Thursday, January 19, 2006

Painful All-Candidates Meeting

Went to an all-candidates meeting tonight, sponsored by the local Social Planning Council, the Labour Council, and a number of social service agencies. Its focus was social policy issues.

All-candidates meetings are generally poor places to actually learn anything about politics, but I went to get to know my community a little better, since I've lived in Sudbury for only 7 months or so. I was worried that it would be so hard to take that I wouldn't be able to sit through the whole thing, but I managed to do so. I spent more time giggling than I expected.

Here are some disconnected observations:

  • Attendance was very poor.

  • The candidates consisted of five white men and one white woman (the Liberal incumbent).

  • Women's equality, queer rights, and racism were all absent from the discussion (minus a couple of one-line asides relating to women's rights).

  • Most of the questions were from the audience, submitted in advance on slips of paper. I didn't quite get the structure of the evening so I submitted one on the occupation of Haiti, which of course didn't get read since it was a social policy debate. I should have submitted one on racism...I'd imagine the answers would have been pretty entertaining across the board.

  • The Conservative candidate was smooth but creepy. He described poor and oppressed people as "less fortunate" and confided in us that he was entering his new "vocation" as MP for "the same reasons that brought me into policing and pastoring." Yep, an ex-cop, fundamentalist ex-minister with a charming smile.

  • The most offensive remarks of the debate came, unfortunately, from the Communist candidate. He was answering a question to do with training, and he made some decent points about corporate refusal to invest in training and then followed it up with some immigrant bashing against those "illegal people" who come and take our jobs.

  • The funniest remarks came from the New Democrat. After giving the rote party answer on something to do with economic development -- and most of his answers he just read directly from the policy book -- he went off on some tangent about a local pet project of his. He wants to see stainless steel manufacturing come to Sudbury, and when his list of all of the wonderful things that could be manufactured here if such a thing were to happen reached "lawn ornaments" I almost fell off my seat from giggling. He also later supplemented a fairly boring answer on health care with a bizarre rant about how they came up with Viagra but they can't cure cancer or stop alzheimers and blah blah blah.

  • The Liberal incumbent's answer, in response to a bizarre and vague question about social activism, consisted mostly of a rant against people who have occupied her constituency office in the past. As is always the case in these sorts of situations, it failed to arouse chants of "shame" in the audience that her basic position seemed to be that it is perfectly acceptable for the government of which she is a part to cause suffering and death but absolutely is not acceptable for a few high school students to make her office staff feel uncomfortable about that fact.

  • There was a question about the separation of church and state and the role of faith in politics. All of the candidates except one gave fairly stock answers about faith being personal, needing to represent all constituents once elected, and supporting a firm separation of church and state. The Conservative candidate had room to give an answer that carved out a position distinct from the others in terms of how his own faith would carry into his work as an MP while still supporting the institutional separation of church and state. Notably, he did the former but conspicuously avoided supporting the separation of church and state.

  • I'm tired and I have a headache. I'm not sure this was a good use of my evening.


rabfish said...

I'm sorry you were tired and had a headache; I enjoyed your take on the evening however and the accounts of the moments that made you giggle. lawn ornaments sure spice up local politics.

I went to the upping the ante journal launch and won a raffled off copy of midnight in the garden of good and evil; I agreed to trade it for a napolean dynamite 2006 calender once I'm done reading it. the guy who won the 'McLenin' t-shirt kept it.

Scott said...

Don't worry, a couple of ibuprofen and a good night of sleep took care of the tired and the headache. I am a little jealous of where you were, though...not only would it have been a much more politically inspiring space, but it sounds like it had much better door prizes! 8)

Psychols said...

I randomly hit your blog. You think Sudbury is occupied? Try Calgary. :)

The NDP Viagra/Alzheimers point may have been valid. Some suggest that the economic model used by private pharmaceutical companies causes the development of high profit/repeat use drugs instead of cures.

Ibuprofen excepted.

Scott said...

Yeah, I've been to Calgary once or twice, and interviewed some long-time lefties who have been active there...definitely a harsh place to try and be progressive. Still, there aren't too many spaces that don't qualify as occupied in some way, I don't think.

Yes, I agree that the current state-capitalist model for the advancement of healthcare technology definitely shapes what we get out the other end in detrimental ways...I think I found the candidate's comments funny because they did not seem to be based on any particular insight into that process, but rather were employed as a kind of strange rhetorical fluorish.