Votes for the Conservative nominee in the Macleod riding byelection are tabulated today, and the story of the campaign is not "hopefuls listen to residents."
The entire campaign has been usurped by the National Firearms Association, Canada's version of the National Rifle Association south of the 49th parallel. It has also been grabbed by right-wing media outlets trying to make a name for themselves in a new market. No surprise, as the agenda had already been pushed by right-wing provincial opposition leader Danielle Smith, who represents a section of Macleod provincially.
In the middle of it all, the residents of Macleod seem to have been left out in the frigid cold of February.
The main topics discussed should have been the backlog of our bumper crops due to rail competition, oil and gas markets, and flood mitigation. Other topics could have included innovations in our area in agriculture and small enterprise, the geographical and demographical diversity and "how can you represent people in Okotoks beside people in Crowsnest Pass or Lomond", or even the value the Conservative government places on veterans.
But they weren't. The "High River Gun Grab" was. And it was the only thing some candidates were talking about.
This seems odd, as every gun owner affected by the actions of the RCMP have never been unhappy about how the guns were handled, only the violent invasion of their privacy. A valid point and an important issue, but by no means is it the only issue nomination hopefuls should be discussing. It is also in stark contrast to the gun-toting whackadoodle image the NFA is portraying Macleod conservatives as. Perhaps the NFA forgot about the story of the "Nose Hill Gentleman"?
Scott Wagner spoke with me twice, and seemed to have a decent grasp on the issues, and although I didn't fully agree with them, kudos goes to him for making a concerted effort to connect with me (he is a very intelligent fellow). Phil Rowland's wife bombarded me with robocalls in the last week. Melissa Mathieson never once contacted me. I can't tell if I prefer Mathieson's or Rowland's tactic.
I was concerned about John Barlow at first, recalling that he ran as a Progressive Conservative candidate in the 2012 Alberta election. I also recalled how he presented himself in those forums. He was strong, articulate, and didn't shy from confrontation. He did, however, leave me wondering if he could be a positive force, or if he would fall victim to the childish bickering that we now see in both provincial and federal houses.
When he called me, I asked him about how he felt the tone of his provincial campaign went. He explained to me he was disappointed with how the Progressive Conservative party lowered themselves to the point where issues were no longer their focal point.
He hit the nail on the head. The issues must be forefront. And Barlow knew the major issues, and also knew some less obvious issues that matter to our residents. Barlow is the only one of these four nomination hopefuls who did not bow to the whims of a lobby group and right-wing media. He has his thumb on the pulse of the constituency, and stuck to talking about the issues, not just in person, but also in the media. With regards to the NFA's focal point, he stuck to his word; he said if new information came out suggesting an inquiry was warranted, he'd stand behind it, so when it did, he stood behind it.
A politician that stands by his/her word should be considered a valuable asset. But even more valuable is one who refuses to let lobbyists dictate the agenda, and rather let constituents dictate it.
And as a side-note, if you knew the level of discourse Barlow and his family was exposed to on his campaign Facebook page on the matter of the guns in High River, you would understand why I use the term "gun-toting whackadoodle".
So today is the last day for Conservative members to cast their ballots for their nominee. After today, we will know if Macleod conservatives really are the gun-toting whackadoodles the NFA paints them as, or if they thoughtfully consider more than just a single issue with an eye to the future.
And I, for one, am no gun-toting whackadoodle.
Maybe I live a sheltered life. When asked about guns, we simply don't have them, allow them, nor want them in or around our house. There is no need.
So when my 8-year-old nephew got a shiny new .22 calibre rifle for Christmas, my shock should come as no surprise. Two hours earlier, I would never have thought my sister-in-law would have allowed her son to have a gun, after I got in trouble for playing a World War II game on the Nintendo Wii (it wasn't really even a good game).
I was unfortunately too sick at the time to respond the way I should have, and so I could very easily have given the impression of a person who was indifferent or even accepting of this "gift".
Let me be clear. I am not.
You see, not an hour before the giving of this gun, I was having a conversation with the family of my sister-in-law's boyfriend about Gun Culture following the Sandy Hook tragedy. Their opinion was that more guns will solve the problem. That having an armed officer in every school was an appropriate measure. That tagging the mentally ill was the best way to keep this from happening again. (I found that last one insensitive as my in-laws have a family history of mental illness) I seemed to be the only one in the room who disagreed.
So many things said by these people alarmed me and deeply saddened me:
"Anybody who has something out of balance in their brain is mentally ill." Does this include the seasonally depressed? People with ADD? People with dyslexia?
"The only people who would do such a thing would be mentally ill." So I should be afraid that the 75 students who are coded in my school of 300 might pull a gun? The vast majority of those who are "mentally ill" are non-violent.
"No rational person would ever kill 20 people." Ask Sheldon Cooper that one. Or Adolph Hitler. Or a soldier fighting for peace.
"A cop at every school with a gun would have prevented this." No, not having access to guns AT ALL would have prevented this. After hearing about the Nose Hill Gentlemen, I will never be convinced that more US cops with guns is a good idea.
Then my brother-in-law gives our nephew a gun, and started talking about all the "wonderful" things they can do with it, including going behind a blind and "picking off targets". This, after a discussion amongst grown men about how they are planning to create their own cannons.
Now to be fair, I was impressed with the respect my nephew immediately affording this device, and I know that he was being coached to respect it. However, sick as I was, I did not have the energy to get up and leave as I should have.
However, saying only that guns can be fun is irresponsible. They are tools of death. That's how they were designed. The more available they are, the more you open up the opportunities for them to be managed irresponsibly.
Evidence of irresponsible gun management exists everywhere. When it involves an 8-year-old who doesn't know how to use guns, such as one in Philadelphia who shot herself just weeks before Sandy Hook, it doesn't just scare me. It infuriates me.
The responsibility starts with the parents. I have to wonder if my nephew's father (his parents are divorced and fighting over custody) is aware he just got a gun for Christmas in his mother's house. I can assure you that my boys will not be getting guns in our house. Ever.
So if I get blacklisted amongst my family for saying all this, so be it. I just hope they realize I feel this way because I actually care about my nephew.
Don't give more guns out to 8-year-olds. Get rid of them.