It’s election time and media is the enemy. Or so it appears.
During the heat of the campaign, newspapers are frequent targets. Accusations of biased coverage and favoritism toward candidates are par for the course.
But racism? That’s not so frequent.
The Oct. 5 edition of the Markham Economist & Sun featured a column by assistant editor Rick Vanderlinde, basically decrying the lack serious contention for the office of mayor.
Long-time regional councillor Frank Scarpitti is up against three contenders.
Sam Orrico is being held by police on an alleged threat against Mr. Scarpitti, Steven Kotyck — who clarified mispronunciations of his name as “Kotyck as in psychotic” during a recent all-candidates meeting and Partap Dua, who wants to separate Markham from the rest of York.
Rick wrote name recognition goes a long way in the voter’s minds. It’s no secret Mr. Scarpitti’s been in the game for years.
Recently, Mr. Dua — a Canadian of Sikh origin who routinely presses that point when asked about his platform — taped a two-minute clip for Rogers Cable to present his platform. You can watch it here. Mr. Dua begins his segment: “Dear Markham residents. The Markham Economist has portrayed me as a non-serious contender.”
Then, pointing to his head, he continues: “Perhaps my conspicuous physical appearance has something to do with it.”
He then talks about the accomplishments of Sikhs through history.
The implication is pretty clear.
So, I asked Rick about it.
Joe Voter: “Let me give you the opportunity to explain what you wanted to accomplish with your column.”
Rick Vanderlinde: “It was just sort of pointing out the obvious. That we have a career politician in Frank Scarpitti that is bound to have advantages and I was pulling that out for the reader who might not be so familiar with local politics. Explaining the hurdles these other guys face — not having the money, the experience to challenge Mr. Scarpitti. It was really not to endorse Mr. Scarpitti but also to point out that this isn’t necessarily a good thing.”
JV: “There is some controversy about the fact we’ve got one person considered a front runner and others who are considered at the back of the pack. Is that something you’d prejudged at the beginning of the column?”
RV: “No doubt about it. It’s an opinion piece and definitely my judgment. Mr. Scarpitti garnered in the last election 28,000 votes. He’s been at this 20-odd years. It’s just the way it is. Actually, the three fellows I interviewed, the challengers, more or less all agreed.
JV: “At the beginning of many of Mr. Dua’s public speeches — I know he started this way with me, he started this way at the all-candidates meeting in Markham chambers — he makes statements about his Sikh heritage. In some of the criticism about the paper writing him out of the race, he’s directly linking it to the possibility that it may be because he’s a Sikh. Are you a racist?”
RV: “No, of course not. Far from it. I’m probably one who pushes the agenda for minorities here by pushing certain stories. As a matter of fact, one of the stories we did about the lack of visible minorities on regional council was pushed by me.”
JV: “How then do you respond to an accusation that Mr. Dua may have been written out of the race because it has something to do with the clothes he wears or his heritage?”
RV: “If you look at the fact there are two other gentlemen in this column, Mr. Orrico and Mr. Kotyck — there’s three guys here, not just one person. So it really wasn’t something going after Mr. Dua particularly.”