The Conservative Party of Canada’s candidate in the Brandon-Souris byelection on Nov. 25 is Larry Maguire. The former MLA for Arthur-Virden has just issued this glossy postcard in an attempt to both extol the virtues of his party’s dismantling of the long-gun registry and to accuse two other parties of wanting to bring it back if they got into power. However, Sun managing editor James O’Connor points out several mistakes and intentionally misleading statements in the postcard.
As we head into the backstretch of the Brandon-Souris byelection, your mailboxes will start to receive campaign material from most of the candidates.
And if it isn’t a flyer of some shape or form, it could be a print ad in a fine publication such as the Brandon Sun, or a "door-knocker" card hanging off your doorknob informing that you missed a chance to speak with the candidate in person.
For those hopefuls with deeper financial support, you could also hear a local radio ad, or even see a TV spot on a Winnipeg channel. Although the latter isn’t very likely in this race.
There will also be posts to social media, as most of the candidates have Facebook and Twitter accounts, although the impact of that form of communication in Manitoba elections is minimal at best. Why? Well, while the younger generation is strapped tightly to their smartphones and spend hours on social media, it’s unlikely they are going to follow a politician.
Unless it’s Liberal Party of Canada Leader/rock star Justin Trudeau, who has 264,500 Twitter followers and attracts young people to his appearances wherever he goes. But I digress.
When election day rolls around, it’s still the older folks who get out and vote.
Which is sad, as I’d like to believe I live in a community of engaged citizens of all ages and backgrounds who realize that every vote does matter and that not all politicians or political parties are the same.
But assuming that the voting public does skew older, and given the media makeup currently in Brandon-Souris, I suggest the tried and true political print propaganda will have the most impact.
So for the next few weeks, I will be taking a hard look at some materials that cross my path.
I’ll be looking for the tone of the piece — promoting the candidate or attacking opponents — the accuracy of the messaging and the overall quality of the work.
All this in an effort to keep the candidates honest and to help readers wade through the political spin in the messaging and interpret the visual story the candidate is trying to tell.
And also to have a little fun, as faithful readers of this column will know I approach politics — and life — with a healthy dose of irreverence and a good splash of sarcasm.
The first piece of postcard politicking to land at Casa de O’Connor was from Conservative Party of Canada candidate Larry Maguire.
The two-sided, full-colour piece was printed on glossy, stiff, white card. Not cheap, depending how large the drop was.
Now, Maguire has purchased some print ad space — actually quite a bit of it across the riding — extolling the virtues in a positive tone of his background as an MLA and the accomplishments of the federal Tories. All fairly upbeat and classy.
However, the postcard piece failed on several levels for me: the front featured a positive statement about a good piece of legislation by the Tories (illustrated by a horribly outdated photo); and the back was a hard-edged attack on the Liberals and NDP, with some incorrect assertions.
In the photo of the man and boy carrying some dead game birds along a gravel road, there are some glaring illegalities. While we’ll allow that the boy is a teenaged youth older than 12 — the legal age in Manitoba — the pair aren’t meeting Manitoba hunter dress requirements, which must include "a hunter orange garment and hat." Given the colour accuracy in Maguire’s skin tone and other aspects of the printing job are spot on, the vest on the youth is more of a salmon orange. Hunter or safety orange is far more vivid — think of one of those construction zone road signs. And the man isn’t wearing a vest at all.
So after seeing the photo, I guess I can conclude that Maguire supports a relaxation of hunting safety rules. A policy that will perhaps play to the rural four-by-four niche of his base supporters.
But the more egregious offences of this piece are on the reverse, which incorrectly states that "Liberals and NDP have pledged to BRING BACK the long-gun registry."
I couldn’t find any current policy positions or statements by either party to support that claim. If I’m wrong, I will stand corrected.
What I did find, with the help of editorial page editor Matt Goerzen, was a comment made by Trudeau to the CBC almost one year ago — and four months before he was elected party leader — where he admitted he had flip-flopped on the registry.
"The long-gun registry, as it was, was a failure and I’m not going to resuscitate that," Trudeau said.
"We will continue to look at ways of keeping our cities safe and making sure that we do address the concerns around domestic violence that happen right across the country, in rural as well as urban areas in which, unfortunately, guns do play a role.
"But there are better ways of keeping us safe than that registry which is, has been removed."
However, Maguire chose to print a partial quote from an interview Trudeau did around the same time as the CBC one I quoted above.
"... if we had a vote tomorrow, I would vote once again to keep the long-gun registry." (The capital letters are Maguire’s choice.)
That’s what appears on Maguire’s flyer.
Here’s Trudeau’s full quote:
"I voted to keep the firearms registry … a few months ago, and if we had a vote tomorrow, I would vote once again to keep the long-gun registry. However, the definition of a failed public policy is the fact that the long-gun registry is no more. It was an idea that I defended, that I talked about how important it was as a tool for many … police officers and as a heritage that came from some terrible violence that we will be commemorating this week at Polytechnique. But the fact is because it was so deeply divisive for far too many people, it no longer exists."
To extract a partial quote to change its meaning is sleazy and unethical. Words have been taken out of context and twisted into a new meaning in hopes of luring votes.
As for the NDP’s position on the long-gun registry, Maguire’s flyer states:
"[NDP leader] Thomas Mulcair said HE WOULD ALSO RESURRECT A LONG-GUN REGISTRY ..." (Again, the caps are in the flyer.)
However, if you read the tiny attribution, you’ll see the quote isn’t from Mulcair, but from CBC.ca, paraphrasing the NDP leader.
I tracked down the full article. It was published online in March 2012 following Mulcair’s leadership win.
He are the relevant paragraphs:
Mulcair said he would also resurrect a long-gun registry, one that corrects the flaws he says exist in the current system that is being dismantled by the Conservatives.
"For the purposes of public protection you would need a form of registration of firearms, yes," he said.
Mulcair, whose son is a police officer, said he would make registration violations hybrid offences so that police could choose between charging someone with an indictable or a less serious summary offence depending on the circumstances.
So while Maguire is closer to the truth with the NDP’s position, the flyer still takes Mulcair’s comments out of context, as he hasn’t "... pledged to BRING BACK the long-gun registry."
In fact, while I find some personally offensive lines in the NDP’s current policy platform, I can’t find any reference in the few slim justice and crime prevention planks to a long-gun registry.
So, back to Maguire’s flyer.
It’s a poorly conceived piece of political fiction that crosses the line from propaganda to pure lies.
And I’ll let you know the next time I come across a political flyer or ad from any of the five candidates in the Brandon-Souris riding byelection.
The Brandon Sun, along with Westman Communications Group and CKLQ/Star FM, will hold a Brandon-Souris byelection debate Thursday, Nov. 21, 7 p.m. at the Keystone Centre’s amphitheatre, which holds 700 people.
The 90-minute debate will be aired live on CKLQ 880, carried live on WCGtv to several communities across the Brandon-Souris riding and available for later view on Westman Cable’s On Demand service.
And of course, it will be extensively covered in the Brandon Sun, in print and online.
The list of questioning panelists are being finalized, although I won’t be one of them.
That’s the self-imposed penalty this disenchanted Red Tory must serve — ethics, and all that — for taking a strong stand in this byelection and having endorsed Liberal candidate Rolf Dinsdale in September following the Conservative nomination controversy.
It’s a decision I still don’t regret, after seeing the postcard attack ad above.
The byelection is Monday, Nov. 25. Advance voting dates in Brandon at the Keystone Centre’s Salon A are Nov. 15, 16 and 18.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition November 2, 2013