A Word on Two Retiring Incumbent MPs
October 19th, 2010
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Since I was last regularly blogging about Nomination News, we've had two more announcements from Liberal Members of Parliament who won't be re-offering in the next election.
First came Albina Guarnieri just before Parliament returned, when she shared the story of her 2006 diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis, and discussed how she decided to handle the issue of funding for trials of the experimental new treatment known as "liberation therapy" that's been a focus of so much attention recently.
A former press aide to Solicitor-General Robert Kaplan and Toronto Mayor Art Eggleton, Guarnieri was first elected to Parliament in 1988, winning the former seat of Mississauga East with a 4-percentage point margin over the Conservatives, but only after a winning not one but two HUGE Liberal nomination meetings, the details of which are documented in a William Johnson story from 1990 on her website. It's an interesting and instructive story, that took place at a time of big changes within the Liberal Party, party politics in general, and developments in election law. I hope to do it justice, but if some of the details are wrong, please correct them in the comments.
Starting in 1984, but picking up steam in 1988, a group of 4 party members from some of the ethnic communities whose members had always played significant but supporting roles in party nominations, decided they'd rather play leadership roles and joined forces to try and win some Liberal nominations. The four were Armindo Silva, Tony Ianno, Joe Volpe and Jasbir Singh, two of whom were successful in unseating incumbents for their nominations — Volpe defeating Roland de Corneille in Eglinton-Lawrence, while Ianno defeated John Roberts in Trinity-Spadina. Singh ran in Etobicoke North, while Silva ran against Guarnieri in Mississauga East.
Guarnieri was not one of the group, and when it became clear she would not join forces with them (for example, supporting Roberts over Ianno) but still managed to win her own nomination anyway, a battle ensued which culminated in her consulting a lawyer, the Ontario executive of the party under Elvio DelZotto ordering a new nomination meeting, and Guarnieri winning the second meeting anyway. At around the same time, another group of candidates supported by the Campaign Life Coalition and calling themselves "Liberals for Life" were also seeking and in some cases winning nominations, the most notable examples being Tom Wappel who defeated John Turner's hand-picked candidate Patrick Johnston in Scarborough West. Liberals for Life National Coordinator Dan McCash launched his own nomination campaign in Etobicoke-Lakeshore for the 1993 election.
The combination of those two cases is what led in 1992 to the adoption of the rule allowing the by-then-leader Jean Chretien to appoint candidates, a policy that was sold as a way for him to recruit women candidates such as Jean Augustine, whom he appointed in Etobicoke-Lakeshore to head off McCash's bid for the nomination. However, in her 1990 testimony before the Royal Commission on Electoral Reform (Lortie Commission), Guarnieri went much further and argued that Elections Canada itself should regulate nomination meetings to avoid the capricious misuse of party rules which she experienced, a position I'm personally more inclined to support than not, but which has to date never been acceptable to the majority of political parties, who would have to agree to amend the Elections Act to that effect. The articles linked to on Guarnieri's website outline the practices she encountered in much more detail and would seem to support her position on the face of it.
Ms. Guarnieri went on to have an interesting career as a parliamentarian, which will undoubtedly be fully chronicled elsewhere before she steps down once and for all from elected politics. But I thought political junkies would be most interested in her role at a critical time for the formation and reformation of political parties in Canada. And to learn about the roles that many contemporary politicians played during that pivotal time.
The other MP to announce his retirement was four-term Charlottetown, PE Liberal M.P. Shawn Murphy, who told his caucus last Wednesday that he wouldn't be a candidate in the next election. Murphy, who was a law partner of former premier Joe Ghiz and a past-president of the PEI Law Society, was first elected in 2000 in the pre-redistribution riding of Hillsborough, where he took over from three-term Liberal M.P. George Proud. He was said to be weary of the weekly grind of travel to Ottawa, and looking forward to a "less intense" time in his life. If there was any other back-story as to his resignation, I haven't read or heard it.
The Conservatives nominated candidates in both ridings long ago, and I think we can rate them both as Conservative targets.
We'll pick up with the nomination news in the open seats next time.