Monday, June 30, 2014

Post By-election thoughts

With 94% of the votes counted as I type this it's guaranteed that our riding will be sending another Conservative to Ottawa.  I can't say I'm too surprised as Fort McMurray-Athabasca has elected either Conservative or Reform MPs since its creation.   However, as I watched the results come in tonight it was clear early on that the Liberals weren't about to fade quietly into the night.  I suspected they would pick up some votes but was surprised by just how many.  The Liberals had put a great deal of time and energy into the campaign here though and were able to tap into what seems to be a growing frustration with the government.  I figured that if the Liberals improved their vote count only marginally then such a small increase would quickly be forgotten in Ottawa and things would carry on as before.  With Conservative support dropping from 72% in 2011 to roughly 47%, clearly a warning shot has been fired across the bow.  It will be interesting to see how these results carry over into the 2015 general election.

Two things do concern me as we move forward.  Firstly, the abysmal voter turn out.  This riding is notoriously bad in this respect.  I'm sure the fact that the by-election was called so close to Canada Day played a role. Apathy too.  The Conservatives have held this riding for so long that there was no doubt a sense among some of "why should I even bother?"  Frankly, I don't know what the answer is.  We had 3 days of advance polling and many people out on site were able to leave their shift early to vote (as I did) AND still get paid for the full shift.  Clearly, we can do much better.

My other concern has to do with our MP-elect.  I wonder how responsive David Yurdiga will be to people's concerns when he didn't bother to show up for any of the candidate debates.  I will say that this played a role in how I voted.  And I've generally voted Conservative for as long as I've been old enough to vote.  I will say that Mr. Yurdiga has his work cut out for him if he hopes be re-elected next year.

While much of my focus over the past few weeks was obviously on the contest here I did pay a little attention (or at least as much as my schedule would allow) to the other 3 ridings which were also facing by-elections.   John Barlow's win in Macleod was pretty much a no-brainer.  Anything less than a Conservative romp would have been a huge disaster for the government.  I was pretty confident the Liberals would pick up Scarborough-Agincourt but was surprised they cruised to victory in Trinity-Spadina.  Maybe I just read the tea leaves wrong on that one but I was expecting the NDP there to put up much better results.

I would like to acknowledge all five candidates who put their name forward to represent our region.  Its easy to be cynical and it takes guts to stick your neck out.  So to David Yurdiga, Kyle Harrietha, Lori McDaniel, Tim Moen and Brian Deheer....Thank you!

Anyhow, there you have it.  A bit disappointed here in the result but perhaps a strong message has been sent....yes, the oil sand are important here BUT it is not the only thing that defines us.  This region (and this city) are not a monolith but rather more dynamic than the stereotypes can sometimes suggest.  Here's hoping that at the very least, a strong message was sent to Ottawa tonight.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

By-election: The Empty Chair in the Room

When I heard about the all-candidates debate in town tonight for the June 30 by-election, my interest was piqued.  Here was a chance to see the candidates and hear their stances on the issues affecting our region.  I even considered booking today off as I was due to work so that I could attend.  In the end though it turns out I wouldn't be hearing from all the candidates because one of them would not be attending.  There would be an empty chair in the room.  I can understand candidates having busy schedules during an election campaign though I have to wonder what could be so pressing as to cause a candidate to skip out of such an important part of our democratic process.

But when I heard that Conservative candidate David Yurdiga had also passed on another all-candidate debate in Lac La Biche last week, I was puzzled, and then quite frankly, miffed.  To think that a political hopeful who wants MY vote can't even be bothered to hear constituents' concerns and questions is something I find disgusting.  Are we so unworthy of your time, Mr. Yurdiga?  If I had a dime for every time I've heard of a politician flying in for a day, gushing about how our region if the "economic engine of Canada" and then flying out and ignoring the challenges we face, I could probably retire.  I have to admit I find if disturbing that a candidate can blow off not one, but two public forums and then potentially win the seat by a large margin as tends to happen with Conservatives in this province.  I realize that Fort McMurray-Athabasca is quite a large riding (larger than several European countries in fact) but if a candidate who may end up representing me in Ottawa can't be bothered to show up for a debate in that riding's largest population centre then, really, why the hell would I feel compelled to vote for him?

I did receive some election mail yesterday so I suppose I HAVE heard from the Yurdiga campaign in a sense.  A rectangular laminated card from the Conservatives stating on the front that "Conservatives support the oil sands."   Because apparently the ONLY thing in our riding is the oil sands(?)  Now I realize this is a by-election and candidates aren't going to come out with a full policy platform as in a full-blown election campaign.  But still.  I resent the notion that as a voter I only matter to a politician because the industry I happen to be part of happens to make good money for them.  Now I wouldn't mind it so much if this card addresses other issues but only the oil sands is mentioned.  Mr. Yurdiga, you do realize there are other things going on here other than just what happens a few kilometres up highway 63, right?

On the reverse side of the card are 4 quotes from Liberals (including a senator and a former party leaders) along with a picture of Justin Trudeau.  None of the four quotes were actually spoken by Trudeau but they stick his mug there nonetheless.  Couldn't they have instead brought up some actual issues?  Do I really care about a quote spoken by Stephane Dion seven years ago?  I mean, we all know how that turned out for him.  It's 2014 now.  Try to keep up.

Don't propagandize.  Familiarize.  Familiarize us with your views and what you feel needs to be addressed.  Listen to what we have to say (to be fair, most politicians seem to fail in this).  But please.  There is more to our region than just the oil sands.

Our region needs a voice.  Not another empty chair.