FURTHER UPDATED: Fourth Commons Vacancy Opens; More to Come? If so, Who?
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Merv Tweed became the fourth M.P. to resign from the House of Commons since June Monday morning. But his resignation and a few other signs have people asking whether he will be the last Conservative M.P. to go before the House returns.
Tweed, who was first elected in 2004, has said that his resignation will take effect on Saturday, August 31, and was done to allow him to pursue other opportunities in the private sector – apparently the presidency of OmniTrax railways.
What that means for the by-election calendar in the other ridings – assuming of course the Prime Minister intends to call the set of by-elections all together – is that there would be no by-election held before Monday, October 21 at the earliest.
Indeed, no sooner did Tweed announce his resignation than the Toronto Centre NDP finalized its plans for a Sunday, September 15 Nomination Meeting at the Metro YMCA (2:30 PM).
The October 21 date also assumes that the Chief Electoral Officer could receive a warrant from the Commons Speaker by August 31 as well. As we saw in the case of Toronto Centre the process took a full week. But I've seen it happen before that resignations were arranged in advance of a weekend, so I suppose it's not impossible for both steps to occur on the same day.
|(A)||Date of the vacancy:||Mon Jun 3, 2013||Mon Jul 15, 2013||Wed Jul 31, 2013||Sat Aug 31, 2013|
|(B)||Date the Chief Electoral Officer was notified of the vacancy:||Mon Jun 3, 2013||Mon Jul 15, 2013||Tue Aug 6, 2013||Sat Aug 31, 2013|
|(C)||First day the by-election could be called (11 days after (B)):||Fri Jun 14, 2013||Fri Jul 26, 2013||Sat Aug 17, 2013||Wed Sep 11, 2013|
|(D)||36 days after (C):||Sat Jul 20, 2013||Sat Aug 31, 2013||Sun Sep 22, 2013||Thu Oct 17, 2013|
|(E)||Earliest date the by-election could be held (First Monday*** on or after (D)):||Mon Jul 22, 2013||Tue Sep 3, 2013***||Mon Sep 23, 2013||Mon Oct 21, 2013|
|(F)||Last the by-election can be called (180 days after (B)):||Sat Nov 30, 2013||Sat Jan 11, 2014||Sun Feb 2, 2014||Thu Feb 27, 2014|
|(G)||36 days after (F):||Sun Jan 5, 2014||Sun Feb 16, 2014||Mon Mar 10, 2014||Fri Apr 4, 2014|
|(H)||Latest date the by-election could be held (First Monday on or after (G)):||on or after Mon Jan 6, 2014||on or after Mon Feb 17, 2014||on or after Mon Mar 10, 2014||on or after Mon Apr 7, 2014|
|*** Or if the Monday is a statuatory holiday, then the Tuesday right afterwards.|
The fallback date should things not go smoothly getting the warrant sent from the Speaker to the CEO would be Monday, October 28. Note that Thanksgiving is Monday October 14, putting the Commons on recess that week. Also, the Conservative Party's convention has been rescheduled to Thursday October 31.
We know the PM had wanted to lay out a new legislative agenda in a landmark speech at the since-postponed July Conservative Party convention in Calgary. Would there be much point in recalling Parliament prior to the end of October, if you're in the PM's shoes now?
Suppose instead you do a bit of human resources planning: ask a few pensionable MPs with no cabinet prospects in hyper-safe seats to step aside in favour of some young new talent, so you can finally get around to that shuffle of parlimentary secretaries that's been outstanding since the cabinet shuffle. It could also solve a problem of too many unwieldy inter-incumbent nomination contests when the new boundaries come into effect, and lets you show off the newly elected MPs at the same convention as the new legislative agenda, in a big effort to reset the government's narrative and electoral prospects mid-term. Parliament is prorogued, a new Throne Speech comes down, and the countdown to October 2015 starts.
This is not totally pulled out of thin air. The parliamentary secretaries have not been shuffled yet, although it seems some potential candidates have been "auditioned" on the summer political panels. Whispers around Ottawa suggest people are preparing for more than the just the known by-elections, and no Conservative candidates have been announced or even hinted at for the by-elections currently on deck.
