It’s safe to say Ben Shenouda didn’t feel like talking to the media yesterday. Even so, I didn’t expect to be knocked out of the way so the suddenly controversial candidate could slip out a back door and avoid questions in the midst of a very public provincial election.
The Progressive Conservative candidate for Brampton West spent the day avoiding calls after officially endorsed campaign flyers were distributed in his riding that had critics accusing the party of homophobia.
Using a series of one-liners, the flyer warned parents that a Liberal government would teach children to cross dress at the age of six and that kissing booths would be set up to help children learn about gender issues.
Both claims were wildly misinterpreted bits of misinformation that had their genesis in an aborted plan by the Liberals to overhaul the province’s sex ed curriculum.
The story can be found here, so no need to rehash. But safe to say, he knew when he showed up at a Brampton rally with leader Tim Hudak that the reporters who follow Mr. Hudak around the province may ask him to explain himself.
So with that in mind, I raced toward him as soon as Mr. Hudak finished talking. With Genevieve Tomney from CBC at my side, I told him who we were and asked if he’d talk to us. He nodded, and said he needed to follow Mr. Hudak out of the building first.
So we followed. And every time there was a pause in the procession, we’d identify ourselves ask him again. It was clear he meant to get away, and he stopped talking to us. Within a minute, there were very large men starting to form a circle around him and trying to force us to the outside.
They were pretty good at it. By the time the procession reached a narrow walkway, I had taken an elbow in the ribs and been yelled at to get out of the way. A campaign staffer reached out and blocked Ms. Tomney’s way, actually making contact.
We asked another campaign worker if they were really whisking Mr. Shenouda out the back door, but he just screamed they were just trying to get Mr. Hudak out of the building, just like they do every night.
And with that, Mr. Shenouda was gone without ever explaining his divisive flyer.
The campaign didn’t explain the flyer either, instead throwing the focus back to the Liberals by suggesting the party would institute new sex ed guidelines without consulting parents. The Liberals have pledged to engage in consultations before making any changes.
After Mr. Shenouda’s great escape, the campaign worker (who usually rides in a separate vehicle) rode to the airport with us and apologized. He said it wasn’t likely that the party’s security detail tried to keep us away from the party’s candidate. He asked if we were OK.
We’re fine, of course. But the voters of Brampton West deserved better – even a no comment would have been more becoming of someone seeking public office.