Campaign Trail Mix: Saddle Up

Election Fever?

As I write, I am in the process of missing a Cape Breton appearance by NDP leader Gary Burrill, who is in Glace Bay this (Monday) morning.

This past weekend, I pulled into a parking lot in St. Peter’s next to Tim Houston’s campaign bus and rather than join the people taking selfies with the Tory leader, I went and bought an ice cream.

Mere days before, in the same village, I’d walked past Iain Rankin (and his bus) on my way to the hardware store for some poly pipe.

What kind of reporter am I? Why am I so uninspired by this election? I think Stephen Kimber, quoting Tim Bousquet, best captured my feelings about this trip to the polls:

“It’s stupid season.”

Kimber notes how completely this summer election is tilted in favor of the incumbent Liberals. This is always the case in terms of the governing party’s ability to call an election when it likes what it’s seeing in the polls (we’re the only province without fixed election dates) but it’s especially so after a year in which:

COVID-19 sidelined the political opposition, shining the spotlight instead on the province’s chief medical officer of public health, Dr. Robert Strang, and on whichever premier du jour happened to sit beside him basking in reflected glory, briefing after briefing…

But while McNeil and Rankin plumped up their own positives sitting in front of the COVID cameras, they also did everything in their considerable power to marginalize their opponents even more. The provincial legislature didn’t meet for more than a year…

Legislative committees, designed to hold governments accountable, didn’t meet, were emasculated, or the issues they should have been discussing were bulldozed into oblivion by yes-boss MLAs (the same ones who will now seek our votes so they can “represent” us).

Kimber cites former Prime Minister Kim Campbell’s infamous but correct assertion that “An election is no time to discuss serious issues,” and I would say that goes double for an August election after a year of COVID restrictions. As “Dartmouth resident Robert McMenemy” told the CBC’s Jean Laroche:

I think that the political leaders should have let us enjoy our summer and maybe at the end of September or mid-October that might have been a better time…. The last thing on most Nova Scotians minds right now is an election.

Amen, Robert McMenemy, amen.

Still, I am a reporter and there is an election on — although nominations don’t close officially until July 28 — so my plan is to send a list of questions to each of the local candidates and publish the answers in my August 11 edition, which I will call my “Special Election Edition.”

In the meantime, let’s consider the some Stupid Season highlights.


Man or Mustache?

This is a dumb story made dumber by its opening line:

A Cape Breton candidate running in next month’s provincial election feels he’s being ‘discredited’ after a 12-year-old social media post surfaced showing him adorning a mustache which one commenter alluded to as resembling an infamous Nazi leader.

“Adorning a mustache” suggests the mustache is wearing John John McCarthy — and by extension, that the Liberals have decided to run a Hitler mustache with a man attached in the riding of Glace Bay-Dominion. And instead of correcting this misuse of the verb “adorn,” the Post doubled down on it in a photo caption (“A 2009 Facebook post of John John McCarthy adorning a small mustache.”)

As for that “small mustache” adorning McCarthy’s upper lip — the small mustache he  is wearing or sporting or rocking — he says it’s not a reference to Hitler but to Charlie Chaplin.

John John McCarthy Facebook photo

Chaplin, it’s true, did wear what was called — before Hitler — a “toothbrush” mustache but I’m not sure McCarthy is selling the impersonation. Without the bowler hat and walking stick, he’s got to know Chaplin is not going to be everyone’s first guess. (One of the commenters, as the Post pointed out, immediately cried “Heil,” which is not how people generally greeted Chaplin.)

Out of curiosity, I looked up a list of other famous, non-Nazi, wearers of toothbrush mustaches McCarthy could claim to have been impersonating and the list includes George Orwell:

George Orwell

Oliver Hardy:

Oliver Hardy

And, weirdly, Michael Jordan from a 2012 Hanes commercial:

Michael Jordan

I don’t think I would have believed McCarthy had he said he was imitating any of these people and, frankly, I don’t believe he was imitating Charlie Chaplin. (Although kudos to the Liberal comms person who came up with that defense.)

But I also don’t believe he’s an anti-Semite, the charge leveled at him by the Atlantic Jewish Council.

What I really believe is that if we have to have an election (and apparently we do) then we should be talking about more important things — like healthcare, housing and the environment — than mustaches even though, I have to admit, talking about mustaches is fun.  But in my next edition, I promise, I will deal with more serious issues.  (As, this week, Paul Strome does.)


The disappearing candidate

I know you’ve all heard the story of Robyn Ingraham, the Liberal candidate in Dartmouth South who was dropped by the party minutes after her candidacy was announced, but I’ve realized some of you are confused as to just why she was dropped, so I wanted to offer some clarifications.

First of all, she was NOT dropped because the party discovered she’d been convicted of drinking and driving in 2003, had her licensed suspended for a year, paid a $1,200 fine and then, two years later, was convicted a second time for failing a breathalyzer but had the conviction tossed on appeal.

That was Liberal Premier Iain Rankin. Former Premier Stephen McNeil knew about the incidents and was cool with them, apparently.

Robyn Ingraham Dartmouth South poster

Secondly, she was not dropped after it was discovered she’d pled guilty to operating a motor vehicle with a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit in 2019, as a result of which she’d been fined and lost her license for a year.

That was Liberal MLA Hugh MacKay (Chester-St. Margaret’s). After his sentencing, he remained a Liberal backbencher until 2020, when RCMP laid a second impaired driving charge against him, after which he resigned from the Liberal caucus but continued to sit as an Independent. He’s decided not to re-offer this time around.

Nor — and this is very important, so listen closely — was Ingraham was dropped because she was revealed to be an accused serial sexual predator.

That was the man who led the party for years and served as premier from 1970 to 1978.

No, Ingraham, by her own account, was dropped by the Liberals for  “boudoir photos” (I’ve seen commentators claim the use of the word “boudoir” is a sign Nova Scotia is stuck in the Victorian era, but it actually seems to be the accepted, modern term for this genre of photography.)

Photos she told the party about during her vetting.

My immediate thought is that the Liberal higher-ups made uneasy by the photos (and the tattoos, apparently) are where political higher-ups may frequently be found — behind the times.

But I’m here to help. I found a list of questions restaurant owners should ask themselves about their rules on tattoos and piercings and if you add “boudoir photos” to the list, this one seems relevant to the Liberals’ situation:

Know when to change your stance. Are you operating under outdated assumptions? Owners and managers might not be crazy about body modifications, but they may be overlooking otherwise highly qualified candidates because of that bias.

Although honestly, I think what the provincial Liberals want is someone who looks different from the run-of-the-mill MLA but will nevertheless slavishly toe the party line and Ingraham doesn’t strike me as that person.