Let's not blindside the wrong people

(Council candidates Meghan Plooy, left, and Gord Smith talk to People First participants at Wednesday's speed-meet.)


Every political reporter loves a last-minute bombshell or an attempted blindsiding.

And Cec Drake's costing turnabout at the end of Wednesday's all-candidates meeting was a fine example of both.

It was also an entirely legitimate change of topic as we enter the home stretch of this election campaign. The OPP question is arguably the biggest issue of the campaign, or perhaps a close second to jobs.

Still, I can't help feeling it's People First of Brockville who should most feel blindsided, rather than the intended targets of Drake's blindsiding: Mayor David Henderson and candidate Louise Severson.

The latter was not going to respond anyway, given her position in the speaking order, while the former, as we saw, reacted to this sudden play with the agility of a second-term mayor.

Besides – and I say this with the utmost respect – who cares if Severson or Henderson are or are not blindsided? They are both politicians. They signed up for a job that includes the possibility of being blindsided, and the certainty of people like me enjoying such a spectacle.

People First, however, did not sign up for such a blindsiding, even if they did sign up for a political event.

These folks are a non-profit organization advocating for people with intellectual disabilities; many of the folks running the debate actually have such disabilities and were putting themselves out there for the public good.

We owe it to them not to ignore the issues they tell us are important, such matters as housing, public transit, inclusive hiring practices and overall inclusion in the functioning of our community.

I hope to convey all of this in a follow-up story tomorrow, because these, too, are important issues.

For now, I do not want to ignore the comments of the only council candidate with a disability.

Unless we are physically there, being seen, we don't have a voice," Gord Smith, whose struggle is severe sight impairment, told the People First folks at my table during the initial “speed-meet” portion of the evening.

And on the matter of those rapid table-to-table consultations, Smith had this to say: “This is an acorn that will grow into a mighty oak.”

It was a recognition that in a democracy, there should be room for a different kind of political meeting, one that involves more dialogue and less blindsiding.

This, too, we have a responsibility not to ignore.