"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,
"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
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
"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.