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.
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]
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.
I 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.
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.
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.