchewan MP, had characterized the crisis as causing the government to suffer death by a thousand cuts, “or should I say cold cuts.” He then went on to add that he hoped the death reported in Prince Edward Island was that of the Liberal agricultural critic, Wayne Easter. Mr. Easter has graciously accepted a personal apology from Mr. Ritz.
It is not uncommon for people in stressful situations to make intemperate comments. However, some will argue that it would have been more forgivable if Mr. Ritz had belabored the executives or the workers of Maple Leaf Foods, or even his own food inspectors for not having caught the outbreak sooner. “I’ll horse-whip those blankety-blank so-and-so’s,” or words to that effect might have been excusable under the circumstances.
But to joke about “cold cuts” and the hoped-for death of a political rival? Some may see this as less a sign of stress and more an indication of an intellectual vacuum in the head of the minister.
Predictably, the Liberals and the NDP have demanded Mr. Ritz resign, or that the PM fire him. Depending on how strong the public uproar becomes, Mr. Harper (or Mr. Ritz) might be forced to re-think their positions.
The Conservatives had to issue yet another apology today over the remarks of a riding assistant for Transport Minister Lawrence Cannon. The individual had suggested a native protestor had a drinking problem. The apology noted that the comments “do not reflect the views of the Government of Canada.”
Of course, not only the Conservative party has had trouble of this type. Two Liberal candidates, and one each of the NDP and the Greens, have been dropped for things they have said, either during the campaign or in years past.
There seems to be a difference of pattern, however. Last week, the Conservative party communications director was fired for suggesting the comments of a grieving father of a soldier killed in Afghanistan should be seen in light of the fact he was a Liberal supporter. Then there was the “poopin’ puffin” Internet bird dropping excrement on Liberal chieftain Stephane Dion.
Does all this indicate an underlying sense of meanness deep within the heart of the Conservative party? According to surveys, up to a half of all Canadians are worried about what a Harper government might do if it had a majority.
Things like Mr. Ritz’s innate utterings add a further dimension to this apprehension. The more often such incidents come to light, the more likely it is that Danny Williams’ ”Anybody But Conservative” campaign will begin to look like a rational choice.
John McCain’s ordeal as a prisoner in Vietnam has become a motif of the 2008 Presidential campaign. His five years of torment, from 1967 to 1973, stand as unquestioned evidence of his courage and patriotism.
McCain missed the 1968 U.S. presidential election in which Richard Nixon defeated Lyndon Johnson’s vice-president, Hubert Humphrey. Had Robert F. Kennedy – RFK – survived his campaign for the Democratic nomination that year, the outcome of the election, and the temper of American politics ever since, might have been substantially different.
I’m reminded of this in reading the new book, The Last Campaign: Robert F. Kennedy and 82 Days That Inspired America, by Thurston Clarke (Henry Holt & Co.).
It almost takes your breath away to compare the circumstances that prevailed in 1968 with those of today, forty years later.
In a chilling observation about Vietnam which arguably could be applied to Iraq, Kennedy told a Face the Nation broadcast on November 26, 1967:
“Do we have the right here in the United States to say that we’re going to kill tens of thousands, make millions of people, as we have, refugees, kill women and children, as we have?”
Even before announcing his candidacy, and having apologized for his role in the early decision-making that entangled the U.S. in Vietnam – Kennedy said in a speech in Kansas:
“I am concerned – as I believe most Americans are concerned – that we are acting as if no other nations existed, against the judgment and desires of neutrals and our historic allies alike.”
Kennedy is widely remembered for his commitment to civil rights and the cause of blacks and Hispanics. But he was equally dedicated to improving the lives of poor whites and American Indians.
Canadian readers who are well aware of the high suicide rate among young First Nations people (as Indian groups are known in Canada) should not be surprised that Kennedy detected the same blight on American reserves in the 1960s.
He spoke of “Indians living on their bare and meager reservations … with so little hope for the future that for young men and women in their teens the greatest cause of death is suicide.” He was as concerned about them as he was of “children in the Delta area of Mississippi with distended stomachs, whose faces are covered with sores from starvation.”
The enormous love and loyalty that Bobby Kennedy commanded in 1968 – as well as the hate – has not since been seen in American public life.
In a postscript to The Last Campaign, Clarke recounts an incident in 1992 when President Clinton cut food stamps to poor children as part of his reform of welfare. Kennedy had campaigned for more aid to the poor, but Clinton’s action did not prevent him from quoting RFK in his signing ceremony.
