Dirty political tricks undermine democratic process

"people are listening, watching, reading and taking an active role in deciding the future of their hometowns."

With the swearing in of new councils and mayors across our region, it was refreshing to see such strong voter turnout in many local communities.

To me, that says people are listening, watching, reading and taking an active role in deciding the future of their hometowns.

They’ve also made their point that we must work with not against our neighbours if we want to continue enjoying our little corner of paradise.

That’s a great sign about the future of municipal politics and the role citizens play in it.

Unfortunately the same can’t be said on the federal level.

Revelations this week that a Conservative party “operative,” which must be another word for spy, secretly recorded a conversation involving a Liberal candidate in hopes of leaking it to the media and providing fodder for federal politicians to denounce an opposing party’s viewpoint is yet another sign of how far our political discourse has fallen on the national level.

Of course Canadians witnessed several previews to this type of thing in the last American election including a moment when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was secretly recorded at a fundraiser claiming a section of the population won’t vote for him.

It was leaked to the media, Democrats jumped on the opportunity to chastise Romney and another nail was put in the coffin of his presidential aspirations.

So the fact that the Conservative party is stooping to such tactics is certainly no surprise.

Oddly enough even though Sun Media (Canada’s version of Fox News) retracted the story, after someone else claimed to have made the comments attributed to the Liberal candidate, the Tory MPs in Ottawa so far refused to do so.

The character assassination was done and the work complete. No need to apologize.

The unfortunate consequence of the actions of the MPs and the Conservative operative is that it undermines credible discussion between a candidate and constituents.

I doubt we’ll see forums, such as municipal ones in Warfield, Trail or Fruitvale, where candidates are asked for their frank opinions on issues.

Suddenly any federal candidate must be on guard that someone is trying to entrap them by goading them into embarrassing comments.

Suddenly what should be an honest discourse between a voter and candidate will be viewed suspiciously by the candidate’s handlers unless the question comes from someone fully vetted and cleared of any other party affiliation.

Suddenly our rights to question our representatives will be under scrutiny not for the answer it might elicit but for the source of the question.

The entire issue of dirty tricks is nothing new to federal politics. However, it has been ramped up in the last couple of decades as parties import the American-style of campaigning. The strategy is “don’t offer anything new but criticize and attack anything your opponent wants to say.”

Which brings us the federal election on the horizon.

As editor at the Trail Times, I’m already seeing the consequences of the redrawn electoral boundary that splits Greater Trail from Nelson, Salmo and Kaslo and throws us into a district with Penticton.

Okanagan citizens with their own political interests are beginning to post comments on the Trail Times Facebook page or send in letters to the editor in hopes of swaying voters to see their point. People who would normally look west from the Okanagan suddenly have a vested interest in shaping opinions in Trail or Nakusp.

I guess that’s fair game, since we’re all “political bedfellows” as one writer put it. And it’s only going to grow as the election nears.

Since all three major party candidates are from the Penticton region and the vast distances they would be forced to travel to campaign face-to-face with voters, the quickest, cheapest and easiest way for supporters to connect with voters is to send letters to newspapers.

Although connecting with voters via the media is certainly one way to pitch a platform or denounce an opponent, it’s a sad commentary that face-to-face discussion is becoming harder to do.

Not only is the travel a hurdle, but also candidates now must be aware of who is in the crowd, who is asking the question and what is their purpose at the meeting.

It’s a sad day for democracy when candidates start getting suspicious of a citizen’s intent. But with “operatives” looking for a gotcha moment on an opponent or a party helper using robocalls to mis-direct voters at the polling station or a candidate’s handlers lying about fundraising to circumvent election laws, we all lose.

I certainly don’t expect the trend to end, especially now that our riding includes a big population centre like Penticton.

Much like the recent municipal elections in the Lower Mainland, large population centres tend to generate special-interest groups bent on pushing a particular agenda.

And with that Conservative territory vying for votes in the NDP stronghold in the West Kootenay, who knows how campaigning will play out.

But if an open public meeting in Canmore, Alta., can turn into a scene of political underhandedness that plays out in the national media and on Parliament Hill, then, sadly, no region is immune.

Guy Bertrand is the managing editor of the Trail Times.

Just Posted

Starbucks baristas in Trail donate $7,000 in tips

Funds will go toward the breakfast program in five Kootenay Columbia elementary schools

Good fencing makes good neighbours— especially when your neighbours are bears

Workshop in Pass Creek this weekend to promote benefits of proper protection for livestock

Feeling the heat

What you see: If you have a recent photo to share email editor@trailtimes.ca

Air time at Trail Sk8 Park

The Trail Sk8Park is located near the Gyro Park boat launch

B.C. MP’s climate-change alarmism challenged

Letter to the Editor from Thorpe Watson, PhD, Warfield

People flocking to Vancouver Island city to see hundreds of sea lions

Each year the combination of Steller and California sea lions take over Cowichan Bay

Commercial trucks banned from left lane of Coquihalla

B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation has introduced a new program that hopes to prevent accidents and closures on the Coquihalla Highway.

B.C. on track to record same number of overdose deaths as last year

128 people died of overdoses in September, bringing the total to more than 1,100 so far in 2018

B.C. firefighters rescue horse stuck in mud

‘It happens more often than you’d think,’ says deputy chief

Canadians more prepared for weather disaster than financial one: poll

RBC recommends people check their bank app as often as the weather app

B.C. dog owner sues after pet killed in beaver trap

A Kamloops man is suing the operator of a trapline north of the city after his dog died

Heading soccer balls can cause damage to brain cells: UBC study

Roughly 42 per cent of children in the country play soccer, according to statistics from Heritage Canada

Supreme Court hears case on migrant detainees’ rights to challenge incarceration

Currently, migrants who do not hold Canadian citizenship can only challenge detention through an immigration tribunal or a judicial review.

Canada Post issues new offer to employees as eBay calls on Ottawa to end strikes

Ebay is calling on the federal government to legislate an end to the Canada Post contract dispute, warning that quick action is needed to ensure retailers don’t lose out on critical Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.

Most Read