All over the Province PC candidates have been boycotting election debates. 

Personally, I think this is an absolute disgrace and candidates like office manager Dawn Gallagher Murphy should be spit-roasted by the local media.

The humiliation could start tonight at the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce debate when an empty chair should be placed on the stage, perhaps with a carboard cut-out of Dawn Gallagher Murphy placed on top. I think the photo from her Facebook page (right) would fit the bill nicely.

Instead of debating the issues with the other candidates, she posts toe-curling juvenile Tweets telling us she was up at the crack of dawn this morning to have “great conversations with commuters” and getting “to engage with them one-on-one”.

Why does she insult our intelligence in this way?

Why can’t she have great conversations with the other candidates in Newmarket-Aurora?

And what about these one-on-ones with commuters? What did she talk about? The deficit? 

Empty Chair

I recall Lois Brown was a no-show at the candidates’ debate at the Old Town Hall back in the 2019 Federal Election. Fat lot of good it did her when she subsequently lost to the bland, low-energy Tony Van Bynen.

Impishly, the organisers had left an empty chair for Lois and, an hour into the event, the NDP candidate, Yvonne Kelly, gets a laugh when she points to the chair and asks the moderator:

“Is it OK if I put my purse here.” 

“I guess Lois isn’t coming.”

Tonight’s election debate, jointly organised by the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce with Newmarket Today and the Era, takes place from 6:30 to 9 p.m. May 19 at the New Roads Performing Arts Centre (former Newmarket theatre), 505 Pickering Cres. (at Newmarket High School, near Mulock and College Manor drives).

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Background: When Christine Elliott announced she would not be seeking re-election, Doug Ford immediately appointed her office manager, Dawn Gallagher Murphy, to replace her as the official PC candidate in Newmarket-Aurora. The PC riding association was completely excluded from the decision and its President, Bill Hogg, resigned in protest. Gallagher Murphy, who describes Christine Elliott as her friend and mentor, has boycotted all election debates. 

“Number one priority”

Dawn Gallagher Murphy, says Southlake will be her number one priority if, as the polls predict, the office manager becomes our next MPP.

She told Newmarket Today on 11 April 2022 she is passionate about Southlake and

“wants to advocate for the hospital”.

As proof of her commitment she cites the Nature’s Emporium Run for Southlake in 2019. She says she led the team.

Her passion for Southlake is skin deep.

When Southlake nurses asked for a meeting with their MPP, Christine Elliott, they were ignored. Would Dawn Murphy Gallagher MPP meet the nurses if asked? Or would she give them a wide berth?

Cutting nurses' pay the Christine Elliott way

Did Gallagher Murphy agree with Elliott's decision to cap nurses' pay at 1% - falsely blaming the independent adjudicator? (see panel right)

Or does Gallagher Murphy now believe the nurses were short-changed?

And what about the unsafe practices at Southlake? Any qualms?

Was she concerned that Southlake cut the number of nurses during the pandemic as the hospital struggled to balance the books?

To find out what the nurses really feel about Christine Elliott and the PC Government you need only visit the Ontario Nurses Association website.

Southlake got a  “one off” cash injection in June last year but the Treasurer, Steve Hills, warned Board members that, despite the extra funding from the Ministry of Health, the hospital would be back in deficit in 2022. Does she have any lingering concerns about the hospital's finances?  

Gagging critics

Last year, the Ford Government changed the rules to limit the amount of money that trade unions, charities and other organisations could spend on political advertising in the year before a Provincial general election. Ford relied on the now notorious “notwithstanding clause” to ensure the law could not be challenged in the Courts.

As a result, the amount of money third parties can spend on political advertising during the election campaign itself is severely circumscribed - $4,364 in a single riding and a total spending cap across the entire Province of $109,100. That doesn't buy a lot of airtime.

The law (fortunately) still allows the Ontario Nurses Association and other organisations like it to use their own websites and social media to get the message across.

