This is why I am increasingly troubled when a journalist like Ian Urquhart, whom I respect as a journalist, starts to sound partisan and disingenuous. In today's Star, Ian urges McGuinty to take the gloves off and go negative but laments that McGuinty is too nice a man:
The problem for McGuinty is that he is uncomfortable "going negative" himself.
Sorry, Mr. Urquhart, McGuinty and his henchmen have no problems going negative and you above most people should know that. After all, you covered the Parkdale High Park by-election. When an entire provincial government maliciously gangs up on a United Church minister, whose biggest mistake is that she wants to serve her community under the wrong political banner, that's not a reluctance to going negative. And need I say, negative in the extreme.
You well know that the Liberal smear campaign against Cheri DiNovo originated in the office of Liberal cabinet minister Gerry Phillips. You also know that it was a concerted effort that involved much of the Liberal brass, including McGuinty who, as you reported, campaigned in the riding four times. It included Gerard Kennedy and Bob Rae who were seen distributing incendiary literature translated into Polish, to incite a reaction from the Roman Catholic vote. Preying on religious fault lines is just sleazy. And Sylvia Watson was all too happy to oblige and play along.
To this day, Liberals are remorseless of those tactics which smeared a good woman's name and deeply insulted the intelligence of the electorate. Watson stands by her smear. McGuinty endorsed the tactics. You reported it yourself (see below). Only recently has Sorbara, wanting not to sound like a complete hypocrite for denouncing the conservatives' attack ads, said that the smear campaign was a "mistake". A mistake, do you hear that? A mistake? A mistake, by the way, is what Kinsella calls his sexist gaffe. In Liberalese, a mistake means something that could cost the party votes at election time. What we can't fail to see here, is that the regret over the smear campaign is only for NOT having won the by-election and for having made a tactical error in judgement. The regret has nothing to do with the possibility that it might ethically be wrong to attempt to assassinate another's character.
Liberals have no principles, no ethics, no vision. Only a ruthless insatiable appetite for winning at all costs. So please, Mr. Urquhart, don't tell the public the Liberals are uncomfortable going negative. They're quite comfortable going negative, problem is they're stupid about it.
By-election gets down and dirty
Sep. 13, 2006. 01:00 AM
On the surface, it would appear that the New Democrats are well positioned to win tomorrow's provincial by-election in the west-end Toronto riding of Parkdale-High Park, formerly occupied by Gerard Kennedy.
It is, after all, a riding that has gone to the NDP before — in 1990 provincially and as recently as this year federally, with the election of Peggy Nash.
And it is a by-election, which New Democrats are very good at winning. By-elections allow them to concentrate their formidable organizing resources and to invite the electorate to lodge a cost-free protest vote.
NDP canvassers in Parkdale-High Park are coached to remind voters at the doorstep that their ballots "will not defeat the government."
Nevertheless, the Liberals want desperately to hold onto the riding, apparently at any cost.
Kennedy won Parkdale-High Park in 2003 by a whopping 42 percentage points — the sixth widest margin in the province — before quitting as education minister earlier this year to run for the federal Liberal leadership.
To replace Kennedy, the Liberals are running Sylvia Watson, a humourless one-term city councillor and former city bureaucrat. Suffice it to say that she ain't no Gerard Kennedy.
So she is getting help, plenty of it. This week, Premier Dalton McGuinty made his fourth campaign appearance in the riding — an unusual number of visits by a premier in a by-election.
As well, 11 cabinet ministers were dragooned into the campaign this week for an event in a Bloor St. W. café and subsequent canvassing.
"I'm very confident we're going to win this by-election," said an unconvincing Finance Minister Greg Sorbara.
Yesterday, Kennedy himself and former New Democratic premier Bob Rae (who lives in the riding) took time out from fighting each other in the federal Liberal leadership race to campaign for her.
It is not these high-profile interventions that are raising eyebrows at Queen's Park, however. Rather, it is the smear campaign being waged against the NDP candidate, Cheri DiNovo, a 56-year-old United Church minister.
At first, the smears — including references to her youthful indiscretions and carefully edited excerpts from her sermons — appeared only in blogs and anonymous flyers. That made it easy for the Watson campaign to deny any connection to them.
But this week the Watson campaign handed out a press release, on Liberal party letterhead, that dredged up a year-old sermon in which DiNovo allegedly said that the media treatment of child-killer Karla Homolka was "comparable to the persecution of Jesus Christ."
DiNovo said the remark was taken entirely out of context by the Liberals and suggested she might sue them over it.
But the press release almost immediately backfired by putting the Liberals, not the New Democrats, on the defensive.
At an all-candidates' meeting Monday night, even the Conservative candidate, former city councillor David Hutcheon, castigated the Liberals for trying to "assassinate the character" of their NDP opponent.
"This is not fair," Hutcheon told the 100-plus in attendance. "It is not the Canadian way ... They (the Liberals) have lost their moral compass."
(An aside: Although the Conservatives ran second in the 2003 provincial election, party insiders admit that they are long shots to win tomorrow. It would be a nice consolation prize for the Conservatives, however, if DiNovo were to knock off the Liberals.)
The negative reaction clearly threw McGuinty for a loop. Pestered by the press on the smearing of DiNovo, the best response he could muster was: "Look, it's a tough by-election for us."
As for Watson, the candidate, she tried to distance herself from the smear. "It wasn't my idea," she told me, while declining to say whose it was.
The opposition parties are pointing their fingers at Warren Kinsella, the lobbyist who ran the Liberal war room in the last provincial election.
As evidence, they noted that his blog yesterday included an attack on DiNovo (whom he referred to as "DiNutso") and a link to Waton's web site.
But Kinsella denied any involvement in the Watson campaign. "I've never met or even spoken to her (Watson)," he said in an e-mail response.
Of his shot at DiNovo, Kinsella said: "I'm entitled to an opinion about her candidacy." As for the link to the Watson web site, he explained it as an automatic function of a Google advertising program to which he subscribes.
I'm predicting that we haven't heard the last of this.