Chilliwack-Hope MP Mark Strahl has been bold in Parliament of late and his criticism of the Liberal government will only grow in the coming months as a federal election is just five months away. (File photo)

OPINION: Electioneering via press release

Federal voting day is five months off but early campaigning is underway

Many years ago when Chuck Strahl was the MP for Chilliwack-Hope (back when it was Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon) we used to occasionally chat over the phone from Ottawa about what he was up to.

I was at the Times and Strahl would hold a little conference call with myself and long-time Progress reporter Robert Freeman, who has since retired.

Strahl would update us on what he had been doing, and I would write up a little “Check in with Chuck.”

Now that Mark is our MP, I don’t check in with him in that way and while I think it was a useful public service to update constituents in that way, I’m certainly not suggesting here, to Mark, that it be resurrected. My world is just too busy these days.

In the coming months, however, I think we may just start to hear more and more from the younger Mr. Strahl. A federal election is five months away, but the electioneering always begins in an unofficial capacity long before then.

As an example, federal Liberal MPs are a rarity in this neck of the woods. Yet in 2019, we’ve already had two visits each from Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon MP Jati Sidhu and Infrastructure Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne.

• READ MORE: VIDEO: Feds announce $45 million for flood mitigation near Chilliwack

• READ MORE: Q&A with federal Liberal Minister of Infrastructure and Communities

Strahl, too, has been connecting with the media more often by sending out more press releases of late. He doesn’t send out a lot of message in general, and they are often about a very specific issue, yet a couple of them this past week give me that election feeling.

I think he’s sent out eight so far in 2019, a couple critical of the Prime Minster for the SNC-Lavalin affair, one championing Acromegaly Awareness Day on behalf of a constituent. One was a reminder to organizations to apply for funding through the New Horizons for Seniors Program. (Sorry I didn’t tell people about that one… until now.)

But two releases he sent this past week seem deliberately intended to rile up his base.

One was about human trafficking, the other about child abuse. Both stir up emotions on the issue of sexual abuse of children, which is a topic that gets people as angry as anything. “Pedophile” is about the worst epithet you can hurl at someone, and the impassioned response we get at the newspaper regarding court coverage of trials and sentences of child sex offenders is off the charts.

“Across Canada, from small towns to big cities, we’re seeing a concerning and disturbing rise in human trafficking,” Strahl said in a May 22 press release. “Of course, many of the victims are children. Preying on society’s most vulnerable is truly despicable.”

Then this week: “It’s utterly horrific that as other types of crime are trending downward in this country, sexual offences against children are on the rise. Despite this fact, over the past four years the Liberals have not introduced any new legislation for child sexual offences.”

And therein lies the electioneering kicker. Do you support pedophiles? If not, vote Conservative.

On the one hand, this reeks of populism and dangling low-hanging fruit to the masses. On the other hand, he sure has a point. The issues are real, and tragic, and horrific.

The backstop for the missives is what the Conservatives call their plan for “A Safer Canada.”

“The current Liberal government has failed to combat human trafficking.” And, “[O]ver the past four years the Liberals have not introduced any new legislation for child sexual offences.”

This is pure politics, and it may just work. Whether the Conservative plan is implementable at all is uncertain. I’m not sure some of party leader Andrew Scheer’s promises wouldn’t violate Charter protections, and few details are out there yet anyway.

Local candidates are at the ready. The parties are tapping in to emotions, fears, hopes, and they will be looking to gain support by politicizing every corner of your world.

The election is a long ways off, but the unofficial campaign is well underway. I suppose in some ways, it never ends.


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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