You have to feel badly for Harvey Locke.
Locke is a Liberal candidate in Monday’s federal byelection in Calgary Centre. Normally, being a federal Liberal candidate anywhere in Alberta generates sympathy, but not enough to win any pity votes. Liberals here are sacrificial lambs, names on the ballot, road kill.
But Locke, against all odds, appears to be mounting a good enough campaign to actually challenge the Conservative candidate, Joan Crockatt.
Crockatt is running such a safe campaign (refusing to attend an all-candidates forum, a sure sign that you’re the frontrunner, and you suck) that polls show Locke and even the Green Party candidate not that far behind and rising fast.
Could it be that Calgary, the most Conservative of conservative cities, might actually send a LIBERAL to Ottawa, something that hasn’t happened in 44 years.
On Tuesday, Locke’s campaign was blown up by one of his own, Liberal energy critic David McGuinty. McGuinty, who incredibly gave an interview to a Sun media reporter (this is like a Democratic being interviewed by Fox News) in which he said that if Alberta MPs don’t take a broader national view on energy issues, they should “go back to Alberta”. At least that was the way it was reported (more on that later).
Well, the excrement hit the oscillating device immediately. Conservative attack dog Jason Kenney denounced the comment as “deeply offensive” (I know I wept when I read it). Stephen Harper exhumed the corpse of the National Energy Program and hung it in Calgary Centre, essentially saying ‘see, this is what happens when you vote Liberal’. McGuinty was immediately labeled a leper within his own party, and forced to apologize in the most groveling manner possible. You’d have thought McGuinty had said he prefers Starbucks to Tim Hortons.
What exactly did McGuinty say?
Yes, he did say “go back to Alberta”, which sounds bad taken on its own. But take a look at exactly what he said:
“They (Alberta MPs) are national legislators with a national responsibility, but the come across as very small-p provincial individuals who are jealously guarding one industrial sector, picking the fossil-fuel business and the oil-sands business specifically, as one that they’re going to fight to the death for.
“They really should go back to Alberta and run either for municipal council in a city that’d deeply affected by the oil-sands business, or go run for the Alberta legislature.”
McGuinty was saying that as a national politician, you have to take into account the entire country, not just your little corner of it. Is that wrong? I don’t think so. MPs should be, must be, more aware of the national implications of what they do, rather than just the local issues. That’s their job, isn’t it?
And consider his supposedly offensive “go back to Alberta” line. Read in context, it’s hardly noticeable. Extracted, it’s inflammatory.
Was it stupid to say? Certainly? Was it “deeply offensive”? Get real. Has it sunk any chance of Calgary sending something other than another dead-eyed Harperite to Ottawa? Absolutely.