Who could be the Best 2015 Federal Election Candidate in Guelph?
A Personal Analysis
Oct 15, 2015
Shortly after the 2015 Federal Election Campaign was declared, I wanted to learn about all the candidates in Guelph. First, I wanted to interview the NDP candidate Mr. Andrew Seagram. I called him both at his campaign office and workplace. I sent several emails and phone messages both at his campaign office and workplace. I did not hear back from Mr. Seagram. Later, the president of the NDP Guelph Riding Association emailed me. He was very kind enough to spend over one hour to talk to me about the NDP values. He said Mr. Seagram would get back to me shortly. Weeks passed, but Mr. Seagram did not get back to me. I had to change my strategy.
I requested an Exit interview with Mr. Frank Valeriote. Without any hesitations, his office arranged an exit interview with him shortly. This interview gave me some insight on what to expect from the new candidates and how to evaluate the new candidates. Here are the lessons I learned from the interview.
1. Many new candidates did not know much about politics when they first ran for election.
2. Many new candidates did not know the challenges they had to deal at parliament after being elected.
3. Their promises and enthusiasms were not informed by the challenges they were going to face after being elected.
4. Work of an MP is a full time commitment, and that the MPs even do not get enough time to spend with their families.
5. Making themselves available to the community is even harder.
6. Relationship is very important in politics. A MP should be able to work in collaboration with his/her party members and other party members as well.
When I asked Mr. Valeriote about his expectation from the incoming MP, he stated the following.
“I hope whoever gets elected they will be prepared to put their personal beliefs aside, they will put their politics aside, they will put their own agenda aside and literally serve the people of Guelph and be available to them, answer the calls when they come in. Don’t turn people away when they come in with problems. We always had a history of good leadership in this community in Ottawa. I think it is important that servant to the people of Guelph, the voice of the people in Ottawa has to be maintained and I would just hate to lose that.”
For the most part, I agree with Mr. Valeriote. From what he stated, I draw the following important qualities as required of a MP.
7. Responding to the constituents’ inquiry and making themselves available to the community
8. Putting their personal beliefs, politics and agenda aside to serve the people of Guelph
9. Being a servant to the people of Guelph
10. Being the voice of Guelph in Ottawa and not the vice versa.
I watched several all candidate debates in Guelph. It appeared to me that, in those all candidate debates, the discussions were more focused on the party policies, values and platforms. In my understanding, it was what the party leaders were also doing in the leaders’ debate. I believed it was only the leaders that could promise any change to their platform if severely scrutinized. I thought what could be more useful was to evaluate the local candidates based on the above-mentioned personal qualities. To do that, I thought it would be necessary to have personal interviews with all the candidates.
On October 05th, I attempted to send an email to all the candidates in Guelph inviting them all for personal interviews. I was not able to get the contact information of the Libertarian Party candidate. As for the Conservative party candidate, although I was not able to get an email address, I used the contact form in her campaign webpage to send the interview invitation. For all the other candidates, I send the invitation for personal interviews at their email addresses found in their campaign webpages.
On October 07th, Mr. Kornelis Klevering got back to me, but he had some questions. We had several email exchanges. On the night of October 10th, I informed him that we might not have enough time to do the personal interview anymore because we were entering into the last week of election campaign.
On October 13th, Mr. Seagram’s Campaign office emailed me that Mr. Seagram was interested in an interview with me. Since I already told Mr. Klevering that it was too late to have an interview, I was not able to agree to do the interview with Mr. Seagram.
My email invitation to all the candidates tested each candidate’s ability to respond to a constituent’s inquiry and to make him/herself available to the constituent in the midst of their busy parliament work. Sadly, many candidates failed this test as they did not respond even to say that they were not available.
Mr. Klevering could get full credit for this. Mr. Seagram gets some credit because, even though it was a little late, his campaign office responded to my email. Unfortunately, Mr. Seagram’s credit may be negated because of his past failure to respond to my calls, emails and messages both at his workplace and campaign office.
Ms. Gloria Kovach, Mr. Lloyd Longfield, Mr. Gord Miller and Mr. Tristan Dineen all totally failed to demonstrate their ability to respond to a constituent’s inquiry and to make him/herself available for the constituent. Since all the candidates failed at the first step or responded late, I was not able to have the personal interviews with them and explore more about their personal qualities listed above.
