Brandon Liberal nomination over before it starts, while some Conservatives still fuming

September 22nd, 2013

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[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

Brandon-Souris Liberal nomination candidate Frank Godon has withdrawn from the race two weeks after he announcedBefore the Brandon-Souris contested Liberal nomination meeting could even be called, the race is all over but the victory lap, as candidate Frank Godon withdrew from the race late Friday.

Is the Wheat City really where open nominations go to die, and democracy develops some kind of weird gluten intolerance?

Not if you take everyone at face value. But let's lay out the chronology and let the reader draw his or her own conclusions.

Declared Brandon-Souris Conservative nomination candidate Chris Kennedy was not accepted as a candidate by party headquartersWhen we last checked in with this "Westman" (i.e., west Manitoba) riding, Progressive Conservative MLA Larry Maguire (Arthur-Virden) had just been acclaimed the federal Conservative candidate, after Brandon city councillor Len Isleifson withdrew from the race, and former Merv Tweed aide, Chris Kennedy, was mysteriously disqualified (in his mind) and/or did not make the cut-off to submit his completed nomination papers (according to CPC HQ).

The Kennedy case is perplexing to outsiders, since Kennedy is adamant that the deposit cheque was affixed to his nomination papers, and that the papers should have arrived in time given he couriered them Tuesday for a Wednesday deadline; while party headquarters is apparently equally adamant to the contrary. 

But the Conservative HQ version is just not sitting well in Brandon, where former Manitoba PC-turned-reluctant-Conservative M.P. Inky Mark is enjoying a bit of an "I-told-you-so", and local commentators are quite shocked at the happenings. Here, for example, is an exerpt from James O'Connor's editorial from the Brandon Sun:

Geez, I’m getting angrier as I write this.

As a former member of the provincial Tories (when I worked for them) and a veteran right-winger in the bloodsport of politics, I am ashamed of the shenanigans which have beset the Conservative nomination process in Brandon-Souris.

And I’m not alone. I hear memberships are being returned to the Tories from people who are also just seething over the injustice.

So I’m supposed to believe that Isleifson — the deputy mayor of Brandon — is lying?

Or am I supposed to believe that a man as smart as Kennedy, who quit his job and was for the past month driving hundreds of kilometers each day and had a solid and star-studded campaign team to bolster support and sell memberships for his nomination run, is lying?

And what about the statement regarding flexibility in "condensed timelines" made by Barker, the local nomination committee member. Was that a lie?

Or am I supposed to believe that the Conservative Party of Canada has lied?

And what do I make of Maguire’s handlers, several of whom are young former Westman political operatives who now work in Toronto and Ottawa?

In fact, it was one of those operatives, [...], who personally flew to Ottawa to hand-deliver a bundle of memberships Maguire’s team had sold.

Of the situation, Maguire said publicly last week: "All I can say is what I heard from my people."


This is not about Maguire.

I believe he is a pawn in this whole slimy game.

See, I told you tempers were flaring! The rest of the (very long) column is equally scorching. It's behind a firewall, but if you register with the site you can read the whole thing.

Kennedy, though young, is considered hard-working and whip-smart (and not just in the lip-service way that mavericks are always considered to be, by concern-trolls who want to mau-mau their party, but actually really hard-working and whip-smart), and many thought he had an early leg up on the race. Given the strong and widespread belief that the 2010 Conservative by-election nomination in Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette had been heavily tilted in Robert Sopuck's favour, people are doubly inclined to believe the worst in the case of Kennedy v. Conservative central campaign.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the two Manitoba Conservative acclamations last weekend, and the consequent possibility of snap by-election calls, the Liberals moved first to set their nomination meeting day in Provencher for Wednesday, September 25, then confirmed leader Justin Trudeau's attendance at it, then confirmed Trudeau's visit to Brandon the day before (on Tuesday, September 24).

At more or less this exact moment, Frank Godon announced, first privately and then publicly, that he intended to withdraw from the Liberal nomination race in Brandon, and endorse Rolf Dinsdale, a mere two weeks after getting into the race in the first place.

Godon maintains that he needed to spend more time taking care of his elderly parents, and also wanted to do what was best for the party to give them the best opportunity of winning the by-election (ie, not having to have a "byelection" to run, he tweeted, though I think he meant a "nomination"), and he emphasizes that he was not pressured to do so by anyone higher up. Equally, Rolf Dinsdale has said on Twitter that he would prefer to have an open nomination.

