Tory leadership hopeful Jim Flaherty has been busy pushing all the right-wing buttons. This week he wants to sweep homeless people off the streets.
Before that he was slagging native people for sucking up important health care services from "real people in real communities" (i.e., whites).
But Flaherty has been decidedly mum on an issue that matters very much to Ontario's aboriginal communities -- namely, whether he supports the idea of an inquiry into the 1995 police shooting death at Ipperwash of native protestor Dudley George.
In a questionnaire sent out a couple of weeks ago, the Aboriginal Council of Toronto (ACT) has called on Flaherty and the other leadership hopefuls to state their position on Ipperwash.
So far, none has responded.
When NOW called representatives of the candidates, it was obvious that they hadn't given it much thought.
Many begged off offering a formal response, asking for a couple of days to think about it. And now they're dodging ACT's questionnaire, saying they won't comment on the issue of an inquiry into George's death while the George family's civil case against the OPP and the provincial government is before the courts.
It's the stock answer Mike Harris himself, who's named in the suit, has offered the press. Of course, the George family has repeatedly stated publicly that they will drop the suit if an inquiry is called.
Some of the leadership candidates are being less than completely honest on the question of an inquiry. Elizabeth Witmer, Chris Stockwell and Flaherty voted last year against a motion for an inquiry.
When questioned further, no representatives of any of the candidates could articulate -- or cough up, for that matter -- a platform on native issues.
"I can understand why Harris has refused. He's implicated," says ACT chair Roger Obonsawin. "But we were hoping one of the other candidates would take a position before he or she gets elected premier."
Holding the candidates to any position they might take about an inquiry when they get into office may be even harder. It's still the bottom line for most candidates at election time that securing the native vote is a non-issue.
Voter turnout remains dismal among the 60,000-70,000 native people in Toronto. But there are some card-carrying Conservatives among them, and it's they who've asked ACT to find out where the candidates stand on Ipperwash and other issues affecting the community.
Flaherty, meanwhile, has been invited to address community concerns and explain his "real people" comment to a gathering at the Native Canadian Centre in Toronto. He has yet to RSVP.