By Gérard Malo
I have been aware and concerned about democratic and social-justice values ever since I first voted, a very long time ago. It was in the 1966 Québec provincial election. I’ve been defining myself as a “social democrat” since my young-adult years, which saw me canvassing for a then new Québec political party where most progressive people could be found. Of course in 1976, when I became a broadcast journalist, I had to end my involvement in partisan politics. But throughout my 37 working years, 33 at Radio-Canada, I would dream about getting back into active politics once I retired. Well, the dream finally came true on Aug. 2, 2012, the day after I officially retired from CBC/Radio-Canada. That is when I first joined the New Democratic Party.
Federally, the Windsor, Ont. area where I live has been blessed for the last 14 years with two capable and popular NDP Members of Parliament – Joe Comartin and Brian Masse. But it was a very different situation at the provincial level. Until last year, and since we last had Ontario NDP representation here in the early 90s, the party had not been able to elect anyone in Windsor. The candidates were so weak, in my opinion, that progressives like me and many others were compelled to vote for two then-Liberal cabinet ministers.
Well, I decided to do something about that, if I could help. I gave myself a “personal mission” to persuade Percy Hatfield to seek the Windsor-Tecumseh provincial NDP nomination last year. I had worked alongside Percy at CBC/Radio-Canada for at least 10 years. A well-known local news personality, he was a respected Canadian Media Guild activist. In 2006 , after his retirement, Percy became an effective member of the Windsor city council and was re-elected in 2010. To my surprise no persuasion was necessary. He decided to run in the Aug. 1, 2013 by-election, won the nomination and was elected as our MPP with 62 per cent of the vote.
But the “victory,” in which I played a humble part, left me with a troublesome aftertaste. After weeks of canvassing “to get our vote out,” door-to-door and on the phone, after putting up election signs all over the riding, I came to the conclusion that I absolutely hated my new experience in partisan politics. Although I had no appetite for going back to work, I missed the comfort of being an “observer” reporting on newsworthy issues.
In recovering from an illness this past winter, I had a lot of time for reflection during the weeks of convalescence. I even questioned my involvement in politics, wondering whether it would be best to put an end to it. But as I got better, my energy came back and I decided to give it another chance, since an Ontario general election could be upon us sooner rather than later. The liberal minority government will fall if the NDP votes down the next budget. Yes, I do hate to go around asking people to vote for my candidate, but I have realized that it’s something that must be done, if I want to move my community forward.
And then, last week, came the dreaded CBC cuts announcement.
My only comment: I believe more than ever that the time has come to end to the scandalous way that our Canadian governments, Liberal and Conservative alike, continue to undermine our proud public broadcaster. The time has come to do whatever is needed to ultimately put out to pasture this ideological conservative bunch in office who hate almost anything public, especially the CBC.
For me , whether I like it or not, it means doing my share as an activist within the party that could be the “government in waiting.” I know that it’s a long shot at this point because I’m aware that sometimes the future is accompanied by some sort of disappointment.
But allow me to choose hope over despair.