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By-election slates, Bourassa bombshells, and polls out Monday

The three major parties will have full slates in place by Sunday, with the Greens adding a fourth candidate and losing their first one over the last week, as four federal by-elections are set to be called in the wake of the Speech from the Throne.

With Conservative-appointed Senators Duffy, Wallin and Brazeau now on suspension from the Senate, a Canada-Europe trade agreement (CETA) initialed, and all four government party candidates in place, the Prime Minister may may not have a better time to pull the plug than now.

A Sunday call this week would place Election Day on or after Monday, November 25 – similar timing to previous fall by-elections called on this government's watch, and consistent with what Conservative candidates in Manitoba were told to expect several months ago.

The only wrinkle in the case of Bourassa is the sound of drumbeats from the provincial capital, where speculation is growing rather than receding about an impending Québec provincial general election call on November 6 for December 9.

This begs the question of whether the PM might call the one Quebec riding on a different timetable from the other three ridings. He can call Bourassa as late as November 30 for an Election Day on or after Monday, January 6. But pushing the Manitoba by-election dates much past the end of November increases the difficulty of conducting winter balloting in prairie ridings, an extra impediment the Conservatives will hardly want introduced into the already-complicated situation for them in Brandon-Souris.

Since our last update, the Liberals and Greens have both completed nomination contests in Brandon-Souris, the Bloc Québécois has announced a candidate for Bourassa, the Pirate Party leader has stepped away from a run in Toronto Centre, the Greens have announced a candidate for Provencher, and lost their Deputy Leader and appointed candidate in Bourassa – though perhaps only temporarily. The NDP meanwhile is set to officially pick its fourth and final candidate in Provencher Sunday.

Also Forum Research is set to release polling results from all four ridings on Monday, though they may have been in the field in the middle of the brouhaha in Bourassa, and also may not have realized who the Bloc candidate was in time to test him by name.

We'll focus our latest by-election news round-up on the Bourassa bombshell of the past week.
 
Bourassa, QC
 
On Wednesday night, Georges Laraque confirmed to the Canadian Press a report from Quebec sports network RDS that Longueuil police had charged him with five counts of fraud earlier in the day. The Green Party deputy leader and designated Bourassa by-election candidate is to be arraigned Tuesday, November 19 on the charges, which were recommended by the Quebec director of criminal and penal prosecutions following a 16-month investigation, but were laid by summons (meaning that Laraque was not arrested).
 
While political reporters have covered Laraque's reaction and the political fallout fully, the best coverage of the charges themselves is found in the RDS story on the sports network's website. Laraque told RDS that he had refused to meet with the Longueuil investigators during their inquiries, but that all the evidence vindicating him would come out at trial, and that's why he was happy to talk to as many journalists as possible.

George Laraque est soupçonné d’avoir fraudé Marc Filion, l’un des deux associés avec qui il a fondé, en 2009, la compagnie Super Glide Canada qui distribuait des patinoires synthétiques construites en Floride, d’une somme de 50 000 $.

Selon des informations dignes de foi obtenues dans le cadre de l’enquête, Laraque aurait détourné cette somme des coffres de la compagnie pour la remettre à des membres de sa famille. L’enquête policière aurait déterminé que les deux personnes à qui l’ancien joueur prétendait avoir remis les 50 000 $ n’ont jamais vu cet argent.

Les deux autres accusations sont reliées à la vente, en 2010, de deux patinoires à un homme d’affaires d’Ottawa. Ayant négocié directement avec l’accusé, la victime a expliqué aux enquêteurs avoir acheté une première patinoire pour une somme de 57 000 $. Il en a acquis une deuxième que l’accusé lui aurait vendue pour la somme de 15 000 $ pourvu que la transaction soit effectuée en argent comptant. Un reçu signé de la main de Laraque confirmerait d’ailleurs cette deuxième transaction.

Croyant être propriétaires de deux patinoires qu’il avait payées, l’homme d’affaires de la capitale fédérale a réalisé qu’il s’était fait flouer lorsque le partenaire de Laraque – Marc Filion – l’a contacté en 2011 pour reprendre possession des deux surfaces synthétiques. Selon les prétentions des victimes, Laraque aurait vendu les patinoires à l’homme d’affaires alors qu’il avait prétendu à son partenaire les avoir laissées en consignes, en guise d’outil promotionnel.

