03:23:23 pm on
Thursday 18 Jul 2019

Endorsing Candidates
David Simmonds


Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper
giving his concession speech in 2015.

Today is the last edition, of the Wellington Times, before the municipal election. On page six, you’ll find the recommendations of the Times regarding how your vote should be cast. That some candidates do not receive a recommendation, from the Times, is advance warning the election outcome will not be a feel good event for most candidates.

• Endorsement and victory are unrelated.

Not receiving a newspaper endorsement does not preclude electoral success, of course. For example, only eight or so newspapers, across the entire USA, endorsed Donald Trump for president, in 2016. Yet, somehow, perhaps with a little non-collusive help from his offshore friends, he prevailed.

The frustrating part of running for elected office is that you have no control over what the electorate deems important. Winston Churchill, immediately after rescuing Western civilization from Nazi tyranny, discovered, in the 1945 general election, that he knew not what the electorate deemed important; the Labour Party, led by Clement Atlee, defeated him, soundly. Turns out voters weren’t as much interested in rewarding Churchill for his wartime leadership as they were in selecting a person that could deliver a reconstructed society, in quick time.

What the electorate may consider relevant may be no reflection on your individual merits, dear candidates. As many observers of the wars waged between Pierre Trudeau and Robert Stanfield, I felt some sympathy for good quality Progressive Conservative candidates. They were doomed to failure by the fact their leader, Stanfield, came across as a mortician, albeit with a light touch, whereas Liberal candidates slid into office in the reflected glow of their It-man leader, Trudeau.

Thus, I say to candidates, who the Times did not endorse or did not win at the polls: thank you for running. This is not a verdict on your qualities as a human being. The election is a judgment, made by a group of people, as to the best fit for a particular position, at a particular time.

There will still be many opportunities for you to serve your community. I think of Sandy Latchford, as a local example. Having lost the Wellington, Ontario,mayoralty race to Peter Mertens two elections back, she threw herself into community volunteering and became chair of just about everything that lived and breathed, as well as the Glenwood Cemetery. So do not be forlorn for long.

• Journalists hold candidates at a distance.

Life is also difficult for the newspaper publisher that must recommend one person, from a group, all of whom he knows or will come to know. Those not selected may feel a sense of betrayal. “How could you do this to me? I thought we were friends.” is a common cry.

A newspaper, which has been doing its job in the world of municipal politics, will develop an informed perspective on the merits of the candidates and would be failing in its duty to enlighten readers if it did not pass on its opinions. Who wants to read a newspaper that pulled its punches at election time and devotes its editorial space to earnest entreaties on the need to eliminate tooth decay?

If Prince Edward County wants a newspaper that takes a hard-hitting, when warranted, approach, it must accept the fact that it won’t always like where the blows strike. All it can reasonably ask is the blows emanate from a principled and consistent position.

I think the Times deserves credit for doing its best, through individual profiles and the Gary Mooney survey, spread over several weeks, to introduce all the candidates and their platforms to County readers. It has earned the right to endorse candidates. Readers are surely grateful.

After the 2016 presidential election, in the USA, the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) published a lengthy article entitled, “Newspaper endorsements are imperilled for the same reasons they’re now urgently needed.” Many newspapers gave up on endorsements because the perceived risk is all on the downside. The constituency, of the not endorsed candidate is alienated and there may be blowback that makes advertisers jumpy. The CJR article argues newspapers have a duty to opine and should be able to separate political discourse from advertising. It just takes guts to do so.

• Sympathy for the publisher, he’s not the devil.

Spare a little sympathy for the publisher. He’s a lonely person right now. Still, he’s doing a valuable job.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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