Saturday, October 19, 2013

What an Iconic Moustache Means to Me

Edmonton Civic Election Ward 6 has been dominated by the presence of two candidates who came out of the gate early and have been mobilizing all kinds of forces. It is impressive politicking, and I have already blogged about the difference between being the best at campaigning and being the best at the job.

I have already blogged about a head-to-head comparison of Heather MacKenzie and Candas Jane Dorsey with respect to ActivatED2013, a group claiming to be in favour of "progressive" candidates but with a shifting definition for what that means. (And today they once again repeated the erroneous information that only MacKenzie has held elected public office - and they know this is false. But hey, they ignored the union/business donations and the P3s and the qualifications of other candidates in their endorsement - see my other blog post - so why expect anything different?)

Now let's talk about Scott McKeen and what I observed at the forums and from people on the doorsteps.

First, let me take a moment and admit that I am irked about the choice of a moustache as his iconic symbol. That choice, which might seem innocuous enough, symbolizes something completely different to me. Instead of a policy, he offers a prop. Not just any prop, but one that is almost uniquely gendered. If you choose to make such a gendered prop your brand, what is the message? If a female candidate had used the outline of her lipstick-decorated lips or a cartooned image of another part of her anatomy or hairstyle, what would the message be? Would we respect it? In an election where there are questions about whether or not there will be any women on the council, it seems oddly out of touch to have a candidate using a moustache as a symbol. Now, McKeen might well say it is the most memorable thing about him - which means he needs to work on his platform some more.

Second, McKeen was very slow to develop a platform. He wasn't alone in this - there were other candidates who waited to gather more input from residents of Ward 6 before finalizing their platform. But McKeen's experience, which is largely based on 8 years reporting on City Council meetings (by his own admission), he would have us believe has prepared him uniquely for a leadership role. Well, shouldn't someone who wants us to believe he has been deeply observant for 8 years be starting the campaign with some idea of what he wants to achieve as a councillor? So as the campaign has progressed, and as McKeen has talked vague points in the forums, I have wondered exactly what he thinks he would contribute. In  terms of ideas, almost every other candidate outstrips McKeen - and it shouldn't be that way if McKeen truly believes his reporting is equivalent to being qualified to do. It is especially weird since McKeen ran unsuccessfully in the last election.

Third, this week I started delivering election flyers to homes in Oliver (his current base) and Grovenor and Glenora. People I know in those areas expressed puzzlement: McKeen had come to their door but he didn't seem to have anything concrete to say. All right, so maybe the people I know were just expressing solidarity with my candidate. Except that people I didn't know - but who wanted to talk about the election because I was there with a flyer in my hand, even though I am not the candidate - were saying the same thing. McKeen has name recognition, but they find his platform feels like he's saying what he thinks will get him elected. It is not the platform of a leader. Most of the other candidates outstrip him in this regard for both the breadth of their platforms and their ideas: Kapitza, Forsythe, MacKenzie, Dorsey, Hollis. Kyle Brown had a clear but narrow focus on green initiatives - but at least he wasn't afraid to start somewhere! Taz Bouchier likewise - tackling some of the harder social issues of a complex Ward. (Note: this statement should not be construed as endorsing those platforms.) Some of the others did not shine.

Fourth, I attended the World Cafe reverse forum. There were several Ward 6 candidates in attendance, and I got to sit at tables with some of them. The purpose of a reverse forum is for the citizens to tell the candidates what they think and feel about issues affecting them. Some of the candidates were really receptive and well prepared. Others were receptive but not as well-read on the various issues affecting these people - and there were several "Oh, really? I didn't know that." moments from those candidates - which is excellent. After all, you can't know what you don't know (although I would maintain that these candidates should have known something). 

But there were also candidates who walked right past anyone from a different Ward (the numbers were on the name tags), who interrupted speakers at the tables, and who appeared to think they had nothing to learn from the citizens. I watched one man try to express a complicated issue only to be interrupted several times by two candidates - one of them McKeen - until another candidate intervened and asked everyone to let the man tell his story. Now, maybe McKeen thought his interruptions were helpful - but they came across as dismissive and rude.

Fifth (and possibly related), McKeen always seems to be headed to the next thing rather than giving his full focus to the people in front of him. Perhaps he thinks his name recognition and moustache mean people don't need to know anything more. Showing up only briefly at events where other candidates are really committing to spending time with the people who took the trouble to come out...well, it does look like a media person deciding these people don't count enough when he could be spending time with other people.

Sixth, the platform itself. I will go through his website tabs. 

The following is an excerpt from Scott McKeen's election website under the tab "Key Ideas" (
  • We must build the core of our city together. Consultation and engagement with Ward 6 residents is Scott’s top priority.
  • Ward 6 is Edmonton’s showpiece. Only proper funding and attention from City Hall will allow it to reach its potential.
  • Investing in Ward 6 communities will attract new residents and slow urban sprawl. High-quality urban design, with neighbourhood input and integration, is essential.
  • Scott will fight for preventative, community policing in Ward 6. Cops walking beats is proven to prevent disorder and crime.
  • Prudent investment in high-calibre facilities and civic services is the Edmonton way. But council is duty-bound to use restraint on tax increases and borrowing.
So what are those key ideas, exactly? 

1) Consultation is his priority. Is that an idea? How about making sure the various city departments revise their consultation processes. Councillors have been listening; it is administration that tends to decide first and listen later. McKeen should know that if he's been paying attention.

2) Ward 6 is a showpiece. Umm, Ward 6 comprises many neighbourhoods that are not "showpieces" and might not want to be, and other neighbourhoods that ARE showpieces and don't need more money. As for proper attention and funding from City Hall - well, there are going to be competing demands for city funding - and there are some complexities around conflicting views on development. Also, downtown is more likely to be able to attract some kinds of private development. So what is the "idea" here? A vague, half-baked statement that is supposed to make you want to vote for him because he, we don't know exactly what.

3) "Investing in Ward 6 communities will attract new residents and slow urban sprawl. High-quality urban design, with neighbourhood input and integration, is essential." Well, Ward 6 is already getting huge investment. This is not new. The arena. The LRT. The Royal Alberta Museum. The constant redoing of Jasper Ave. The Quarters. Boyle Renaissance. Where has McKeen been? The "fair" share of development money is probably accounted for. So what more does McKeen propose?

4) The policing fight: sorry, McKeen, but your opponent Dexx Williams has this one covered in greater detail and with real experience. And your opponent Candas Jane Dorsey has been serving on EPS committees for 17 years. This vague statement is all you could come up with? I don't see an "idea" here.