« Tout ça est faux et je vais le prouver. Cet argent était à moi », a plusieurs fois répété Laraque lors de sa conversation avec le RDS.ca.

« Je suis accusé parce que ce n’est pas à la couronne, mais à un juge de déterminer de ma culpabilité ou de mon innocence. L’enquête a permis aux policiers d’apprendre certains faits qui sont très mal interprétés. Je comprends qu’ils m’accusent, car ils n’ont qu’une version des faits. Une fois ma version et celles de mes témoins entendues, les accusations tomberont rapidement. Je te l’assure. En fait, ils réaliseront tous qu’ils n’auraient jamais dû les déposer. J’espère que la police déposera ensuite de vraies accusations de fraude contre Marc Filion que je poursuivrai également au civil pour atteinte à ma réputation. Si j’étais coupable de quelque chose, je me cacherais ce soir. Mais je veux parler au plus grand nombre de journalistes possible, car je veux que les gens sachent que c’est de la foutaise ces accusations. »

Longueuil police raided Laraque's home in Brossard back in January, 2013 following a complaint they received in April 2012. Ironically, that complaint was either laid by Laraque himself, or came in reaction to the complaint he says he filed with police at the time about the activities of his then-business partner Marc Filion. Meanwhile, their US supplier of synthetic ice rinks Perry Boskus also provided details to the police in Canada and the US about transactions he called "unethical business practices" in a July 2012 news release, though he retracted the accusations of fraud in an interview with QMI's Giuseppe Valiante the next day, calling them "premature".

In his first interviews with RDS and CP this past week, Laraque insisted that he could carry on with his campaign in Bourassa, although he did concede that canvassing would be harder, as he would "have to spend a lot of time offering explanations, to reassure people. I'll have to explain that this isn't the Charbonneau commission and this has nothing to do with the Mafia".

By Thursday, however, a little more common sense was brought to bear, with Laraque agreeing to step down "temporarily" as both deputy leader and nominated candidate in Bourassa, in a release issued by party headquarters.

A big part of the Green Party's pitch to voters is that they "do politics differently", and that is certainly the case here, because leader Elizabeth May's management of this whole affair is a real head-scratcher to most experienced political hands in the other parties. The party was set on running Laraque in Bourassa last spring, when they conducted exploratory opinion research to see how his candidacy would play in the riding. But this was a year after fraud accusations were traded in public and competing civil suits were filed, and three months after a search warrant was executed on Laraque's home, clearly implying a criminal investigation.

Since then, in addition to the cost of the poll, the party has invested in branding and design, signage, a web presence for Laraque in both english and french, at least three months of rental on a ground floor office in a low-rise condo building in the riding, phones, office equipment and furniture, staff costs for at least two paid organizers, and printing literature. For a small party facing the imminent sunset of the public subsidy, and badly wanting another success in their beach-head strategy before the next election after nearly tasting victory in Victoria, this was not a small investment of time and resources to make.

But it was made in such risky circumstances, either without proper vetting of the candidate, or a proper risk assessment of the situation. Now none of those expenses will be rebate-able, if Laraque's name does not appear on a ballot, whereas the value of at least those expenditures used later in the writ period would have been rebated at 60% assuming at least a 10-point vote-share.

Moreover, May herself has completely wrapped her arms around Laraque politically, saying she has "complete confidence in his innocence" and even saying the party would welcome him back should the charges be dropped and/or resolved before the by-election is held. May is also holding the second deputy leader position open for Laraque to return once he's exonerated. She does not seem to have considered the risk she's just exposed her party to, in the event that he is not. And then she flew from BC to Montreal to appear by his side at a news conference, dragging the story out for yet a third day.

CTV Montréal has posted the raw footage of nearly their full news conference Friday morning, which is worth watching in its entirety for May's completely different take on how a leader should handle cases such as these. She said she hopes Laraque can come back as a by-election candidate, but is leaving the decision about whether to run another Green in Bourassa completely up to the riding association. She invoked her standing as a lawyer to say they had considered the matter to be a "private dispute between two business partners", and claimed to have been "shocked" that criminal charges were laid, defending the decision to have him announce a run in July as a "great decision", but saying the timing was just "unfortunate". Laraque for his part said that it never occurred to him that the search warrant on his home could lead to criminal charges, and if he had thought it would, he never would have run.

