UPDATED: November 26 By-elections: The Full Rundown

October 21st, 2012

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[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

The Prime Minister has called three federal by-elections for November 26 in the vacant ridings of Durham, ON, Calgary Centre, AB, and Victoria, BC.

The call came while NDP leader Tom Mulcair was addressing his party's federal council in Ottawa, with nominated Victoria NDP candidate Murray Rankin in the front row of the audience. Mulcair and Rankin addressed the media afterwards, telling them that the party planned to accelerate its nomination timelines in the other two ridings. A three-way contested nomination had been scheduled for next Saturday October 27 in Calgary Centre, while another two-way contest was scheduled for Monday October 30 in Durham.

The call also came a day after the governing Conservatives nominated their remaining candidate, Vancouver Island Technology Park president Dale Gann, in Victoria riding. Gann was acclaimed yesterday, according to a brief on the Victoria Times-Colonist's website, though hopefully we'll get more coverage of that meeting later on.

Most interestingly, of course, the by-elections were called *before* the Supreme Court released its ruling on the Etobicoke Centre case, leading to much wild speculation on Twitter. I'm actually in the middle of writing a long contrarian analysis of that case, but got sidetracked by covering Rankin's speech this morning, and then the by-election call, so bear with me.

Here's what we know about the state of the race in each riding, moving from east to west:

Durham, ON

Conservative candidate Erin O'Toole was out at a church pancake breakfast with his phone off, and missed a few calls this morning he says, one of which was advising him of the official launch of the campaign. O'Toole is a lawyer, and the son of the current PC member of the Ontario provincial parliament for the same riding. He was acclaimed back on August 24, after former Conservative M.P. Bev Oda announced her resignation effective July 31, 2012, and after two other nomination contestants (Chris Topple and Thomas Coughlan) withdrew from the race. He's had the usual round of ministerial visits, and looks to have a well-developed campaign in place.

The Liberals re-appointed their 2011 general election candidate, former vice-president and chief operating officer of the Toronto Board of Trade Grant Humes, at the beginning of this month (October 1). No other candidates seemed to be under consideration. Humes' candidacy was supported by a visit from Interim Leader Bob Rae, and the riding association has been gearing up since August 19 according to their website, though his own site is not up yet and he doesn't have a politician's "page" on Facebook.

The Green Party has apparently said that it will not run a candidate in Durham, but I haven't seen that confirmed anywhere online as yet. According to their riding association's website, they were ramping up for the by-election as of two days after the announcement of Oda's resignation, but there hasn't been any activity on the site since then.

UPDATE: The Durham Greens website has now been updated to report that they will be running a candidate (but no name as yet).

UPDATE: The Christian Heritage Party does have candidate Andrew Moriarity in place, however.

Activity by the NDP in the riding was lower profile until just this past week, when suddenly the former mayor of Brock Township (also a former Durham MPP) Larry O'Connor announced on Twitter that he would be seeking the party's nomination. O'Connor also recently ran to be the vice-chair of the Métis Nation of Ontario, and traces his ancestry back to the community of Blind River. He is being contested by Kim King of Port Perry, who recently retired as a provincial probation and parole officer in Uxbridge, according to the Uxbridge Standard. The original nomination meeting date of October 30 is now apparently being moved up.

UPDATE: The NDP nomination meeting has now been moved up to October 23.

Interest in the nominations alone would tend to suggest the riding will remain a two-way Conservative-NDP contest, though for the NDP they will be taking the opportunity to build a better organization in the riding than they could have counted on before. Their 21% vote-share and 2nd place standing in last year's general election would have come in the absence of really any kind of on-the-ground campaign, so we'll see what kind of difference a ground game and spending more than 3% of the limit makes when not facing a government incumbent.

Calgary Centre, AB

Well-known political commentator, communications consultant and former managing editor of the Calgary Herald, Joan Crockatt, defeated a large slate of opponents to win the Conservative nomination on the fourth ballot last August 24 in this traditionally Conservative seat, and will almost certainly be the only woman from a major political party contesting any of the three by-elections.

