Haskett a no-show at forum
By Dave Yasvinski
The recent decision by Dianne Haskett to step down as Mayor of London and remain in seclusion for the final three weeks leading up to election day has shocked and surprised many, as she withdrew from the all-candidates forum yesterday at Western.
On Tuesday, Haskett announced she would remove herself from office and not actively campaign for re-election in response to city council's failure to appeal a judgement made against her and the council by a Human Rights Tribunal. The Tribunal decided Haskett discriminated against London's gay and lesbian community by refusing to offer proclamation for a Gay Pride weekend.
Acting Mayor, and Mayoral candidate Grant Hopcroft said he was extremely disappointed Haskett did not attend the all-candidates forum.
He said it is was wrong for her to remove herself from the campaign because it deprives the public of the opportunity to discuss issues with one of the candidates. "There are other ways to protest the decision without taking a vacation."
Hopcroft added he is not sure what her motives might be for taking this leave but believes it is having an adverse effect on the election. "What concerns me is, whether she intended it or not, for some people this is turning into a one-issue campaign."
Donna Kleimann, campaign office manager for Haskett, said this is not a move to win votes from people with anti-homosexual views. "She has just decided to stand on her record. She is putting it all on the line. She is saying you know who I am, what I have done, and what I hope to accomplish," Kleimann said.
She said Haskett's campaign office has received an overwhelmingly positive response from the public for her decision. She added people are always hoping their politicians will exhibit character and one has.
Dan Wilson, chair of the political action committee for the Homophile Association of London Ontario, said the organization that brought Haskett's actions before the Human Rights Tribunal was surprised but encouraged by Haskett's actions.
"The big part of her announcement was that she would not appeal the decision. We will be able to move on and build bridges," Wilson said. He added he is not concerned with the possibility that Haskett's leave might be meant to attract an anti-homosexual vote.
"It's a complex city and I don't think too many voters will base their decision on her stand on homosexuality," he said. "An election is about a lot of issues. That's not a dignified way of getting elected."
Wilson added although Haskett's absence over the next three weeks may bring calm back to the election process, overall, everyone loses. "This decision shuts down discussion, it shuts down debate. It is not good for the democratic process," he said.