Thursday, November 14, 2013

Desperate Dippers getting nasty in Toronto Centre

With less than two weeks to go until by-election day on November 25th in Toronto Centre, federal New Democrats supporting candidate Linda McQuaig are ramping up their nasty sides, shamefully trying to throw dirt at their main opponent, Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland.

Logging onto Twitter and searching the hashtag #TorCen reveals many snarky, fact-challenged Dippers looking to roll around in the muck. It's not good enough, I guess, to simply talk up their own candidate or leader. Instead, they're engaging in dubious attacks, trying desperately to tear down their opponents. McQuaig, herself, seems to shrug at her campaign's nastiness, only acknowledging that "things are heating up."

If you were to believe the Dippers on Twitter, you'd think that Chrystia Freeland is American, she thinks poverty and income inequality are great, she callously planned the laying off of some Thomson-Reuters employees in 2010, she loves Sarah Palin, etc. etc.

Those attacks are either total fabrications, or deeply misleading. This is the ugly side of politics. The disgusting side that continues to turn off so many regular Canadians from politics. The kind of politics that extremists in the NDP and the Tories sadly often turn to in order to play to their "base" and discourage voter turnout. It's gross.

For the record: Chrystia Freeland is Canadian, born in Alberta. She worked in Toronto as an editor at the Globe & Mail in the early 2000s, and her eldest daughter was born in Toronto Centre. She has worked abroad as well, finding much success as a journalist, bureau chief and manager, including stints in London, Moscow and New York City. She has done extensive research into the issue of income inequality, globalization and the ongoing technology revolution, and wrote an award-winning book on these issues called "Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else." Her concerns about the inherent injustices of these economic forces, as well as her desire to work with Justin Trudeau to come up with some meaningful and effective policies that promote growth but also fairness and justice for the middle class, are what have led her to make this run to become an MP. She now owns a home in Toronto Centre and she plans to raise her family here, win or lose.

As for the recent attack that Freeland somehow "oversaw" the laying off of employees, it's clear in this CP article (which either the Dippers attacking Freeland failed to fully read, or just decided to ignore and mischaracterize) that those decisions were not Freeland's, they were corporate decisions that she, as a manager, had to implement. As for the criticism by the mostly anonymous, disgruntled ex-staffers who said Freeland didn't defend their positions, I can only ask: "How would they know Freeland didn't defend their jobs or fight for them before the final decision to cut positions was made?" "Were they in the room when those decisions were being made and the order was given to Freeland?" Obviously not. But that doesn't stop them from lashing out anonymously, mostly worried about their job prospects in a "shrinking media industry."

In truth, news media has taken huge hits since 2008. All newsrooms have shrunk due to declining ad revenue caused by the recession that year. To blame Freeland for the cuts at Thomson-Reuters is heavy-handed at best.

Such facts probably mean little to partisan Dippers, though, who are probably deeply worried that they're going to lose all four by-elections taking place on November 25th. Hence, the desperate ad hominem attacks on Freeland.

Freeland, to her great credit, isn't taking the nasty bait. Despite the huge amount of dirt that could be thrown at Linda McQuaig, Freeland has limited her responses to simply clarifying the truth and her own positions, which have been mischaracterized since the summer by the NDP. Freeland isn't interested in tearing anyone else down; her approach has been to focus on her considerable strengths, including her vast experience abroad, to show Toronto Centre voters what she can bring to the job as their MP. She focused on the issues such as fighting for better federal support for public transit, better economic policies that serve the middle class, the engine of the economy, and other issues. She was a class act in last night's debate on Rogers TV, where she effectively countered the attacks from McQuaig and gave clear answers to the actual questions asked, unlike the other candidates.

As a Liberal volunteer, I also want to try to mimic the class shown by Freeland and not engage the New Democrats on the dirty, nasty level to which they've fallen in this race.

I'll merely say that I think McQuaig is far too extreme for this riding. Her far-left views on increasing taxes on individuals (which apparently contradict positions taken by her own leader, Thomas Mulcair) would address income inequality simply by taking away income from people at the top. It's typical NDP bunk. As is McQuaig's call to stop new development in Alberta's oil sands. Such irresponsible moves make no sense in the real world and would only undermine the anemic economic growth that we are currently experiencing in Canada.

I'm a moderate progressive and not massively partisan. I want to defeat the Conservatives in Ottawa. But as recent history has continued to show us, the New Democrats are not the party to defeat the Conservatives and form a consistently strong challenge to them. No, the NDP sadly has a history of blowing elections, or governing poorly where they do rarely happen to win (except perhaps in Manitoba where they govern like Liberals) and getting knocked out of power rather quickly. Look at the recent British Columbia election. Look at the recent Nova Scotia election. NDP administrations tend to cause massive conservative backlashes in the populace, frequently leading to far-right conservative governments, such as Mike Harris in Ontario in 1995 or Rob Ford in Toronto in 2010. This is not a party that will ever form a consistent, credible challenge to Conservative power. If Tom Mulcair gets his way and his party becomes the only "official alternative" to the Conservatives, sadly the Conservatives are going to become Canada's new natural governing party.

Such a nightmare scenario should scare progressives. It does me. That's why I'm choosing to support the federal Liberals under Justin Trudeau, who's not perfect, but continues to show amazing promise as a leader who connects to Canadians on an emotional level in ways Stephen Harper and Tom Mulcair could only dream. I'm glad that he recruited someone as amazing as Chrystia Freeland to run here in order to bring new blood and brains to the Liberal caucus and help prepare a policy agenda for moving the country forward. It's exciting to be on her team.

Yes, I've made a pragmatic decision to support the Liberals as they are the party that continues to have the best ability to challenge Conservative rule and allow moderately progressive policies to see the light of day in government. What good are lofty, progressive principles if they never get implemented? Not much.

If you're a progressive or a centrist or even a red Tory living in Toronto Centre, on November 25th, vote for Chrystia Freeland, the best candidate on the ballot.

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