Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Urban Candidates of 2008: A Field Guide

Elections are tough times for the committed voter. That single vote you can cast on October 14th is your only way to let your political overlords know how you feel, and it's an integral part of a functioning democracy that this vote is cast based on in-depth research and intense spiritual agonising over which candidate to support.

That said, doing your civic duty is extremely hard, especially in situations where none of the candidates are especially appealing and complicated issues like environmental sustainability and the economy dominate most political debates.

For times like these, the best idea is usually to let someone else do all the research for you and then tell you how to vote. Residents of St. John's/Mount Pearl, I am here to help you with just that.

So after weeks of painstaking research into the candidates vying to represent the urban portion of the Avalon, I have crafted such a perfect guide to this election that to simply look upon it may physically be too much for small children and the elderly.

Without further ado, here is the only information source you will ever need to consult before heading into the ballot box on Tuesday morning.


Siobhan Coady (L) - an ardent believer that "third time's the charm" is more than just folksy wisdom, perennial Liberal candidate Siobhan Coady is again running for a federal seat in the hopes that during an election where the premier of the province is actively registering third parties with Elections Canada in order to defeat her Conservative opponent, she may finally have a shot. Not that Siobhan is especially unqualified - she has smashed through a few notable glass ceilings in her business career, which is no small feat - and while she wouldn't necessarily make a bad MP, voters in the riding have consistently shown they have trouble swallowing the Siobhan Coady package. While there are a number of valid arguments against voting Liberal in this election, I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Siobhan's main issue in this campaign is herself.

Shaking hands with Siobhan Coady is like shaking hands with the captain of the team who you just beat at soccer in 5th grade - he's smiling and saying "great game" but you know in the back of your mind that it's so tremendously insincere that it comes off as grating. This is Siobhan Coady's problem - she's so firmly trapped in the Uncanny Valley that every time she reminds you that she will "never give up, never give in" and flashes that insidious little smile, you can't help but feel like 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper in They Live after he finds the magic sunglasses. If you get that reference, congratulations, you've got as bad a taste in movies as I do.

Merv Wiseman (C) - Merv Wiseman is the only candidate running in this election that I have absolutely nothing to say about. That's how much I know about Merv Wiseman. Presumably, this is reflective of how hard Merv Wiseman is trying to win this election.

Ryan Cleary (NDP) - when I first heard that Ryan Cleary was running in Mount Pearl for the NDP I was honestly intrigued, although I brushed it off with "he's far too abrasive, he'll never win the nomination." Then a cohort of mine who attended the nomination informed me that Cleary delivered a passionate speech that sealed his nomination and I thought "my God, he might have a chance." I hadn't heard Cleary speak since the Trust and Confidence Rally in 2007 at Confederation Building where he delivered a heartfelt polemic on the injustices facing Newfoundland within our union with Canada that was so intense I almost felt my heartstrings flutter; considering that his main competition is a woman whose speeches sound more contrived and superficial than the dialogue you'd see on Springer, I figured that Ryan Cleary may legitimately find himself with a real job.

This is before Ryan Cleary was forced into a crash-diet of nothing but his own words right from the beginning of the election, and now he seems so intellectually malnourished that his only talking points on the campaign trail are lame protests against the Green Shift and quasi-incomprehensible monologues about his new-found love for Jack Layton that usually sound as if they're being delivered by a Will Farrell character. The only way to describe Cleary's entire campaign so far is "half-assed", which is disappointing because while I don't care for Cleary himself I know he's capable of doing a much better job. If I was Ivan Morgan, I'd put down the Purity biscuits and start cracking the whip at this point, because as far as I've seen there is no legitimate reason to vote for Ryan Cleary.

Ted Warren (Green) - Ted Warren is the best candidate in this riding by a long shot, and probably one of the best candidates running in the province. But you've never heard of him and you're not going to vote for him, so the fact that Mr. Warren is one of the most brilliant and eloquent minds I've seen run in politics for years is completely moot.

Greg Byrne (NL First) - ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.


Walter Noel (L) - Walter Noel blows. If I were a Liberal in St. John's East I'd be tempted to hang myself if Walter wasn't so cartoonishly terrible he looped around and became hilarious. There are no questions directed at Walter Noel that don't end with him giving long winded explanations about why spending 8,000$ of public money on alcohol is completely justified because "there was no law against it at the time", and his only pet cause in this election is seeing to it that a 92$ million dollar tunnel is built to an island with a population of 200 that hasn't seen the creation of a single new job since Joseph R. Smallwood stalked the corridors of Confederation Building. On the rare occasion that Walter Noel is asked about something other than his personal flaws he usually responds by reading a few pages out of the Liberal platform book and then rambling on about how the Liberal Party of Canada is the only way to stop the NDP's stealth communism and that Jack Harris is a crook. Considering that Walter Noel looks and sounds like a '50s newscaster was molested by a Dick Tracy villain voiced by Skeletor from He-Man this doesn't even seem that out of place. Walter Noel really, really sucks.

And yet, he was still a better choice than Debbie Hanlon.