5) "Prudent investment in high-calibre facilities and civic services is the Edmonton way. But council is duty-bound to use restraint on tax increases and borrowing." With his statement, McKeen doesn't even say which way he will lean. Or how it works with his previous "ideas" that cost more $$.

Look at the Major Projects tab. What you will find is a summary for the arena, the Rossdale site, the City Centre Airport. Except what does McKeen say? All he says boils down to this: these were planned by previous administrations and we will follow the plan. See anything new there? ANYTHING? I mean, there is a moustache. That's different. Any ideas, any contribution, any acknowledgment that those projects continue to be divisive? What about new ideas for Ward 6? What about the planned disruption of the east end of Ward 6 by the LRT?

Ah, that's in the Transportation tab. Here's the problem: while McKeen has a policy on the LRT not dividing communities, it was his competitor Candas Jane Dorsey who was actually tackling City Hall and the Transportation department in a protracted struggle over the routes. As for the other Transportation issues, McKeen wants good roads and bike lanes and walkability. Who doesn't? And he wants there to be money for all these things. Good luck with that. So is there a single real idea or plan here? How does he propose to change the LRT routes when years of consultation have failed? He must know that, right? A man with such a keen interest in the city? And then there's that last bit - about nuisance vehicles. My favourite quote from this page:

"Secondly, cars with little or no noise suppression are more common today."

True. As are quieter electric cars and hybrid cars. With serious issues about transportation in and out of the city core, with development causing more stress on vital downtown arteries, with the whole question of how we build and maintain our bridges, with the issues of parking lots vs development - THIS is where McKeen offers something concrete: ticketing the odd noisy car? He's kidding, right? No, he's not. Because that's as far as he's able to commit right now. For someone who was covering City Hall all those years when some key decisions were made, the lack of vision or detail here is...baffling. But, hey, he has a moustache.

Next tab: Safety.

Community policing is not a new idea - and McKeen is right that the city started in that direction and seems to have lost its way. This, again, is a place where Williams and Dorsey have the edge. His desire for safety-oriented urban design is also nothing new - but how does he propose to make it a reality? Zoning? Permits? And how can you balance that desire for changing neighbourhoods with a desire for balancing budgets?

Putting the Poverty Reduction Strategy on this page borders on an insult. Poverty reduction is not a safety issue, keeping "the rest of us" safe from the homeless. Poverty is about a lot more than not having a home. So McKeen says other areas of the city need to accept housing facilities. Guess what? That does not address poverty. Putting the facilities in affluent neighbourhoods doesn't always meet with kindness. The economic opportunities for the homeless - the bottle depots and the scrap yard and the day labour offices - what is the plan for having opportunity in those other communities? Yes, a focus on housing can help address the other issues. But putting facilities in areas with higher real estate costs and a need to add services - well, that is expensive. Where does the money come from? How will he overcome the resistance of other communities? Is he not aware of the Quarters plans? Sorry - the Ward 6 candidates from the east side (Candas Jane Dorsey and Alfie White, both residents of Boyle Street and both having been involved in the Boyle Renaissance development) are ahead of McKeen on this one.

As for neighbourhood cleanliness and putting the core first - well, hardly a new idea. So how do you convince the other areas who want their streets cleaned - the noisy areas paying high taxes - that the core comes first? Edmonton IS pretty clean. There are some specific problem areas - and the best way of dealing with dirt and garbage is prevention. So...where is the money going to come for this wish-list of a perfectly shiny city centre? And what about the other areas that think of themselves as showpieces - Glenora, for example?

Great Neighbourhoods tab: infill housing and densification. Well, there's not a single new idea here. 

I've been hearing some great ideas in some of the City consultations on The Quarters, Chinatown, Boyle Street, McCauley. These neighbourhoods are not going to maintain character through infill (although bad infill will hurt them). Soundscape as an element of the Chinatown part of the Quarters, twinning with a town in Italy to boost connections with Little Italy, promoting unique cultural features... These ideas are not coming from Scott McKeen.

Municipal Services tab: At last, something specific! Three items, all of which require more money and I am curious about the benefit.

Seniors tab: he will carry on the work already in progress. Ummm. That's nice. What about initiatives to repair sidewalks outside their homes? What about increasing the number of appropriate assisted living or long-term care facilities? What about working with the various agencies that are trying to help seniors remain independent? What about dealing with food deserts that make it hard for seniors to get groceries?

City-Wide Priorities tab: 
  • McKeen's musings on a regional model focus on increased provincial funding - like that has not been a constant chorus from Mandel et al. Notice that McKeen shies away from discussing regional cooperation models.
    The City Charter idea is interesting, but how will it work? This might be one of the few elements of McKeen's platform that intrigues me.
    A vague nod praising sustainability. Not a plan or ideas, just indicating that he's for sustainability. What candidate isn't?
    Arts and Culture? McKeen is outstripped in this area by Dorsey, who was a driving force behind some of our municipal and provincial cultural institutions.
  • Engagement: It is not new for a councillor to be engaged with the public. That is not where the disjoint lies. Nor is McKeen the only (or the best, given the contents of this election site) communicator in the campaign. Yes, a newsletter to explain decisions would be nice - how much will that cost? Why are the media outlets not good enough? Why not use the network of community leagues for that? (There's an example of a REAL idea, McKeen. You're welcome!)

Sorry, folks. Nothing here but the 'stache.

McKeen is popular, but I have not been impressed by his platform or his public appearances. Still find Dorsey to be the best of the lot, with MacKenzie second. If being a City Hall reporter makes you an expert on being a councillor, being a medical reporter should make you a shoe-in as a doctor. 

Dorsey, MacKenzie and Forsythe have all had leadership positions in organizations dealing with various aspects of the City administration. Their experience is deeper and more direct than McKeen's. If you feel a moustache is the most important thing about a candidate, then by all means vote for one.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Why ActivatED is wrong in Ward 6 - UPDATED

So the good people at ActivatED continued to insist that Heather MacKenzie is the only electable progressive woman candidate in Ward 6. They chose her in August, long before the Ward 6 candidates filed, and they have continued to ignore the qualifications of other candidates. I am picking one other candidate and comparing head to head.

Let's look at the criteria ActivatED use.

1. A commitment to Sustainable Transit

So, what is "a commitment"? Has Heather MacKenzie shown a commitment? Let's see, now...Candas Jane Dorsey has been working for years on improving the LRT route to cause less disruption to fragile communities that were not consulted. She joined with the south Chinatown community to speak up for them. Did other candidates? A platform is just that - a platform. Actually doing the work is what shows a commitment.