I was worried that none of them were perfect; however, I had to choose one from the available candidates. To recall, I learned from the interview with Mr. Valeriote that the new candidates may not know about the real challenges they are going to face. And, through the personal interviews, I wanted to explore the personal strengths of each candidate to find out which candidate is most likely to overcome the unforeseen challenges in the parliament and to still strongly advance the aspirations of Guelph People. The personal interviews did not happen. Now, I have to rely on other available information to find out which candidate could best represent the Guelph people.
Based on the debates I watched, it appeared to me that Mr. Miller was more articulate despite his emotions were sometimes distracting from the content. He distinguished himself from other candidates by defending democracy when Mr. Dineen was excluded at the Fair Vote forum. He also showed his ability to appreciate the good work of other party members, which made me believe he would be able to work in collaboration with other party members. In addition, I believe the parties that have a less number of seats are forced to work in collaboration with other party members.
A party that wins the majority of seats tends to disregard the opinion of other party members and eventually the constituents. The collaboration decreases. Therefore, I see the majority government formed by any party as risk. In Canada, creating a coalition government is seen as a great deal. But, it is very common in Asian countries like India. In India, a coalition is formed even before the election to determine which party candidate to run in which riding. It avoids vote splitting and creates a high chance of winning for the candidate.
Each party offers its unique perspective. As long as it is of public interest, it is better to listen to each party’s perspective. Currently, we are seeing extreme hostility among party leaders. In the debates and in their campaigns, we see them personally attacking each other. This hostile environment is not going to promote collaborative work. If the parties themselves are not willing to collaborate, it then becomes the electorate’s responsibility to make them collaborate with other parties by not allowing any single party to win majority.
Currently, the polls say that the Liberals are the frontline runners. I am concerned about the judgments of Liberals since they voted for Bill C-51. I see a risk that if Liberals are able to form a majority government, they may pass bills similar to Bill C-51 even if the public is opposed to it. Currently, I have no concerns about the NDP in this regard.
I do not see much difference between the Conservatives and Liberals. Some of the worse decisions were jointly made or passed by the conservatives and Liberals. Liberals accuse Mr. Harper of personally attacking other party members. But, Liberals also do the same. Mr. Thomas Mulcair, in his interview with CBC’s Ms. Rosemary Barton, said that Mr. Justin Trudeau said that he could work with the NDP, but not with Mr. Mulcair.
When I looked at a flyer of the Local Liberal Campaign, I found that three fifth of the pages were devoted to accuse other party members. The Liberal party needed only half of a page to inform what they had to offer to Canadians. They were not able to rely mostly on offering their values and asking people to vote for them if the people like their values. It was so important for them to blame other party members to gain support for them.
In that local flyer, the Liberals accused Mr. Miller for running for the Mike Harris Conservatives for the Common Sense Revolution. In that case, they had to accuse the public as well for electing the Majority Mike Harris Government. The Liberals blame “(Gord Miller) was appointed as Ontario’s Environment Commissioner thanks to Mike Harris’ direct influence.” So what? They did not say what went wrong. It would be more useful, if the Liberals could point to some facts that would help evaluate Mr. Miller’s ability to discharge the duties of a MP.
As far as I know, some social advocates, when they do not get an opportunity to advance their causes, infiltrate the existing infrastructure to make some possible changes, while others consider it not appropriate. The local flyer also pointed a misstep of Mr. Miller. I would not put much weight on what could be considered a learning mistake that might be improved. I am also mindful that progressive people take many initiatives and leadership roles, and so may end up making frequent learning mistakes or being frequently pointed by others. I do not think it should be considered as an indication for poor future performance as a MP. I believe progressive people are better than the just followers and who just maintain status quo to avoid mistakes. The Liberals’ local flyer also accused Ms. Kovach campaign of funding misuses, which I believe is totally relevant.
The Liberals criticize the current electoral system. The Liberals also accuses Mr. Harper of fear mongering. However, they are also using the current electoral system to their advantage and for fear mongering. They call the people to strategically vote for them creating a fear “Voting for any other candidate could mean electing a conservative candidate.” I would not buy in to that. I am concerned if Liberals are elected, more or less they would follow the same path/values of the Conservatives. We need to have multiple perspectives from various party members in parliament to help make the best-informed decisions.
Currently, Ms. Elizabeth May is the only female leader. If she does not offer an opposing view, most likely, the other male leaders may go into talking about the female issues even if it make some females feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. We saw it in their debate over niqab.