Craig Westcott (C) - you can live to see the days where the sun shall be darkened and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken loose, and I can guarantee you that you will never see someone look as uncomfortable running in a federal election as Craig Westcott. When asked to explain why his party holds policies even the Golden Horde would balk at he will usually mumble a few lines from Conservative briefing notes into the nearest mic, and the entire time Stockwell Day was giving a press conference about the need to crack down on young offenders in order to stop a coming epidemic of gang violence in outport Newfoundland Westcott looked more uncomfortable than the Premier did in whatever garbage luxury car he owned before he traded up to his current 250,000$ Maserati. He's not a conservative by any stretch of the imagination but no amount of prefacing his public appearances with "I disagree with my party over everything they stand for" can erase that not-entirely-unfounded sensation we all have that at the first opportunity his leader will drive the nation headlong into a reactionary dystopia.

But it's important to bear in mind that Westcott's not running for Stephen Harper; he's moreso running against the ABC campaign and its mastermind, Premier Danny Williams. Westcott has been the Holmes to Williams' Moriarty more than enough in the past for his candidacy to take on an almost cinematic feeling, especially since all of Westcott's public statements make a point of highlighting that his candidacy hearkens back to the battles of the National Convention in the 1940s. Stephen Harper is - regardless of whether or not it's a good thing - about to win another (probably majority) government, and if we elect to follow the pied piper of the ABC campaign through this storm, the province will be shutting itself out of having any representation in the cabinet of a federal government that already disdains Atlantic Canada. Considering that the alternative is that we'll be left at the beck and call of a comically inept provincial government here in Danny Williams' Hermit Kingdom, Westcott's pleas for us to swallow our revulsion at Harper's regressive policies in order to get a seat at the control panel of government before we end up like Quebec in 1995 shouldn't be discarded out of hand.

I'd go on but I can't bring myself to explicitly endorse a Conservative, even if he does occasionally sign my paycheques.

Jack Harris (NDP) - Jack Harris is really the only "good" candidate running in the city in this election. I say "good" because he has everything going for him you'd expect to find amongst anyone running for a major federal party. While he may not be quite as sharp on resource economics and concrete policy issues as someone like Craig Westcott, he also doesn't look visibly uncomfortable whenever he has to tow the party line. While he may not have quite the same level of money backing him like Siobhan Coady, he is also able to interact with his constituents in a non-robotic manner. And while he may not have the same level of executive experience as someone like Walter Noel, he also isn't scum.

In fact, the only real problem I can see with Jack Harris' campaign is that he's such a good candidate for his party and his riding and that his election is such a shoe in that it's boring. There's nothing interesting or noteworthy about Jack Harris, his campaign, or anything he'd do in the House of Commons. This is probably great for most people, but I'll be deep down in the cold, cold ground before I vote for someone sensible.

Howard Story (Green) - Much like his counterpart in St. John's South/Mount Pearl, Howard Story is a great guy with brilliant ideas and pointed conviction about the environment and systemic problems that none of the other candidates or parties seem to be taking much note of. But unfortunately for him his party is relegated even further back in the depths of leftist irrelevency than the NDP in the minds of most Newfoundlanders, so there's little point even discussing him. If nothing else, fans of Lost will appreciate him for his uncanny resemblance to popular anti-hero John Locke; if I may hand him some helpful advice via the internet it would be to start talking about how important it is to do whatever it takes to "save the Island."

Les Coltas (NL First) - his grammer are good!

Shannon Tobin (PC) - I have nothing bad to say about Shannon Tobin. He's the little candidate that could; he's a twenty-something fresh out of university who has too little experience to grasp basic policy issues, let alone the complex economic development issues (i.e. the Lower Churchill) that he's crusading for. He's got no district association and his federal party is only running a handful of candidates across the country, most of them are older than Tobin by half a century. His entire campaign is to appeal to the disaffected elderly who have been writing "Joe Clark" on their ballots since 2004 and who will live and die by the letters "ABC." He goes to public functions up against professional business people, journalists and politicians who have more years of experience being knowledgeable public figures than he's physically spent being alive, but he doesn't lose his nerve and he'll quote historical figures like Edmund Burke and Peter Cashin and spew Danny Williams' talking points like the best of provincial cabinet ministers. Say what you will, this kid has balls.

Shannon Tobin is running in the 2008 federal election powered only by his love of Newfoundland and Labrador, and by proxy its Glorious Premier Danny Williams. If you don't vote for Shannon Tobin, you hate Danny Williams. I hope everyone keeps that in mind this election day.

So as we move through the next 12 days before the day where you make your monumental decision to give a federal party 1.75$, I hope you'll consider my expert analysis and general words of wisdom about the candidates vying to represent you, the urban Newfoundlander, in Parliament for the next 4 years. Unlike Danny Williams, I won't tell you how to vote; all I will say is that I wish the Conservatives would drop this talking point because it's the dumbest thing in the world and that "not telling you how to vote" would invalidate the entire premise of campaigning and make this whole election an exercise in foolishness.