The Tories are excited about their chances in a possible Guelph by-election to be held later this year (if the government doesn't fall beforehand), according to Tory spin doctor John Ivison in today's National Post.
If this is true, the Harper-crites haven't learned much from their recent shellacking in Toronto Centre, where Tory appointee Don Meredith came in a humiliating fourth behind the Green Party, after party bosses fired duly-nominated candidate Mark Warner late last year.
The duly-elected Tory candidate in Guelph, Brent Barr, was also removed by party central on the same day as Warner. The party claimed Barr wasn't doing enough to win the riding. In response, Barr showed reporters the holes in his shoes from canvassing since he reclaimed the Tory nod (Barr carried the Tory banner in Guelph in the 2006 election, increasing the vote by four per cent.)
This observer wondered if Barr's removal had more to do with his socially liberal views (while a fiscal conservative, Barr was a rare Conservative supporter of equal marriage for gays and lesbians) than any alleged campaigning shortcomings.
The person who lost the Tory nomination far and square, local councillor Gloria Kovach, was more than happy to be handed the nomination on a platter following Barr's undemocratic removal by party central late last year. It seemed Kovach was more in tune with central party messaging and ideology.
As a native of Guelph, I remember Kovach's first election to local city council in 1991. Around that time, it was rumoured she was a supporter or even a member of the U.S.-based right wing Christian group 'Focus On The Family', which counsels its followers to reject their gay and lesbian children. I even recall her mentioning the group while questioning a presenter at local council many years ago.
I emailed Kovach last week to see if, indeed, she has been a supporter of Focus On The Family: "I remember shortly after you were first elected to [Guelph] city council in 1991 you made reference during a council session to the U.S.-based right-wing group "Focus on the Family". A lot of time has passed since then, but I seem to recall at that time you had confirmed you were either a supporter or a member of Focus on the Family.
I have some questions for you...Have you ever been or are you currently a member or supporter of "Focus On The Family"? And do you still support the aims of this group? Do you support equal marriage rights for all Canadians, including gays and lesbians?
If my understanding is incorrect and you have never been a member or supporter of Focus On The Family, then I apologize. Worried that this email might be ignored by your campaign, I have copied some media in the Guelph area so they are at least aware these questions are being asked of you."
The very next day, she replied with this:
Thank you for your email, your interest and for taking the time to write.
The only time I have heard of the group that you are talking about was shortly after I was elected. A person writing for one of our local papers wrote a defamatory and incorrect article about me citing something about that a link to that group. I understand that the person was subsequently dismissed from writing for that paper owing to the total inaccuracies of the article. I am not familiar with his group.
So Kovach immediately denies any connection to this group, although she failed to answer my query about same sex marriage. Hmmm....
Yet check out this post on the Blogging Tories discussion board earlier this week from 'Swan Song':
Obviously I'm not the only one who's wondering about Kovach's possible connections to Focus On The Family.
Guelph is a very progressive town. The Greens got almost 20% of the vote in Ontario election last October there, with the NDP not far behind. There's no doubt someone affiliated or possibly affiliated with 'Focus On The Family' would be a bad fit for Guelph.
Yet the Harper-crites went out of their way to remove a pro-equality Tory in favour of Kovach. I think I'll be trying to track down that article Kovach refers to in her emailed response back to me asap for more insight.
****** UPDATE *******
Reader John left the following comment regarding Kovach's alleged connection. It bears repeating: "Gloria is far from a social conservative. In fact, it's the old reformers in Guelph that have a problem with her because she's a single mother. They even started a rumour last year that she was gay...That whole connection with Focus on the Family was invented by an NDP mogul in Guelph named Edward Pickersgill, who subsequently got in a a lot of hot water from the paper for making the accusation."
If this is true, then I'm greatly relieved.