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February 3, 2010

Keon challenges Tory incumbent in Ottawa's riding

The Canadian Charger

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Dr. Ryan Keon sees the Conservatives as pursuing their interests at all costs. "No party's interests are worth pursuing at all costs," he said in an interview with the Canadian Charger.

Keon is the Liberal candidate running in the Ottawa riding of Nepean-Carleton against the Conservative incumbent, Pierre Poilievre

Keon holds a doctorate in law and heads a firm focusing on business law. 

Until last year, Keon was a registered Conservative.  He is the son of Dr. Wilbert Keon, a renowned heart surgeon and a Conservative senator. 

He spoke of the need for politicians to be honorable in the way they behave, as opposed to what he sees as this government’s purely cynical way of proceeding. 

Even while he was still a Tory, Ryan Keon denounced the Harper government’s failure to intervene in a long drawn-out Ottawa bus strike, in spite of pressure from the other parties in the House.

Keon’s criticism of the Conservatives boils down to two basic issues-ineffectiveness and nastiness. 

In relation to their ineffectiveness, he pointed to the Ottawa bus strike.  The Tories kept insisting that there was no role for the federal government in the dispute, but when the House was finally able to prevail upon them to act, the strike was quickly resolved. 

In the area of crime, he said that Parliament gave the Tories what they asked for, all the way to the Senate, where the Senate amended the legislation about how much time with which a person could be credited for time spent in a provincial jail. 

In spite of the support from other parties, the minority government has been unable to pass the legislation, legislation to which it has given high priority.  Now the whole bag of measures is dead because of prorogation. 

Another area of government neglect that he identified is health care.  Even in the nation’s capital region there is a problem finding a family doctor.

His concern about nastiness is best summed up in his characterization of Tory treatment of opponents: “scorched earth.” 

When faced with the contradiction in his campaign literature between his complaint about shortage of health care and his pride in the past Liberal elimination of the deficit, which resulted in a massive discharge of nurses, many of whom went to the United States, he replied, “That is a fair criticism.” 

He said that government has to make choices, and at that time the deficit was seen as most important.  He was able to see the issue but did not appear to give weight to the seriousness of the health care problem created by the approach that Paul Martin took.  Unfortunately, such a tinkering caused long-term damage that cannot easily be turned around.  The nurses are not there to be rehired.

Keon, asked about major faults of the Harper government, said that it is “distracted by polls and going for political advantage.”  It is “focused on strategy and blinded to existing problems,” as with the bus strike, “problems that affect ordinary people.” 

They have, while in office, “done little,” he charged.  The go for the “fear tactic,” as with the law-and-order issue. While he did not make the point, it may be useful to the Tories to keep the issue alive rather than moving expeditiously to get the legislation through.  And, as he acknowledged, the whole Conservative approach to crime is open to question in any case.

Keon’s electoral strategy is two-fold: he will be actively door-knocking to get known in the riding, and he will be listening to people rather than preaching.  He sees the listening mode as the current strategy of the Liberal Party as well.  The Liberals will be holding a thinkers’ weekend in March, planning for Canada 150, where the party will ponder where Canada should be by 2017.  From that exercise, they will then take positions on which to move forward.  Right now, the Liberals are using the empty rooms on the Hill to hold hearings to address problems that the country is facing and the response that the Tory government is giving to them.

What, then, of coalition government? 

Keon said that the threat of a coalition was the doing of the Tories.  He had reference to their proposed elimination of government financial support for the parties.  However, the people made it clear, he argued, that they did not want a coalition.  “They told us, ‘You politicians are behaving badly’,” he said.  And so the coalition died.  Were there to be another Conservative minority victory, he believes that they should be given a chance to govern.  He doubts that a coalition would be in the works.  “Our political system has always proven itself capable of stability without formal coalitions,” he said.

Keon is new and inexperienced in the political game. He comes across as a cerebral person who is genuine and honest.  He faces a daunting challenge in trying to unseat Pierre Poilievre, the sitting Conservative who got 52% of the vote last time. 

Keon, in characterizing his opponent, said that Poilievre is “an unabashed standard-bearer for this Conservative government.”  To give that characterization its full weight we need to go back to Keon’s reflection that “No party’s interests are worth pursuing at all costs.”

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