Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Candidate debates - how useful are they?

Dumont Skips Meeting For Metis Candidates
By Aldo Santin
The Winnipeg Free Press
June 15, 2006
Page A4

Anyone who wanted to size up the two candidates for president of the Manitoba Metis Federation at last night's all-candidates forum left disappointed.

Incumbent president David Chartrand showed up early, shaking hands and making small talk with supporters.

Challenger Yvon Dumont sent his regrets - for the fifth time in two weeks. Dumont, who was president from 1984 to 1993 has missed all the candidates' forums staged in Winnipeg leading up to the June 29 election.

"It sounds a little fishy to me," whispered Sheila McBeath at the meeting at the Freight House following the announcement that Dumont would not be there. "I find (the explanation) very hard to believe, especially since he hasn't made any of the other candidates meetings. I am disappointed."

McBeath was one of about 100 people who went out for the forum, where candidates for vice-president and board of directors were also speaking, but it was a special night for the St. Vital resident. McBeath said she was adopted as a baby, never knew her birth parents and only learned she was Metis five years ago.

She said she skipped the 2003 election - where Chartrand narrowly defeated Dumont by 20 votes amid allegations of voting irregularities - because she didn't know enough of the issues but added she is making a concerted effort for this campaign. One thing McBeath said she's learned is that Metis politics is a dirty game.

"If you listen to one (of the presidential candidate's camps) you're told he's a unifying force and a natural leader who's done wonderful things for our people," McBeath said." And that's exactly what the other camp says about their candidate. "And they both say the other guy is the devil ..... I just don't know what to believe."

Rhonda McLeod, office manager for the Dumont campaign, said organizers of last nights forum only contacted Dumont by phone Tuesday to tell him about the meeting. "He had left for The Pas on Saturday and won't be back till Monday," McLeod said. "All these all-candidates' meetings have been scheduled without taking Yvon's schedule into account."

McLeod said Dumont has attended only one forum in the area, in Stonewall. He also attended a forum in Thompson. She said Dumont laid out a busy campaign schedule last month, meeting people across the province, and he's not been able to change it with little notice.

Arnold Asham, publisher of the Grassroots News which organized last night's debate, said Metis presidential campaigns have a tendency to degenerate into mud-slinging matches and this year's election looks like a repeat of the past.

"They all get very personal which is not a very good idea.," Asham said before the meeting started. "Everyone wants to hear the candidates' platforms but stuff like this doesn't get us anywhere."

Charles Desliets, a Dumont supporter, said the Metis people are a divided nation and they have to end their petty disputes if they're to be successful. He left the meeting, when it was announced that Dumont would not be attending.

Given the biased, one-sided coverage of the election campaign in Grassroots News to date, we seriously question the choice or debate organizer.


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