Bad choice

A week ago citizens in the riding of Wellington-Halton Hills received a flyer from MP Michael Chong. Many of those flyers will have been tossed without a second look, but for those who took the time to read it, reactions were mixed.

Last week we published a passionate letter against the flyer where the writer took a literal poke at our local MP. In return, we received a letter from the local riding president admonishing that writer and defending the record of our sitting MP. A second letter from another citizen this week concerned about content and cost will raise the ire of Conservatives and titillate other partisans. For the average resident, those letters will be overlooked in search of lighter fare elsewhere in the paper.

In speaking with numerous people on this issue, one of the more perceptive comments we heard was that negative messaging is part of politics but it remains a choice – open to politicians who choose to engage in it, closed to those who prefer the high road.

To date, Chong has demonstrated a willingness to think on his own. So, for many of us who prefer positive messages and helpful information over negative slams, this flyer was a great disappointment. We have two specific points of concern.

First, the notion of knocking the competition down with unflattering poses is inappropriate. The collective memory is not too short for many of us to recall the catastrophic Progressive Conservative ads under Kim Campbell’s leadership that made fun of former Prime Minister Chretien’s facial expression caused by Bell’s Palsy. If memory serves right, there was a decided measure of disgust at the time, which saw a new government swept into power. We shared the same uneasiness when Prime Minister Harper was the subject of sweeping generalizations during the last election on his “hidden agenda” – which, we note has not materialized in this lengthy period of minority government.

Our second concern involves the use of taxpayer money for printing and distributing blatantly partisan material. The standard updates to constituents can be a bit too promotional, but at least constructive information is available for consumption. To suggest this recent flyer on the child-care benefit was wholly informative does a grave disservice to thinking people. It was a cheap shot.

It was a bad choice we hope is not repeated.