But we can also note that the timing of Godon's withdrawal: a) came conveniently just in time for Trudeau to meet his now-lone presumptive nominee in Brandon on his swing through Manitoba, and b) miraculously happened just before the editor of the Brandon Sun decided to endorse the Liberal candidate in the wake of the apparent Conservative shenanigans.

Again, this is probably all on the up-and-up; but on the other hand, by-elections are a marvellous environment for coincidence*.

In any event, my Manitoba sources don't believe this fracas will amount to too much in the end. The Conservatives would still be expected to win Brandon-Souris handily thanks to the rural areas, though perhaps a little less so this time; while the NDP will almost certainly come a distant second like they always do, say my (non-NDP) sources. The Liberals have not had much on the ground in the riding for some time, though you'd have to acknowledge they're doing not badly in the smoke and mirrors department so far this round.

Kennedy is now looking to a provincial run to replace Maguire, and federal Conservatives are telling O'Connor: "It’s done, get over it." O'Connor may not want to, but it's likely all inside baseball to the voters in this traditionally Conservative riding, the same way Sopuck's nomination was a non-issue at the polls one riding to the north in a by-election three years earlier.

The Greens still have no announced candidate, but are expecting announcements soon, and plan to hold a nomination meeting on Wednesday, October 9.

The NDP nomination meeting is still scheduled for Thursday, October 17, with a deadline for candidates to enter the race of Monday, October 7. To date there are two declared candidates, Cory Szczepanski and John Bouché.

Must read, to get au courant:


* If only I could take credit for that delicious phrase, but it actually comes from a terrific court scene in the movie "The Big Easy", where it's applied to the city of New Orleans by a lawyer with a colourful sense of metaphor.

16 Responses to “Brandon Liberal nomination over before it starts, while some Conservatives still fuming”

  1. Shadow says:

    The mischief making/concern trolling by some members of the media and the Liberals here is obvious.

    Rolf Dinsdale is playing up the old PC/Reform split and claiming people who used to vote PC can choose him because they’re disgusted by the way the “reformatories” operate.

    Putting aside his juvenile name calling, an internal problem within the CPC is not a reason in and of itself to vote Liberal.

    That being said its possible to hold two thoughts in your head at once. Its obvious the nomination was handled in a ham fisted and damaging/anti-democratic way and CPC members can and should expect better going forward.

    But i’ll skip the media/Liberal concern about internal process matters. I’ll file it under all the ‘Harper is a dictator’ or ‘Harper is reform, not PC’ or the ‘Harper isn’t a real small c conservative’ columns that are thinly disguised attempts to shill for the Liberals or drive down CPC voter turnout.

    PC members in Ontario know exactly what i’m talking about these days …

  2. Frank Godon says:

    To maybe clarify a bit – I have had a good two weeks to get to know Rolf Dinsdale, we set up joint meetings in Brandon-Souris riding and we were looking forward to the nomination meeting as we seemed to pull equal support at any function we attended together. But with me having to ask people to help me with taking care of my parents soon made it clear that if I did win the nomination and the election I would have to put the people of Brandon-Souris ahead of my family – I could not in good conscience do that. Also my wife arrived this week from Russia with our 3 yo and I realized I had made the right decision in pulling out. I know Rolf was a little disappointed when I told him that I was pulling out as was the committee chair since we wanted the people to know that the Liberals would not play games the way the Conservatives did. I also wanted to help in levelling the playing field for our party giving Rolf the time now to concentrate on the real issues instead of fighting a nomination election. What the Conservatives did is wrong for their nominees – the Liberal party believes in democracy and allowing the people to choose – I may have messed with that by backing out but since nominations have not closed there is still time for another person to come forward which I am sure the party would welcome. Rolf is the man for the job and will appeal to all people as the right man to represent us in Brandon-Souris

  3. Daniel Wilson says:

    Thanks for the detailed background Alice.