Planning for new hospitals everywhere

There has been much talk of a new Southlake as if it is just around the corner. Gallagher Murphy celebrates the $5m the Province gave to Southlake to help it work up its plans. This template formula (a few million dollars to work up plans) has been used by the Ford Government in any number of places as “evidence” that new hospitals are on the way.

An announcement on 3 May told us there's $6M to with the planning of Stevenson Memorial Hospital in Simcoe County. On the same day we learn $5M is being earmarked to support planning at Sunnybrook. On 22 April it was the turn of Uxbridge who are getting $2.5M to help their planning. The day before, Waterloo gets $5M to help develop planning

Before the election there's money for everything.

Until there isn't.

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The next MPP for Newmarket-Aurora, Office Manager Dawn Gallagher Murphy, says she can't attend the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce election debate on 19 May 2022 because of a "scheduling conflict"

That's pure hokum. What kind of fool does she take us for?

She should clear her diary and be there in person to debate the issues of the day with the other candidates.

That is the right thing to do.

What on earth is she afraid of?

Being found out? 

Appointed by Ford as a favour to Elliott

Gallagher Murphy wasn't selected by PC members in Newmarket-Aurora. They were side-lined. She was, instead, appointed by Doug Ford as a favour to his loyal Deputy, the dissembling Christine Elliott.

Selecting candidates for the Provincial Parliament in this way is not OK.

And now we hear of Liberal candidates being dropped by their Party - even in the middle of the election campaign. Here in Newmarket-Aurora, the Provincial Liberal Party dumped Shameela Shakeel for failing to meet the required qualifications for being a Liberal Candidate without giving reasons or elaborating.

The NDP have had their problems too.

All parties shop for candidates for the simple reason they don't grow their own. Our septugenarian MP, Tony Van Bynen, wasn't even a member of the Liberal Party in 2019. He joined so he could throw his hat into the ring. He was the only candidate and is now in Ottawa. (Photo right: on 23 April 2022 parties were still searching for candidates.)

Shell organisations

Astonishingly, a few years ago I was asked by a senior member of a political party here in Newmarket-Aurora if I would consider becoming a Parliamentary candidate. I wasn't even a member of that Party then or now. I laughed at the very suggestion - and said no. 

Too many riding associations are shell organizations. And even when aspiring MPs and MPPs sign up armies of new members to secure a nomination, it doesn't necessarily translate into an active riding association. If they join as paper members they generally stay as paper members.

I have no time for this kind of transactional politics which leads to cronyism and clientism.

We need to get more people interested in becoming active members of political parties. But that is a huge ask - especially these days when so many younger people are focussed on single issue campaigns and are cynical about conventional politics.

Wither on the vine

So what happens? Political parties - a core part of a living and functioning democracy - just wither on the vine. 

Riding associations should be more than vehicles for winning elections. They should be places where Party members can enjoy lively political debate, regularly holding their MPs and MPPs to account. But in too many places this simply doesn't happen.

The media focus is almost exclusively on the Party leadership and the qualities of individual candidates in the ridings is of secondary importance.

Parroting her Patron

Even someone like Dawn Gallagher Murphy will likely be elected to our Provincial Legislature although she just parrots her patron, Doug Ford, and has nothing original to say for herself.

In the Ontario Legislature her vote will have exactly the same weight as her patron, Doug Ford.

But in reality that counts for nothing.

She owes her place to him and will vote as directed. Every time.

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Update at 7pm on 12 May 2022: Dawn Gallagher Murphy is a no-show at tonight's candidates' event hosted by the Aurora Public Library.

The PC candidate for Newmarket-Aurora, Dawn Gallagher Murphy, was a no-show at this morning’s “Provincial Election Event 2022” hosted by the Aurora Chamber of Commerce. 

If we are to believe the polls, Dawn, handpicked by Doug Ford, will be our next MPP. So I was naturally disappointed that something kept her away. 

I think we should be told what was more important than today’s election event.