Although she's pro-choice and a supporter of equal marriage, Crockatt's candidacy otherwise is considered a win for the more conservative Wild Rose side of the movement in Alberta over their red tory cousins, leading some to believe that there could be an opening for a "progressive" candidate to win the riding, presuming the "progressive" forces could be somehow combined. Enter the registered third party "1 Calgary Centre", founded by Naheed Nenshi's former pollster Brian F. Singh and some other named and unnamed backers. Alberta being Alberta and Calgary being Calgary, "progressive" now means everything to the left of Joan Crockatt, with even the Progressive Conservative Canadian candidate, Ben Christensen – a backer of Calgary's occupy movement last year – participating in yesterday's 1 Calgary Centre "unconference" beauty contest of the non-Joan Crockatt candidates.

The only nominated candidate or nomination candidate to Ms. Crockatt's left not to participate in yesterday's 1 Calgary Centre forum was Liberal Harvey Locke, a former provincial Alberta Liberal party president and former city councillor. [UPDATE: no, that's my memory playing tricks with me]. Locke and his team opted not to participate in that conference in favour of hosting a visit from putative federal Liberal leadership contender and party House Leader Marc Garneau, but then tweeted frequently about how very very busy they were, perhaps regretting the decision later in the day. They are running as the historic alternative, with Locke's first leaflet emphasizing his record as a "progressive entrepreneur", who is "fiscally responsible, socially progressive, and environmentally responsible". His team was dropping flyers across the riding yesterday afternoon.

At least some people believe that 1 Calgary Centre was set up to try and boost the chances of the Green Party's candidate, essayist and urban renewal guru Chris Turner, though the group vigourously denies that. Turner was acclaimed by his party, with leader Elizabeth May in attendance, last month on September 12, and the Greens are promising a fully-funded campaign, based on momentum and what they call a "once-in-a-generation opportunity to unite our voices and vote for real leadership".

Meanwhile the NDP, which had been playing its cards close to its chest in the riding with a number of low-profile nomination contestants testing the waters, now appears to have recruited a candidate that has some party stalwarts in the province pretty excited. "Vibrant Calgary" executive director Dan Meades, originally from St. John's, Newfoundland and known for his work fighting poverty and as a advocate for the city's poorest citizens, will join diesel engineer Brian Malkinson and armed forces officer Matthew McMillan in the nomination race (social media expert Scott H. Payne having already withdrawn in Meades' favour), and all three candidates attended yesterday's morning discussions at the 1 Calgary Centre conference, and joined Turner and Christensen in the afternoon candidates' panel. The party had scheduled its nomination meeting for next Saturday October 27, but is now in the process of moving that up.

UPDATE: The NDP nomination meeting was rescheduled to October 23.

If Meades is nominated, that will make two by-election candidates with TEDx talks under their belt: Chris Turner's talk on "The Great Leap Sideways" can be found here, while Meades talks about "Time to End Poverty" here and "Challenging Malignant Indifference" here.

Given the calibre of the candidates who have come forward, if Calgary does decide to look elsewhere than the favoured Conservatives, they will have a difficult choice. On the other hand, betting against a Conservative win here would put you at odds with decades of history. The race for second place should keep pollsters and pundits busy enough, and I suspect we'll see a lot of riding polls early on, trying to game the race before it's started and force the hand of one party or another.

Victoria, BC

It now seems that the acclamation of Conservative candidate Dale Gann was the remaining precondition for the Prime Minister to call the three outstanding by-elections. Gann assumed the post after two other competitors demurred, including BC lobbyist Mike Geoghegan and former candidate Patrick Hunt. He has a very interesting background in promoting, financing and facilitating investment in high tech businesses in the south Island, and is the first Conservative candidate I've seen in a while to refer to his female spouse as his "partner". Cool.

Gann is joining a very strong slate of candidates from the other parties, starting with U Vic law prof Donald Galloway who assumed the Green nomination after his opponent won the tied contest on a coin-toss and then withdrew, and then economist and one-time Toronto-area NDP candidate Paul Summerville who was acclaimed as the Liberal candidate, and finally the NDP's Murray Rankin, an environmental and aboriginal law expert with many high-profile public roles in the province's recent history, who won a four-way contested nomination last weekend and was in Ottawa for meetings when the by-elections were called.

Ironically, every one of the candidates has a relationship with the University of Victoria, the latter three being professors at one time or another, while Mr. Gann is president of the U-Vic-affiliated Vancouver Island Technology Park and Marine Technology Centre.

