Conservative candidates across Canada are being heavily criticized for not showing up to debates or talking to reporters in the current election campaign. Many of them are so hidden from public view they may as well be wearing niqabs. The accepted wisdom is that Stephen Harper has ordered their silence out of a legitimate fear they will say or do something astoundingly stupid. Maybe even pee in someone’s mug again.
But there could be another possibility.
What if some of the people running for office don’t actually exist?
This may not be as crazy as it sounds. We live in a world, after all, where a famous screenwriter’s imaginary twin brother got nominated for an Oscar and virtual group Gorillaz won a Grammy. Where war was waged over fictional weapons of mass destruction. It’s entirely possible that Tories running in ridings where they have no real chance of winning are no more real than Manti Te’o’s girlfriend.
Take, for example, James Low, the alleged Conservative candidate running in my home riding of Vancouver East. Low’s chances are probably as low as his last name given that this is an NDP stronghold where Tory candidates have never even come close to winning an election in the riding’s 80-year history. It’s so orange you can practically peel it, and Vancouver-Mount Pleasant MLA Jenny Kwan is likely a shoo-in to replace the retiring Libby Davies despite a recent embarassing spending scandal. Even still, you’d expect the federal ruling party would be able to at least field a candidate with a verifiable existence.
And yet the Conservatives’ own website doesn’t offer a single piece of information about the guy local political watchers have dubbed No-Show Low, and the Twitter and Facebook links simply lead to the party’s social media pages.
Most voters know as much about him as they do Pierre Poutine. Not only did he not attend a recent all-candidates meeting held off Commercial Drive, he didn’t even respond to repeated invitations, according to organizer Elaine Mosca.
I called his office hoping to speak with him and got an answering machine. A woman’s voice on it promised someone would get back to me within 24 hours, which didn’t happen. An email sent to his ridiculous 28-character Hotmail account was not returned. I then asked party mouthpiece Meagan Murdoch on Twitter about him but she simply responded with a link to his profile on their website. I even tried plugging the photo of the bald, chubby Asian gentleman seen above into Google Images but it didn’t yield any positive results.
Finally, I tried stopping by his office in the Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood on a midweek afternoon but, perhaps unsurprisingly, the door was locked with no signs of life inside. A receptionist at the business next door told me she hadn’t seen anyone come or go in the two weeks since the Low campaign took over the empty storefront. Although, rather hilariously, they nonetheless put up homemade “reserved parking” signs on the three stalls in front.
The right-wing party in the U.S. has an elephant as their official symbol. Canadian political parties don’t have an equivalent but, if the Conservatives were to adopt one, it would probably be more fitting to go with the seldom-seen snuffleupagus.
Or, if acquiring the licensing rights from Sesame Street doesn’t work out, maybe a catfish would be better.