At the doorstep, some voters rely on a method to sort out the political actors

From Friday's Globe and Mail

LONDON Pat Flannery has a method.

He calls it "the process of simple elimination."

The 36-year-old trade magazine editor reads all the campaign material and will stand talking at the door for as long as the candidate wishes to try to convince him there is only one party worth voting for in the Oct. 10 Ontario provincial election.

Flannery wants to hear about health care, about education and about energy - though most of what he's heard so far this strange campaign has concerned religion and school funding.

"I listened to what John Tory had to say about funding faith-based schools," says Flannery, "and then listened to what he had to say about not going ahead with his plan - so that was 'Bye-bye Tories' right off the mark for me.

"I listened to the Green candidate but kind of killed that chance right off the top - I mean, why bother?

"And I stood right here on these steps and listened to the NDP candidate - nice guy, smart young man - talk about how we can't have nuclear energy because no one knows what to do with the waste. Well, I've got enough of a technological background to know you can't just get rid of the plants we have overnight. I also know there's some perfectly good mine shafts up north to put that waste. There are solutions, but he didn't want to hear them from me."

Now Flannery has the Liberal candidate on his steps. He listens carefully to what Khalil Ramal, the sitting member for London-Fanshawe, has to say.

They talk about health care and Flannery concedes matters are improving, even if slightly. When he lived in Chatham, the Flannerys had no family doctor and had to drive to Windsor for medical care. Now they have a doctor and, when they've had to take their children to emergency, the system works, if slowly.

"We've seen some progress," he says.

On the other hand, he hasn't been particularly impressed with Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty and all those broken promises.

"I'm cynical," he says, "but not so cynical that I don't realize you can't have it all."

He will vote Liberal, he says. Not so much out of enthusiasm but because "the process of simple elimination" took out all the others.

Ramal, a 46-year-old former teacher and businessman, hits the streets again, sometimes running from door to door in search of someone, anyone, being at home. He finds a woman who has always voted Conservative but cannot do so this time. She says she is leaning Liberal, which brings a smile from the candidate. A man loading a truck says he is moving to Sault Ste Marie and so won't be around to vote, which brings a sigh from the candidate.

A vote like that just might count in London-Fanshawe, one of the province's great bellwether ridings. Under various configurations and names, it once seemed Tory forever when the Conservatives seemed in power forever. It went Liberal by voting for David Peterson, who went on to become premier. It went NDP with Marion Boyd when Peterson was thrown out and Bob Rae became premier. It sent Ramal off to join the McGuinty government.

In the last provincial election, 2003, the Liberals won with 36 per cent of the vote, the NDP took 31 per cent and the Tories 30 per cent. It is, as they say, too close to call.

Ramal, a popular Lebanese-born politician, this time is up against a much bigger local name - radio talk-show host and newspaper columnist Jim Chapman. The 58-year-old Chapman, flamboyant in his riverboat clothes and yellow replica of a 1929 Model A roadster, is well known in London for his strong opinions and tough independent streak.

Party whip beware: If Jim Chapman comes to Queen's Park, don't tell him what to do "unless you want that whip to go where the sun don't shine."

Chapman told John Tory he was "not candidate material" and prided himself on being "an equal-opportunity abuser of politicians." But Tory persisted, saying outspoken and independent members were exactly what he wanted, and Chapman decided why not.

After three heart attacks and a near-death experience on the operating table, he says his personal philosophy is "Que sera sera" - whatever will be, will be. But if signage and personal recognition count for anything, he is in this race.

But so, too, is Stephen Maynard, a 25-year-old graduate of the University of Western Ontario who has been working the riding full time since he left school. The issues, he says, are jobs and health. He's had good reaction at the all-candidates meetings and says the people at the door, unlike Pat Flannery, are very much in agreement with him when he warns about the dangers of nuclear energy.

Maynard says the notion that soft NDP voters will again vote Liberal at the crunch is a non-starter in London-Fanshawe.

"The disillusioned, strategic-voting New Democrats are coming back home," he says. "The numbers we have are showing us as the front-runner."

All three might well be leading, at least by their own count.

Come Wednesday, however, "the process of simple elimination" will take out two.

rmacgregor@globeandmail.com

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Our commentary in the Globe and Mail

  1. You (Ottawa Mens Centre.com, from Ottawa - Home of family court flagrant abusers of judicial POWER., Canada) wrote: What-a-bout Canada's negative population growth? Fact is, to keep our population constant we need a rate of 2.1 . Right now, its 1.5 and going down which means that our average will just keep increasing and the financial burden of an increasing older ageed population will mean increased taxation for those lucky enough to be born. The main reason we have such a low birth rate is Canada scares the hell out of men from having children and provides women with every incentive to divorce and become a 'single parent family" which generally means "single mother or increasingly duel mother family". Fact is the Male Gender Apartheid in Canada means women get sole custody 8 times that of men. In the Ontario Court of Appeal, costs orders are made against men at 30 times the rate of costs orders made against women which means we have a very serious official bias against men that can only end by a mandatory presumption of equal parenting after separation. Just when is a single politician going to raise this very important issue. Probably none because none have the balls to raise a real issue. They prefer to pussyfoot around the politicall correct and not rock the extreme feminist boat. Speaking of extreme feminists, have you been to Kingston Family Court. With three feminazi judges and at least one local feminist lawyer who fabricates evidence personally for her clients and knowingly presents fraud in court to do indirectly what cannot be done directly. You can read more about that at www.OttawaMensCentre.com

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