Vacant Riding Check-in
What with all the extra data I added to the site this past year, and the number-crunching and computer-programming to go along with it, not to mention the by-elections, and the year of construction on our street and in our house (OK, there are all my excuses out of the way), one little thing seems to have fallen by the wayside around here, and it's what many people say they like the most about this site: the nomination news.
We'll start to rectify that by looking at the vacant ridings in a second. But Monday night's news of a Tuesday cabinet shuffle also contained the intriguing suggestion that there may be other retirement announcements coming from certain sitting members of the cabinet. I have a few guesses, based on either longevity or possible health concerns, but we'll know for sure soon enough. And then we'll continue this series of updates with the seats of retiring incumbents.
But, first the vacant seats from east to west:
Haute-Gaspésie — La Mitis — Matane — Matapédia, QC (HG-MMM)
Not too much new to report. Liberal candidate Nancy Charest still hasn't updated her website since the last campaign, whereas Bloc Québécois candidate Jean-François Fortin's site has had a freshening up since the last time I looked (it seems to have done in the expectation of a fall by-election call, as the first news item was BQ leader Gilles Duceppe's November 4 visit to the riding). Fortin also has 1,344 Facebook friends, while Charest does not seem to have set up a Facebook fan page as yet (although her 53-member Facebook group from the last campaign is still online). But of course there's another contender in this race, Conservative candidate and former Haute Gaspésie prefect Allen Cormier, and he now has a website in the party's new template, all ready to go, although there hasn't been a lot of local content since December 21 (no Facebook presence either that I've seen).
Cormier told Radio-Canada last fall that, given former Bloc M.P. Jean-Yves Roy's delayed departure, a December 13 call which might have been possible, was not their "Plan A", and that it was felt to be a better idea for him to have the chance to visit every community in the riding first, in anticipation of a call some time in February. I'm a bit amused by that explanation, given that the Conservatives had been calling on Mr. Roy to step down months before and were presumably ready to go at that time. However, for whatever reason the Prime Minister called the other three by-elections early without this seat included. He has until April 20 to make the call here (that's the Wednesday before Good Friday), which would put E-Day the last Monday of May (or the first day the Commons returns from the Dominion Day May break-week).
December's high winter tides ("grande marées") in eastern Québec were raised in the Commons by the Bloc during Question Period, and by the Liberals in a news release from leader Michael Ignatieff. Duceppe also toured the region with two of his MPs and candidate Fortin in tow (photos on Flickr), later linking the dramatic weather to the climate change conference in Cancun. In other issues, access to broadband and its pricing has been a controversial one, with Conservative candidate Allen Cormier apparently backing one bid (my french is too weak to fully understand all the nuances, however). That last link also contains a recording from late last fall of Jean Lapierre discussing the riding on his radio program, if you're interested. Finally, Cormier is urging Québec City Mayor Régis Labeaume to consider designating a mountain near Cap-Chat for the alpine skiing portion should Québec City be successful in its Winter Olympics bid.
Green Party candidate, Université de Québec instructor Louis Drainville, was also raring to go for a fall campaign. And the last word from the NDP was that they were in discussions with a local mayor to run for them in the forthcoming by-election. LeCartable.com seems to be a source of local news; it recently moved over from its previous home at LeCartable.blogspot.com.
Calgary Centre-North, AB (CCN)
The de facto deputy prime minister, three-term Conservative M.P. Jim Prentice completely shocked Ottawa last November 4 by resigning with very little advance warning and zero leaks. Opinions about his potential political future are mixed, although experienced hill-watchers did note the contours of an organized leadership bid around his announcement. Still, whether Prentice is destined to be the dauphin-in-waiting, or the conservative Frank McKenna, local Conservatives moved very quickly to defend their turf in what has been one of the more competitive of the Calgary federal seats.
