Opinion Editorial

'Scandal' a diversion tactic

By Dave Dawson, Orillia Packet & Times

Garfield Dunlop was never a prototypical politician. He often went off-script - if he even had a script. His plain-spoken, everyman, common-sense approach resonated with his neighbours in Coldwater, who first elected him to village council in 1980.

That kick-started a lengthy and successful political run for the former plumber who went on to become Coldwater's reeve before becoming deputy mayor of Severn Township - a position he held until 1998. Then, he set his sights on provincial politics and began serving as Simcoe North's MPP in 1999. He held that position until he abruptly resigned in July of 2015.

Dunlop stepped down so newly-minted party leader Patrick Brown could run in a safe byelection and take his rightful spot at Queen's Park. It was a surprising move from Dunlop who had thrown his weight behind Brown's primary adversary in the leadership race, Christine Elliott. During the lead-up to that contest, Dunlop openly criticized Brown. "He's a federal member who's made no headway whatsoever in the Harper government in the eight or nine years he's been there," Dunlop said. "How could I possibly think he could come to Ontario and do a good job when he couldn't even make cabinet in Ottawa?"

Yet, several months later, he gave up his seat - and his job - for Brown. It was an about-face that many openly wondered about. And this week, The Toronto Star published a front-page story saying Dunlop ceded his seat not as a selfless move for the better of the party, but because he was promised a high-paying job with the party.

The Star, citing a series of internal party emails, said the Conservatives tried to hide details of the deal and, basically, lied about it. Dunlop told The Packet Tuesday the story and its allegations are untrue. "Nothing was promised," Dunlop said. "There was no deal for anything, no deal at all."

Dunlop said following his resignation, he volunteered to help Brown get elected. Brown easily won the byelection Sept. 2, 2015. About two months later, Dunlop began working for the party in a paid capacity after he was hired to help raise funds throughout the province to pad the Tories' election war chest.

The former MPP said the Liberals are simply trying to deflect attention from the Sudbury byelection bribery scandal. "All I've ever done is work hard for the riding. I had 35 years (in politics) and I was never defeated. The Liberals are trying to spin it like I'm getting some big job out of it."

While the optics could be better, Dunlop said, over time, he came to respect Brown's work ethic and determination and decided to step aside. It was his decision. Because he reviles the current regime at Queen's Park and would like nothing more than to see Kathleen Wynne's government defeated, he volunteered to help Brown get elected. Period.

Why wouldn't the Progressive Conservatives hire Dunlop and take advantage of his expertise, his savvy and his contacts? Neither Dunlop nor the Conservatives did anything wrong and Dunlop should not be tainted by a made-up scandal aimed at creating a shiny object to divert attention from the real scandals and mismanagement that continue to plague the ruling Liberals.


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