BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Muddling the message

Adrian Dix rolled into Vernon April 24, beaming with optimism and preaching a positive attitude.

Adrian Dix rolled into Vernon April 24, beaming with optimism and preaching a positive attitude.

After being targeted by Liberal attack ads, he told about 200 people at the Schubert Centre that slamming individuals doesn’t serve a purpose, “even if we disagree with them politically.”

It’s been his message long before the election campaign actually began.

“We should have a good discussion of the issues and not be personal. I want to see a change in politics. Take out the personal attacks,” he said in an article written by the Province’s Michael Smyth Jan. 23.

“You can be critical — and that might be seen as negative by some people — but don’t be personal.”

So it was with great surprise that the NDP’s provincial election team issued a press release Sunday entitled, B.C. NDP calls on B.C. Liberal candidates to not step down.

“Today, the B.C. NDP revealed its Top 12 list of B.C. Liberal candidates whose past and present behaviour should not disqualify them from being on the ballot as a B.C. Liberal candidate. Here they are,” states the release.

Number two is Vernon-Monashee’s Eric Foster. The release goes on to say, “He was forced to pay back $67,000 after the auditor general criticized him for questionable office renovations, and then led the charge to fire the auditor general. But we are not calling for his resignation.”

Emphasizing the word “not” may be the NDP’s attempt at humour but it’s more biting than it is funny.

Nowhere in the release does it mention that Foster’s renovation expenditures were initially approved by the legislative bureaucracy that oversees how MLAs spend money or that Foster has been cleared of conflict of interest.

Some of the top 12 candidates are identified because of their roles as government cabinet ministers.

But others are named for items unrelated to elected office, whether it is pleading guilty to driving without due care and attention, providing money to people to buy illegal drugs or apologizing for comments about homosexuals.

The release wraps up by saying,  “The B.C. NDP is running a positive campaign, so we won’t be calling for the resignations of any of these B.C. Liberal candidates. Not calling for your opponents’ resignations to distract from your own record; that’s change for the better.”

Now there may be something to these items raised about Liberal candidates. In some cases, concerns should be raised about actions taken or decisions made. How they handled these situations should possibly give residents a reason to reflect on how they vote.

But the NDP’s press release counters Dix’s comments in Vernon that constant negativity between politicians led to poor voter turnout in the last election.

The party insists the release was tongue-in-cheek to demonstrate to the Liberals, who have slammed NDP candidates for a variety of apparent misdeeds, that such occurrences can be found on all sides.

“We can’t keep calling for resignations every time someone makes a mistake,” said Mark Olsen, who is running in Vernon-Monashee for the NDP.

True enough, but sarcasm doesn’t translate every well. All the NDP release likely did was confuse voters and leave some wondering if all of this talk about “Change for the better” is actually a diversion for politics as usual.

The message has been muddled.

Richard Rolke is the senior reporter for The Morning Star