    @Shadow: you, of course, have the option of filing any of the information Alice has provided anywhere you like, but as a non-Liberal, non-media person who actually cares about democracy and can see that there is a link between the behaviour of party insiders in nomination meetings and the behaviour of those parties as governments, I’m hoping that this kind of unscrupulous behaviour has the negative effect on its perpetrators of driving down their turnout or moving voters to vote for other parties, even if it isn’t the party I would prefer. That hope is all the more urgent given the many different ways that our current federal government violated the rules of the 2011 general election.

  4. Shadow says:

    Daniel you will excuse me if I don’t think caring about democracy is the main motive non-Conservatives have in voicing concern about an internal process matter.

    However, if this has upset someone to the point that they simply cannot vote Conservative I would advise them to vote NDP and not Liberal.

    A party that literally appointed its previous leader deserves a good five more years in the penalty box.

  5. Nordberg says:

    Oh, it’s not just Liberals stirring the pot, there are some quite mad Conservatives too.

    As for voting Liberal or NDP… seriously a right leaning voter is going to vote Liberal, not NDP, as the Liberals usually govern center-right despite campaigning center-left. Also, Brandon-Souris was one of the few ridings that stayed Progressive-Conservative while other Western provinces went Reform/Alliance, so the riding could be considered more centrist than most.

    Couple that with the fact that the presumptive Liberal candidate is the son of a very long serving Progressive-Conservative MP, Walter Dinsdale, and the race gets harder to predict.

    The NDP riding president has herself said that the progressive parties should cooperate to get a non-CPC candidate elected, so the Liberals can use her words and the fact that they are now the most likely place for disillusioned Tories to go, to bring over some NDP votes for the win.

    The Tories most likely will still win this riding, but it will be a lot closer than it was first thought.

  6. Shadow says:

    Nordberg let’s define who these disillusioned Tories would be.

    They would be at most a couple hundred hard core fans of Len Isleifson and Chris Kennedy.

    Further they would have to have something against Larry Maguire or be so upset about the process they weren’t willing to vote CPC.

    CPC beat the Liberals by 21,000 votes in the last election.

    Trying to suggest that this internal matter will be influence the voting decision of ‘center right’ people in general is a huge stretch.

    Those voters are going to decide on issues like the gun registry, the wheat board, carbon taxes, the economy, etc.

    As far as they’re concerned the Liberals are just as or more crooked.

  7. Shadow says:

    Let’s be clear, i’m not here to argue that what happened in Brandon should be in any way acceptable to CPC members.

    They should demand to know what happened.

    But serious people should not pretend that this is going to create a race in a safe CPC seat.

    That’s a story line invented by Liberals and media allies.

    Oh and its so convenient that we’re talking about it a few months after Justin Trudeau made his pledge to hold open nominations !

    Its almost like that’s a key contrast his people wanted to make and suddenly they’ve latched on to something and are running with it.

  8. Double Nickel says:

    It never ceases to amaze me that when things go wrong for the Cons, ie shadow, they always blame someone else…”it’s the Liberals manipulating! It’s the media’s making stuff up!”. No one buys that manure anymore. The Brandon-Souris race is going to be a lot closer than people think. The lies and deceit of Harper, not to mention the deceit of the former MP, are coming home to roost.

  9. It’s nice to see new readers and commenters here, because it broadens everyone’s perspective. Just a tiny word of warning to the newbies, though: we really try to keep things nice and polite here. People from all political backgrounds read and participate in this blog, and they come because they are interested in more informed, long-form coverage of things that political junkies crave. There is almost no-one here whose opinion is likely to be changed by invective or a clever bon mot (though you could always try changing it with information and logic), and there are literally thousands of other places on the Internet to have flame wars. Let’s try and keep this a dispassionate partisan DMZ, shall we? Thanks, everyone.

  10. Malcolm says:

    Walter Dinsdale died more than 30 years ago. While there will doubtless be some people who remember him, I really don’t buy this idea that his memory will magically make the Liberals compettive in a riding where they finished fourth in the last two election and where they haven’t broken 25% in two decades.

  11. Chuck says:

    I suggest that the best way disgruntled Conservatives could make their views known, come Election Day, is to spoil their ballot. Spoiled ballots are counted and indicate that the voter was sufficiently motivated to trudge to the polling station whereas voting for the Liberal or NDP candidate or not voting would not send that message.

  12. Phil says:

    Chuck, to that I counter that the Green or independent candidates are certainly options, though if one’s available, then voting Rhino would be the way to go.

