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Politics of fear and smear

If you were wondering about the decline of our politics — or, more precisely, why so few Canadians voted in the last general election — consider the story of Bill Casey, the long-serving, independent-minded member of Parliament from Nova Scotia.

If you were wondering about the decline of our politics — or, more precisely, why so few Canadians voted in the last general election — consider the story of Bill Casey, the long-serving, independent-minded member of Parliament from Nova Scotia.

Mr. Casey was elected from the riding of Cumberland-Colchester-Musquo­doboit Valley in 1988. He lost his seat in 1993 but was returned in 1997. Until 2007, he was a Conservative and, by all accounts, loyal, principled and conscientious.

He was drummed out of the party when he voted against the government’s budget because he said it violated the Atlantic Accord. In the last election, the Conservatives chose another candidate and Mr. Casey ran as an Independent.

Fair enough. Parties drop members who refuse to vote the party line (though, notably, Michael Ignatieff permitted a clutch of his fellow Liberals from Newfoundland to cast a symbolic vote against the federal budget this week). Stephen Harper thought Mr. Casey disloyal, and expelled him from the caucus.

Leaders do that.

So Mr. Casey ran on his own. During the campaign the local branch of the RCMP received a complaint that he had “embezzled” funds. He had not; the $30,000 in question, transferred to an account established for his campaign, had been returned to the party.

Curiously, the complaint came from the Conservatives, specifically, says Canwest News Service, from Diana Read-Miedema. She was the official agent of Joel Bernard, the Conservative candidate.

Mr. Casey says it was “an attempt to smear my reputation and my character.” That’s why he rose in the House of Commons the other day to clear his name.

He is so angry that he promises to run again (he was re-elected with 68 per cent of the vote last year) although he had planned to retire. He thinks vindictive Conservatives at a higher level were trying to discredit him.

They say they weren’t. The national party never had any questions involving Mr. Casey’s transactions, says spokesman Ryan Sparrow.

Incidentally, would that be the same Ryan Sparrow who was “suspended” by the Conservatives during the campaign for saying the father of a dead soldier who had criticized Mr. Harper on Afghanistan was a Liberal?

And would that not be the same campaign in which the Conservatives gleefully vilified Stéphane Dion — a decent man — in cartoons, mocked his English and ridiculed his proposed carbon tax?

See a pattern here? This is politics of fear and smear. No wonder Canadians aren’t voting anymore.

 
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