Re-Re-UPDATED: Will the snow fly before by-elections can be held?

October 12th, 2012

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Snow in Calgary Centre, October 11, 2012

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

Time is running out for a by-election call in three open seats – and possibly a fourth depending on the Supreme Court – if the vote is to be held before the Christmas break of the House of Commons.

[UPDATE: See below for a few additions and one correction, thanks to a few alert and well-informed readers.]

[Re-UPDATE: The Ryan Cleary event listed below has been cancelled due to a family emergency.]

[Further UPDATE: Donald Galloway is a professor of law, especially refugee law, and his opponent's name is spelled Moat, not Moats.]

[Final UPDATE: The Saturday Victoria Times-Colonist is reporting that the Conservative nomination is scheduled for next Saturday, October 20, but only reports Patrick Hunt's name as a potential candidate. This would give a potential by-election date of November 26, or December 3, 10, or 17.]

In the first of those seats to become vacant, Calgary Centre, AB, a by-election must be called by Tuesday, December 4th. But given the minimum 36-day writ period ending on a Monday (or a Tuesday if the Monday is a statuatory holiday), that would put E-day on or after Monday, January 14 — which is pretty cold in Calgary I'm reliably told. In fact the city saw its first overnight snowfall on Thursday morning, some of which had still not melted by mid-afternoon.

Walking that deadline backwards, we get the following dates:

Last day to call First Monday to hold
Sunday, October 7 November 12, 2012
Sunday, October 14 November 19, 2012
Sunday, October 21 November 26, 2012
Sunday, October 28 December 3, 2012
Sunday, November 4 December 10, 2012
Sunday, November 11 December 17, 2012
Sunday, November 18 December 24, 2012
Sunday, November 25 December 31, 2012
Sunday, December 2 January 7, 2013
Tuesday, December 4 January 14, 2013

While I think we can safely rule out Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, some other dates and variables may factor into the Prime Minister's decision about timing, apart from the Calgary Centre deadline and waiting for the Supreme Court ruling.

  • Remembrance Day – I'm not completely sure what impact this could be perceived to have, but am sure its possible ramifications both pro and con would have been considered by the Conservatives, though if anything they probably would have liked people to vote the day afterwards, an option that is out of reach now.
  • The adjournment of the House of Commons – The chamber is set to adjourn on Friday December 14 for the holiday break, and scheduled to return on Monday, January 28 unless prorogued in the meantime. It's not that the votes of the new MPs would change the balance of power in the Commons, but unless a by-election is called soon, they won't be able to take their seats until late January. And much later than the middle of December probably means a writ period that would span the Christmas holidays.
  • Fall omnibus legislation – Certainly there was no evidence of a once-expected fall omnibus bill in the schedule laid out by Government House Leader Peter Van Loan in his answer to last Thursday's House Business question. But if the government had been hoping to introduce additional budget business in an omnibus bill this fall, it could now risk that becoming an issue in the by-elections. Perhaps this was part of the thinking behind the latest round of "Canada's Economic Action Plan" TV ad buys.
  • The Nexen ruling deadline – The original 45-day deadline for the government to give its thumbs-up or -down to the China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) proposed takeover of Calgary's Nexen Inc. was set to expire today (October 12), but with the government having exercised its first 30-day extension, the next pressure point occurs on November 9. A further 30-day extension is available under the Investment Canada Act, but only with the consent of CNOOC as the applicant. I'm sure, given the reported differences even within the government's Calgary caucus over its approach to the deal, the Prime Minister would rather have had the by-election out of the way before the decision has to come down, but increasingly that's being held to a very narrow window of opportunity.
  • Candidate search and nomination meetingDurham, ON Conservative candidate Erin O'Toole has been in place since August 24th, when he was acclaimed after other declared candidates either didn't meet the requirements of party headquarters (one-time Colin Carrie aide Chris Topple) or withdrew due to family reasons (Jim Flaherty aide Thomas Coughlan). The next day, Calgary Centre, AB Conservative candidate Joan Crockatt won a highly competitive and well-covered nomination race on the other side of the country. With informed observers believing at the time that the Supreme Court could rule in the middle of August, it's reasonable to conclude that the coordinated deadline for those two nominations was no accident. But the NDP had a surprise up its own sleeve, announcing the resignation of incumbent Victoria, BC MP Denise Savoie two days earlier on August 23. To date there has been no sign of a serious Conservative candidacy in Victoria, a riding where the Conservatives moved into second place in last year's general election. Unless the PM were to appoint a candidate using his power as party leader, presumably nominations would have to open for the usual 7- to 14-day period, if they haven't been already.

