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It's a week until the election, do you know who you're voting for?

This week's Market Squared looks at the non-hot button issues of this election and the need to look twice at the candidates
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Within hours of being sworn in as the new Premier of Alberta earlier this week, Danielle Smith told reporters that “(The unvaccinated) have been the most discriminated-against group that I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime.”

For the record, Danielle Smith is 51 years old, so in her lifetime she’s seen (or at least heard of) the Darfur genocide, the Rwandan genocide, the genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Killing Fields of Cambodia.

Why does this matter? Because Smith is the leader of one of Canada’s biggest, most influential provinces with an economy that’s roughly the same size as Denmark, and its new leader thinks people who believe conspiracy theories about vaccines are more hard done by than, say, Canada’s residential school survivors.

It’s been said that “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts" and the fact is that there are a lot of people running for office right now who have views that they don’t want to talk about on the campaign trail, or views that conflict with the observable reality of most voters.

We see this in our own current local election, and we’re seeing it because the races for city council and school board are the soft underbelly. If you’re running for provincial or federal legislatures, there’s more attention from the media and the fine-tooth comb of political party oppo researchers to catch fringe thinking, but locally, there’s too many candidates and not enough time.

That’s why when a mayoral candidate says something to the effect of “We don’t have a mayor right now, we have a UN rep who’s funnelling local tax revenue to global causes and NGOs,” you get a lot of blank stares in the crowd at the debate.

I worry that we in the media have not been good at shining a light in the dark corners of this campaign, and I include myself. When you have over 60 candidates in 11 races, you want to get to the brass tacks of policy ideas and campaign promises, and while sometimes this basic coverage is revealing, the shrewder candidates will not let their proverbial freak flag fly.

And yes, I’m thinking about Ward 1 candidate Thai Mac.

I’ve been hesitant to wade into Mr. Mac’s controversy above and beyond my role as a reporter, but as a commentator I’m still quite deeply concerned that we have a candidate who left the race under a cloud of controversy, and then two weeks later re-joined the race as if sending a few emails to local queer ally groups made up for the original sin.

But let’s play Devil’s advocate. Maybe Mac did receive some valuable learning about making off-colour, borderline homophobic social media posts, but he has yet to explain the ones where he’s supported QAnon dogma, COVID conspiracies, or the ones where he objectified the young female servers at a local establishment.

Indeed, despite repeated requests from me, and other reporters, Mr. Mac has yet to avail himself of the opportunity to talk about why he’s regretful, how he’s changed his thinking, or talk about the other concerning posts. I’m coming off eight years of constant pressure on one Ward 1 councillor’s lack of media availability, I don’t relish another four-year fight to get one interview with a sitting member of council.

If there’s one candidate who has no problem talking though, it’s mayoral candidate Shelagh McFarlane, who I mentioned above.

I took time to look around at the crowd at the Dublin Street United Church debate this week as McFarlane (sort of) answered the questions, and it looked like someone had opened the Ark of the Covenant. For the community at large, I sensed that this was their first exposure in real life to an everything’s-a-conspiracy booster, but McFarlane is hardly alone.

Fellow mayoral candidate John Edward Krusky makes it explicit on his website that he believes that COVID-19 was created in a Chinese bio-weapons lab, and he’s used the word “globalist” far too liberally on his social media page for my liking. Considering this week’s news about the vandalism at Beth Isaiah Synagogue, the repeated use of what many see as an anti-Semitic slur is not a great look.

Then, in the school board races, we have one candidate, Victor Ehikwe, who speaks at Freedom Convoy spin-off protests and retweets support for #UnvaccinatedCanadians. Mark Paralovos, also running for Wards 1 and 5 trustee, has been on a tear lately about an Upper Grand School Board employee that posted a picture with a Black excellence calendar in it on social media.

Over in the Wellington Catholic District School Board, Robert Higgins is running for trustee. His writings walk right up to the line of being White Replace Theory, the false idea that there’s a conspiracy to systematically replace white people with people of colour. So we have a potential school board trustee that believes some of same things that have driven troubled people to commit mass shootings in the U.S. Awesome.

But at least we have information about these candidates. There are far too many candidates trying to go through these school board elections anonymously for my liking with no campaign page or contact information.

The reason? The school board races get the least attention, and it’s more likely that someone will choose a candidate based on some random consideration more than they’ll do a deep dive on their policy ideas. It’s a gamble, but it’s a gamble that can pay off because when voter turnout is low, a few hundred votes is all you need to make a difference.

One day, you’re not thinking twice about who’s running for city council or school board, and the next day, your caught off guard that “Guelph” is trending for all the wrong reasons. The election of a conspiracy theory premier doesn’t happen out of nowhere, and it usually begins in the places where we don’t pay too much attention.

So pay attention. 


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Adam A. Donaldson

About the Author: Adam A. Donaldson

In addition to writing his weekly political column for GuelphToday, Adam A. Donaldson writes and manages Guelph Politico, frequently writes for Nerd Bastards and sometimes has to do less cool things for a paycheque.
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