- by John Tamming

Rick Byers, the Disrespect Shown to Grey-Bruce and the Casual Sabotage of Local Democracy

Please give it back Rick.

Rick Byers was just appointed our Progressive Conservative candidate by fiat of the party leader, Premier Ford. No messy nomination meeting, no need to convince party members that you are the best person for the job. Bill Walker announces his retirement and within hours Byers, a long time member of the local riding executive, announces that the premier has appointed him. All very neat and tidy. Soviet apparatchiks could learn lessons from this.

Walker states that covid restrictions and the “tight time frame” between now and the June election preclude a proper nomination meeting. This is too cute by half: the very short time frame which he himself engineered is being used as an excuse not to have a nomination. Left unexplained as well is why we cannot use zoom and electronic voting to do an end run around covid.

How dumb do they think local Tories are? Very, apparently.

Rick Byers is one of the most affable and nice people you will meet. He has also lost a lot of elections – and not by a little. This history matters.

In 2000, he was a federal PC candidate for Oakville. He was crushed by the liberal candidate (48% to 20%). In 2004, he ran again in Oakville, again for the federal conservatives. And again, he was thumped. This time by 17 points.

In 2007 he switched to provincial politics, again in Oakville. He lost that year by over 7,000 votes, a whopping 15 points less than the liberal candidate.

See a theme here?

He then moved to the Beaver Valley. From the redoubt of Kimberley, Byers ran to replace Larry Miller in 2019. He finished dead last in the nomination battle which was won by Alex Ruff. I personally was one of the handful of people who voted for Rick. Again, he is a good guy.

I have no idea why a personable, intelligent mountain climber like Rick made absolutely no inroads with our people. But the fact is that he did not impress. Democracy is cruel at times.

Four races. Four losses. None of them remotely close.

But Byers has now managed to find a way around losing a race. It involves skipping the race altogether. It reminds one of that 5 km Fun Run episode in The Office where Stanley and Oscar cab it most of the way.

For Premier Ford to hand him or anyone the local PC nomination on a plate is an insult to the intelligence of this proud riding. Grey-Bruce has a long history of vigorous political battles, of legendary nomination fights for both liberal and conversative parties, of strong leaders who had the endorsement of their communities, be that Clavering or Bognor or wherever.

A party leader might make the rare direct appointment for a “must have” star candidate considered too fragile for a nomination fight. Byers is no such star.

It is not fair to show up at field day, opt out of the events and proudly stick a first place ribbon on your chest anyway. Most people know that. Byers should listen to the community outrage, hand back the prize and insist to the Premier that this is not the way he wants to win. He should hold out for a vigorous and freely fought nomination process, not a canned result.

After all, nomination battles are both necessary and entertaining. Believe me, you don’t join a riding association for the coffee or the annual review of stale minutes. You join for the combat and spectacle inherent in, say, Ross McLean’s close face off with John Middlebro. You join because it is important for a community to identify and vet potential leaders in its midst. This organic selection process is essential to the strength of a local democracy. Everyone should believe that they have a free shot at a nomination in the party of their choice.

At Ruff’s 2019 nomination, the former OSCVI was just buzzing with thousands of supporters of 4 or 5 camps. One promising candidate had toiled away for years in Miller’s office, another was a very successful Meaford dairy farmer. Those present were deadly serious about their vote, but joked with one another and through the process formed an esprit de corps essential to winning the main campaign.

And now? Nothing. Just a press release confirming the fix is in. Just an embarrassed bunch of loyal Tories who rightfully feel like a bunch of chumps. Just a group of people collectively muttering WTF?

In his famous Man in the Ring, Teddy Roosevelt spoke as follows of his favoured pugilist:

boxingThe credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Rick, as you avoid and fly over the arena of combat unscathed, tell us you at least blush to read these lines.

Tell us at least that.






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