    UPDATE: I clearly missed the signs of serious Conservatives, as there are three running (I Google'd hard, I promise). Thanks to a regular reader, we've learned that Mike Geoghegan, Ross Dunn and former Conservative candidate Patrick Hunt will be facing off at a nomination meeting believed to be occurring on October 27th. So, that still leaves December 3, 10, and 17 as realistic prospects for E-day, unless the Prime Minister wants an unusual Christmas or New Year's present, or a writ period that crosses into the new year.

Meanwhile, we're still waiting for the Supreme Court of Canada to rule on Etobicoke Centre, ON Conservative MP Ted Opitz's appeal of the lower court ruling declaring his 26-vote win over Borys Wrzesnewskyj in the 2011 general election null and void. As reported by Michael Harris in Thursday's iPolitics.ca column, the parties to the case were approached for consent to a media lockup when the ruling is released, and were required to reply to that request by September 24 – now almost three weeks ago. The wait must be equally agonizing for Opitz and Wrseznewskyj, not to mention their families and supporters.

If the lower court ruling is upheld, and Mr. Opitz's election is voided, then an 11-day wait would take effect (per s.31(1) of the Parliament of Canada Act), after which the Prime Minister could call a by-election in Etobicoke Centre, ON. Knowing this, the NDP apparently timed Savoie's resignation in order to predate the court ruling, believing that the Conservatives were waiting on its result, and hoping to ensure that Victoria, BC would be included in a round of by-elections in whose ridings otherwise their prospects were much more speculative.

Here's where candidate search is in each of the open or potentially open seats:

Etobicoke Centre, ON

The Liberals renominated former M.P. Borys Wrzesnewskyj by acclamation back on June 12, after he had won in the lower court (read the full ruling here), and after Conservative M.P. Ted Opitz had sought leave to appeal before the Supreme Court, but before the Court announced on July 3 that it would conduct hearings on July 10 (the video of the Supreme Court hearings is archived at CPAC.ca here). Presumably – were the overturning of his election to stand – Conservative M.P. Ted Opitz would run again in the by-election (or as one brainiac asked him on television, "if your election is overturned, do you promise to resign?"). On the other hand, Green Party leader Elizabeth May announced that her party would pursue a cooperation approach and decline to run against Wrzesnewskyj, urging the NDP to follow her lead. Pretty much as predicted. No potential NDP candidate has surfaced yet, but may not have to, if the Supreme Court overturns the lower court ruling by upholding Opitz's appeal.

Calgary Centre, AB

As mentioned above, former Calgary Herald managing editor and well-known communications consultant and TV commentator Joan Crockatt used an early start to her advantage in beating back five eventual challengers after four ballots to win the Conservative nomination on Saturday, August 24. A couple of weeks later, and after teasing what a good candidate she had recruited for several days, Elizabeth May was able to secure the acclamation of her star candidate, urban sustainability expert Chris Turner on September 12, promising to run the best-resourced campaign Calgary had even seen from her party. May has been spinning the results of a snap IVR poll of the riding for the Huffington Post (with an N=250, MoE of ±6.2, and conducted in the middle of the summer on August 14, before Crockatt was even nominated), which showed her party in fourth place but with the most enthusiastic supporters, as suggesting that her candidate was really the best positioned to win against Crockatt.

Naturally not everyone agrees, but the reason all the positioning is going on is that a third party group called 1CalgaryCentre.com was launched to try and instigate a coalescing of support behind one of the so-called "progressive" candidates (i.e., pretty much everyone to Ms. Crockatt's left). Sorry, "to facilitate an organic process where voters from across the political spectrum can come together in a less partisan forum, assess the progressive candidates on their own merits and decide among themselves who they feel is best suited to represent their interests prior to election day", in their words. So long as it's organic, I guess. The site is being run by former Naheed Nenshi organizer Brian F. Singh and writes glowingly of fellow Nenshi alumnus and Alison Redford strategist Stephen Carter, who himself has already ruled out at least one of the "progressive" alternatives.

