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Turncoat election

Nova Scotians should re-think party loyalties June 9

by Hilary Beaumont

Jim Smith, Dartmouth North’s Liberal candidate, reminds me of Snoopy; his eyes droop and he has a big shnoz. But, as far as loyalties go, Smith and the cartoon beagle are polar opposites.

Snoopy has kept the same friends since the 1950s: Woodstock, Charlie Brown and the whole gang. Smith, on the other hand, has turned his back on his former friends of 14 years: Nova Scotia’s New Democrats.

He hoped for the NDP nomination in Nova Scotia’s general election three years ago, but lost. This year in the same riding he won his nomination from the Liberals.

Some Nova Scotians have ruthlessly judged him, but Smith says he doesn’t pay attention to their criticisms. He doesn’t look at social networking sites or blogs where he’s been called a “filthy turncoat”. He says he still stands for the same issues he did in 2006.

“I’m just over the line,” Smith says. “As a Liberal, my roots are in social aspects. I certainly still have the same thoughts about improving housing and improving the conditions of people who unfortunately find themselves in hard times.”

Smith says he abandoned the NDP because of animosity amongst party members, not because of a sudden epiphany. But he couldn’t have picked a better election to switch teams.

Since June 4, when the leaders made their first promises, it was clear the three main parties weren’t staying true to their traditional roots. When the election gun went off, the Conservatives, New Democrats and Liberals took off in random directions as if running a race in Monty Python’s Silly Olympics.

The Liberals and New Democrats decided to spend conservatively while the Conservatives said they would spend liberally. These and other promises left voters scratching their scalps, wondering if we should stick with our party pride or become turncoats like Smith.

The problem lies in the meaning of the word “turncoat”. It carries implied negativity. The definition itself includes the terms “abandonment” and “betrayal”.

But betraying blind faith in the interest of our beliefs will certainly lead to a more carefully cast vote. Just ask Snoo– I mean Smith.

“We have to have introspection all the time,” he says. “I think it makes people stronger. If we stop and say, ‘Well, why do I think this way?’ and ‘Why do I think that way?’ I know I certainly do. It’s good for your soul.”

Sometime before the finish line, Nova Scotians will have to figure it out. If parties and candidates like Smith can be turncoats, we’re allowed to follow suit. When parties sing a new tune, we should feel free to check another box. We need to question our loyalties and make our decisions based on substance rather than slogans.

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