Mr. Stephen Harper is used to wear top in the debates, if he is asked to appear topless, he would most likely feel uncomfortable and embarrassed. In the same way, a female that is used to cover her face in the public would feel uncomfortable and embarrassed if she is asked to remove it. In my opinion, Ms. May has a unique perspective to offer at the parliament to protect women’s rights and equity, and that she needs more support.
I am also concerned that Mr. Mulcair is not making a genuine argument. He seems to oppose all of what the Liberals say. Conservatives and Liberals claimed that they reduced the corporate tax from 17% to 15% to safe the people’s job. The Liberals offer taxing the wealthy people 1% and paying that revenue to the poor people. Mr. Mulcair wants to reinstate the corporate tax to previous level, but do not want to tax the wealthy people 1%. In an interview, when CBC’s Ms. Rosemary Barton asked him why he would not tax the wealthy 1%, Mr. Mulcair responded he would not raise personal tax.
It can be noted that Mr. Mulcair accuses Mr. Harper for introducing income splitting, which Mr. Mulcair claim to only help the rich to make more money than do any good to the poor. He promises to repeal it. Mr. Trudeau claims that he wants to tax the wealthy 1% and give it to the poor. Mr. Mulcair is opposed to that as well, but he is not able to present a genuine argument for his position. I believe if Mr. Mulcair is really concerned about the growing income disparity, he would not have any problem with the Liberals plan to tax the wealthy 1% and give it to the poor. It appears to me that Mr. Mulcair is opposed to it just because it is a Liberal’s plan.
It is very likely that the Liberals and NDP are going to fight in the House of Commons and oppose each other’s view rather than finding common grounds and working on the best interest of the public. We need to have an alternative to all the three of them: Mr. Harper, Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Mulcair. We need to have a peacemaker among them to bridge them all. Most probably, Ms. May is going to play that role since she is promising to work across the party lines. She was also renowned for her hard work and reputed as a best parliamentarian.
Communist party has a good platform, but it is not implementable. In an interview, I asked Mr. Miguel Figueroa, the Communist party leader, assuming that communist party wins in all the ridings that it runs, would it be able to implement what it offers in its platform. Mr. Figueroa replied, without mass movement, the party would not be able to implement what it offers in the platform. To me, such a mass movement is a remote possibility. We need to make some progressive changes right now.
Changes need management. In this era, it is difficult to make dramatic changes because every system is interconnected. Along with every change, its consequences also have to be managed. We saw the consequences of a dramatic change, when the USSR was separated.
The main goal of the Communist party, as explained by Mr. Figueroa was to put out its values in the public. I think it has been fairly done with the help of alternative medias, and the participation of the candidate in the debates and other events.
The chances for the Communist party to win in this first-past-the-post electoral system are very less. It is very likely that the people would feel that their votes would be wasted if they vote to Communist. A good strategy for the Communist party could be to work with another party to show their power by making the other party win and achieve some of the shared goals with the other party. In my opinion, the Green Party platform has more alignments with that of the communist party. For example, the Greens Guaranteed Livable income is a good alternative to the Communist’s $20 dollar minimum wage proposal. I believe the Marijuana and Libertarian party also could find a party that has aligned interest with them and work together. It looks like the Liberals want to legalize and regulate marijuana.
Ms. May has come to Guelph three times. She has shown that she is easily reachable. When she was answering a caller at CBC, she expressed that she is in support of the elected candidate recall provision. It shows her commitment to the accountability of an elected candidate. It gives some assurance that she will hold Mr. Miller accountable if he does not perform to the standard of a good MP.
However, the Green Party is also not perfect. At the Green Party Town Hall in Guelph, I requested a short interview from Ms. May. Unfortunately, she had to leave immediately. She volunteered for an over the phone interview with me, and asked her National Tour Director to coordinate it. I emailed the National Tour Director requesting for the interview time along with some sample questions. I did not hear back from the National Tour Director. I tried to call her from my cell phone. It always played a voice message. I used the radio station phone to call her. She answered that call. In her view, my questions were not tough, but it may take too long to answer such questions. She suggested that I ask those questions from Mr. Miller. I disclosed to her that Mr. Miller did not respond to my interview request in the past. She was surprised. I agreed to forward the email I sent to Mr. Miller and offered to reduce the number of questions to Ms. May to just three. She said she would follow up with Mr. Miller’s campaign and get back to me on the next day regarding Ms. May’s interview. As agreed, I forwarded to her the email I sent to Mr. Miller, and I sent three questions for Ms. May to answer either over the phone or in written. Neither the National Tour Director nor Mr. Miller’s campaign office got back to me.