2. Prioritization of an Urban Agriculture Strategy

"Heather values a robust local food system and, in particular, she values the farm land both within and around our city limits.  She believes that greater access to local, healthy food will reduce vulnerability to environmental shocks and help bolster the local economy.  She supports the proliferation of farmers’ markets, community gardens, and other forms of local agriculture."

But what is her track record of making these things happen? Candas Dorsey, who has also spoken out against the sprawl, has actually been working in the community gardens. The new Boyle Street Plaza, which she had a substantial hand in shaping, was planted with fruit-bearing shrubs for the neighbourhood - understanding that a policy is one thing, but actually putting it in action is better. The Plaza also has kitchen facilities and a muck-and-guck room - great facilities for community harvest and preserving activities.

So do we want someone who says these things or someone who does them? Who will come up with a more workable strategy?

3. A Commitment to Sustainable and Responsible Development - Putting a Stop to Urban Sprawl

Heather MacKenzie has a good position on this, but Candas Dorsey has actually been fighting the battle directly. From championing the urban coop housing initiatives decades ago (including being an active member of one of those co-ops for 17 years) to working on the Boyle Renaissance to putting her feeling about affordable housing in action - giving students a deal on her former rental property in Belgravia and absorbing the cost - in essence subsidizing the housing and allowing appreciation to yield the eventual profit (this came up at the World Cafe reverse forum when a candidate from another ward was saying that as a landlord he would expect to make a profit). Dorsey lives in Boyle Street, an area that has suffered from the past decades of poor planning. She has been speaking out to preserve our remaining heritage buildings, or to have them included in the design of future developments. Her own businesses were housed in some of Ward 6's venerable buildings that have been re-purposed.

So what has Heather MacKenzie done that makes her more progressive on this front? You can say anything during an election, but what has she actually done? Candas Jane Dorsey has been on the front lines of this one for years - even before she chose to move from Old Strathcona to Boyle Street 11 years ago. So why does ActivatED think their candidate is more progressive on this item? Mystifying.

4. Responsible Funding of Infrastructure Projects - Avoiding Public-Private-Partnerships (P3s)

Heather MacKenzie's chief claim to suitability is that she served one term as an EPSB trustee. EPSB, with the province, uses  P3s for new schools. I looked through the reports I could find online of the committee Ms. MacKenzie served on - the Moratorium on School Closures Committee. It's a complicated thing when the province is making you build P3 schools and at the same time there is a struggle to keep core schools open. One of the ways put forward by the committee is to lease space in the schools - if that can be done. It would be stretching it to call that a public-private partnership, because the ownership is still with the board. But interestingly enough, there seemed to be no expressions of concern about the proliferation of P3 schools and how they might contribute to the problem. Maybe the reports don't reflect the full discussion, but if avoiding P3s is one of the criteria, how can ActivatED support a candidate whose chief qualification is that she was a trustee for a board that has P3s?

Candas Jane Dorsey has been vocal in her opposition to the P3 approach to the LRT.

But just as the P3 decision was made before Heather MacKenzie got to EPSB and there would have been no benefit to opposing it after the fact, so too will either candidate find themselves facing a harsh reality on YEG city council. The Alberta government did the P3 deal to provide new schools that were needed; the federal government is insisting on the P3 deal if Edmonton is going to get Fed $$ for the LRT.

So on this one, they are both in trouble. The difference is that Heather MacKenzie has been associated with an entity that uses P3s and Candas Jane Dorsey has not. So who should get the endorsement?

But let's not stop there. In terms of the history of trying to do big things on a small budget, Heather MacKenzie has three years with an organization that has a huge, established financial operation. Candas Jane Dorsey has three decades' experience finding creative partnerships (either for the cultural associations she volunteered with or in the companies she ran) and doing her best to keep organizations in the black. She simply has way more hands-on fiscal experience. So why does Heather MacKenzie get the endorsement?

ActivatED repeatedly mentions that MacKenzie has an elected public position. This was not part of the survey they sent to the other candidates, or they would have found out that Candas Jane Dorsey has also held several elected positions - from province-wide organizations to the local community league. The ability to get elected is not an indicator of progressive thinking (look at many of our elected politicians!); it is a talent for being elected. True, Candas Dorsey has not been elected to city council before. Neither has Heather MacKenzie. If it is experience in campaigning that counts, there are several Ward 6 candidates who have a lot of experience campaigning, and the nod would probably have to go to Adil Pirbhai!

I heard an interview on the CBC with some of the ActivatED brain trust. They said they looked at things like whether or not the candidate had a campaign manager. How is that progressive? Both MacKenzie and Dorsey have had campaign managers - so what? Campaign managers are not a sign of being progressive - even the most regressive candidate can have a campaign manager. They also said they were looking at whether or not someone was "electable". Wake-up call to ActivatED: look at the worst of the federal Conservatives - that person was electable. Sometimes being electable is about pandering. For example, this race between McKeen and MacKenzie for "endorsements" or "look who I know" tweets strikes me as two people with less-than-full records of public service desperately trying to borrow credibility from others. I suppose it makes them seem more electable to some people, but my vote will go to candidates who are more secure than that.

5. Prioritization of Equity and Proven Ability for Community Consultation

The work Heather MacKenzie did to pass LGBTQ inclusiveness and anti-bullying policies must not be underplayed - it was excellent.

And it was made possible because people like Candas Jane Dorsey spent decades doing the legwork. Contrast a short stint on the EPSB in a climate where same-sex couples are allowed to marry with Ms. Dorsey's 17 years on the Edmonton Police Service Liaison Committee and then the EPS Chief's Advisory Committee on Hate and Bias Crime (which was then renamed and expanded).

Dorsey received the Todd Janes Award for community service to the LGBT community and an EPS award for her work with the EPS committees. She was also a recipient of the YWCA Women of Distinction Award. She was awarded the international Tiptree Award, which is given annually to an author for "a work which best explores or expands gender roles."

As a publisher, she invested in the voices of authors from LGBTQ communities, from people struggling with mental illness or developmental issues. She used her position to bring their stories to light. She marched in the early Pride Parades - in the days when to do so was to invite scorn, ridicule, and the threat of violence. She was one of the writers who worked on the province's IRPA Review Panel Report. Her work has intersected with First Nations communities and artists. She insisted on bringing forward the needs of the underhoused and economically disadvantaged in the Boyle Renaissance consultations (actually writing the policy for BSCL), objecting to the proposed removal of the bottle depot because it is the main source of income for her destitute neighbours. She fought to get the voices of the Chinese seniors heard when the City's transportation department decided to put an LRT tunnel between the seniors' residence and their cultural society buildings. She has been a tireless advocate for women, for visible minorities, for the economically disadvantaged. 