[Click on screencap to open link with the raw video]

Green Party leader Elizabeth May appears at a news conference with former Bourassa candidate Georges Laraque, October 18, 2013

Anyways, to a lot of people "new politics" is looking like "naive politics" right now. Of course, none of the charges have been proven, and Laraque will have his day in court. But the Green Party is only going to have so many openings to perform well in a by-election between now and 2015. They threw everything into Bourassa for this round, and lost the whole big green gamble, tying their party's reputation and leader's judgement to an outcome they have absolutely no control over, which is why everyone else is left shaking their heads.

Almost unnoticed between all the machinations of the Montreal municipal elections and the pre-election manuevres in Québec City, the Bloc Québécois also announced their candidate for the Bourassa by-election: Hochelaga resident and former chair of the Montréal school board (commission de scolaire), Daniel Duranleau. Duranleau would have been appointed by leader Daniel Paillé as the party has never had a registered electoral district association in the seat, but party sources told le Journal de Montréal that they had "high hopes" for his candidacy. He stepped down from the school board in June. Duranleau is now the only white francophone candidate in the race, though in the wake of Laraque's resignation, NDP candidate Stéphane Moraille asserted the riding was now a "two-way race". On the day his candidacy was announced, Duranleau gave an interview to CHOI RadioX, where the interviewers felt he skated around the issue of the charter and Maria Mourani's expulsion a bit too much. The party has already set up a campaign office in the premises of the former Little Venice restaurant.

This would appear to complete the slate of candidates for the major parties in the riding, subject to any further decisions taken by the Green Party and their riding association here.

Toronto Centre, ON

Pirate Party leader Travis McCrea announced last week that he would be stepping back from the by-election campaign and taking a leave from his role in the party in order to wrestle down some personal demons. He's written a powerful essay on the importance of facing depression head on, and we commend his courage and wish him well in his healing.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May poses with Toronto Centre NDP candidate Linda McQuaig, at the Toronto book launch of Susan Delacourt's "Shopping for Votes", October 10, 2013I made a tour of the Liberal and NDP campaign offices last week, and can report that both campaigns are revving up, have their first piece of literature ready, and have foot canvassing well underway. Later that night, Green Party leader Elizabeth May posed for photographs with the NDP's Linda McQuaig at Susan Delacourt's book launch, before heading off to an event on her "Save Democracy from Politics" tour with her own candidate John Deverell. I had hoped to meet Deverell at the launch, but missed out in the crush (Susan is one popular lady at U of T, and the room was pretty crowded). I'll have to catch up with Deverell and Conservative candidate Geoff Pollock on a future visit. Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland and her campaign have been getting plenty of attention from Justin Trudeau, and indeed the popular Liberal leader has been spending most of his time campaigning in the four by-election ridings before the House returned for the Throne Speech, while Pollock had cabinet minister Kellie Leitch in to co-host a fundraising breakfast the day I was in town. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair is expected back in Toronto soon as well.

A little bird told me that Forum Research was polling in the riding on Thursday of this past week, a fact which Forum has now confirmed, saying the results will come out on Monday.

Provencher, MB

The Greens confirmed that their previous candidate, Janine Gibson, will be running for the once again. Gibson, who hails from the Pansy area, will be running to raise the importance of green issues, and to keep politics out of democracy, she told SteinbachOnline.com.

The NDP will formalize the nomination of their candidate, constituency assistant and former Parliamentary Page Natalie Courcelles Beaudry, at a meeting Sunday.

This would appear to complete the riding's slate of candidates, though I'm not ruling out the possibility of a run by the Christian Heritage Party.

Brandon-Souris, MB

Rolf Dinsdale appeared to recover his mojo sufficiently to win the Liberal nomination over very recent recruit to the party, Killarney-Turtle Mountain mayor Rick Pauls, who nevertheless pledged to support him once the vote was over. The meeting numbered some 200 attendees, with 156 eligible to vote, the Brandon Sun's Jillian Austin reported (stories no longer in the paper's online 7-day archive).

Meanwhile, Boissevain's Dave Neufeld won the "overwhelming majority" of the 25 eligible voters at the Green nomination meeting on the same evening, defeating Lynwood Walker, while a third candidate Layne Tepleski withdrew from the race because of a conflict with his job at the CFIA.

Again, these two nominations complete the slate of candidates for the riding, pending the possible entry of a Christian Heritage candidate.