Not to be outdone, the NDP sent in Nathan Cullen to hold a workshop on "uniting progressives in Calgary Centre" back in July during the Stampede. That led to the appearance of a new Calgary Centre NDP Facebook page, and the appearance of a fairly well-orchestrated communications plan designed to look serious but not raise expectations too much too early, including videos of several Calgary "progressives" talking about what the city meant to them. Already one of those folks has declared his candidacy for the NDP nomination (Brian Malkinson), as now have Matthew McMillan and Scott H Payne. No meeting date has been set, but the party did open nominations on September 5, and then hold a riding strategy meeting on September 17, the photos of which are on the FB page and show a reasonably well-attended effort. St. John's South — Mount Pearl M.P. Ryan Cleary is UPDATE: was slated to be at the University of Calgary today (Friday), and industry critic Peter Julian has made repeated visits as part of his consultations on the CNOOC-Nexen deal.

Meanwhile, already holding two UPDATE: one (Calgary Buffalo; Calgary Varsity is further north) of the provincial seats within the federal boundaries, the Liberals were able to field four candidates for a contested nomination held on Saturday, September 22, which saw former provincial Liberal party president and lawyer Harvey Locke win easily on the first ballot. Wascana Liberal M.P. Ralph Goodale was in attendance at the nomination meeting, and then Locke received Justin Trudeau on his first post-announcement leadership campaign stop last week.

1CalgaryCentre is holding an "unConference for post-partisan politics" a week Saturday on October 20, which given that it's Calgary and given the group's ultimate objective, sounds like a mandatory cattle call for the various non-Joan Crockatt candidates to audition at. Lucky them. The group has answered another sceptic here.

Durham, ON

As already mentioned, Toronto lawyer Erin O'Toole (whose father John is the provincial PC MPP for the same riding) was finally acclaimed on August 24 after two other candidacies fell by the wayside. He has an active website, and has been receiving the full-service complement of ministerial visits, and a photo of himself with Wayne Gretzky.

Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae visited Bowmanville in the riding and announced the appointment of 2011 candidate and former Toronto Board of Trade chief operating officer Grant Humes as their candidate on Monday, October 1. Rae's visit came after an earlier appearance by NDP Leader Tom Mulcair to meet with the mayors of Bowmanville and Oshawa, and an appearance by Trinity-Spadina MP Olivia Chow with the Oshawa mayor in Toronto. The NDP has not announced any plans for a nomination as yet, but has evidently been working to develop the port authority and the proposed ethanol plant as a potential issue there.

No Green Party candidate has emerged as yet.

Victoria, BC

The race for the NDP nomination in Victoria is as hotly contested as the Conservative nomination was in Calgary Centre, though long-time local politics watcher Bernard Schulmann bemoans the lack of any willingness by any of the candidates to actually disagree with one another in an all-candidates debate. (You can listen to the CFAX radio debate here, and draw your own conclusions.) Aboriginal rights and environmental lawyer Murray Rankin, who was a member of Tom Mulcair's leadership campaign team in BC, and who has been providing legal advice to BC NDP leader Adrian Dix on the Enbridge pipeline, was first into the race, and received a good chunk of the key endorsements right off the bat, including several sometime Green Party supporters. Three days later, however, he was joined in the race by former BC Health and Finance Minister Elizabeth Cull, followed by former school trustee Charley Beresford, and finally Victoria city councillor Ben Isitt. Most observers believe it will come down to a tight race between Rankin and Cull on the final ballot.

Meanwhile on the Liberal side, economist Paul Summerville, who ran for the NDP in the Toronto riding of St. Paul's in 2006, but then joined the Liberal Party to support Bob Rae for leader and ran for Policy Chair at last January's convention, was the first candidate to get "green-lit" by party headquarters. And after prospective Liberal leadership candidate David Merner declined to pursue the nomination in addition to his leadership aspirations, it is now expected that Summerville's acclamation will be confirmed this Saturday, October 13. Summerville will know who his NDP counterpart is the following day, on Sunday October 14. And, by the way, he's now declared himself a supporter of Merner's leadership campaign. Summerville does look to be making opposition to a new sewage treatment plant (aka "billion dollar boondoggle" according to his website) his main election issue (in concert for the most part with the Greens), with all the NDP candidates taking the other side.

The Greens had an interesting turn of events in their nomination meeting where the 40 voting members in attendance evenly split their votes between Trevor Moat and Donald Galloway, which unbeknownst to the two candidates until the following day was settled by a coin toss in Moat's favour. After learning how close he came to winning, Moat stepped down in favour of U-Vic history law professor Galloway, who many had assumed to be party leader Elizabeth May's preferred candidate in the first place. Bernard Von Schulmann has more details, including the interesting observation that we could conceivably have as many as three U-Vic profs running against one another in the by-election.