Many Edmontonians know that. Dorsey has been building community and creating connections on a local, provincial and national level for decades.

For all the things she has done as an artist and as a community advocate, she was awarded an Alberta Centennial gold medal.

That's not even touching the personal actions: providing a year-round source of water for the homeless after hours, caring for the transient population that springs up on the empty lot most summers, applying her social work training and her keen awareness of people as individuals to every interaction in one of the most diverse neighbourhoods in Edmonton.

So why does ActivatED think Heather MacKenzie is more progressive? Is it because she has volunteered for Engineers Without Borders, a charity of particular interest to one of the ActivatED members?

Now, maybe it's not fair to compare Dorsey's decades-long history of deep commitment to equality - equality not just as a concept but as a reality - with someone who is too young to have racked up that degree of accomplishment. But there it is - Dorsey meets this criterion better than MacKenzie.

MacKenzie will be a Dorsey some day. She's smart, principled, and genuine. Give her time. But right now, ActivatED has made a mistake in putting MacKenzie's accomplishments ahead of Dorsey's.

6. A Commitment to Campaign Finance Reform and Disclosure of Funders Prior to E-Day

Well, this is a tough one - because I have seen the list posted by Heather MacKenzie and I have seen the list that has not yet been posted by Candas Dorsey.

Here's what ActivatED said they want to see going forward:

  • lower the maximum campaign donation from $5000 to $1500-2000
  • require that all candidates disclose their finances prior to election day
  • ban corporate and union donations
  • ensure that financial surpluses after the campaign are given back to the donors, to the municipality, or to a charity
  • Only allow donations to be made during election years
  • Limit the candidate’s spending to 50-65 cents per ward resident
Okay. So Heather MacKenzie has posted (as of the date of writing) the names of 61 people who have donated more than $100. 

She has not disclosed, at this date on that page at any rate, the names of the corporations and unions that have contributed to her campaign.

Those donations to MacKenzie from business and unions total 32% of her campaign donations. That is NOT what ActivatED seemed to think would be progressive.

With about 72,000 people in Ward 6, ActivatED would like to see the spending capped for this ward at $36K to $46.8K. I don't know how much Heather MacKenzie is spending, but I am seeing billboards and print ads and a huge number of signs. And unions are making phone calls.

Candas Dorsey? When I saw the list as of this date, no unions. No businesses. Just individuals, and none near the maximum. No potential to be influenced post-election.

Now, Dorsey has not posted her list yet - but then, it only has to be posted before E-day to qualify. So people would have to take my word for it that I have seen the list. But I bet several of the candidates running in Ward 6 would meet ActivatED's criteria better than MacKenzie.

MacKenzie's willingness to take union and corporate money is contrary to what ActivatED says their criteria were about. So there is that question again: why endorse a candidate who, good as she is, is not the best at meeting the stated criteria?

So, now what?

In a direct comparison on all the stated criteria, ActivatED has actually NOT endorsed the right candidate according to their own philosophies. How did this happen?

Well, for one thing they chose before many of the candidates had even indicated they were going to run. Having chosen, it would be a huge loss of face to say "Oooops! We have to back someone else now." Their website said they would change their endorsement if new information came up during the election, so let's see if they will do the right thing.

For another thing, their survey did not ask for full information from the candidates. The reasoning they give for MacKenzie is not all based on the survey - they have taken the time to find out more (or perhaps they already knew more because of the prior association of one of their members). Did they take the time to find out more about the other candidates? Ummm...well, we could ask those other candidates but I am pretty sure what the answer would be. ActivatED did not - or they would have realized how off-base they were to discount Dorsey.

Another possibility is that they do not think anyone of Dorsey's age could be progressive. The ActivatED team is young; MacKenzie is young. Could there be ageism at work here? Candas Dorsey doesn't appear progressive to them, perhaps, because she is mature. They need to spend some time in committees with Candas Dorsey.They also need to understand that just because someone hasn't shown up on the radar of their peer group doesn't mean the person hasn't been working in the broader community.

I like Heather MacKenzie. She is thoughtful and smart and if she is elected I believe she will do a good job. On ActivatED's criteria, though, she does not beat Dorsey. Dorsey will do a better job, and she brings decades of progressive action as well as her experience. MacKenzie is my second choice.

So what will ActivatED do now? They have been putting out Twitter calls to join them in a final blitz for Heather MacKenzie (they don't seem to be blitzing for other wards). Will they show integrity and endorse the candidate who better meets their criteria, or will they continue to work for MacKenzie? 

Of course, there is no obligation for ActivatED to be impartial or fair - they are self-appointed and they don't have to answer to anyone. If they want to work for MacKenzie because they like her, why not? My issue is that they claim to be doing it because she is more progressive than the other candidates, and that is simply not true even by their own criteria. 

So this week leading up to the election is where they will have to prove to me that they are either people of integrity who will re-assess their choice...or they are people who wanted to work for MacKenzie all along and have no intention of sticking to the principles they said they espoused - in which case they need to come clean and say they recognize Dorsey is the better candidate but they want MacKenzie anyway because they like her and they are prepared to vote for feelings over principles. Do they have the courage to do this? If they don't, how transparent and progressive is ActivatED being?

Meanwhile, voters should weigh the facts for themselves.

UPDATE October 17: A Twitter exchange and a posted reasoning from ActivatED2013 has revealed a couple of things. 

First, they clarified that Heather MacKenzie was not a volunteer for Engineers Without Borders at the same time as one of their own members. Fair enough.

In their explanation, they said they took into account whether or not the person was electable - could they run a good campaign. When I suggested this was not a sign of being progressive - that even an unprogressive candidate could run a good campaign - they referred me back to their initial criteria where they said that running a good campaign was not a sign of being progressive. Ummm. So running a good campaign and being electible is not progressive UNLESS you are a candidate they want to endorse?

They seem to like the fact that she was able to spring money from unions and businesses, despite that being contrary to their criteria. So there's another paradox - it's bad UNLESS you are a candidate they want to endorse?

So if ActivatED is going to adjust or ignore their criteria to make sure they fit the candidate they chose (and in their refutation they again pointed out MacKenzie's handful of very real and positive accomplishments but did not take the trouble to research the other candidate more fully - my argument is not with MacKenzie's accomplishments, only that they do not stack up to equal a better candidate), there's not much point engaging with them. 

