Grit Green-Wash

Libs send newbie into NO-WIN battle with Eves

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another provincial by-election, another treehugger lured by the sparkle of Dalton McGuinty’s so-called government-in-waiting . First it was ex-Greenpeacer Bob Hunter running red in Beaches-East York last year in a failed bid to steal an NDP stronghold. Now Earthroots campaigner Josh Matlow has decided to Go Grit and be a fly on Premier Ernie Eves’s buffed ass in the Dufferin-Peel-Wellington-Grey by-election.

What gives? Whatever happened to Greens running for the — oh, I don’t know — Green party or, for those with a higher threshold of pain, the NDP?

Hunter was labouring under the naive belief that he could influence government policies if he were in the room. Surely Matlow, a political neophyte whom NOW included on its list of outstanding activists earlier this year for his committed work to stop development on the Oak Ridges Moraine, isn’t naive enough to think he can beat Eves in Tory-Blue Dufferin-Peel? The Tories mopped up the Grits here in 1999 by a 17,000-vote margin.

Matlow tells me he’s running to win. But he must have his fingers crossed. It’s more likely he’s using this as an opportunity to kick-start his political ambitions by campaigning around issues he’s passionate about.

Dufferin-Peel is the nexus between the moraine and the Niagara Escarpment. So the environment — specifically the imposing aggregate industry — will be an issue here.

Matlow’s affinity for the Liberals was cultivated during the moraine battles, when he toiled with Eglinton-Lawrence MPP Mike Colle and had the ear of party president and MPP Greg Sorbara during his winning by-election campaign last year in Vaughan-King-Aurora. That campaign revolved largely around moraine politics.

“It’s pretty obvious the McGuinty Liberals are not Sunday-afternoon environmentalists,” says Colle. (I’ve always thought Liberal eco-policy was more Sudbury Saturday night.)

Choices like this don’t bode well for the NDP, which has fallen behind the Greens in two Ontario by-elections in the last year. The party is fielding Orangeville town councillor Doug Wilcox in this race.

But the Green Party of Ontario takes Matlow’s entry as a validation.

“Wow, man,” says Green Party of Ontario leader Frank De Jong upon being informed that Matlow is running for the Grits. “This is fantastic. It shows that ecological issues are top, front and centre. (But) if people are going to vote Green, they’ll vote Green and they won’t vote Liberal.”

The Greens are running computer software designer Richard Proctor.

Sorbara won’t reveal if there were other choices ahead of Matlow, who has never lived in the riding and was parachuted in. But apparently it’s all kosher with the Liberal riding association up there.

Frankly, I doubt there are too many veteran politicos who were willing to blow their capital in a suicide campaign against Eves.

Better to let the bullheaded kid go in and do as much damage as possible. Who cares if he gets crushed? You can’t beat the optics of a passionate young environmentalist campaigning against an opportunistic premier.

“The Ontario Liberal party represents a new generation of politics in Ontario, and Josh is very much reflective of that new generation,” Sorbara beams.

Oh, brother.

Interestingly, in Nippissing, where Mike Harris is retiring his seat, the Liberals are clearly running to win. Their candidate is North Bay councillor George Maroosis, who came within a few thousand votes of Harris in the 1999 election.

No mossy newbie there.


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