Former aide to Jack Layton saddened over Robocalls scandal

by Ali Dar
Ali Dar, Kathleen Monk, Carleigh O'Connel, Aki Tse, Centennial Journalism Advanced Interviewing class 2012
Ali Dar with Kathleen Monk, Carleigh O’Connell and Akihiko Tse of Centennial College journalism, after an interview at the CBC.

Toronto –   Struggling to find words to describe the robocall scandal that has shaken Canadian politics, Kathleen Monk could only characterize it as “really sad”.

The former New Democratic Party political aide and current director of the Broadbent Institute, told a group of journalists that the situation was unfortunate because it supressed the votes of Canadians, something she strives to change.

“Numbers in terms of voter turnout is so important. We don’t want to suppress the vote. We want more people to be engaged, not less. And that’s why it’s really sad,” Monk said in an interview at the CBC in Toronto, where she was preparing to tape a segment for The National.

Monk stated that she believes most individuals enter politics for good reasons and that she doesn’t want “all politicians to be painted negatively” because of what’s happening in the media.

The CBC Insider was speaking to a group of journalists regarding her thoughts on the current political setting of Canada and her life as a political aide.

Monk voiced her displeasure but tried to shift the focus to the positive work that can be done on Parliament Hill. She did admit that negative news overshadows the positive work that politicians do every day.

“It certainly does taint a lot of politicians and doesn’t contribute to Canadians perception about how we operate in Ottawa.”

She made it clear that an investigation into the origins of the scandal is necessary to restore the confidence of Canadians in the electoral and political process.

“I think it’s our job as communicators and people who are involved in politics to show that we’re all not nasty and how you do that, frankly, is get to the bottom of this and that’s why I think the calls for a judicial inquiry are important,” Monk said Tuesday.

The topic of Jack Layton also arose during Monk’s conversation with the journalists.

Monk was the NDP’s director of communications during Layton’s stunning victory as Canada’s official opposition in the 2011 federal elections. She maintained that role until his death in August 2011, of cancer.

She was candid with her thoughts on her former boss, a person she says who was very special.

“He was a very unique politician. I think that some people say to be a politician you have to be tough and you have to be mean, and you got to have thick skin and you have to be calculating and that wasn’t true of Jack.”

Holding back tears, Monk recalled her inability to grieve at the time of Layton’s death. She noted that during her career as a political aide, her job was to “serve her leader” and she said that she did exactly that until the very end for Layton, even going as far as planning his funeral.

A graduate from the London School of Economics and Trent University, Monk had been a journalist prior to her exploration into politics, which she refers to as “life shortening work”. She called it crazy, in retrospect, to leave journalism for politics.

Her newest job as the director for the Broadbent Institute, a progressive think tank group, has allowed her have more time to herself and to focus on her family. It has her based in Ottawa, where she lives with her husband, James Fitz-Morris, of CBC Radio and their two sons.