Maybe they need to spend some time thinking about whether or not personal biases are affecting their interpretation of their own criteria. I can't imagine why an ability to get and spend money from unions and businesses is at all "progressive". All those endorsements from people you haven't worked for, who don't really know you... It's borrowing cred. That whole campaign is slick like...well, like the status quo campaigns of the people they won't endorse.

Despite their protests, ActivatED is still wrong. Only now they are determinedly wrong. I hope they can get some clarity in their processes before the next election, because I think they are genuine in their desire to effect public good. For this election, though, I find them not credible.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Giving Credit for the Boyle Street Community League Facility

View from the community centre

Grand Opening of Boyle Street Community League in the Boyle Street Plaza!

A ribbon with someone missing.
 On the last weekend in September the Boyle Street Community League had their long-awaited grand opening, complete with ribbon-cutting. Although the event was posted to their Facebook page, their website didn't have the schedule and they forgot something.

They forgot to invite the previous Community League board members who worked so hard to make this building a reality. The "soft" opening, when the building was already in full swing but not all the equipment had arrived, was in March 2013 shortly after the new BSCL board was elected. The recent event, in conjunction with Culture Days, was the big splash.

Current BSCL President Thim Choy did not mention that the bulk of the work was done by Candas Jane Dorsey and Manon Aubry. New board members taking credit without actually having contributed to the building phase were Bob Vandergrift  (current vice-president elected in March) and Linda Dumont. Manon Aubry was there, although she no longer serves on the board,  and continuing treasurer Woon Lam was present but notably absent were

  • Candas Jane Dorsey
  • Timothy J. Anderson
  • Mei Hung
  • Nancy Chan
  • Meg Furler
  • Benjamyn MacKay
  • Zach Lindop
  • Allan Kwan
  • Alf White
  • Carol Neumann

From the planning for the opening that started in 2012, I know there was a list of people to be invited. I know that no invitation was extended to some of the people named above, despite their huge volunteer efforts over the past 3 years. 

Of all the people present at the ribbon ceremony, the person who deserved to cut the ribbon was Manon Aubry. At least she got to speak with media. I heard her on CBC radio. She was gracious and well-spoken and, without singling anyone out, acknowledged the many contributions made by the volunteers.

What kinds of volunteer efforts? Well, this facility is a complicated partnership with the YMCA and the City. All kinds of issues around how the facility would be shared, operated, funded had to be worked out. Budgets. The lease. Staffing models. Hiring. Decisions about the design, the fixtures, the furnishings, the signage. Washing every dish and utensil, inflating volleyballs, learning how to operate the moveable walls. We took classes in operating the booking system, updated our first aid training, took workshops in Non-Violent Crisis Intervention. And for the first months of the centre, I was the facility monitor on a volunteer basis one night a week - the go-to person on the site for any issues from malfunctioning equipment to inebriated community members in medical crisis. After the election in March I was replaced with paid staff. The principle of community involvement seemed to weaken.

The community table - CJ Dorsey was on the committee but not invited to the ribbon-cutting.
How much of this work did the President do? Let's just say he has a tendency to show up long enough to appear on camera. The bulk of the work was done by Candas Dorsey (essentially working half time as a volunteer for more than two years) with Manon Aubry coming in a close second.

It is a disgrace that Thim Choy and the current board did not invite the people who did the work. Maybe if any of them lived in Boyle Street...

Candas Jane Dorsey files her candidacy papers to run for Ward 6 Councillor. Not being invited to the BSCL opening meant she could attend the 104th Street reverse candidates forum!


Chiming in on the 2013 Edmonton municipal election

Boyle Street is in the hotly contested Ward 6, a long district that runs from 84th Street in the east out to 149th Street in the west, and from 111th Avenue in the north down to the river. So Ward 6 encompasses one of the toniest residential areas (Glenora) and one of the grittiest (our wonderful Boyle Street). It includes Little Italy, Chinatown, Central McDougall (downtown), Oliver, Queen Mary Park, North Glenora, Grovenor. A huge and complicated area.

I have been keeping an eye on the forums and on the twitterverse and the candidate literature and websites. A terrific field with some wonderful people running. Here are my thoughts so far:

1. Reporting is not doing. While some journalists successfully turn to politics when their media run is over, others are less successful. Alberta has seen its fair share of these on the provincial stage over the past century, and some of them have been extremely damaging. William Aberhart and Ralph Klein were beloved of their constituents because they had a media profile before they were elected to office - and they had ideas. Lots of ideas. But reporting or commenting on politics is different from being in office, and the damage they did in office was breathtaking. Feeling like you know the will of the people is not the same as being able to do a complex job competently. So when I look at a candidate who comes from the media, I want to see that there is more there than a refined heckler. The candidate seen as the leader in the Boyle Street ward race (according to his media colleagues) is Scott McKeen. Here's the problem: McKeen's qualifications and track record are not as good as some of the other candidates. He does not have the history of solid accomplishment in this sphere that a couple of the other candidates have. His work on community efforts started, according to his pamphlet, in 2010. It's a drop in the bucket compared to most of the other candidates - and it feels to me as if he was using that to pave the way for running in this election. Call me cynical.

2. Live here. Unbelievable to me that a candidate would run in a ward where he a) doesn't live and b) hasn't located his own business. But Dexx Williams is that candidate. Williams is all about transparency when it comes to other politicians, but he hasn't exactly been up front about the degree to which he is committed to Ward 6. Doesn't live here, didn't put his business here (it is in the south end, if the address given on the website is correct). So why is he running? Because he is a police officer in this Ward. His experience of the ward is mostly related to his job - and while he might be an expert on the policing issues of the areas of the ward to which he has been assigned over the past 7 years, that does not qualify him to deal with the complexity of representing this area's complex business and social environment. Since 1986 I have lived in Boyle Street, Central McDougall, Rossdale and Oliver. I have been a partner in three businesses in the heart of this ward, been employed by several others, as well as serving on the community league and other boards, and working on two of the community garden projects. Where is Williams' personal investment in this community? Sorry, it does not stack up against other candidates who choose to (rather than being assigned to) live in, work in, and are personally involved in the community. I know there are issues of safety for police officers, and I understand it might not be a good idea to live in the area to which you are assigned. Fine. Run in the area where you live. Or run where your other business is. Don't try to tell me you can represent the people of this ward better than those who have been committed to it 24/7 for years. I am not endorsing Dexx Williams.

3. Be savvy about communication. 

No matter how brilliant you are, if you cannot communicate your ideas you will not succeed on council. Several of the candidates have shown they have a weakness in this area. Granted, my own biases as a communications professional are coming into play here. Perhaps these are good people who simply don't communicate well in public forums. 

