In the opening rounds of what is shaping up to be one of the most interesting municipal elections in a long time, the two declared mayoralty candidates appear to be raising character as a defining issue.
Mayoralty candidate Lee Brain has said in a media release that current mayor Jack Mussallem has failed to be honest with the community. Those are strong words.
This follows an unusual election ad in which the Mayor appeared to be attacking the character of an opposing candidate, but who that might be was less than clear. The ad contained a photo of the Mayor in full regalia with two Mounties, whose presence seemed to reinforce the Mayor’s assurances about his “personal behaviour” and other qualities. The Mounties almost certainly thought they were in the photo not as an endorsement, but because they were at dockside greeting visiting cruise ship passengers some time ago.
The Mayor’s ad campaign was discussed a few days ago in a separate thread in this forum, with the consensus of opinion appearing to be at least somewhat disapproving of the Mayor’s approach and messaging < Mayor attacks mystery candidate? >.
Mr Brain’s media release, which is the first to address some issues of note, comes after several weeks of little activity on his various web pages. An article in North Coast Review provides a screen shot of the release and links to various campaign pages and backgrounders, but with less editorial flourish and commentary than what regular readers of the blog may have come to expect
< northcoastreview.blogspot.ca/201 … -call.html >.
Mr Brain outlines his commitment to transparency and public engagement, but with more detail than the mantra-like commitments that we have heard from those currently on council. After an election, they revert to business as usual, which is to conduct a large part of the council’s workload in meetings that are closed to the public. There are occasionally cryptic announcements as to what may have transpired there.
Mr Brain’s transparency agenda has greater detail around it, including commitments to hold town hall meetings and write a weekly column so that citizens are better informed. Whether meetings and columns are needed quite so often as he suggests seems doubtful, but his ideas are no doubt of interest.
Here is a quote from the part that questions the Mayor’s honesty: “Our current Mayor, Jack Mussallem, has failed to not only be honest with community members, but has failed to engage people on big ticket issues, such as the Pellet Plant and proposed LNG developments on Lot 444”
The current Mayor “has failed to … be honest”. Honest about what? And what is the evidence of that failure of honesty?
Put simply, allegations of dishonesty are usually regarded as inherently defamatory. They tend to bring another person into disrepute. Dishonesty and good character do not go together. And politicians are not exempt from the laws of defamation. That being said, liability can be avoided if a statement is “justified” by the truth.
Does the statement illustrate inexperience on Mr Brain’s part; a tendency to go too far with his campaign statements? Or having raised the character issue in his attack ads has the Mayor opened a can of worms that he may not have anticipated? Hopefully we will hear more from the candidates on this topic.