Dawn’s A La Card Marketing and Consulting Services Limited which she founded in 2003 is based in Aurora. I don't see her A La Card in the Aurora Chamber of Commerce business directory but I’m sure it’s in there somewhere. She will want to support her local Chamber of Commerce.

Silent and Shadowy

Until now, Christine Elliott’s Office Manager has always been a silent and shadowy figure hovering in the background. But now she craves the limelight. (Photo right: Dawn handing out leaflets in Yonge Street, Aurora, before the 2018 Provincial Election)

I was keen to hear her make the case for the Progressive Conservatives and for Doug Ford, her patron, whom she idolizes.

The NDP’s Denis Heng and the Liberal Party’s Silvain Roy both put in solid performances as did the Green candidate, Carolina Rodriquez, but the format could be made more challenging. 

The stiff, wooden, metronomic format doesn't do the candidates any favours.

Spontaneity

These “debates” need a bit more unpredictability and spontaneity if they are to grab the attention of the voting public and keep us all engaged.

The candidates should have the opportunity to quiz each other - with the moderator standing by to keep order.

And they need the front-runner to be there, taking on all-comers and showing us what she's made of.

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Update on 12 May 2022: Newmarket Today reports that Dawn Gallagher Murphy has declined to attend the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce election debate on 19 May 2022 due to a "scheduling conflict"

Below: at the 2019 Federal Election candidates' debate held at the St Andrew's Golf Club in Aurora. Green candidate Walter Bauer transfixes the audience, explaining the significance of the Climate Stick, while Dawn tucks into her omelette and bacon.

The result last time in 2018. Elections are snapshots in time. In the 2019 and 2021 Federal Elections in Newmarket-Aurora voters returned a Liberal MP.

If we believe the pollsters it is all over bar the shouting in Newmarket-Aurora. The PCs are home and dry with odds of winning put at 83% - as projected yesterday by the polling aggregator Canada338

A new poll from Nanos Research gives the PCs a comfortable seven-point lead at the start of the campaign.

Dawn who?

If we believe this our new MPP will be Dawn Gallagher Murphy, hand-picked by Doug Ford as a thank you to Christine Elliott for services rendered. Dawn is Elliott’s Office Manager but, other than that, we know very little about her. 

Of course, a lot can happen during the campaign. In the last Provincial Election in 2018 no-one - let alone the pollsters - predicted the Liberals would be reduced to a rump of 7 MPPs.

No signs of love-in

The aim must be to stop Ford winning an overall majority of seats but that may be a tall order. The love-in between the Federal Liberals and Federal NDP has not been reciprocated by their provincial cousins who continue to bad mouth each other with accusations of broken promises and so on. 

All the declared candidates so far are new faces, at least to me. The NDP’s Denis Heng, an epidemiologist, is a member of Aurora’s Community Advisory Committee. The Liberal’s Sylvain Roy is a psychologist backed by former MPP Chris Ballard. The Greens are fielding Carolina Rodriguez, a university student. And, to the right of the PCs, we have the New Blues with Iwona Czarnecka. (Photo right)

Meet and Greet

All the candidates were selected very late in the day giving voters little chance to get to know them. But we shall soon have an opportunity to see the candidates in the flesh and get the measure of them. Do they have thought-through positions on the big issues of the day? Are they persuasive? Can they think on their feet? Are they personable? Do they have a track record? How do they use social media? Can they think for themselves or are they cyphers, mindlessly echoing the Party line on all issues?

The Aurora Chamber of Commerce is hosting a candidates debate on 11 May with the Aurora Public Library holding its own “meet the candidates” event on 12 May. A Kairos event is promised and there is another virtual event organised by the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association on May 17. I shall post details of others as they become known to me.

There will be two leaders’ debates – in North Bay on 10 May and another in the TVO studios on 16 May. 

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Update on 6 May 2022: Newmarket Chamber of Commerce debate from 6.30pm-9pm on 19 May 2022.