Again, a very strong slate, but a campaign whose contest Rankin told members of the national press gallery earlier today would probably wind up being a two-way race between himself and the Conservative candidate, and I'd have to agree with him on that at this stage of the game.


Of course, we can't end this post without noting that the Prime Minister called the by-elections before the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on the Etobicoke Centre case. There were some rumours circulating on Twitter that there had been a leak of the court's ruling, to the effect that they upheld the lower court but on a split decision. I'd have to think a leak of a Supreme Court ruling would be unprecedented and very big news indeed. Unfortunately I can't find any other evidence for this assertion.

My own feeling for some time has been that the more time the court took to consider its ruling, the less likely it was to uphold the lower court ruling. Upholding the lower court ruling meaning overturning the election, of course, while overturning the lower court implies sustaining the election result, in case you weren't already confused enough.

Suppose the court did uphold the lower court ruling to declare the election null and void on Thursday, though. What would that do to the by-election clock?

Well, under the Parliament of Canada act, the Speaker of the House of Commons would be notified of the vacancy, and would have to notify the Chief Electoral Officer. Assuming that all happened the same day as the ruling came down, 11 days later (November 5) would be the first day the PM could call a by-election (putting E-Day on Monday, December 17 or after), and 180 days later (April 23, 2013) would be the last day it could be called – for a voting day of Monday, June 3 or after.

Who knows how many other by-elections there might be to call by that time: for example, if Conservative M.P. Peter Penashue's expense ceiling difficulties became serious, Labrador, NL might open up, or if Conservative M.P. Keith Ashfield's health worsened (here's hoping not, of course) Fredericton, NB might become vacant, or if Liberal M.P. Denis Coderre runs – as expected – for mayor of Montreal and/or Olivia Chow succumbs to the not-so-subtle media campaign to take on Rob Ford, we might also see Bourassa, QC and Trinity-Spadina, ON in play.

But all of that is a world away. Today we start the 36 day countdown to three known by-elections, and Pundits' Guide is the place to be if you want the most in-depth coverage of all three.

19 Responses to “UPDATED: November 26 By-elections: The Full Rundown”

  1. Jordan says:

    You wrote Progressive Conservative candidate, but it should be Progressive Canadian candidate.

  2. Indeed it should, Jordan. Thank you. Any other boo-boos while I’m at it?

  3. Jordan says:

    Yes, Dan Meades would be from St. John’s, Newfoundland AND Labrador. :)

  4. Okay … ;-) … but I was quoting him from one of the videos.

  5. Adam Sobolak says:

    At least for the sake of argument, I’m wondering if there’ll be any “Justin Trudeau bump” for the Liberals–after all, all three of their standard-bearers carry a certain competitive bearing that wouldn’t be embarrassing were the party still in Chretien/Martin-era shape…

  6. How about a little mention for Mr. Ben Christensen of the Progressive Canadian Party of Canada who is a registered CANDIDATE in Calgary Centre? You follow the guy on twitter and then act as though he never existed at all?

  7. “Alberta being Alberta and Calgary being Calgary, “progressive” now means everything to the left of Joan Crockatt, with even the Progressive Canadian candidate, Ben Christenson – a backer of Calgary’s occupy movement last year – participating in yesterday’s 1 Calgary Centre “unconference” beauty contest of the non-Joan Crockatt candidates.”

    “…and all three candidates attended yesterday’s morning discussions at the 1 Calgary Centre conference, and joined Turner and Christenson in the afternoon candidates’ panel.”

    I do apologize for spelling your name incorrectly, Mr. Christensen, and am correcting that right away.

  8. Observant says:

    Alice…. while we’re talking about by-elections, can you see any scenarios developing whereby:

    a) Conservatives lose their majority through by-elections before October 2015, or,

    b) Harper calls a snap election before October 2015, say in 2014 to catch a newly-minted Liberal leader (Justin?) unprepared… just like Chretien did to him after the formation of the new Conservative party and won another majority?

    Btw, when will the additional 30 new ridings come into existence?

    Elections are only limited by the Act, and there is no impediment to calling a premature snap election at your own risk to get another mandate from the electorate. Didn’t Mulcair speculate on a snap election for 2014??

    I know it’s really sticking your pretty neck way out of the statistical box, but what the hey, it’s fun to fantacize ..!!!

