12 August 2009

Making council races partisan affairs

An effort ostensibly aimed at encouraging women to get involved in municipal politics – where there are no political parties – turned into a partisan affair.  A meeting in St. John’s organised by the status of women’s council included only Tory speakers.

And not surprisingly, as cbc.ca/nl put it, “[w]omen who spoke at the sessions Tuesday brushed off criticism that the meetings have favoured Progressive Conservatives.”  They then quoted Tory cabinet minister Diane Whelan.

No invitations to speak were extend to any women with NDP or Liberal affiliations apparently.

Equal Voice – a non-partisan, national group dedicated to increasing the number of women candidates in politics at all levels – wasn’t involved.

There’s a good reason for that:  this event is tied to a campaign launched by Whelan last spring.

If anyone had been serious about a non-partisan campaign, they’d have organized it through an established non-partisan group like Equal Voice.

As it is, the whole thing starts to smell a little funky and a really good cause – getting more women in politics as candidates – gets twisted into something else.  It’s hard to believe that this event could wind up having only three speakers  - Flora MacDonald, Shannie Duff and Diane Whelan - and all of them have Tory ties.



Anonymous said...

Flora MacDonald, Shannie Duff and Diane Whelan. we all know who they represent.
so Now Ed wants to jump up and bash women. tisk tisk tisk Ed.
tell us Ed who is your Equal Voice. who do you represent?

Not Peter said...

tisk tisk tisk Ed. tell us Ed who is your Equal Voice. who do you represent?

D'Arcy Butler said...

Hi Ed,

just thought I would correct you on some one your "facts". I actually just listened to a comment by Sheilagh O'Leary on the CBC who spoke about the meeting, and the wonderful work of Flora MacDonald. Now I know you like to think that everyone who criticizes you is a Tory party hack (as you have done with me in the past, though I was actually a card-carrying member of the Liberals until this summer, when I let my membership lapse in favour of a NDP membership), but I think anyone who has met Sheilagh would know that she is far removed from the Tories, and while I cannot say for fact, but would hedge an educated guess that she is an NDP supporter. Further, I know of several prominent NDP party officials who have been encouragin me to support Shannie Duff.

Better luck next time.

Edward G. Hollett said...


I am not exactly sure what your point is.

Was Sheilagh a featured, invited speaker at the event (my point) or did she simply attend the meeting?

I made my comment based on an interview I heard with Shannie this morning.

Shannie once ran for the Tories and got elected but that's rewally no never mind. She's one of the best politicians and finest people you'll find anywhere any time. I don't know why anyone wouldn't vote for her.

But what struck me about it was that of the three key speakers, they all had run for the Tories either federally or provincially.

I mentioned Equal Voice for a good reason, by the way. It is a non-partisan group dedicated to getting more woemn involved in politics at all levels. That's the sort of group that should be an integral part of this sort of initiative. Apparently they weren't.

My suspicion of it goes back to the spring when it was first unveiled. it looked more like a partisan even than a non-partisan effort of the Equal Voice sort.

Now, I wasn't at the meeting so I can't tell you who attended, if it was by invite only or anything else.

But perhaps you'd be good enough to clarify your point about Sheilagh and the meeting.

D'Arcy Butler said...


I guess the point I was making, and upon reflection I should have included it in the original post but neglected to, was that I do not believe everything is as partisan as you seem to believe. Now I would be foolish to believe that there are not some very entrenched party hacks from a variety of parties who comment here on your site. However, it often appears that your immediate response in many of your posts as well as responses to comments is to make it a partisan issue.

I honestly believe that most people, particularly those in Newfoundland care far less for the parties then you seem to. There are times that your attacks come across as partisan and entrenched in Liberal dogma, and to be honest they sound rather petty at times. This is too bad, because you do raise some very important issues at times, and generally you have a high quality blog. You just have the tendency to spiral into a smarmy elitist who offers a narrow perspective of valid interpretation.

I guess I simply see myself as valuing all opinions, recognizing that the best conversations, and resultant solutions come from having as many positive voices who while critiquing a scenario will also offer up as much praise about what was done right rather then just simply criticizing. Its been my experience, having worked in variety of managerial positions, that the most effective way to effect positive change is to start with a positive, explain the critique and what could be done better next time and finish with a compliment. Otherwise you are just attacking someone, and anytime people feel they are being attacked defence systems kick in, and many people will do what ever it is they feel they must to "win".