So far no Conservatives there, though. UPDATE: And three potential Conservative candidates, as corrected above. UPDATE: Nomination meeting is Saturday, October 20, according to the Saturday edition of the Victoria Times-Colonist.

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Photo credit: L. Giannoccaro

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Don't forget, if you are a Liberal leadership news junkie, the easiest way to follow the race at a glance is to check in regularly with the Pundits' Guide to the Liberal Leadership Contest social media aggregator page, at http://lpcldr.punditsguide.ca, where we have Facebook feeds, Twitter follower counts, Facebook like counts, Twitter tickers, and automated Google News searches in both english and french that get refreshed every 30 minutes, along with a calendar, quick guide to the rules and more.


13 Responses to “Re-Re-UPDATED: Will the snow fly before by-elections can be held?”

  1. I find it interesting that on the one hand, May wants a no compete in the possible Toronto by election and by extension Calary, but on the other hand, remains silent concerning Victoria. What’s up with that, lack of consistency? Are these principals flexible when it’s an NDP dominant riding or is that just my imagination?

  2. Ruth McVeigh says:

    How come we have to wait for Alice to give us the information that should be readily available? Thank you for all your work.

  3. George Pringle says:

    The Conservative nomination is on the 27th, I think and should have at least 3 candidates. Mike Geoghegan http://www.mgcltd.ca, Ross Dunn of the Vancouver Island Tech Park and former candidate Patrick Hunt.

  4. Steve May says:

    Alice, that’s a fantastic and comprehensive recap! You can always be counted on to pull together information from a number of sources, and make it easier for us politicos to understand what’s going on in regions of the nation that we’re not as familiar with. Thank you.

    @janfromthebruce: I know that you know full well why May has championed the idea that the Greens shouldn’t run a candidate in Etobicoke Centre, and why she urged the NDP to stay out of the race as well. I know you know this because you commented on my July 19 blogpost about this very matter. May has said she believes that if the Supreme Court rules that a new by-election should be called, that it should be a straight-up contest between the Cons and Libs, given how the by-election call would have come about in the first place, as a result of Borys’ legal challenge and Opitz’s appeal of the lower Court decision.

    Whether you agree with May’s rationale for the Greens and NDP to sit Etobicoke Centre out or not, there is absolutely nothing contradictory with her rationale as applied to Victoria, and any suggestion that there is a contradiction is just partisan smoke blowing, something I note that you’re quite accomplished at. May’s position on Etobicoke Centre is specific to the circumstances of that riding, and the legal situation leading (potentially) to a new by-election. There is no similarity to Victoria, period.

    Also note that this is just May’s opinion. The Party itself will choose whether or not to run a candidate, and while May’s opinion carries some weight with the Party Council, she is only one vote amongst many. Unlike with other parties, in the GPC, what the leader wants isn’t always what the Party gives (as the contested nomination she faced in SGI back in 2009 shows).

    Could the smoke and mirrors be an indication that the NDP is a little concerned about Green votes in Victoria this time ‘round? Well…they should be.

  5. Thanks so much, George. I’ll update the post now. I guess that’s the same Mike Geoghegan who worked for Bill Barlee in the Harcourt government back in the 1990s. Quite the leap.

    Agree with Steve that Ms. May’s position is not inconsistent between the Etobicoke Centre and Victoria cases. I don’t believe the NDP is too too worried about the Greens in Victoria from what I’ve heard though, given the names I’ve heard that she approached who turned her down and now show up on Rankin’s endorsement list.

    I’ve also received a correction to my assertion that the Liberals hold two of the provincial seats within federal Calgary Centre. In fact, it’s just the one: Kent Hehr in Calgary Buffalo. Calgary Varsity is further north. Sorry about that.

  6. Bill says:

    If the NDP don’t run a candidate in an Etobicoke Centre by-election, Mulcair will paint himself a Quebec-centric politician who eschews political democracy and undermines his unequivocal declaration of no merger with the Liberals.

  7. Hi Bill, It was getting late and so I skipped over looking up the reference, but Mr. Mulcair has repeated his opposition to the idea of running less than a full slate on numerous occasions. What I had predicted in an earlier post is that Ms. May would call on him not to run a candidate in this circumstance, but as we see from an earlier commenter, that may not even be a unanimous position within the Green Party itself now.

  8. Jim R says:

    Calgary Varsity is held by the PCs, I think you meant Calgary Mountain View? Although just like Liberal held Calgary Buffalo, the majority of votes were cast for one of the two further right parties.

  9. Thanks, Jim. I’m fixing it now.

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