  9. David Young says:


    Once all of the Electoral Commissions have made their reports, the new riding boundaries have to be presented to Parliament as (I believe) ‘An Act Reguarding Changes to Electoral Boundaries’ and passed by the House of Commons and Senate to take effect the next time the Writ of Election is invoked.

    Once that happens, then Harper can call an election whenever he wants to (he’s called one before the established deadline, so fixed-date legislation means nothing to him). Were there to be an even split in opposition support, I could very much see him looking to create a crisis (no Enbridge pipeline to move Alberta oil to the Pacific coast, for example) to justify an early election call to ‘gain a new mandate from the people’.

    Not in the realm of fantasy at all!

  10. George Pringle says:

    The election of 2008 was called early when it was a Conservative minority not the majority of today. There is no chance of early election fantasy no matter how the Harper haters dream of one.

    Mulcair was just keeping the troops from falling asleep during the long wait until the next election.

    The byelections will be boring, likely strong wins for the incumbent parties. If it comes to pass, Etobicoke could go against the pattern, it should be an easy walk for the Conservatives with the Libs on the descent and the NDP on the ascendant but the situation will have created sympathy for the Libs in opposition voters and he could turn it around.

  11. I can’t see the Cons wanting to “catch Justin unprepared” (ie in the middle of his honeymoon). If I were them I’d want to hammer on him a while first and hope he has a Stockwell Day moment. Remember how Stockboy was actually a popular leader once upon a time? Then people got sick of him and decided he was a lightweight. Kim Campbell was similar–she was briefly popular, until a summer of exposure convinced people she brought nothing to change the Mulroney legacy. And Canadian history in the provinces is littered with pretty politicians who underperformed once people had gotten used to them.

    The Conservatives will be wanting to give Justin time, time to make mistakes, time for the bloom to come off the rose, time for a new month and a different flavour.

  12. MGK says:

    Elections Canada has a timeline for redistribution at http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=cir/red/over&document=index&lang=e

    New ridings would be in effect for any election in or after April 2014. While early elections are possible (recall Ontario 1990 — and remember that it backfired on the Liberals), I don’t see Harper jumping the gun that much, especially since redistribution will help his party, probably more than any predictable change in the polls afterward. (Unpredictable changes are another matter altogether.)

  13. George Pringle says:

    Keep in mind that once redistrib is done, EDA’s have a lot of work. New boards, members and money shifted around and nominations for every riding incumbent or not.

  14. DL says:

    FYI: There seems to be this crazy notion out there that the Conservatives have any ill-will towards Justin Trudeau. In fact, i suspect that on the contrary the Tories are quietly cheering him on and will not attack him in any way. The CPC WANTS a Liberal bounce and WANTS the opposition vote to as evenly split as possible between the NDP and Liberals. the last thing they want is for Justin Trudeau to flame-out and for the opposition vote to go on consolidating behind the NDP.

  15. David Young says:

    I understand that recent polling in Ontario shows the provincial NDP surging while the Liberals are dropping.

    Does this help Larry O’Connor’s chances of pulling off a ‘Kitchener-Waterloo’-type NDP victory?

  16. Ron Faris says:

    Here in Victoria there will be six candidates – NDP, Conservative, Liberal and Green as well as a Christian Heritage and a Libertarian.

    The federal Liberal’s main plank is opposition to the imposition of sewage treatment – an action of the provincial Liberal gov’t!

    The Conservative candidate didn’t turn up for the first radio all-candidate’s panel but was at today’s.

    The Green is constantly cheering for Elizabeth – and slamming the NDP!

    If lawn signs and other activity are any indicator then the NDP is headed to victory with a candidate – Murray Rankin -who is leading the NDP’s legal file (pro bono) on the Enbridge pipeline issue – and has worked with First Nations folks for decades.

    Tom Mulcair is in Victoria on Monday Nov. 12th for a rally with several hundred facebook “joins’ already!

    So far it looks like the NDP leading with support in the mid to high 40′s and the Cons, Libs and Greens each in the mid to high teens.

  17. David Young says:

    With the comments by McGinty and Trudeau cutting off the Liberals in Calgary Centre, and the news that David Suzuki did in no way endorse the Green Party positions in Victoria, it doesn’t appear that there will be any changes in the by-elections.

    And the Conservatives will laugh all the way to the next election hoping that the 60+% of Canadians who don’t vote for them continue to splinter amongst three or four opposition parties.

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