While I admire Melinda Hollis' backbone when some of the Twitter folk got bent out of shape over comments Hollis made in the forums, her willingness to fan the flame wars made me feel like she is too easily distracted. I also find her campaign material to be long on principles but short on ideas for how to achieve them - especially since her targets seem difficult to accommodate. I want to see more of a plan if you indicate you are going to increase infrastructure spending, develop and fund a lot more programs, increase funding to the arts community AND reduce debt and taxes. Without some brilliant ideas (which we need), this looks like nothing more than political pandering. Tell them what they want to hear. Hollis has worked for the city in the past and lives in the ward and she might be good at the job - but she is not bringing to the table the same level of creative thinking and past achievement that some of the other candidates have. She also wants to revisit the city centre airport debate - and that's a dead horse. Settled in 2009. Rather than open up the debate again, have a creative plan for how those lands are going to be developed without undue stress on existing infrastructure. Then I might be interested in voting for you.

Other candidates have also had communication missteps. Dexx Williams had to do a great deal of explaining after he suggested politicians be subjected to the same kind of scrutiny as police officers - including lie detectors. 

Alf White got some negative reaction on Twitter after he misspoke at a candidate forum - saying he wanted to eliminate infill. White has a strong record of community service and he has some profile in the east end of the ward where parking lots weaken not only the aesthetic but the feeling of community. White has in the past expressed a desire to see these areas developed, and his intention was the same at the forum - but he misspoke and seemed unaware that he had misspoken. Isolated incident? Maybe - let's see how he performs in the other forums. 

Adil Pirbhai has not been able - in the forums we have both attended - to articulate his vision beyond ranting about past decisions and saying he will speak out for the average citizen. 

Javed Sommers has a Facebook page, and he links to his answers to one of the questionnaires. His answers show that he might not understand how some aspects of the city work - such as his decision not to make engagement with post-secondary research/faculty/students a priority. The universities are a major economic driver in Edmonton and they are playing a significant role in downtown development - not recognizing that reality does not give this campaign much credibility. The LivingBridge project is not a model for urban sustainable agriculture - my experience with its precursor in Boyle Street taught me many things about why this model will not work to achieve the goals. Don't just accept the hype, Mr. Sommers - look carefully at the model.

Erin Northey seemed a bit at sea in the early forums. Call me small-minded, but I took against her tagline "Committed towards a better Edmonton". I noticed that on her platform webpage she has used the correct term and commits TO a better Edmonton. Prepositions are not interchangeable. As of the date of this writing, her platform statement is a mess. The material is not well organized, the specifics are lacking, and there are a lot of rookie grammar errors. Fuzzy writing indicates fuzzy thinking, in my opinion. Well-meaning candidate, but not ready. 

Bryan Kapitza's website is also full of errors and broad generalizations (like saying 52% of the downtown core is surface parking lots - and unless you are drawing a circle around the four blocks east of City Hall, I don't see that this assertion stands). He gets points for having a set of clear priorities, but his facile solutions (avoid debt by not approving debt - but with no thought to how you then finance needed infrastructure) do not convince me. I really like some of his "other initiatives" - but I have heard them before, and some of them are not going to be possible without incurring debt.  An inner city credit union would need assets of $10 million minimum to provide full services (check the provincial guidelines). As for growing plants on the boulevard strips between sidewalks and the road - well, he wouldn't be the only candidate who is doing that.

I find Pirbhai's website much clearer than the man is in person - which could have something to do with these speed-dating forums where people only have one minute to speak. So why am I not voting for Pirbhai? Because city council DOES have to worry about how to attract and keep business, and none of the decisions regarding the airport or the arena or the Indy were undertaken without a lot of study and concern and public uproar (whether a plebiscite was conducted or not - plebiscites will only yield wise decisions if the people who vote on them are fully informed of all the ramifications of the situation). No, I do not agree with some of the decisions - but I am not looking for monsters under the bed. Councillors wrestled hard with these decisions, and if Pirbhai is not prepared to respect that, then will he be able to respect contrary views if he is elected to council and will he be able to work with others? I do not see that from his appearances or his materials. His claim that he is the only candidate who has attended budget hearings and Public Forums - well, I am not sure which public forums he means. I know Candas Jane Dorsey attended council sessions on the LRT and on the Boyle Renaissance and worked with various levels of city bureaucracy on Chinatown consultation, The Quarters, Boyle Renaissance - got in there and did the work, not just listening to the meetings. 

I haven't met Carla Frost and I haven't seen her literature - only heard about her campaign platform second hand. Audiences seem to be distracted by her aggressive approach; people have trouble telling me what she is actually planning to do (except for saying that no-one is going to tell her what to do, which doesn't sound like a team player to me).

Andrzej Gudanowski's platform as expressed in his answers on the Local Good site suggest a man of big ideas who hasn't a clue how things work or what is already being done on various issues of interest to him. This impression might be in part owing to a language barrier.

4. Have a broad platform. 
Here is a problem we see on the federal scene too: the Green Party is trying to save the country, but they are not seen as a party capable of managing anything but an environmentalism portfolio. Of course this is not true. Elizabeth May won the leaders' debates in the last election in my opinion. 

What does this have to do with Ward 6? Well, it's the role Kyle Brown plays. And I wish more of the candidates incorporated solid greening in their platforms. In many of the broad-based platforms I get the feeling the candidates have learned what to say to get votes rather than what to do to bring about change. Kyle is focussed, but he lacks the breadth of experience that will bring a seasoned voice to debates on matters that are NOT related to sustainability (I know: everything ought to be related to it, but at the council level it is not). 

Similarly Taz Bouchier: we really need this social worker/First Nations perspective, but I am not seeing the level of experience of some of the other candidates. 

Heather Mackenzie has a fairly broad platform, but I don't see much experience with the business community either as a business person or hooking the business community into her other endeavours - and this could just be that she hasn't written about it. 

Williams is mostly about security and policing and safety. The broader picture he paints is long on promises of what he would do, but short on details of how he would do it. Encouraging small business to move to the core might be a hard sell if your own business hasn't moved there.

The weird things is how much Dorsey combines or overlaps the qualifications of the other candidates. She started as a social worker (like Bouchier) has small business experience and a lot of board experience; she ran a communications company (like McKeen) from the Weinlos Building and then a publishing/consulting firm (like Williams) from the Birks Building. Dorsey knows some of the challenges facing businesses in the downtown core. She doesn't have Hollis' experience as an executive assistant or Brown's political family.

5. Demonstrate specific achievements. 
Sitting on a committee is not an achievement. For all we know, you could have been the person everyone else rolled their eyes over. 

