Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Celebrity Politician:: Michael Bryant Rising from the Ashes?

image:: Michael Bryant and David Miller, 2009, Windsor Star

I've been reading articles about the future leadership of the Ontario Liberals and the party's courting of star power candidates in the GTA and Michael Bryant came up in both instances. Last year, Michael Bryant, the former Attorney General of Ontario and then-CEO of Invest Toronto, was involved in a tragic altercation where a cyclist, Darcy Shepperd, was killed when Bryant sped away in his Saab. I blogged about the incident and wondered if PR could save his career, but only if he didn't do jail time—which would have been a stretch. Call me a cynic, but even with strong evidence of wrongdoing, I can't see someone of his stature going down.

Fast forward to May and the special prosecutor Richard Peck {from BC} dropped all charges, heavily citing Sheppard's prior aggressive conduct as basis for his decision. Now Magazine noted that these "priors" are far from airtight, with only one remotely resembling a "smoking gun"—video of Sheppard allegedly hanging on to a vehicle taken from an office.

Bryant claimed that he was "terrified" and there was other accounts that made the who thing appear murky, at best::

So, it seemed interesting that so much weight be placed on Sheppard's prior altercations that were accepted as fact. Peter Kormos, NDP justice critic, offered this take::
"Bryant may find he would have been better off going to trial so a judge could rule on the charges, which would go further to quell sniping from critics that he got a sweetheart deal in the ‘post-Jaffer environment...There's going to be a cloud over this whole scenario."
Robert Silver of the Globe and Mail disagreed, believing that the independent prosecutor stands as an unbiased arbiter of the facts. I think Kormos is right and Silver fails to consider the court of public opinion. It never boded well that Bryant called his PR firm before calling the the hospital to check in on Sheppard on the night of the incident.

Bryant was a rising star and was clearly interested in star power in the realm of politics, as evident in this article, with musings of the celebrity intellectual and Toronto's place in the world with London and New York. Hmmmm, how about Toronto being Toronto and not so self-conscious about telegraphing its inferiority complex?—well, as channelled by politicians.

With what I've read, I think Bryant is slick and ambitious, as well as a hard worker. I think he wants to do good, but within certain political and economic parameters. I also think he was humbled by the Sheppard incident and this may well temper his ambitions or at least their timing, as the Sheppard incident opens him and his private live to scrutiny. Right or wrong, he may be judged for stating he was "terrified"and the whole Sheppard affair may be used to paint a "two-tiered" system of justice that Bryant benefitted from. I think time can help create distance between him and these perceptions, as well as more actions by a humbled Bryant that show he's interested in doing good work, not in leveraging styles, smiles, and profiles. In this post Rob Ford era of a homespun folksiness brand of populism, I'm not sure Bryant's old posturing is going to play in a provincial riding in the GTA—moreover, one in which he doesn't live since the Liberal MPP Eric Hoskins has intended his seeking re-election in St. Paul's.

Twitterversion::  [blog] Rumblings of Michael Bryant's return in Ontario Grits circles, but will the public be receptive? @Prof_K

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