The Liberals are high on their chances in this riding, with Justin Trudeau making a special point of mentioning communities in both Brandon-Souris and Provencher in his lead-off question in the first Question Period of the Commons session. However, I think the Liberals may have made a strategic error in recruiting Pauls to run for their own nomination, rather than leaving him to run as an Independent candidate. A few columnists have even floated pursuing this idea again, as a way to split the Conservative vote; but it hardly seems genuine to do so now, after running for the Liberal nomination and pledging support for the winner. It seems to me that those kinds of gimmicks often backfire.

Meanwhile, there are numerous reports of heavy Conservative phone-banking into the riding over the past two weeks, asking voters if they would support Conservative candidate Larry Maguire in a "hypothetical by-election". Depending on the results of those calls, we will be into a full-fledged by-election campaign sooner or later.

——————-

And that's all I've got for now on the by-elections. More coverage as warranted, or when they're finally called.

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16 Responses to “By-election slates, Bourassa bombshells, and polls out Monday”

  1. Arlene Wortsman says:

    Hi Alice
    just a big thank you! You are my primary go -to -person for all things political. Your comments and observations are wonderful.
    Arlene

  2. Pulsetaker says:

    Will we ever know how much money the Green Party spent on Laraque’s now defunct campaign – since he dropped out and it was not during a campaign? I wonder if May may have literally almost bankrupted her party on this wild goose chase.

  3. The Green Party is in a tough spot. The grassroots of the party are disappearing fast, with EDA’s being de-certified every quarter, and no organisers tasked to build some kind of local organisations. They cannot pick where by-elections are going to happen, and yet they badly need to do well in at least 1 riding for every by-election called to maintian the illusion of stable electoral significance. They simply have to maintain their bargaining position in the event that someone, anyone agrees to some form of electoral co-operation with them come 2015. Bourassa, and Georges are far from the ideal target riding/candidate, but they maybe stand a better chance than in Provencher for example, and Toronto Centre no longer has an ‘A-Team’ of Green campaigners to fill that role. But I can tell you that the GPC is pretty well inert in Quebec, whether Montreal or elsewhere. They abandoned every effort in La Belle Province 3 or 4 years ago. I think that what the GPC really really needs from these by-elections is a respecatble second place finish somewhere, and all the column inches that will deliver. If they fail to impress, then Elizabeth May is just not likely to be taken seriously when next she calls for electoral co-operation. Either they are an electoral force that should be reckoned with, or they have had their day in the sun, and can be safely ignored. Poor Georges though. He is clearly in over his head. He has always seemed to be dabbling in 10 causes at once, and just slotted a few hours per week into Green Party doings. He became Deputy Leader because he met some fellow Vegans very closely associated with Elizabeth May, just as Elizabeth was looking at a Francophone leadership challenger. So basically he became deputy leader because he was Vegan, had a media profile in Quebec, and said yes on very short notice, lol. His appointment meant nothing, as he had zero political network to support anybody at anything, and is definitely NOT a political organiser in any way shape or form. Still there 3 years later though, so it is all his choices.

  4. Craig says:

    I agree that Elizabeth May has taken a risk by going all out in her support of Laraque. Obviously when a member of a party is charged, it’s a difficult decision for a leader to know whether to stand by the candidate or throw the person under the bus.

    Harper recently threw Dean Del Mastro out of the party when he was charged by Elections Canada. Perhaps May didn’t have to go that far, but she could be taking a risk in being too supportive of Laraque without knowing the outcome of the trial.

    As mentioned in the posting above, May is a lawyer. Perhaps she has heard in detail from Laraque what the charges are and thinks they will not hold up in court. But whether this is her legal opinion or her personal hope for Laraque’s innocence is hard to separate.

  5. Paul says:

    Alice, I had to write and say how much I enjoy reading your website. Your objective and thorough analysis of the political pulse in Canada is a welcome read in an era of biased reporting. I see no comparison to your approachable writing on Canadian politics anywhere in Canada which is essential in any democracy.

  6. Craig, did Del Mastro get kicked out of the *party*, or just asked to leave the Conservative caucus on the Hill. I know it can be a subtle difference, but it is significant in terms of his being able to run for the nomination again, for example. The former implies no way back home, while the latter offers a glimmer of hope.