    Spoiling one’s ballot is not.

  13. Shadow says:

    The best way dispirited Conservatives could make their views known is to write a letter to the party and the eda. Google people’s names and get on the telephone with them. Go to the next meeting.

    Mention something about withholding or cancelling a donation, that’ll make some ears perk up.

    Voting Rhino or spoiling your ballot might carry a symbolic value for you but its not going to get anyone’s attention.

  14. Frank Godon says:

    Interesting take from a poster on forum –
    Ayb Rand

    It is now evident to all that the local Conservative Nomination has been manipulated to provide a free pass for Maguire. Now is the time to discuss the story behind the story so, gather round & I’ll fill you in.
    The Conservative party calls for nominations for a Brandon -Souris candidate. A Toronto Bay St. Lawyer looking for a safe seat to contest so he (aided by a Parliamentary staffer in Ottawa) make some calls to known conservatives in the constituency to gauge what support the Bay St. Lawyer might have. To their dismay they discover that many party members have already pledged their support to Kennedy. At age 29 Kennedy, if elected, could hold the office for 10-15 years which would end the Bay St. Lawyer’s quest to represent Brandon-Souris. Undeterred the Bay St. Lawyer flies off to London leaving his co-conspirator in Ottawa to come up
    with a new plan.
    On return they go to work on Plan B. & now it gets interesting. Realizing that whoever wins the nomination, & likely the by-election, will have to face a general election in 2 years. Because the new constituency boundaries will be set before the next election, the Conservative party has ruled that there will be open nominations prior to the 2015 election.
    So our Bay St. Lawyer & his government paid co-conspirator decide that they need to find somebody to hold the seat for 2 years while the Bay St. Lawyer establishes some credibility in Brandon Souris as he prepares for the nomination in 2015.
    Now to find the place holder. After numerous calls to party members (including several MLAs) & some ego stroking, they find someone to take the bait. Step forward Larry Maguire! Now Larry makes some calls & finds many party members tell him to take a pass. But the 2 conspirators have set the hook & he’s in. What a fit, a pensioner who has never been in government, who will drift into obscurity on the back bench reserved for him in Parliament.
    But there is a problem, that young Kennedy guy is lighting a firestorm across the constituency, people are buying memberships in droves to support him. Young people who never got involved in party politics are excited & signing up more members daily. Things look bleak for the Bay St. lawyer & his place holder.
    So, they fly out the government paid Parliamentary staffer to show these country folk in Brandon-Souris how to “manage” a nomination. He’s busy phoning & flying & flaunting his electoral skills but it still is looking pretty grim for the Bay St. Lawyer & his stand in. But do not fear, the Parliamentary staffer has good connections in the conservative party hierarchy & an old friend from that department has recently moved to the PMO.
    Well we know what happens next. Kennedy is told his cheque was not included with his nomination material but that story didn’t seem to have much traction. So then they decide that his nomination material did not arrive before the deadline. But that begs the question, if the package did not arrive on time, why was it opened at all?
    Then we have the rushed Friday night meeting to confirm Larry as the candidate. Was this forced on the local Brandon Souris Nomination Committee? Why were they not allowed to discuss the situation with Kennedy?
    So how does this proceed from here?
    Well we have the place holder for the Bay St. Lawyer as a candidate, but can he win the election? In 1993 the same candidate had the dubious honour of losing this constituency after more than 50 years of Tory representation.
    Assuming he wins, what happens in 2015? My prediction is he will hum & haw about seeking the nomination until the deadline, at which time he will decide to retire. The Bay St. lawyer will be the only candidate ready to step in on short notice & will win by acclamation. See we’re setting a new trend here. In about 2 months the retired place holder will receive a real nice government appointment, maybe a directorship.
    What could be more interesting is that in 2 years Larry decides not to step aside. Then the Bay St. Lawyer & his parliamentary henchman will have to launch a campaign to take out the place holder they created.
    A surprise winner in all this is Brian Pallister. He wants to go into the next election with a fresh group of young, enthusiastic candidates. Now he does’t have to fire anyone & can begin the search for new talent today.
    Stay tuned, this roller coaster ride has just begun!

  15. Chuck says:

    I still feel that a spoiled ballot would draw the attention of the CPC but all this may be academic now that it appears that Kennedy appears to have caused his own misfortune.

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