Derrick Forsythe probably has some specific achievements, but I find his literature vague and lacking in anything concrete. He recently posted about a community consultation success before Council - yes, that is what I would like to see more of. Yet he has been active on the Community League board, I believe, and has demonstrated a willingness to work with multiple communities on a range of issues.

Terry Parada has run a business (this is true of a few of the others in the race: Dorsey, McKeen, Williams). And he has a son.

The leaders in this race, in terms of expressing specific achievements, are Candas Jane Dorsey and Heather Mackenzie. Mackenzie can point to the gradual transformation of the EPSB; Dorsey can point to the Boyle Renaissance as well as a long history of creating and sustaining specific local, provincial, and national organizations to meet needs. As a co-founder of The Bullet (Edmonton's arts newspaper before SEE and Vue), of The Books Collective (publishing Alberta voices that were not getting a chance in other places), of Hromada Housing Co-op, of the Writers Guild of Alberta, of SF Canada, seventeen years contributing to an EPS liaison committee - Dorsey has a pile of awards reflecting the respect she has garnered in Alberta and beyond for her community work and her writing. McKeen has some awards as a journalist - as part of his job - and some recent recognition for his newfound passion for community service - but nothing as sustained as Dorsey.


My vote is for the person with the strongest grasp of the most issues and the longest record of getting things done in a creative, cost-effective way. That means my order of preference based on what I have seen at the forums and what I have read online is as follows:

1. Candas Jane Dorsey. No-one else comes close to her credentials or length of service. Analytical, communicative, consensus-builder.

2. Heather Mackenzie
. She would be a young voice, but she has shown strength and determination and managed change at EPSB. She shares many qualities with Dorsey.

3. Taz Bouchier. Solid champion for community and some underrepresented Edmontonians.

4. Derrick Forsythe. Talking with him at the events, he seems like a genuine candidate with a long history of community involvement and an analytical ability. He would grow into the role.

5. Scott McKeen. At least he knows the history of how we got here, so he might be able to stop council from repeating mistakes - but in my opinion he has been an observer for much longer than he's been a doer. And he hasn't actually released much of a platform yet (although I hear he will soon).

While I admire and respect the 11 others for their willingness to serve and their desire to make Edmonton a better place, their platforms or their performance are not working for me.

UPDATE: I received a comment on this post, but it was accidentally attached to a different post by the sender, so I have typed it out here. The sender was anonymous.

"I think it’s sad to judge Carla Frost, she has served as a community service worker in Edmonton for 27 years and this is her second time running in ward 6. She is real and to speak about someone in this way isn’t community spirit and she is a huge grass roots Edmonton woman."

First, I did make it clear I was not operating on first-hand information and I tried to be fair about that. Second, these candidates are asking voters to judge them - to assess whether or not they would be the best councillor for the ward. That's our job in an election. Third, I don't claim to be a voice for "community spirit" - but even if I were, nothing I have said about Carla Frost is in any way mean-spirited. No-one suggested she wasn't "real". This is how she is presenting herself; if she wants to be seen in a different way, she will have to present herself in a different way. That is true of all of the candidates. If there were one obviously perfect candidate, we wouldn't need to have an election! 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

This blog was interrupted by a round of shingles, then an accidental community garden, then the Fringe festival, and then a school year. And throughout it all there were the trials and tribulations of working with a volunteer board of varying degrees of competence and self-interest.

We are back, and crankier than ever.

Saturday was the main planting day for the temporary community garden on the site where the Mount Royal Hotel used to stand.

The garden was made with straw wattles in a panopticon design by Tiffany Shaw-Collinge as part of the 2012 Dirt City/Dream City transitory art project in Edmonton's Quarters District. A late start meant the garden was only ready for planting on Canada Day.

I contacted as many of the previous gardeners as I had e-mails for and asked them to spread the word. but a garden that starts that late in the season, and has no security or fence, is not attractive to people who want to grow and harvest their own vegetables. A small group of people did commit, especially neighbour Jack Dong - an octogenarian former tai chi instructor. Jack was the guardian angel of the garden in 2012.

Jack was at the garden on Friday - I had already dug four of the beds earlier in the week. Jack told me he had not been well this winter. At one point he had thought he would die, and he told his doctor so. At 82, he said, he felt it would be all right if he died, even if most members of his family live to 86. I told him to take it easy and I would be back on Saturday.

When I was on the board of the Boyle Street Community League I had received permission to use to concrete room in the basement of the new Plaza as a place to start seedlings for the community garden. Our growing season is so short.

More than 100 tomato plants (across three varieties), dozens of red cabbage, dozens of okra seedlings, hundreds of onion sets, dozens of honeydew melon seedlings, some burgundy cauliflower - plus zinnias, lavender, snapdragons... I shepherded them through, gradually hardening them off by taking them outside every day for a week (increasing the time each day). There were some seeds that didn't germinate, too, and others that were too delicate for the grow lights and the dryness (two astilbe seedlings survived out of dozens). And I have seeds for peas, turnips, beets, beans, nasturtiums, and corms for iris, glads, acidanthera...

Because the site has no security and there is no guarantee people will be able to harvest, I am providing all of these free of charge to the people who are willing to garden.

So Saturday I showed up. Jack Dong was surprised to see me - he had already forgotten about our conversation of the previous day. He gamely tried some raking and then went to rest.

The next visitor to the garden was a man who had been drinking. He talked at me for some time about everything I was doing wrong - from his perspective as an Ontario farmer who knew a lot about growing marijuana (which he had stopped doing some 15 years ago, he assured me). He couldn't take in anything, but he was unstoppable when it came to telling me the principles of pH monitoring and manure. While I tried to finish some of the planting, he kept up a non-stop rattle - some of which was useful advice, and some of which was wasted because if he had been paying attention he would have noticed that I was already doing things the "right" way. After about 40 minutes of advice, some of which was contradictory, I told him I was not a very sociable person and I had reached my limit. He had done nothing wrong, and his advice was appreciated, but could he please leave now? He did - apologizing as he did so. I reassured him that he had done nothing wrong - and he hadn't - but that I had low tolerance.

My low tolerance tends to be for anyone who wants to talk to me when they have been drinking. Those urgent, yeast-breathy tones where every element is equally portentously weighted.

Before the former grow-op meister cleared the garden, his spot was taken by a man who had already had an interesting day, if his split lip and cloth bag of clothing were any indication. His desire to help was lovely - he took one look around and announced that this was too big a job and he would help. Unfortunately, whatever drug he was on made him hyper and belligerent. He tore at the plastic seedling cells (which I re-use from year to year) and started chucking things into the nearest bed - which had already been planted.

