Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Tuesday round-up: Harper finally meets with Wynne; Sudbury byelection looms

It's about time!  

After months of dumb stubbornness, Prime Minister Stephen Harper finally relented and met yesterday with Ontario's duly elected premier, Kathleen Wynne.

She only got less than an hour with him to discuss the many important issues facing the province and the country.  Harper made sure the meeting would be short because he had scheduled himself to appear at last night's World Juniors hockey game just over an hour later.

Even when he finally does the right thing, Harper still finds a way to throw his rabid base a bone: cutting a meeting with the leftie Wynne short so he can immediately rush off to restore his masculinity amid a celebration of jockdom.  I'm sure many Tories out there privately nodded approval as they sipped back beers watching the game themselves, probably thinking, "That's exactly what I'd do too after meeting with that annoying lesbian!" 

I do congratulate the Canadian team for its victory last night.  I didn't watch it though. 

Of course, Harper's move was not out of the kindness of his heart or a newfound standard of fairness.  It's all about damage control.  His longtime refusal to meet with Wynne looked petty and pathetic to everyone outside of the Harper's man-boy base.  I'm sure 95% of soccer moms in Ontario including in the all-important 905 belt which voted overwhelmingly for Wynne in June 2014 found Harper's move mildly insulting.  As Paul Wells agrees, yesterday's meeting was done by Harper simply to win votes in Ontario this year.

According to Wynne, the two leaders had productive talks on a number of issues, including the Ring of Fire mining project in Northern Ontario, which requires massive amounts of infrastructure spending to become a reality.

While providing no firm commitments, the meeting has given Wynne another chance to shine in her role as conciliator and adult in federal-provincial relations.   It might also stand her in good stead in the upcoming Sudbury provincial byelection, which apparently might get called this week for early February.

The byelection must be held to fill the seat after newly-elected NDP MPP Joe Cimino suddenly resigned in November.  The Liberal who came about 1,000 votes short of keeping the seat Liberal last June, Andrew Olivier, had wanted to run again for his party.

Unfortunately for him, the party wanted someone else this time: Sudbury NDP MP Glenn Thibeault, who agreed to resign from federal politics and the NDP to run for Wynne's Ontario Liberals.  It was quite the coup. 

Anyone who has the gumption to run for office must have a sizable ego.  Clearly, such egos don't take kindly to being pushed aside in favour of anyone.  I felt badly for Olivier being pushed aside for a stronger candidate.

But such is party politics.  Every party, including the NDP, has its internal fights and squabbles.  The true professionals fight to promote themselves respectfully, keeping anger private when one inevitably doesn't get their way. 

Witness how former Sudbury provincial candidate Paul Loewenberg, who almost beat Liberal incumbent Rick Bartolucci in 2011, stepped aside this week in favour of the party's obvious establishment choice for the pending by-election, Suzanne Shawbonquit.  Instead of huffing and puffing and going public with his gripes, like Olivier did, Loewenberg is smart, cutting a deal with the NDP establishment to seek the federal nomination instead to replace Thibeault.  

Political parties are like companies.  If you don't like a decision your company makes, you don't rush to attack the company publicly.  That's how you lose your job.  It's also how you prove you're not a team player. 

Now Andrew Olivier says he'll run as an independent candidate in the Sudbury by-election, despite the fact just weeks ago he wanted to run for Kathleen Wynne's Liberals.  I don't know much about Olivier personally, besides the fact he seemed decent enough during the provincial election and has overcome many personal challenges since becoming a quadriplegic after an accident in the 1990s.

He was nominated late in Sudbury for the provincial election in a seat that had been Liberal for 19 years.  And he lost the seat by 1,000 votes, despite the fact the Liberals were winning a majority across the province. 

I'm reminded of another Liberal candidate in the provincial election, Nancy Leblanc, who also was nominated just as late in her riding of Parkdale-High Park, a riding with a strong, longtime NDP incumbent in Cheri DiNovo seeking re-election.   With the same amount of time, Leblanc campaigned hard, raised a tonne of money and came within 525 of winning in an opposition-held seat.

If Olivier was such a great candidate, why couldn't he hold a Liberal seat?  In fact, he lost it by a wider margin than Leblanc.  Now he's running as an independent, against the very team with which he stood just months ago.

Politics is a team sport.  If you enter politics always expecting to win and get your way, you're in for quite a disappointment.  It's sad to see how Olivier has reacted to this disappointment with such spite. 

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