Which MPs would fit the criteria laid out above? Elected 2007 or earlier, no cabinet prospects or having health issues or facing potentially messy nomination battles, already announced an intention not to run again, or just ready to go? Here's a look at who that might include.
I took a look at all Conservative MPs elected in 2011, who had been first elected prior to September 1, 2007 (and therefore had their MP's pension vested).
MPs Who Have Stepped Down
From them, I removed the five who have already stepped down (including the three who have since been replaced), in order of resignation:
- Lee RICHARDSON in Calgary Centre, AB – replaced by Joan CROCKATT in the November 2012 by-elections
- Bev ODA in Durham, ON – replaced by Erin O'TOOLE in the November 2012 by-elections
- Peter PENASHUE in Labrador, NL – resigned to run in a by-election, and defeated by Liberal Yvonne JONES in the Spring 2012 by-election
- Vic TOEWS in Provencher, MB – seat currently vacant
- Merv TWEED in Brandon-Souris, MB – seat current vacant
Conservative MPs Not Running Again
Next I took note of the MPs who have said they won't run again, including three who did so in advance of the July cabinet shuffle. There are actually a few more of them than currently noted in Wikipedia:
Keith ASHFIELD in Fredericton, NB (although he was first elected in 2008) – prior to the cabinet shuffle— commenter Craig below challenged me to find a reference to such an announcement, and it's true that all I can find is Mr. Ashfield's announcement that he's stepping down to take care of his cancer. My apologies.
- Diane ABLONCZY in Calgary–Nose Hill, AB – prior to the cabinet shuffle
- Ted MENZIES in Macleod, AB – prior to the cabinet shuffle
- Ray BOUGHEN in Palliser, SK – told the Procedures and House Affairs Committee during testimony on the boundary commission report that he wouldn't be running again (although he was first elected in 2008)
- Ed KOMARNICKI in Souris–Moose Mountain, SK – news story here
- Maurice VELLACOTT in Saskatoon–Wanuskewin, SK – news stories here and here
- [Royal GALIPEAU in Ottawa--Orléans, ON - I wouldn't swear to this one, and can't currently find a reference, but I am sure I've heard this in the last year, perhaps in connection with redistribution or David Bertschi's leadership launch.] — UPDATE: Craig has some information on Mr. Galipeau's intentions in a comment below, as well. FURTHER UPDATE: Royal GALIPEAU is definitely running again, he has told people privately.
After that, I excluded (a) current Cabinet Ministers, and the most recent lists of (b) Parliamentary Secretaries, and (c) Committee Chairs, plus (d) the assistant deputy speakers (Barry DEVOLIN and Bruce STANTON), and (e) other Caucus officers (e.g., National Caucus Chair – Guy LAUZON, Deputy House Leader – Tom LUKIWSKI), or (f) MPs who sit on the Treasury Board or its sub-committee (Steven FLETCHER, Ron CANNAN, Laurie HAWN, and Mike LAKE) and finally (g) anyone too young to go directly to an MP's pension (you need to be 55 in order to collect), or who still seems to have career prospects within the government, along with (h) anyone coming from a riding that might not be a lock for the Conservatives.
Which Leaves …
First of all, we would normally put Diane Ablonczy and Ted Menzies pretty high on the list. They've retired from cabinet, but would still be receptive to the idea of supporting a central strategy. Ablonczy in particular already seems to have stepped aside from cabinet in favour of her former riding president Michelle Rempel, and might want to help facilitate the adding of new talent now rather than later. But both their hometowns (Menzies' in particular) were very hard hit by the Alberta floods in early July. Would those areas really be amenable to a fall federal by-election in the middle of everything else? Would the post-flood situation prove too volatile for a governing party? On the other hand, would a Conservative convention in Calgary be a nice uplifting time to introduce some new Alberta Conservative MPs? Maybe so.