Like you, I was not at the luncheon. I included Sheilagh's name in the response because as I believe that if Sheilagh, as someone I believe to be a progressive lefty like myself, can heap a little praise on such an event, then why couldn't you? Again, that's not to say it could not have been done better, but your post came across akin to a scenario as a coach who berates an athlete for gaining a bronze instead of a gold. Not saying there isn't room for improvement, but at least it is an issue that is gaining attention.

Edward G. Hollett said...

It's interesting, D'Arcy that you frame your argument in such a way that pointing out what appears to be a partisan set-up by someone else becomes a partisan issue on my part.

Now that perception strikes me as very curious.

It also gets even more curious since the rest of your comment avoids the specific issue and degenerates into a series of sweeping generalisations and personal critiques of me and my approach.

In this instance, and as I noted, I pointed to Equal Voice because it is exactly the way this thing should have been approached. Then there wouldn't even be the potential for any accusation of partisan bias on an issue where - in fact - there is a concensus that cuts across party lines.

I can say that because I was one of about 40 or 50 people at the founding meeting of Equal Voice. The people there were from the three established parties as well as people with no partisan affiliation of any kind.

As for the rest of your comment, D'Arcy, there is enough smarmy superficial bullshit out there rather than have me add to it as you suggest. If you like smarmy superficial bullshit, go somewhere else. You'll find bags of it out there and the comments sections of most local news sites are filled with nothing but pure happy happy pap.

People don't need to have their hands held or be praised for the blindingly obvious like it's good to have more women in politics. They don't need to have their prejudices and the mistaken beliefs reinforced (pink white and green anyone).

If there is to be a substantive, meaninful public dialogue in Newfoundland and Labrador, there's has to be a frank discussion that identifies bullshit for what it is and, in this instance raises a concern about what could derail or hijack a serious, much-needed and positive initiative.

And incidentally, if you can identify "Liberal dogma", you can make a fortune.

What I suspect is that you find what I write uncomfortable because it challenges many of your pet beliefs. That's what it is supposed to do. rather than meet that discomfort with condescension (as you just did), you might try re-examining some of your own beliefs.

I know I always do and have never felt better since I started rejecting anyone's dogma.

D'Arcy Butler said...


I chose to frame it in that fashion because I believed that this was another instance that you chose to attack something that was not worthy of attack, critiquing yes, but attacking no.

As far as smarmy bullshit, it is not something that I seek out, and tend to call people on it, particularly when speaking with them in person. I explicitly said that even though you have this tendency at times, you do have a good blog. As I wrote in the previous comment "This is too bad, because you do raise some very important issues at times, and generally you have a high quality blog."

And if you are not in fact a Liberal partisan, then why does it seem that you rarely if ever challenge the Liberals of NL, especially Yvonne for some of her ideas? Maybe I've missed those, but you seem incapable of only ever attacking the other parties.

Like I said before, and I'll say it again, I like you blog, you do at times, raise some very important questions and issues. But take the compliment, and learn to appreciate a little creative criticism. I'm not attacking most of what you said. When I do, I post comments and have even admitted fault in some of my arguments. I'm just suggesting that you change the tone and the way you say things, not what you are actually saying.

Maybe my choice of smarmy was not the best, perhaps sarcastic would have been better. And like the old adage goes, sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Smarmy was a good word, D'Arcy. I just turned it back around to describe what you were apparently supporting.

You used it to call me a smarmy elitist.

The only word I'd use to describe some of what I write is "lampoon". I poke fun at things because sometimes poking fun is the only way to really put it in perspective. In a community where people really do pull their punches, hide their real views and (in many cases their identities), being blunt has an impact.

That's what it is supposed to do. it's supposed to make people feel a little edgy and uncomfortable and actually start to think about things.

Let's take this exchange as an example. I take, appreciate and understand your comments and your compliments. But isn't it much more interesting to explore some of the thinking and apparent assumptions behind your comments?

You see, your references to "tone" are to me part of coded speech. It's part of what happened after the 1860s and the Great Sectarian Accomodation. People around here tend to use code words that appear to say one thing but signal another.

Complaining about the tone of my comments or saying I am negative (there's a popular one) is really a code for identifying someone who is outside the range of accepted belief. It identifies someone who must conform or be ostracised.

