UPDATED: Fall By-election Calendar Shaping up Ahead of Supreme Court Ruling

August 24th, 2012

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[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

Political junkies will be able to fix soon – an autumn round of by-elections is set to kick off some time after September 11, although Etobicoke Centre seems less and less likely to be one of them.

[See below for update on list of possible NDP candidates in Victoria.]

With Thursday's announcement by Deputy Speaker and Victoria, BC NDP M.P. Denise Savoie of her pending August 31 retirement, only the Supreme Court's ruling on Borys Wrzesnewskyj's petition to declare null and void the 26-vote Etobicoke Centre, ON win by Conservative Ted Opitz last year remains, before we know the full shape of the fall by-election calendar.

Still, the fact that the Supreme Court has yet to issue its ruling on Opitz's appeal tends to suggest that it is preparing to overturn the lower court ruling, as the reasons for upholding a lower court ruling would seem much faster to write than the reasons to overturn.

This leaves us with one riding where the top prize is the Conservative nomination (Calgary Centre, AB), one riding where the same could be said for the NDP (Victoria, BC), and one complete imponderable that probably would normally have been a Conservative-Liberal contest favouring the Conservatives in the past, but where the NDP came second in 2011, and the outgoing Conservative incumbent's record is of unknown importance to future voting intentions (Durham, ON).

Looking at the likely by-election dates:

    Calgary Centre, AB Durham,
(A)  Date of the vacancy: Thu Jun 7,
Wed Aug 1,
Fri Aug 31,
(B)  Date the Chief Electoral Officer was notified of the vacancy: Thu Jun 7,
Wed Aug 1,
Fri Aug 31,
(C)  First day the by-election could be called (11 days after (B)): Mon Jun 18,
Sun Aug 12,
Tue Sep 11,
(D)  36 days after (C): Tue Jul 24,
Mon Sep 17,
Wed Oct 17,
(E)  Earliest date the by-election could be held (First Monday on or after (D)): Mon Jul 30,
Mon Sep 17,
Mon Oct 22,
(F)  Last the by-election can be called (180 days after (B)): Tue Dec 4,
Mon Jan 28,
Wed Feb 27,
(G)  36 days after (F): Wed Jan 9,
Tue Mar 5,
Thu Apr 4,
(H)  Latest date the by-election could be held (First Monday on or after (G)): on or after Mon Jan 14,
on or after Mon Mar 11,
on or after Mon Apr 8,

Assuming the Prime Minister decides to wait and call all three by-elections at once, the first Monday that would accomodate all three would be Monday, October 22, two weeks after the Commons Thanksgiving break week, and three weeks before their November Remembrance Day break.

Now, if the Supreme Court were to uphold the lower court ruling and declare the May 2011 election in Etobicoke Centre null and void, similar by-election timeframes would apply to that riding as well. We do know that the 102-page transcript of the July 10 Supreme Court hearing of the appeal was completed on July 26, but not much else as to the timing of the ruling, though the Court is bound by the Elections Act to deal with it "without delay and in a summary way". The timing of the Court's rulings are usually signalled two days ahead of time by news release, and no such release has been issued since early August.

But assuming the Court ruled by the end of August, and if it upheld the lower court, then a notice of vacancy in Etobicoke Centre would go to the Commons Speaker, just like with a resignation, and then the 11 day wait before a by-election could be called would start to count down.

The last day to call the first riding that became vacant (Calgary Centre, AB) is 180 days after the Chief Electoral Officer received notice of the vacancy: so, Tuesday December 4. But a call that late would result in a winter by-election campaign straddling the Christmas-New Year's holiday, and is probably therefore out of the running.

Thus, I'm expecting a mid-September to mid-October call for between October 22 and November 26, in those three ridings.

As to possible candidates in Victoria, BC, several names are making the rounds in NDP circles tonight, including MLA and former leader Carole James (whose provincial riding would then be opened up for the current Mayor Dean Fortin, goes one theory), Mayor Dean Fortin himself, councillors Marianne Alto (a former federal treasurer of the NDP), Ben Isitt, or Pamela Madoff, or the northern Victoria MLA Rob Fleming, who attended Thursday's news conference with NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Savoie. Another name to include in the mix is 2008 Vancouver Centre candidate Michael Byers, who co-chaired Mulcair's leadership campaign in BC and now lives on Saltspring Island.

UPDATE: Lawyer Murray Rankin is another name being advanced for the NDP nomination. With a background in environmental and aboriginal law, he practices in both Vancouver and Victoria, but is affiliated with the University of Victoria where he is the co-chair of the Environmental Law Centre. Given Mulcair's strong support from the bench in the recent leadership race, Rankin is the kind of candidate who would easily fit that profile.

A likely candidate for the Liberal nomination would undoubtedly be the Victoria lawyer and federal leadership candidate David Merner — who as a sidebar is my guess for the identity of LiberalWho.ca. Merner is a bilingual Victoria lawyer who, when he worked for the Federal Justice Department in Ottawa, had spent considerable funds running for the provincial Liberal nomination in Ottawa Vanier, before Dalton McGuinty appointed Madeleine Meilleur instead. He has sinced moved to BC, becoming the president of the BC section of the Liberal Party (a position he stepped down from in late June to explore a leadership bid). He also sits on the board of LeadNow.ca, and has championed a Cullen-like platform of "cooperation", although we learn from Joseph Uranowski at the Equivocator blog that Merner's version does not involve co-operating with the NDP, but rather with the Greens and red tories, and even green tories ("conservation conservatives"). Anyways, the @QuiLiberalWho Twitter feed includes a retweet of an incident on Victoria's CTV station by Richard Madan, and was trying to engage BC Liberals like Dan Veniez (who has clearly been watching "The Newsroom") and a very impatient Jason Lamarche; plus the bullet-point questions being raised on LiberalWho.ca (already a very social media-savvy tease such as you'd expect from a LeadNow devotee) hit on themes like electoral cooperation, the environment, and the justice system, which have been staples of Merner's campaign to date. So, LiberalWho is probably from BC, and probably not Taleeb Noormohamed from North Vancouver, thus I conclude he is David Merner from Victoria. We'll see how well I guessed on September 3.