Next you'd have to look at the departing Saskatchewan MPs, given the upheaval that's about to happen to their riding boundaries in the forthcoming redistribution. One school of thought says that since the Conservatives would have an easier time getting elected on the old (i.e., current) boundaries, they might try to provoke by-elections now, to try and give such newly-elected MPs a higher-profile incumbency value when it comes to fighting for reelection in 2015 on the new boundaries. This might be the case for Maurice Vellacott's seat, except that he himself strongly hinted that any replacement would be running in the new rural seat surrounding Saskatoon, and not any of the three city seats which are expected to see Kelly Block, Brad Trost, and Lynn Yelich on the Conservative ticket in the next campaign. Also, Vellacott is on the outs with the centre at the moment, to say the least, so it's unclear why he would accommodate such a request from them if it were not also in his own interest. As for Ray Boughen's seat of Palliser, a run now could set up the winner to have a better shot against the NDP in Regina-Lewvan, given that Tom Lukiwski lives in Regina Beach and has said he'll therefore run in the new rural Moose Jaw seat surrounding Regina. But Boughen wasn't elected until 2008, so won't be pensionable until 2014. Ed Komarnicki could step down in favour of younger talent, I suppose. But then his successor would have to spend the campaign dealing with Senator Wallin's issues, as really any Saskatchewan Conservative would right now.
Other names who then rise to the surface using this methodology are:
- Garry BREITKREUZ in Yorkton–Melville, SK (age 68) – first elected in 1993 as a Reform MP, and the long-time champion of gun-owners' rights. (Wallin's hometown of Wadena is in this riding, though, by the way.)
- Dick HARRIS in Cariboo–Prince George, BC (age 69) – also first elected in 1993 as a Reform MP, though I believe he is currently the chair of the Conservative's BC Caucus
- James LUNNEY in Nanaimo–Alberni, BC (age 62) – first elected as a Canadian Alliance MP in 2000. Note that he's sitting on the second-tightest margin of the bunch, however, at 8.1% in the last general
- Gary SCHELLENBERGER in Perth-Wellington, ON (age 70) – first elected as a Progressive Conservative in the 2003 by-election that was said to have convinced the late Senator Doug Finley that the two conservative parties had to be united to win government. I might have read that he was planning to retire, but again can't place that reference
- Gordon O'CONNOR in Carleton-Mississippi Mills, ON (age 74) – first elected as a Conservative MP in 2004, and recently removed as Chief Government Whip in the July cabinet shuffle. The riding boundaries are expected to be shuffled around to accommodate growth to the south-west of Ottawa.
- Daryl KRAMP in Prince Edward–Hastings, ON (age 66) – first elected as a Conservative MP in 2004
- Mark WARAWA in Langley, BC (age 63) – first elected as a Conservative MP in 2004, though to me it's doubtful that one of the so-called Backbench Spring dissidents would retire to accommodate any hypothetical talent hunt for new blood
- Bev SHIPLEY in Lambton–Kent–Middlesex, ON (age 66) – first elected as a Conservative MP in 2006. UPDATE: Mr. Shipley has already announced he will be running again in 2015.
- Rick NORLOCK in Northumberland–Quinte West, ON (age 65) – first elected as a Conservative MP in 2006
- Royal GALIPEAU in Ottawa–Orléans, ON (age 67) – first elected as a Conservative MP in 2006. I mentioned him above as someone I believe I heard was retiring, but if not he would fit the criteria for this exercise, except that he had the tightest margin of the group last time at 6.1% over Liberal candidate and future Liberal leadership contender David Bertschi. UPDATE: And in any event, he has told people he's going to run again, so that's that.
- Patricia DAVIDSON in Sarnia–Lambton, ON (age 67) – first elected as a Conservative MP in 2006
- Colin MAYES in Okanagan–Shuswap, BC (age 65) – first elected as a Conservative MP in 2006
Now, my thinking could be completely wrong. Perhaps if there were to be a few seats opening up it might be from younger MPs or those with current positions, who have been able to find employment outside of politics. For example, Tweed himself just stepped down as the Chair of the Agriculture Committee for this job, though he was the long-time chair of the Transport Committee. Or perhaps it might be MPs who were a part of the so-called backbench spring who want to move on now.
But given the set of assumptions I have laid out, these would be the MPs to look at, if you were looking for MPs who might be willing to leave early and retire now, in safe enough seats for the government to try and bring in new blood in time for the Conservative Party convention in October.
Have I missed anyone? Are there other announced MP retirements I've forgotten to include? Are these assumptions even reasonable, or are the rumours bunk? Leave a comment, and let me know what you think.