"Please stop. That bed is already planted. I appreciate your enthusiasm, and if you want to join the garden, you can start with the larger unplanted plot on the west side. Here - I can give you these plants and you can get started right away."

"You can't tell me what to do - this is a community garden and I can do what I want, and, besides, you didn't build it."

"Actually, I DID help build it last year and I coordinate the gardeners."

"You can't tell me what to do. It's a community garden and it isn't like you bought the plants."

"Yes. I did. I bought the seeds and the bulbs and I started them myself and looked after them and I donated them to the garden."

He pointed to the tomato seedlings he had chucked in - he was angry because he didn't know what they were.

"They are tomatoes, and they don't belong in that part of the garden," I said.

"Water them," he ordered.

"No, I won't. You have a choice: if you want to garden, then you can have a plot of your own and I will give you the plants and seeds. But community gardens have rules, and you are not allowed to plant in someone else's plot."

"You need to learn to be more welcoming; you need to take a course in public relations. This isn't your garden."

"Yes, it is. And you need to leave now."

"If you try and make me stop, I'll smash your head in."

"No, you won't," I said. "I am calling the police. I take threats seriously."

And so I called the police on my cell phone, and my visitor grudgingly got up, calling threats and accusing me of stealing his bag (which he had left behind - and I actually called out to him and brought it over to him, even as I was on the phone with the police) and of giving him the split lip etc.

After he had gone and the police had been assured that I no longer needed their assistance, I went back to gardening. My right arm wouldn't straighten. This is a response I have had before after facing people who are violent - vasoconstriction. It feels as if all my veins and arteries have somehow retracted and are now too short for me to extend my arm. This is a response to adrenaline that has been documented in medical studies. I continued to dig, enduring the pain as my arm gradually relaxed.

I am not proud of these interactions. I should have been more resilient. At the same time, there is no way of talking to the drugs. Maybe if he had not been preceded by the other visitor, maybe I would have been better able to cope - but I was trying to get the garden planted and these people were busy making their addictions my problem. What would have happened if this man had shown up when frail Jack was alone in the garden?

Then the four young evangelicals showed up. Students at one of the universities and members of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, they are living at a church in the neighbourhood so they can better understand the challenges facing the residents. One of them is studying pharmacology. Grreat. I have had a drug grower, a drug user, and now a future drug distributor.

The smart thing to do would have been to say "Here: grab some seedlings and let's get to work making things better."

Instead I asked them about themselves, told them what I do when I am not fending off intruders at the garden. They stood there, the four of them, seeming uncomfortable (which they were, probably, because of the sun) while I thought "This is also not getting the garden planted. I am not an object to be studied." They left. Perhaps I am not interesting enough - not needy enough.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Conservative hypocrisy on election fraud

This past week has seen the unfolding of the robocall story, in which it is alleged that the Conservative Party of Canada or someone acting on the behalf of the Conservative Party paid for automated phone calls to be made on election day 2011 to mislead voters to incorrect polling stations. The calls claimed to be from Elections Canada.

The focus is on a riding in Guelph, but Edmonton's Boyle Street is in one of the ridings that has been mentioned in some of the articles. As previous readers of this blog know, Peter Goldring was running for the Conservatives in the riding, with a serious challenge from NDP Ray Martin. Goldring is currently sitting as an independent while the issue of his refusal to take a breathalyzer test is sorted out. He has entered a plea of Not Guilty, which seems odd given that he DID refuse the test. Perhaps he plans to challenge the law. A Conservative who wants to argue for less crime prevention? Definitely not the campaign platform he presented when he was running for office. Things must look different when you are the one charged.

For personal reasons, I do not want to believe that anyone associated with Goldring's campaign had any part in this current Conservative debacle. Unfortunately, Goldring's previous behaviour makes his involvement plausible. Our household was getting a lot of automated calls related to the election - but because we already knew who to vote for and where our polling station was, we just hung up on them without listening all the way through. I am now wishing I had paid more attention.

The misleading calls at the centre of the fraud - and they are illegal - are not a matter of speculation. Thousands of calls were made. Elections Canada received the complaints on election day, May 2. They know which company was responsible for issuing the calls (RackNine in Edmonton). The question of exactly WHO recorded the messages, paid for their distribution, and who knew about the tactic has not yet been settled.The disposable cell phone in Guelph had a phony name registered.

Why did it take more than nine months for the election fraud to be made public?

Let us not forget that we had the election after the Conservatives were found to be in contempt of Parliament. The Conservatives have a history of breaking the rules to suit themselves, and they justify it by saying the Liberals broke rules when they were in power. Yes - but the Conservatives ran on the promise that they would be more accountable. Instead, we have broken rules compounded by coverups and scapegoating.

From Stephen Harper's lies about the Cadman affair to Bev Oda's altering of documents to Peter Goldring's lies about the Boyle Renaissance, this is a party Canadians should be ashamed to support. Here's the kicker: those lies were all known before the election. It is not hard to see why the Conservatives might feel they would need a little illegal help to win their majority.

The issue boils down to this: someone broke the law to help the Conservatives win the election. That someone knew they were breaking the law and took precautions to conceal their identity. The Conservatives then won a majority of seats with a minority of popular vote. They have hurried to put in place legislation that the majority of Canadians do not want. The Harper Government, knowing the law was broken, seems to have done nothing about it until forced by exposure in the media. Even if the determination is that the party cannot be proven guilty for the calls, they are guilty for not taking action earlier.

Now we have a problem, and the solution lies with the rank-and-file Conservatives who supported the liars by voting for them. If they have any moral fibre left, they need to prove it. They must be the ones to take to the streets and demand byelections - even at the risk of losing their majority in the House of Commons. If they do not, then they are supporting corruption by their silence.

The Conservative government treated this as if it was merely a dispute between parties, trouble stirred up  by their opponents. So for nine months nothing was done. Now they are saying they really want to get to the bottom of this. Say what??? Then why did you do nothing about it when it was reported? Did you think everything would be fine as long as no-one could actually pin it on a Conservative?  How long do you think it will be before "Pierre Poutin" is revealed? Why are the media at the forefront of the investigation instead of the government?

I am aware that in talking about Conservative supporters who worked the election in one of the mentioned ridings I am talking about members of my own family. You will also notice that I am not espousing any other party - this is not about party affiliation. During the election I supported a candidate with a track record for honesty and intelligence over a candidate who had promoted hatred and lies - I made my choice based on the honour of the person, not the party. 

So let's get some honourable Conservatives working on this. Come clean. Call the byelections.