It is a way of suppressing ideas and views which run contrary to that of the dominant authorities. Remember a couple of years ago when DW referred to some people in Stephenville as "dissidents"? Bit of an odd choice of words but, if you appreciate the wider context, it made perfect sense. How about the constant refrain that different ideas are "negative"?

You repeat the code words perfectly.

But if you really find what I write is interesting and valuable, you'd find no great problem with the "tone". You'd deal with the substance of what I am saying or writing.

Thanks for the inspiration. This will now be a post on coded speech in Newfoundland politics.

D'Arcy Butler said...


if you wish to believe I am trying to suppress some ideas by suggesting a change in tone, then there is little I can do to change you mind. You will believe what you will believe.

But let me ask you this, why do you think Obama did so well last year? Do you not think that it was because of the positive tone of his speeches? He could have gone out and used as much sarcasm and attacked Bush for so much, but he tended to look to positive change rather then simply criticize the Bush administration. Compare him to Howard Dean, who following a few rants and public screams fell out of public favour rather fast as people did not appreciate the tone of his public appearances.

Again, I refer to my experiences of managing people. What has been my experience is that presenting alternative perspectives in a manner that are far more positivist effects much greater change then simply berating people.

You can use this blog simply "to explore some of the thinking and apparent assumptions behind your comments?" or you can help to advance better ideas by working with other people, picking up on positive steps and encouraging them rather then simply being smarmy about the whole lot.

Edward G. Hollett said...


There are many ways to make a point and many ways to get an idea across to people.

In this instance, I took the words you used to point out how they fit with a wider current context. Doesn't mean you were trying to suppress anything at all. it just means that I wanted to point out that the terms you were using fit in a larger context that gives them a different meaning.

If I was a political candidate, I'd use different language and different ways to accomplish my purpose because my purpose would be different from writing the blog.

It's interesting that you brought up Obama because in my post on the local rip off of Will.I.Am, I noted the stark differences between Obama's messages of inclusivity and his lack of focus on himself with what cocurs in local politics here.

Obama most definitely did attack and he did make sharp and pointed comments, incidentally. His success didn't come from applying a Socratic method to personnel management and encouraging people to find spiritual and intellectual enlightment through the exploration of logical, viable alternatives rationally analysed.

As a last point, i will note that there is one thing I have seen fairly consistent over the past four or five years. The only people who criticise my tone (even with the little bit of sugar about it being a "nice" blog) or who suggested I am merely a partisan hack advancing something called "Liberal dogma" whatever the hell that is come from a very particular ideological or partisan background themselves.

They are, in effect, using coded language in another way: to avoid dealing with conflict. They want to suppress some sort of conflict either between their ideas and ones they don't agree with or can't accept or - more typically with the person. In the latter case the sublimation comes from misperception that criticism of an idea is criticism of the person suggesting the idea. Either way it is unhealthy.

And so far, after all the comments from all the people who've made them here, I haven't seen anything to persuade me that those observations aren't valid 100% of the time.

D'Arcy Butler said...


Guess we will just have to agree to disagree on this.

And as far as trying to "avoid dealing with conflict" and not being able to "persuade me that those observations aren't valid 100% of the time", that's a little rich. Must be nice to be able to read minds and infer with absolute certainty someones perspective from a few comments on your blog. Wish I had that ability.

Edward G. Hollett said...

But of course you already do, D'Arcy.

Hence your effort to lecture me -with just about every comment now and previously if memory serves -even wrapped in the cotton fluff of all sorts of positive statements about my blog and how valuable and important you supposedly think it is.

You even attribute views to phantom "others" rather than offer your own view and then back it up with evidence and example.

If you actually wanted to find an article critical of Liberals, for example, the search boxes are there and you can find them in spades. You didn't do that.

You also didn't go look for the positive things said here. Rather you ran with your own presumptions.

In any event, you might just take some time to consider that, especially since all i asked you to do in the first instance was clarify your point about Sheilagh. You still haven't.

Was she at the meeting?

Was she invited?

Was she invited to be a featured speaker?

those things would take us down a very different path of discussion, if you weren't really interested in assumptions, divinations and lectures. Because, assumptions, divinations and lectures are the smarmy elitist thing to do.

That's the really smarmy elitist.

Anonymous said...

tisk tisk tisk bash women what else is new