Clarke writes that this incident so enraged Bobby Kennedy’s daughter Rory (who had not yet been born in 1968) that she accused Clinton of “bastardizing” her father’s name and legacy.
RFK’s last campaign put the condition of African-Americans atop the American political agenda. His legacy remains alive and bears much credit, I believe, for the ascendancy of Barack Obama as the first black candidate for president. The little incident mentioned above may have something to do with why Caroline Kennedy chose to support Obama rather than Hillary Clinton.
We’re beginning to see more signs that the polls in this election, as well as the economy, are pretty fragile. I’ve already pointed out some of the inconsistencies in the polling figures we’re being given. Now, Harris/Decima is beginning to backtrack on the big lead they gave the Tories last week.
After a week of rolling polls by H/D that gave the Conservatives a growing lead, they now say the Tory edge has been cut by three points, down from 41 to 38 per cent. Liberals are up from 24 to 27 per cent, and the NDP is up one point, to 16. The Greens and the Bloc are flat at nine and eight, respectively.
This is more in line with what Nik Nanos (the most accurate pollster, for my money) had been saying. He’s got the Tories up by six points, 37 to 31 per cent.
It’ll be interesting to see if a series of tough Liberal attack ads like this one, will help Dion cut further into the reported Conservative lead.
Elizabeth May got a lot of media exposure over the weekend, so we should look for an uptick in Green figures in coming days.
Her “green shift” would put a $50 a ton carbon tax on pollution, compared to the $10 proposed by Stephane Dion. But she’s impressively articulate in pointing out that the Green scheme would mean $50 billion in tax reductions for ordinary Canadians, with the loss made up by increased taxes on greenhouse gas-emitting companies.
Today, all the party leaders were roiled a bit by the alarming financial news out of the States. More evidence that the laissez faire open market approach favored by the Republicans (and the Conservatives) inevitably brings on excess and collapse. Lehman Brothers and Merill Lynch are the latest casualties of the sub-prime mortgage fiasco, and the Toronto market dropped another 488 points today.
Prime Minister Harper tried to put a brave face on it. But he didn’t sound all that optimistic: ““I don’t think the atmosphere should turn to one of complete doom and gloom. I wouldn’t throw in the towel on any of this quite yet.”
If the election turns into a battle of the economy, who’ll come off looking the best able to handle tough times?
There’s an old Liberal war cry — “Tory times are tough times.” I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Liberals and the Dippers play some variation of this theme in the days ahead.
Question of the Week: No serious damages from Hurricane Ike to the Gulf refineries. Oil is down another $5 a barrel. When can we expect gasoline prices to drop?
Stephen Harper’s hopes for a Conservative majority will be tested in ridings like Simcoe North, a sprawling seat north of Lake Simcoe that switched to the Tories in 2006, but by fewer than 1,200 out of nearly 60,000 votes.
I’ll be tracking the campaign in this pivotal central Ontario riding, likely to be a bellweather of the dozens of potential swing seats across the province.
It’s a very traditional riding — 93 per cent white and 90 per cent English, nudged against the Muskoka resort country, its small towns dependent largely on public service jobs plus whatever the tourist industry can bring in during the summers. This past summer was not a good one for the riding’s resort keepers.
No one knows that better than the Conservative incumbent, Bruce Stanton, who runs The Cottages at Port Stanton. It’s been in his family for five generations.
Stanton took the seat away from the Liberals in 2006, defeating a feisty woman opponent, Karen Graham. By local measures, Stanton’s done well as a “constituency man” in his first, truncated term.
This time, the Liberals have nominated Steve Clarke, who’s also tourism-related as the owner of the Brewery Bay Food Company, a popular restaurant on Orillia’s main street. He’s well known in the largest town in the riding, and looks to be running a strong campaign.
A sidelight to Clarke’s campaign is that he’s a big advocate of preferential voting, which he calls “instant run-off.” Rather than plumping with an X, voters would mark their ballots in order of their preference. It’s not new — B.C. tried it back in 1951.
When I dropped into the Clarke campaign office, I was told they’re getting a great response to Clarke, but that Stephane Dion is arousing mixed feelings. A couple of hundred people turned out last Thursday midday for a visit by Michael Ignatieff, the deputy Liberal leader.
The NDP’s not a factor in this riding, nor are the Greens likely to be. They’ve put up a credible candidate, Valerie Powell, a gerontologist. She could pick up votes on the coattails of Elizabeth May if her leader does well in the TV debates.
I’ll be doing some mainstreeting and will pass on what I hear