Will Percy Paris beat me up now?

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If you’re a fighter, Mr. Paris, go be a fighter. Join the UFC, join the military, do something where the ability to physically beat someone is useful or admired. A politician who takes pride in threatening other politicians – and even after emotions cool, still brags about the other guy being the one who would have been hurt – looks like a buffoon.

I respect the ability to fight well; I don’t respect using that ability to intimidate others or bluster about it later.

It’s disappointing that Paris was the person Skabar had as a featured speaker for a fundraiser. (For the record, I wasn’t there, so my comments are based on this paper’s coverage of the night.) I don’t think it’s partisan of me to say Brian has his work cut out for him. A specific set of circumstances in the last election meant he was able to come up the middle. Those circumstances likely won’t exist next time.

Here’s what won’t win an election, in my humble opinion: toeing the party line.

The NDP have a case to make. I don’t happen to agree with it, but there are residents of this riding who do. And there’s a large mass of disaffected potential voters who won’t bother showing up at the polls. Some, perhaps many, of them would be open to the NDP’s social justice message.

But that message can’t be delivered in sanitized talking points, rehearsed slogans and robotic parroting of the leader’s views.

Integrity is dead, dead, dead in politics in this country and this province, and it isn’t because of a handful of senators or MLAs dipping into the public coffers – it’s because almost all politicians have become career-minded cowards who put winning their jobs back ahead of standing for something.

I will say this for Mr. Paris. He’s right that politicians should be bold fighters who state their views with conviction…they just shouldn’t accent those views with machismo more suited to the Liquor Dome on a Friday night than a campaign fundraising dinner.

I like Brian, I suppose. I don’t know him well, but we’ve had conversations. He has opinions and my guess is he feels passionately about the issues. He has toughness. You can’t take part in the Cabot Trail Relay and be mentally weak.

In this humble scribe’s opinion, Skabar needs to approach this election like a man with nothing to lose. Say what he really thinks. Go off the message. And don’t try to keep the peace. Honest views will alienate some voters, but they have some hope of attracting others. Carefully crafted pablum is transparent even to the most unsophisticated voter.

We want real people running for office, and real people say what they think, not what they’re told to say they think.

I don’t want Dexter to win reelection. It would be disingenuous for me to pretend I’m neutral on that issue. And I’m no fan of big, activist government, whether Conservatives, Liberals or NDPers are at the helm. The NDP has drawn fire for its half-hearted efforts to cut spending – to shrink government, albeit far too little – but critics have rightly made hay of this government’s corporate giveaways at a time when the message is fiscal restraint.

None of the mainstream parties represent me or the direction I think the province should proceed. Skabar isn’t likely to get my vote.

But he will win my respect and, more importantly for him, the respect of those who might be persuaded to vote for him, if he takes a chance on speaking to us in a way politicians rarely do today: honestly and unequivocally.

That’s risky, of course. Percy Paris may have been honest and unequivocal in his schoolyard boasting, which I’m guessing has little appeal to most voters. But citizens want to – have the right to – see the real person for whom they’re casting a ballot.

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  • Matt Connelly
    June 28, 2013 - 09:28

    I agree with Rob. Brian has proven to be an effective MLA for this area. I voted NDP the last time because I couldn't stand Rodney. I don't know yet if I'll give Dexter another kick at the can but let's be honest here. Can McNeil really do the job? I look at the people around him and it doesn't smell good. So when it comes down to it, regardless of the Percy incident and the Dippers helping create jobs in this province, I think Brian deserves a second turn in office.

  • Rob
    June 26, 2013 - 09:30

    Eric, I usually enjoy your posts, but this one is off the mark for a few reasons. The first is your reading of the Paris-Colwell incident. IMHO, Marilla Stephenson at the Herald hit the nail on the head a few weeks ago when she said that while Colwell may have "the strict definition of the law on his side, the boys at the legion are unlikely to be impressed. And over at the tavern, they’re outright laughing." Now I don't approve of Percy's boastings either, but there is some context here for firmly planting one's tongue in cheek. Also, it seems the fact that you weren't around for the 2009 election has led you to the mistaken conclusion that Skabar "came up the middle" to win his seat. This is understandable, especially for someone from away, so let me help you out. Skabar won 40.16% of the vote in Cumberland North. It was a near 3-fold increase in the NDP vote over the 2006 election, and Cumberland North was one of only a handful of ridings to increase its voter turnout in that election. While it was not a majority of the riding, 40% is no squeaker either. A healthy plurality of Cumberland North residents voted for Brian directly. My guess? Maybe it had something to do with the toughness you sense in him. People respect the guy and maybe, just maybe, here in Cumberland North, integrity isn't as dead as your nihilist proclamation would have us believe.