Truth and consequences

Pam Frampton
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“Ottawa is clearly broken and this election is going to be about how we’re going to fix it.”

— Jack Layton

Newfoundland and Labrador distinguished itself in the last federal election by being the province with the lowest voter turnout in a country that had its lowest voter turnout ever in a general election.

Here, 195,397 eligible voters marked ballots and 210,849 did not — a dismal showing of 48.1 per cent.

Not exactly a shining moment.

But things are looking up.

Participation at last weekend’s advance polls was up by 67 per cent over 2008. That may not be a harbinger of massive voter turnout on Monday, but one can hope.

This has been a nasty campaign, where weasel words and accusations have been tossed around like confetti. Then again, what could you expect from an election sparked by contempt?

At The Telegram, we’ve heard from the odd Conservative supporter who’s accused this newspaper of being anti-Conservative or anti-Stephen Harper.

Nothing could be further from the truth. The Telegram’s reportage on the campaign has been evenhanded and non-partisan.

Its columnists, on the other hand, express their own views. Many of them — present company included — have been critical of Harper, but there’s a reason for that. Perhaps we are reflecting the deep mistrust shared by many Canadians.

I don’t share his vision of Canada. I fear what will happen if he is given more power. And I can tell you, based on the feedback I’ve received, I’m far from alone.

Harper has been derided as being a “bubble boy” in this campaign for erecting a protective shield between himself, the media and anyone else who might ask him difficult questions and ruffle his seemingly unflappable feathers.

It’s time to burst some of those bubbles.

Harper Myth No. 1

This is an election “Canadians don’t want.”

First off, Harper does not speak for all Canadians — only 22 per cent of voters chose the federal Cons last time. And the strong interest at advance polls certainly suggests that many people want to have their say.

Harper Myth No. 2

If we don’t support a Harper majority we’ll be punished.

This is the politics of fear at its finest. We have choices in this election and we won’t stand for being bullied at the ballot box. If we don’t vote for Harper, he won’t have a majority and he won’t be in a position to bully anyone.

Harper Myth No. 3

Only a majority Conservative government can give this province a loan guarantee for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric development.

Poppycock. A majority Liberal government or a majority NDP government would do the same. Besides, not everyone is even sold on Muskrat Falls; there are plenty of other pressing issues in this election, such as renewing the health care accord.

Harper Myth No. 4

If you vote ABC (anyone but contempt), this province will be shafted without a representative at the cabinet table.

Ask yourself this: did it seem like we were shafted when Senator Fabian Manning kept coming here handing out cheques like a new father with cigars? A party that wants your support will always find ways to bribe you with your own money.

Harper Myth No. 5

Stephen Harper’s government brought the country back from the brink of financial ruin.

Then why are we in such rough financial shape that he can’t even imagine being able to balance the budget before 2015? Harper inherited a surplus and spent us into the ground.

Harper Myth No. 6

This is an election campaign that the opposition forced on Canadians.

This election is happening because Harper’s government was found in contempt of Parliament. Why? Because opposition members asked for information on the cost of fighter jets and extra prisons before deciding whether or not those initiatives were worth supporting, and were denied that information by the Harper government. Sounds awfully contemptuous to me.

Despite the local Conservative candidates’ attempts to make this election about getting local voices heard in Ottawa, this election is about who will lead the government. Vote Conservative and you are helping to elect Stephen Harper.

The Stephen Harper who curtails questions and muzzles his cabinet ministers; who has killed programs that advocate for women and victims of crime; who is so paranoid that he has kids kicked out of rallies if there’s any hint that they might support another party.

The Stephen Harper who was so desperate this week that during a whistle-stop appearance in Asbestos, Que. on Tuesday, he proclaimed his support for a known carcinogen.

“The only party that defends the chrysotile industry is our party, the Conservative party,” Harper said in a Canadian Press story — chrysotile being the industry euphemism for white asbestos,  which Canada routinely exports to Third World countries.

This, even as CP reported that the government is spending “tens of millions of dollars … to remove asbestos from buildings in the parliamentary precinct and Harper’s current official home at 24 Sussex Drive,” and as one of his own cabinet ministers grapples with terminal cancer as a result of having inhaled asbestos fibres in his youth.

