■ Negativity en­ters race for mayor

Calgary Herald - - FRONT PAGE - DON BRAID

On Tues­day af­ter­noon, a woman posted a poignant com­ment on Twit­ter about may­oral can­di­date Bob Hawkesworth.

“I was so sad to get the @bob­hawkesworth auto-di­aler that attacks @Nen­shi,” she wrote in Twit­ter short­hand. “I used to re­ally re­spect Bob and I know oth­ers did too.”

It’s true. For 17 years, Hawkesworth has been the coun­cil mem­ber most liked and re­spected by other al­der­men. He be­came the favourite un­cle who would lis­ten to all the cousins’ com­plaints and ref­eree their fights but never crit­i­cize any­one. Then he ran for mayor — and the courtly gen­tle­man of city pol­i­tics be­came the at­tack dog of Face­book and de­mon di­alers. His bill­boards show him in a com­bat­ive pose I’ve never seen in real life.

Hawkesworth isn’t the only one who seems to be cam­paign­ing against his best in­stincts. Among the also-run­ners at the low end of the polling pack, there’s a big boom in negativity.

Hawkesworth ex­plained why.

“It’s a crowded field,” he told the Her­ald’s ed­i­to­rial board, “and if you’re go­ing to be heard above the din of the voices, you’ve got to have a strong voice.”

An­other can­di­date told me crit­i­ciz­ing runs against his na­ture, but it’s the only way he can get any me­dia at­ten­tion. One day he went neg­a­tive, got him­self quoted, and a long­time friend told him she was star­tled and dis­ap­pointed.

For­mer al­der­man Craig Bur­rows, who seemed to be re­deem­ing him­self with a solid cam­paign af­ter his al­der­manic loss in 2007, shocked some peo­ple at a fo­rum.

Bur­rows made a nasty per­sonal com­ment about Ric McIver.

Ac­cus­ing McIver of flip-flop­ping on is­sues, Bur­rows said: “Ric is the kind of guy you take for din­ner and he says, ‘Wait, I’ll get my wal­let,’ and then he doesn’t come back.”

Ouch. Bur­rows meant it to be funny, maybe, but it came across as mean-spir­ited. And the wise­crack im­me­di­ately brought back a sour me­mory about Bur­rows him­self, who lost in 2007 partly be­cause he spent $12,000 in pub­lic money on a U of C course.

McIver was quick to al­lude to that in­fa­mous mis­ad­ven­ture. In the end, it’s doubt­ful that Bur­rows’ com­ment won him a sin­gle vote, or took one from McIver.

Even Wayne Ste­wart, a man of im­pec­ca­ble per­sonal rep­u­ta­tion and achieve­ment, has re­sorted to crit­i­cism. He hasn’t gone nearly as far as Bur­rows — no­body has — but still, the style doesn’t suit him.

Ste­wart was a top Shell ex­ec­u­tive for years, brought huge suc­cess to the Cal­gary Foun­da­tion, pi­loted Cal­gary’s drive against home­less­ness — and now this?

The sad thing about the negativity is that most lower-polling can­di­dates ac­tu­ally have solid cam­paigns be­hind the blus­ter.

Bur­rows is the only can­di­date who at­taches costs to his prom­ises. Hawkesworth has pinned much of his cam­paign on op­pos­ing the air­port tun­nel — a dead­en­der with most vot­ers, I sus­pect — but there’s plenty of sub­stance, too.

Ste­wart wants clearer pro­cesses at city hall and a fo­cus on eco­nomic di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion. Joe Con­nelly’s main theme — “Take Back Your City!”— is odd for an al­der­man, but he of­fers clear poli­cies, in­clud­ing sup­port for sport and the arts, and an over­haul of park­ing pol­icy (Con­nelly hasn’t been neg­a­tive, ei­ther).

Those who at­tack are mis­tak­ing city pol­i­tics for the pro­vin­cial or fed­eral scenes, where hos­til­i­ties are for­mal­ized along party lines. We know it’s just Tory at­tack­ing Lib­eral and vice versa.

But a civic cam­paign is a free-for-all. In­sults re­ally are per­sonal. The can­di­dates who re­sort to them might hurt some­one else, but they rarely cap­ture the votes they shake loose.

Stu­art Gradon, Cal­gary Her­ald

May­oral can­di­date Bob Hawkesworth says it takes a strong voice to stand out in a crowded field.

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