COLUMN: Perry Bergson — Sept. 24, 2012

Perry Bergson
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A lot of folks in my industry get pretty excited when election campaign season hits.

There is inevitably a never-ending fount of stories and, depending on the campaign, your readership can become extremely engaged.

And naturally election night is always a thrilling time.

As a longtime news desker who would assemble the paper, I enjoyed the wild ride on the final night as receiving the election results bumped up against deadline. It was stressful but also adrenalin-fuelled fun.

But somewhere along the line, the actual campaigns began to depress me. Regardless of political stripe or country, campaigns have increasingly taken on ugly tones.

Just look south of us.

To be fair, this isn’t exactly new. Thomas Jefferson was taking potshots at Alexander Hamilton in the 1790s.

Maybe it’s the cable news and Internet eras, which are forever seeking fresh meat for angry talking heads and bloggers, that are pushing politics into an increasingly polarized universe with no clear centre.

Recent American elections have shown the very worst in human behavious.

Who can forget the shameful Swift Boat campaign directed against John Kerry in 2004 in which a decorated Vietnam veteran had his record questioned. The attacks were made by fellow veterans angered by Kerry’s anti-war activities after he left the service.

It was a smear campaign and it seemed to register with the gullible, the stupid and the haters.

Some Republicans, referred to as the Birthers, question whether Barack Obama can even run for office, suggesting he wasn’t born in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Democrats assail Mitt Romney for decisions made by his old company, Bain Capital, long after he had relinquished control.

The saddest moment of the political year came from a man named Neil Newhouse. Here’s what Romney’s chief pollster had to say.

“We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact checkers,” he said at an ABC News/Yahoo panel in Tampa, suggesting that fact checkers can’t be trusted because they have their own “thoughts and beliefs.”

If you ever laboured under the naïve idea that elections should involve an exchange of ideas between parties to allow voters to make an informed choice, you’re wrong.

I feel bad for former Tory party leader and prime minister Kim Campbell, who actually said that an election is no time to discuss serious issues. I’m sure she meant that it’s nearly impossible to have a meaningful discussion on a complicated topic on the campaign trail, but she unwittingly encapsulated the problem with the election cycle.

In a perfect world, the parties would each state their position on every individual issue. Debates would be on the merit of the policy rather than “gotcha” exchanges rife with half-truths, outright lies and deliberate obfuscation.

The focus would be on the future and the past would be the past.

But politics is now naked bloodsport with the corrupting spectre of power informing every decision.

Voters on the left tune out voices from the right. Voters on the right tune out voices from the left.  Very little meaningful discourse even occurs anymore.

I’m one of those voters in the centre who has voted for each of the parties at least once. I listen to what they say and base my vote on whether I consider them a good person to represent me.

I’ve voted for winners and I’ve voted for candidates who received a tiny fraction of the ballots. I never consider it a “wasted” vote because exercising your democratic right is always a worthwhile endeavour.

Which brings me to the upcoming municipal election on Oct. 24 in Prince Albert.

The Daily Herald is hoping to contact each of the candidates to do a story prior to the election.

We also have additional plans taking shape in what we promise will be a compelling look at the election.

Please remember that on our website and on our Editorial page, no personal attacks on the candidates will be permitted. You can write in to praise your candidate or to discuss the issues, but we won’t allow the sort of vicious nonsense that has gripped western democracies and infected the Internet.

On a personal note, this will be my first election in Prince Albert and it seems to be shaping up as a remarkably civil affair. Maybe that’s the benefit of the candidates all sharing a limited geographic space; everyone has to play nice because you might see them at the grocery store next Thursday.

I hope that this does become a campaign of ideas.

The mayoral campaign is fascinating.

I haven’t yet met Dean Link — something I hope to remedy soon — but I’ve had a chance to get to know both Greg Dionne and incumbent mayor Jim Scarrow.

They are very different men but I consider both to be intelligent, engaging individuals. I’m eager to read and hear what all three men have to offer as a vision for the future of this beautiful city.

Mark Tweidt can officially be welcomed to council after being the only candidate to step forward to claim Ward 7, which was formerly held by Darren Whitehead.

Jayne Remenda is the other incumbent councillor who isn’t running for re-election.

Both Jayne and Darren deserve our thanks for their service; hopefully both can find new ways to fill their Monday evenings.

To the three men running for mayor, the 17 people running in the contested seven ridings, the seven people hoping to be a trustee in the Roman Catholic Separate School Division and the six seeking a spot on the Sask. Rivers School Division board, thank you.

The choices that you provide, win or lose, are the lifeblood of our democracy.

Organizations: Democrats, Bain Capital, ABC News Yahoo Daily Herald Rivers School Division

Geographic location: Vietnam, U.S., Tampa Prince Albert Sask.

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