Sunday, September 28, 2008

Add this one to the list of "hiding" Conservative candidates

It was always fun to watch the riding of Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo where Reform/Alliance/Conservative MP Betty Hinton proved to be one of the most useless representatives the riding has known. Her pathetic performance obviously wasn't lost on the boys in the back room in Calgary either since, as an unrepentant Harper sycophant and deep party loyalist, after 8 years in parliament, she was passed over for a cabinet post. In a party where the cabinet talent pool is sorely lacking and made up of refugees from the Mike Harris Common Sense Revolution and captured, re-badged Progressive Conservative merger-monkeys, Hinton was made a parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, but kept away from the cabinet table.

Hinton, claiming a thyroid condition and after just qualifiying for an MP's pension, chose to not to run in this election.

Her replacement wasn't selected by the local riding association. Instead, the name of her CPoC successor was handed down from Conservative Party national headquarters.

Cathy McLeod, once the mayor of the Village of Pemberton, was appointed as the CPoC candidate for Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo. In a place where Nelson Riis held the seat for the NDP for twenty years, was well-known and made himself regularly accessible, Cathy McLeod is presented with a problem: no one knows who she is or what she's all about.

So one would expect that Cathy McLeod, a relative unknown in the riding, would be out there.


If the short list of candidates for the CPoC included McLeod at all she was at the end of it. Prior to McLeod being parachuted into the candidate's slot the Conservatives had approached former Thompson Rivers University president Roger Barnsley and Olympic ski champion (and Canadian female athelete of the 20th Century) Nancy Greene Raine. Other high profile riding residents had also been approached and there was a rumour that the Conservatives might try to slide David Emerson into the position. One can only speculate as to why those high-profile individuals declined but I can venture that at least one would have had some ideological differences with Harper's policies and methods.

McLeod then faces something of a struggle. Her predecessor's track record is anything but stellar, she was not the first choice of the party and she is completely unknown in the riding. So what does she do?

She is refusing requests for interviews.
McLeod’s campaign did not agree to an interview until after the election is finished.
Further down that same article we find that the editor of the Kamloops Daily News has submitted three requests to interview McLeod, none of which has been returned. Given that the editor, Mel Rothenburger, is the former mayor of Kamloops and his newspaper is widely read in the region, one would expect McLeod to jump at the chance to get her name out there.


Perhaps one of McLeod's problems (and something the Conservatives probably don't want to have discussed) is that McLeod's dedication to public service isn't quite as strong as she would have you believe. From her website:
First elected as the Mayor of Pemberton in (1996) Cathy established herself as a community leader and someone who is dedicated to the needs of residents and responsiveness to community.
Yes, but at least one person who served on Pemberton's village council with McLeod says she didn't complete her term as mayor opting instead to move to Kamloops.
McLeod, who also served as a councillor prior to becoming mayor, left the mayor’s post partway through her term to take up work in Kamloops.
Stranger though, is that McLeod's appointment is viewed by almost everybody as a mistake.
That was a big mistake, according to Thompson Rivers University political science professor Derek Cook.

"It's open now," said Cook of the 2008 election race. "It's handed the NDP, the Liberals and even the Greens an advantage.

"The Conservatives have stumbled out of the gate by appointing a person who no one knows," he said.

"It's the way they did it that is raising eyebrows here. It certainly contradicts the direct democracy, let-the-people-do-it type of populism that we thought the members of the Reform Party, the Canadian Alliance, the Conservatives stood for."

So why would the Conservatives overrule the riding association? Well, for one thing, this is a group who clearly failed sandbox in kindergarten and are going for a redo.

The RCMP were called to a Tory riding association meeting in Kamloops after a group of people disrupted the meeting, demanding they be allowed to take part in the vote.

The membership in the riding of Kamloops Thompson Cariboo was to vote on a new board Saturday morning.

But the process came to a halt when 56 people showed up with former party director Miles Lehn asking to be allowed to vote.

This was not a group of "out of party" interlopers attempting to be heard. This was Conservative party members fighting amongst themselves. And it took the police to break it up.

McLeod, it appears, is representative of what value the Conservative Party of Canada actually places on their candidates. Little to none. They are cannon-fodder. Their sole purpose is to be a live warm body and a name to put on a ballot in the place of Stephen Harper. In short, the Conservatives are running a presidential campaign and are betting that voters will see past the "unknowns" in favour of the "Conservative" logo. In that regard, there is only one campaign and it isn't the local one.

The perception, according to Cook, is that McLeod's campaign is being tightly controlled out of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office

"They're afraid their candidates will say the wrong things so they're briefing them before they let the press at them," said Cook.

Having turned away interviews it will be interesting to see if Harper's people allow McLeod to show up for the all-candidates forum on October 8th. If she does, she can expect a deservedly rough ride.

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