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Former Independent reporter weighs in on election

With Craig Westcott running for the Conservatives in St. John's East, CBC Radio is experimenting with new voices on the Morning Show commentary slot.

This week, they presented an opinion piece from Brian Callahan, former reporter with The Independent and The Telegram. Callahan spoke, interestingly enough, about the debut on the political stage of Westcott and Ryan Cleary, former editor of The Independent.

I am currently formulating my own comments on this development, which will be posted soon. In the meantime, Callahan has kindly agreed to publish the complete text of his commentary here. It makes for interesting reading.

Party politics versus independence

I confess: When I first heard that two seasoned journalists were turning to politics, I was not surprised.

But I was a tad dismayed.

In many ways, journalism is a fraternity unlike any other, where crossing over to the "dark side" is looked upon as selling out. If taking a PR job with government is considered a 180, actually throwing your hat in the election ring must be the penultimate flip-flop.

That's the quick and easy reaction for career critics, who would rather spend valuable research time digging through old copies of The Independent to discredit a knowledgeable, reputable and passionate candidate like Ryan Cleary.

(And you know The Telegram took great pleasure in doing just that to him last week. See Cheers and Jeers, Sept. 8.)

I've known Cleary, both personally and professionally, since March of 1990, around the time we both began working for The Telegram. We even shared an apartment together in downtown St. John's. So, I consider myself qualified to say this: Cleary is as blunt and forthright as it gets. No bones about it. The same goes for Craig Westcott.

As journalists, both are extremely opinionated, but also well versed on the issues, with nothing but the best interests of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians at the top of their agendas. Lining their wallets with fat salaries, pensions and perks is not their incentive.

Honestly, is there anyone out there who believes either would NOT be a worthy representative for their riding in the House of Commons? I believe they wouldn't be such easy targets if they weren't affiliated with established political parties, and all the baggage that comes with that.

Growing up in a highly charged political household, I can recall from a very young age - I think I was 12 - espousing the view that one day, the party system would or should become obsolete. My father, himself no political neophyte, would dismiss the notion outright. The Liberals would always be at the Tories' throats, and vice versa, while the NDP could say all the right things - because they had nothing to lose - yet never form the government. That's just the way it was, and always would be, dad would say.

Still, I was never comfortable with that reasoning. Party bickering always seemed like such a charade and downright childish to me. How could voters not see through that?

Shouldn't the interests and needs of the person, the constituent, or the riding come first? When I was a kid, it seemed MHAs and MPs existed only to pound their desks or rise for a vote when instructed to do so by the party whip or leader.

Didn't these people have minds of their own? And how could they be punished for a personal belief? Or worse - vote against that belief, just to please their leader and tow the party line?

Now, I'm not so naive as to mistake the history and purpose of the party system. But as an informed voter, if I'm weighing the pros and cons, and surveying the federal party landscape these days, I'm assessing the person, not the party.

And that's why I think Westcott and Cleary would be better served running as Independents in this federal election. Yes, there are financial considerations that come with that.

But in Cleary's case, at least, I thought running as the "Independent" candidate would have been a no-brainer.

For the Morning Show, I'm Brian Callahan.

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  • Peter
    July 27, 2010 - 14:53

    Penultimate means second-to-last, as in the penultimate paragraph of a story. And the phrase is toe the (party) line, not tow. Sorry, it's the editor in me.