Competitive, for a Calgary riding, means that it moved back and forth between various flavours of conservative parties, so let's not get too carried away. Reincarnated Progressive Conservative leader Joe Clark won part of its predecessor seat in 2000 with the support of "Liberals for Clark", defeating two-term Reform M.P. Eric Lowther. But this new seat was created in the 2003 redistribution with parts of three other ridings (Calgary Centre, Calgary Nose Hill and Calgary Northeast) on boundaries that gave the PCs and Cdn Alliance 79% of the vote between them in 2000. And Prentice himself never took less than 54% in each of the three elections he contested.
Since his resignation came in the immediate aftermath of the Calgary municipal elections (with their own surprising mayoralty outcome), it didn't take long for the Calgary media to suggest the two more conservative unsuccessful contenders against Mayor Nenshi (Ric McIver and Barb Higgins) as likely potential candidates. But, in fact, neither lived in the riding or really anywhere near it, and veteran Calgary Herald columnist Don Braid was the first one I read to come up with the name of the eventual nominee, university administrator and Calgary Nose Hill riding president Michelle Rempel. She was acclaimed on December 17, and although the Ottawa Citizen's Susan Riley was intimating the other day that there were other candidates pushed out to make way for Rempel, and there were certainly some early names mentioned in the comments on Daveberta's blog, there hasn't been much public evidence of anything other than a legitimately acclaimed nomination that I could find.
(By the way, Daveberta has a great rundown today of the Alberta federal pre-election scene, particularly in Edmonton over the Expo bid. It's reminding me of how far behind I am on the nomination news, but I'll get there.)
For the Liberals, a number of names were floated in the immediate wake of Prentice's resignation, starting with outgoing Calgary mayor Dave Bronconnier and former northwestern Ontario Liberal M.P. Robert Nault (who now lives in Calgary; both names in an early Daveberta post). Most recently, Susan Riley has spoken with the Liberal riding president who says that despite the uphill battle, there may be an unnamed prof from the University of Calgary who's interested in making a run for it.
People seem to be assuming that Environmental Protection Officer John Chan will make a fourth run for the NDP in this seat, but I haven't seen anything current to that effect. The Green Party has nominated human rights activist Heather McIntosh after a three-way contested nomination meeting back on October 26, 2010.
Prince George — Peace River, BC (PG-PR)
This will be a short update: there are still six candidates in the race for the Conservative nomination, and there has still been no date set for the process to officially commence, according to the Opinion250.com blog. And, as the Prince George Citizen reminded its readers last week, there is still no date for a by-election. Former provincial highways minister Lois Boone was, as expected, acclaimed as her party's candidate, back on November 27. Still no website, but her domain-name does conveniently redirect to a secure online donation page for the riding, so they've got their priorities straight. However, there is still no Liberal candidate
, and still no Green candidate. [OoopsDATE: Three-time Green candidate Hilary Crowley was announced as the party's candidate once again during a visit to the riding by leader Elizabeth May and deputy leader Adriane Carr.]
The riding's by-election call works roughly on the same schedule as HG-MMM: last day to call is the Saturday of the Easter weekend (April 23, 2011) for an E-day on Monday, May 30.
So in other words, if the government doesn't fall or otherwise engineer its defeat around the spring budget (which I do believe is a possibility), there will be at least three by-elections this spring, and probably a fourth if Burnaby — New Westminster, BC M.P. Peter Julian finally decides to throw his hat into the ring for the BC NDP leadership, which will also be held in April. If Julian is telling the Globe's BC bureau that he's already spoken to New Democrats who were interested in running for the nomination in the seat he'd want to run in, it sounds like his campaign preparations are pretty well-developed.
And if we do get to the by-election call without a general election, it will be interesting because all four ridings are in pretty far-flung points of the country – at least from the perspective of Ottawa, and the issues will not in most cases be the ones that have been dominating Question Period or the national media's coverage of politics. If Julian does go and a by-election becomes necessary there, then the Conservatives already have former M.P. Paul Forseth nominated and in place for another run.