    Paul: Aw …. thanks … :-)

  7. Nicholas Roach says:

    Georges Laraque and the Green party of Canada have no formal ties with the Green party of Quebec. Although some members hold dual membership in both parties. Georges Laraque is not a member of the Green party of Quebec.

  8. Adam Sobolak says:

    Despite the Laraque situation, I wouldn’t even paint such a necessarily terminally gloomy picture for the Greens–and the Calgary Centre and Victoria by-elections are reasons why. (Though I’d stop short of deeming them future benchmarks, too.)

  9. Ken Summers says:

    Del Mastro did not resign from or get booted out of the *party*. So theoretically he could come back as the CPC candidate in 2015. [Or is it maybe 2014 now? -:)

    But I would bet a lot that Del Mastro is just posturing, and contrary to what he and his lawyer SAY, making sure the case does not come to conclusion until after the election.

    Then with himself just a former MP formally in good standing, and therefore cannot be removed from an office he does not hold, he will quietly plead guilty to some charges.

  10. Frank Godon says:

    Today Elections Canada approved my application to run in the Brandon-Souris by-election as a candidate for the Libertarian Party of Canada. Before anyone starts jumping on the “What you’re a Liberal and running for the Liberal party just a month ago??” bandwagon, allow me to explain – At the time I was a Libertarian running for a spot on a national party’s nomination, in this case the Liberal party, and yes this is done very frequently since most Libertarians utilize other parties to further their message. Ron Paul in the US is probably the best example. But tossing the hat into this by-election is more than just bringing the Libertarian message to people, its also bringing the message of freedom – freedom for the people of Brandon-Souris to choose who they want to run as their party representative. Libertarians are more Conservative than the current Conservative’s in power and most will say (as I did when I sought the Liberal nomination) that on the current perceived political spectrum they are centre/right. So with that said I have chosen to be the protest vote for Brandon-Souris to send the message to the Conservative government and PM Harper that we in Brandon-Souris can not be dictated to and told who should be our nominee. Will I win – thats to be seen – but I will run on the promise that when the next general election is called I will either step down and allow democracy to prevail in choosing a candidate for the centre/right – right leaning people of Brandon-Souris or participate in the nomination for that right to serve Brandon-Souris again. If someone else feels that they can serve the people better they will be welcome to run against me in a nomination meeting. So I am asking for support from all those who felt that they were cheated and are looking for a candidate to support as a protest against the current Conservative government. Anyone is free to contact me via email fgodon@yahoo.com – phone 204 305 0394 (if I do not answer leave a voice message I will return it) or on my Facebook page via message -https://www.facebook.com/pages/Frank-Godon/683202061709722 – I tow no party line and if you understand the Libertarian party I will not be roped in to “follow” the way of the party – I will follow my constituents – I will not be a mouth piece for the Prime Ministers office (as others have been – or will be if elected) I will be the voice of the people of Brandon-Souris – a REPRESENTATIVE of the people for the people. LIBERTARIAN PARTY OF CANADA – LESS GOVERNMENT – LOWER TAXES – MORE FREEDOM

  11. Shadow says:

    A former Liberal now running to the right of the CPC candidate in Brandon-Souris ?

    I imagine people will ask whether this is a transparently cynical attempt to sap votes from the Conservative candidate in the hopes of boosting the Liberal candidate.

    John Ivison’s piece today about Harper joining the senate abolitionist crowd is must read.

    I don’t see any other way forward at this point.

  12. Frank Godon says:

    Shadow – I am not a “former Liberal” I am a Libertarian who had first placed his name to run for the Liberal nomination – a main stream political party – many Libertarians do this the most famous of all Ron Paul in the US who ran on the Republican ticket. In my defence I did state when I allowed my name to stand for the Liberal nomination that I was centre/right in all my interviews a place on the perceived political scale that you would find most Libertarians. My reasons for wanting to enter the by-election at first was to gain experience since I knew that Chris Kennedy was seeking the Conservatives and would most likely win it, I approach the next closest major party to my beliefs, which was also a fourth place party in the last general election – I never thought it would ever gain the popularity it now has in this by-election. I dropped out for valid reasons but circumstances have changed in the past 2 weeks and this has allowed me to re enter this time under the banner of the political ideas I have followed since 2008

  13. David Young says:

    Nominations are supposed to close two weeks prior to the voting date, if I am not mistaken.

    But as that date is a holiday (Remembrance Day), does that affect when nominations close?

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