Another possible Liberal name for Victoria would have to be economist Paul Summerville, a supporter of Bob Rae's who was last seen running for Policy Chair of the Liberal Party at their January convention in Ottawa, though he had earlier run for the NDP in St. Paul's, ON in 2006, supported John Horgan for the provincial NDP leadership in BC, and taken a lawn sign for Savoie in the last election.

Thought not to be interested in another run is 2011 Liberal candidate and former mayor of Oak Bay, Chris Causton, nor his Conservative counterparty Patrick Hunt.

Names being brainstormed for the Conservatives at this early stage include Oak Bay MLA Ida Chong, and businessman Matt McNeill.

As to the Greens, they seem to be more focused on Calgary Centre, which both senior organizer Rob Hines and leader Elizabeth May are claiming they can win, apparently based on candidate selection.

13 Responses to “UPDATED: Fall By-election Calendar Shaping up Ahead of Supreme Court Ruling”

  1. Jordan says:

    I agree with you on Merner, I thought right away he was Liberalwho and then figured he’d have little choice but run for the Liberal nomination in Victoria if he wanted to be taken seriously.

  2. Emma Pyke says:

    Great article, as always!
    Didn’t David Merner already announce his Liberal leadership bid, though? Hard to believe he would have a soft announcement and then be behind liberalwho.ca — will be very anti-climatic if it is him!!!

  3. Jordanf says:

    No, he announced his resignation to explore the idea.

  4. Shadow says:

    If there is a riding where Green-Green Tory-Liberal “cooperation” should work it is Victoria.

    However, everyone knows the brand problem the Liberals have in BC. Both because of their history at the federal level and sharing a name with the hated provincial party.

    Merner may try to skip this race to focus on the top job, rightly calculating that a by-election loss would be disqualifying.

    However, in my view skipping this race would be equally damaging.

  5. George Pringle says:

    Rob Fleming (MLA) was the architect of the Red/Green alliance that propelled him to a Council seat prior to his jumping to Legislature. No Liberals in his likely view of cooperation, this is a guy who was a member of the International Socialist and hawked the Socialist Worker on the steps of the Eaton Center prior to his Council days.

    He was also firmly in the Carole James camp so if she wants to run he would be there. I doubt he would run, trading a likely cabinet seat in BC for an opposition one in Ottawa. Carole could since they dumped her as Leader, the change might look attractive to her.

    Although the Liberals are trying to look like they are players in these byelections, they are faced with third place finishes and it well could be a precursor to the 2015 election.

  6. Wilf Day says:

    I wouldn’t read anything into the fact that the Supreme Court has yet to issue its ruling on Opitz’s appeal. It will be a major precedent for decades. The justices are exchanging draft reasons during the court’s vacation. They will not, and should not, be rushed.

  7. Shadow says:

    Wilf the precedent was set by a lower court and clearly the supreme court disagreed with it.

    That is to say if the ballots in dispute are greater than the margin of victory then a by-election should be called.

    I think Tom Flanagan was right on the money when he said that is a senseless policy.

    The odds of ballots that have been breaking 50/50 suddenly switching to 100% in support of one candidate are astronomically low.

    The desire for 100% certainty that the right individual is in the house needs to be counter balanced against the clear harm caused by a needless by-election.

    The question then is what margin of error are we comfortable with ?

    2%, 5%, 10% ??

  8. George Pringle says:

    Red Tories lose Calgary Center nomination so bring it on pro-merger people. Best place for you all to experiment, surely Frank Graves will create a poll that a merger candidate will win 99.9% of the vote so it will be true!

  9. Adrian says:

    Great analysis on Merner and LiberalWho.
    I’d be interested to see if Taleeb ran for leadership. I followed him through social media during last year’s election and when I met him in Ottawa, he blew me away.

  10. George Pringle says:

    I lived in North Van in the last election and Taleeb has the fortune to have a probable open seat in the next election for North Vancouver as it makes a lot more sense for Saxton to run in Seymour-North Burnaby which is he where he lives and has the core of the members and donors of North Van.

    But even in new North Van boundaries the Conservatives still would have won by a good amount and Taleeb has a lot of work to do to even have a chance.

    An egotistical leadership run would seriously hurt his chances to have a shot at the riding. This applies to all those failed candidates to are making up stories they are thinking of running just to get some media time, even former MPs.

  11. Adrian says:

    @George – from my understanding, there will likely be a few different options in terms of ridings to run in Vancouver.

    I think what the Liberal Party needs are big ideas and “long shots” coming out that can take a stab at rebuilding it. It takes intelligence and guts, among many others, to want to dream that big. All I’m saying is he would make for a very interesting candidate. If you break down what the party needs, you’ll find yourself checking off many boxes under his name.

  12. Wilf Day says:

    As for open seats in BC, Vancouver Granville has no presumptive incumbent and is a three-way race on the 2011 Redistributed Results: Conservative 14830 (32.85%), NDP 13176 (29.19%), Liberal 12574 (27.86%).

  13. That’s amazing! This kind of posts will surely help people with everyone and many will be hoping that we could see more posts as accurate as this one in order to take more reliable articles on the web.

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