Is this who you want running your country? Spending your money like it comes out of his own wallet? Directing his henchmen to intimidate voters with horror stories of what could happen if he doesn’t get a majority?

Sounds to me like there are more dangerous things than asbestos fibres that need to be removed from 24 Sussex Drive.

Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s story editor. She can be reached by email at

Twitter: pam_frampton

Organizations: The Telegram, Canadian Press

Geographic location: Ottawa, Canada, Asbestos Sussex

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Recent comments

  • G Pike
    May 01, 2011 - 21:55

    thanks for the great article Pam. People need to be reminded what Harper and the Cons are all about.

  • Robert
    May 01, 2011 - 16:41

    Anna, Harper has done more to this country in the last few years than any leader has done to it in 30. If you really want to have this debate I'm game, but I haven't met a conservative supporter yet who can defend the vast majority of Harper's actions. FYI regarding Layton, maybe he just won't spend 30 billion on jets and will use it for doctors... shocking idea...

  • james
    April 30, 2011 - 19:44

    gee pam wonderful article guess we all know who you are voting, is harper the only one running in this election.

  • Anon
    April 30, 2011 - 12:01

    Excellent article Pam. I would have liked to see some examples of his gross disregard for the constitution as well but I think that's a given for a lot of people anyway.

  • David
    April 30, 2011 - 11:31

    Pam your April 30 column,The Harper Myths is the best political commentary I have seen since 1967.In light of what you wrote,and I think you were being gentle with him,I now understand what a friend of mine said to me recently when commmenting on the possibility of a Harper majority.He said: If Harper gets a majority he is moving either to Iraq or Afghanistan,where,his personal and political rights will be a lot better protected. And Pam,he lives in Harper's own district.

  • Anna
    April 30, 2011 - 11:28

    Pam, it is amazing within a few short weeks you have lost all common sense, you state you are under no obligation to be fair and balanced re all the leaders but yet you continute to trash the Conservative government without giving your opinion on how the other leader's plans for a new Government will work. I am aware there is an election but I would have thought instead of picking on one party you would have had the intellect to delve into the other Parities' policies to give readers more information on what their platforms are and the pros and cons against each.

    • Pam Frampton
      April 30, 2011 - 19:11

      Anna, it's nothing to do with intellect and everything to do with inclination. Other people might choose to compare all of the parties' platforms in a news story or a column. I did not. That's my right. It's as simple as that. If you wish to vote for Stephen Harper, by all means do so. I encourage everyone to vote, no matter who they wish to vote for. I don't want to vote for Harper. That's my point. And if you wish to read commentary or reportage from other people weighing the pros and cons of each party, go for it. I certainly have gotten that information from many sources, but I am not obliged to be one of them.

  • scooby
    April 30, 2011 - 10:48

    he has been backing up the asbestos industry for over a year now! and it was the Liberals who started shutting down the medical system and left him with a pile os sHYT. your lost!!

  • Anna
    April 30, 2011 - 09:50

    Pam, I used to admire your columns but despite your "nothing could be further from the truth" comment, all you have done is bash the Conservative Government the past three weeks. Why aren't you questioning where Layton is going to get more Doctors and Nurses, why haven't you said anyting about Canada under a Conservative government, being the only country to have come through the recession relatively unharmed unlike the rest of the world. Why haven't you bought up the Liberal spending scandal? It must be nice to be able to trash the Harper Govenment and get paid for it. It would have been more professional had you written about all three leaders instead of continuing to bash Mr. Harper.

    • Pam Frampton
      April 30, 2011 - 10:15

      Anna, as I said in my column: there is a difference between The Telegram's news coverage of the election and its columnists' opinions. As a columnist, I am expected to express an opinion and -- unlike a reporter who is expected to cover all sides of a story with balance and fairness -- I am under no obligation to do so. I am perfectly within my rights and obligations as a columnist to pick a position and argue it, and you are perfectly within yours as a reader to disgree and express your opinion. That's how it's supposed to work. As for my choice of topics recently, there is an election on, so naturally one's thoughts turn to politics ...