P.E.I.'s political backroom deals troubling; they leave voters out of equation

Published on August 28, 2015

Green Party Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, left, and NDP Leadeer Mike Redmond, take part in a public event during the 2015 P.E.I. provincial election campaign.

©SUBMITTED PHOTO

So we find ourselves almost smack in the middle of two election campaigns, a provincial one just past, and one federal one now under way.

We like to think of our Island selves as champions of democracy, given our high voter turnout. But perhaps it is also time to take stock of how we conduct ourselves in these periods. For there seems to have been some questionable deeds committed in our recent provincial campaign.

In the women’s issues debate, all of our male leaders tried to position themselves as the true friend to the non-men among us, sometimes in a patronizing fashion. Witness Peter Bevan-Baker’s condescending assertion that “many of our best entrepreneurs are women,” as if this is a great revelation that the girls are good at business too.

Or Wade MacLauchlan’s offering that more women don’t enter politics because of negative advertising. The boys can take it, but the girls can’t? This was simply a way to shoehorn an attack into a high-heel with which to bash the Tories.

And the backroom deals that were cut and broken. An NDP campaign worker made a deal with the Conservatives to not unfairly attack one another in the CBC debate. The Conservatives, and Rob Lantz, stayed true to their deal. The NDP campaign worker did not, nor even informed Leader Mike Redmond that such a deal had been offered.

The more troubling secret deal was the one cut between Peter Bevan-Baker and the NDP riding association executive in Bevan-Baker’s riding, a deal that NDP Leader Mike Redmond and Peter Bevan-Baker confirmed to The Guardian.

Many of the NDP activists in Bevan-Baker’s riding were partial to his candidacy, as they had stood shoulder-to-shoulder opposing Plan B.

So the NDP riding association executive made the following deal with Bevan-Baker at the beginning of the campaign: The NDP candidate in Bevan-Baker’s riding would not put up a single sign, nor go door-to-door in the riding, signalling their support for the Green Party in District 17.

Which is exactly what the NDP candidate did, i.e almost nothing. In a phone conversation with an NDP riding association executive member, Bevan-Baker privately accepted, applauded, and thanked the NDP riding association for laying down their arms in his riding.

Why this deal is troubling in the first place is that such collaboration leaves the voters out of the equation, with the NDP and Green’s doing deals without voter knowledge or participation.

But far worse is Bevan-Baker’s debate statement that all Islanders want is “good, honest people, offering, good honest government.” For what he said four days before election day seemed to offer neither.

As reported in The Guardian by Jim Day, four days before the election, Bevan-Baker publicly condemned the NDP for not answering his late campaign request to “pull their candidate in his riding” in return for Bevan-Baker “pulling his candidate” in NDP leader Mike Redmond’s riding.

Bevan-Baker knew full well that the NDP had already done just that in good faith, in a secret deal that he had signed on to, and yet Bevan-Baker was now running them down.

Good and honest?

But perhaps the most common, and not new, aspect of the past campaign, was the time honoured tradition of many partisans of all parties: The gossip campaign. For when a variety of low-level Liberal operatives offered up false characterizations of Rob Lantz’s work, and even nap-ethic, to any who would listen, you knew slime was afoot.

You might ask, what is a nap-ethic? Well, in this incarnation, it was the fabrication that Mr. Lantz likes to sleep during the day, therefore making his candidacy suspect.

We can do better. Running around full of happy back slapping about how many of us vote does not a good democracy make. A commitment to good, honest behaviour does.

 So let’s not just say it.

 

Campbell Webster is an entertainment writer and producer. He is also a former campaign manager and current party supporter for the NDP. Campbell can be reached at campbell@campbellwebster.ca