July 04, 2012

Oda finally makes the right decision but Durham progressives won't like the outcome

After many years of waiting for Oda to do the right thing, she does. Stepping down as MP several years too late is better than never. And that will be the only comforting fact for Liberals and NDPers in the coming months.  More on that, shortly.

Oda's resignation shouldn't come as any surprise. In fact, there have been rumblings for a few years she was looking to get out of politics. But with an endless succession of federal elections the timing seemed to hamper her ability to smoothly hand over the reigns. But with her continually making gaffes at taxpayers expense the CPC's tolerance of her truly began to waiver and so her 'resignation' was being planned for her.

Hints of this discomfort was first made clear to me in 2008 during a conversation with her assistant. In that chat the words 'lazy' and 'terrible' were used to describe Ms. Oda as both a candidate and representative for Durham. This was also compounded by the endless chattering by residents who oft spoke of the only reason they were voting for her was because of the party she was a member of.  Being on a team running against her, these comments made the campaign extremely frustrating.

Since that time the frustrations surrounding Oda as Durham's MP has only been compounded by the fact she went on continuing being an utter embarrassment not only locally but federally and internationally as well. At some point the displeasure seemed to also come from other staff and MPs within the CPC'S.

This past fall during a candid conversation with another CPC MP's assistant it was expressed, in no uncertain terms, that many Conservative MP's were beginning to push the issue about having Oda step down. While there had been rumors for some time that Oda herself had been considering leaving politics there now was a sense of urgency building amongst her colleagues to see her do this sooner than later. From the sounds of it, they too were tired of her miscues and the poor representation she had become. Considering that this conversation was prior to the Oda's infamous Savoy and orange juice incident, one can wonder if her colleagues knew it was only a matter of time before another gaffe would occur.

While this week's announcement by Oda is far too late, it did finally take place. However, for progressives in the Durham riding they'll likely not find great comfort in what will come.

I get the sense that there is optimism amongst Liberals and NDPers throughout Durham over Oda's resignation. Considering her reputation I can see why they would be. Oda has left a bad taste in people's mouth (insert sour OJ joke here) and for her opponents they will see this as something they can capitalize on. But they need to consider that Oda had made some of her earlier gaffes just prior to elections and yet not only did she win these elections handily, she increased her margin of victory  with each election. So Oda is a screw up and is disliked by her constituents but somehow she only seems to get stronger.

Oda also had a reputation for being well connected to big business and big money. No doubt, she's leaving her successor a bank account loaded with money for which to run a campaign on. On the other hand, the Durham Liberals and NDP struggled with raising significant funds and matching the spending that the Durham CPC was all but impossible in past elections. Unless fundraising efforts have had dramatic improvements amongst the opposition parties within Durham they will go into a by-election with a serious financial disadvantage once again.

Lastly, there is little doubt the CPC leadership will not let another sub-par person represent them in Durham.  To do so may be pushing their luck. Thus, they will either parachute a 'star' with a proven track record or, if the rumors are to be believed, they will take advantage of a local name with some pull. This name being O'Toole.

The current Durham provincial rep is John O'Toole. He has been the MPP for Durham since 1999. Never heard of him? Don't worry, you haven't had a reason to. As a career backbencher within Queens Park, O'Toole's biggest claims to fame are some vanity license plate bill and being caught on camera giving the finger to his opponents. Within the riding it is a different story where he has a reputation for being attentive to the concerns of his constituents and working hard to resolve those concerns. For me this was driven home for me during the 2007 provincial election when we had identified Liberals pledging support and donating money to our campaign but then telling our us that they would be voting for O'Toole because of the above qualities that they experienced personally. O'Toole may have been but a shadow in parliament but he casts a huge one locally. However, it isnt John that the CPC is rumored to be recruiting but John's son.

I personally don't know much about the younger O'Toole beyond that he's an accomplished lawyer within the GTA. To be truthful, I'm not even certain of that. What I do know is that he's originally from the Durham area, son of an established local politician and carries the name O'Toole. And unless he turns out to be a flopping moron who can't distinguish his numbers from his letters, I don't need to know anymore. If the people of Durham were willing to back a gaffe-prone outsider with a reputation for not wanting to give her constituents her time over several local, highly respectable candidates with worlds more integrity than Oda ever possessed, they will definitely get behind this supposed 'prodigal son's who is also one of their own.

These are the obstacles that the Liberals and NDPs have to overcome. Are these impossible to overcome? No. But given the magnitude of the obstacles it is seriously improbable. To make matters worse, whether it is the younger O'Toole or another competent person running and winning in the by-election it will be next to impossible to dethrone that person in future elections, leaving progressives of Durham on the outside for a long time.

Quotes from people smarter than me...

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich" ~ JFK

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

"Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you." ~ Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly, Episode 12)