In Guelph, most people are very outraged about the austerity measures taken by the Conservatives on social benefits programs while giving more money to the corporates and the rich. The people are also outraged about liberals for voting for Bill C-51, which affected the marginalized people more because of the already existing racial profiling and targeting of the people with mental disabilities. The Liberals’ support to reduce the corporate tax resulted in the decrease of available funds for the social benefit programs. The NDP does not seem to be genuine in its arguments. They all blame each other. They all failed to demonstrate their ability to work collaboratively across party lines.
Some politicians often do not heed to marginalized people. They may think that these marginalized people do not have the capacity to influence politics. This could be proven wrong. This time, Guelph is believed to be a close-fought riding between Liberals and Greens, which means every vote counts for them. This is a nice opportunity for the marginalized people to prove their political power.
Immigrants, visible minorities, people with disability and other marginalized populations in Guelph can play a huge role to show their political power and to get the attention they deserve from the politicians by strategically voting the Green.
So far, Guelph has been believed to be a Liberal stronghold, and that the Liberals could easily win. Some people believe easy win may not help the candidate understand the gracious position he/she earned, and that it may not help him/her understand how hard it is to become a MP and how much hard work he/she have to put to maintain the support of all groups of people.
If immigrants, visible minorities, people with disability and other marginalized populations strategically vote for Greens, it would either make Greens win or give the Liberals a tough competition. In both cases, it will create a strong message to politicians that these marginalized populations are also powerful groups with the capacity to make change.
In addition, Liberals deserve a punishment from the marginalized and other affected people for voting for Bill C-51 to deter them from engaging in similar wrong doings in future. Until they marvel at something and repair the damage of their reputation with the marginalized and other affected people, they may not deserve a vote from these people.
Another issue is that some politicians play games with the people. For example, they target their voters and do not pay attention on others. Therefore, I believe people that are sidelined by the politicians have to find a way to make those politicians pay attention on them and hear what they say. Playing a kingmaker role by strategically voting against those politicians in a close-fought riding like Guelph is one way to do that.
I believe Mr. Miller has a unique perspective to offer at the parliament. Most importantly, he is able to articulate well. His experience as an Environmental Commissioner makes him a special candidate in Guelph. The environmental issue has become a serious issue. We cannot afford to lose a voice for environment. The environmental issue is not anywhere else. It is right in Guelph threatening the safety of drinking water. With his expertise, Mr. Miller could contribute not only to Guelph but also to the whole nation. If he does a great job at parliament, it would make all the Guelph people proud.
In addition, it is less likely that the Green Party will interfere with his free voting decisions in consultation with the constituents. At the Town Hall, when people pointed to Ms. May as Mr. Miller’s boss, Ms. May responded to the audience, she was not his boss, and, if elected, Guelph People would be his boss. With regards to the Conservatives, it is even not necessary to talk about the whipped voting. With regards to the Liberals, I hear allegations that its members had to follow whipped voting for the Bill C-51.
Considering all this, although I am concerned that Mr. Miller and his party were not responsive to my communications, on the balance of probabilities, I believe Mr. Miller could be the best choice out of what we have in Guelph.
I had a good relationship with a Russian Grandma. She used to say even though Mr. Lenin, finally, did not like Mr. Stalin, he chose Mr. Stalin as his successor because Mr. Lenin believed Mr. Stalin was the only person to serve the people better. In the same way, I believe even though Mr. Miller is not perfect, he is the person that is most likely to serve the Guelph people better with the incredible support of Ms. May.
Maybe, the Guelph people could demand Mr. Miller to work on his learning mistakes, which I believe would be easy to do with the Green Party rather than other Major Parties due to the level of complexity. As a growing party, the Green party have much fresh energy to fight for our rights. I believe Guelph people could use it for their advantage.
Disclaimer: This is my personal analysis based on the information I was able to access. This shows only one way of analysing candidates. Please feel free to do your own analysis before making your choice.
This article is also accessible on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/who-could-best-2015-federal-election-candidate-guelph-konesavarathan?trk=prof-post