Politicians have the right to run their campaigns as they see fit. The measure of their success (or failure) is usually reflected in the number of votes they draw.
Voting in the riding of Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon was still underway as The Progress went to press Monday. So we’ll have to wait to find out how the decision by Mark Strahl to forgo several all-candidate meetings affected his polling results.
However, it is fair to say his absence became a weapon wielded with increasing effectiveness by his opponents as the campaign dragged on.
Granted, no candidate can be expected to be in all places at all times; schedules do not permit that in a riding as large as Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon.
Nor can a candidate be blamed for avoiding a blatantly partisan crowd with a primary intent of sandbagging their own candidate’s opponent.
That said, Strahl’s decision to attend only a handful of all-candidate meetings is curious.
Particularly mystifying is his decision to avoid debates hosted by the University of the Fraser Valley and Chilliwack Secondary School. The debates came at a time when Elections Canada was trying to encourage young people to vote, arguing their voice did matter in the governing of this country.
An empty chair is hardly an endorsement of that message.
Asked why Strahl had missed those two events, campaign manager Matthew Barker said Strahl had “prior commitments.”
Asked to elaborate, Barker declined.
It’s an interesting strategy. Strahl was already battling suggestions – even from members of his own constituency association – that the snap nomination process was not fair. And, as a candidate hoping to establish his political credentials, his absence from the debates does little to demonstrate commitment and community engagement.
Retiring MP Chuck Strahl helped build a political party by exposing the arrogance and sense of entitlement exhibited by the Progressive Conservatives under Brian Mulroney.
It would be a shame if that lesson were lost on the next generation.
Greg Knill, Chilliwack Progress