Visit our sponsor: PACSCanada.com    Visit our sponsor: Your Ad Here    Visit our sponsor: Beaus.ca
Visit our sponsor: Your Ad Here

Spring forward to by-election season (it will come eventually)

March 13th, 2014 | 7 Comments

Wednesday's resignation from the House of Commons by Trinity-Spadina, ON NDP M.P. Olivia Chow to launch her mayoralty bid in Toronto filled in one of the last unknowns in the spring electoral calendar.

The first wheel was set into motion last November with the resignation of Macleod, AB Conservative M.P. Ted Menzies, followed by the surprise resignation of Fort McMurray-Athabaska, AB Conservative Brian Jean in January.

While Chow's resignation to run for mayor could hardly be called surprising, the exact timing had long been a source of speculation in Ottawa and elsewhere. But with all her serious known competitors in the race already, and with a Toronto mayoralty debate scheduled for the evening of March 27th at Ryerson University, Chow has decided to make it official.

Here's a rundown of the relevant dates:

  • Ted Menzies had said before the summer 2013 cabinet shuffle that he wouldn't be running again in 2015, but then announced on Wednesday November 6 that he planned to resign from the Commons immediately. He planned to resign on the Friday (November 8, the last sitting day before the Remembrance Day Commons break week), but the resignation was dated for Saturday November 9 and so notice of the vacancy was not sent by the Speaker's Office to the Chief Electoral Officer until Monday November 18 when the House got back.
  • Brian Jean announced his retirement on Friday, January 10, 2014, it took effect a week later on January 17, but again, the Chief Electoral Officer was not notified of the vacancy until January 30 — a full four days after the House returned from its Christmas break on Monday January 27.
  • Olivia Chow resigned from the House of Commons on Wednesday, March 12. As of late Wednesday evening, the resignation has not been posted onto the Parliamentary website. Although this might sound picayune, the difference between the CEO being notified on Wednesday vs Thursday is an extra week's delay in a possible E-Day. Should the Speaker not get around to notifying the CEO until the House gets back in two weeks, that's a further 2 weeks' delay still.

[As a sidebar here, I have to ask why all the daudling lately in the Speaker's Office about relaying resignations to the Chief Electoral Officer. The most I've seen in the past is a week or so's delay after an MP died, but never this long when one was resigning. Section 28(1) of the Parliament of Canada Act says that the Speaker is to advise the Chief Electoral Officer "without delay", but I guess timeliness is in the eye of the beholder. With all our modern technology nowadays, whether the Speaker is in Ottawa or not should not really make a difference here.]

2014 By-elections – Significant Dates (T-S early notification scenario)

    Macleod, AB Fort McMurray-Athabaska, AB Trinity-Spadina, ON
(A) Date of the vacancy: Sat Nov 9, 2013 Fri Jan 17, 2014 Wed Mar 12, 2014
(B) Date the Chief Electoral Officer was notified of the vacancy: Thu Nov 28, 2013 Thu Jan 30, 2014 Wed Mar 12, 2014
(C) First day the by-election could be called (11 days after (B)): Mon Dec 9, 2013 Mon Feb 10, 2014 Sun Mar 23, 2014
(D) 36 days after (C): Tue Jan 14, 2014 Tue Mar 18, 2014 Mon Apr 28, 2014
(E) Earliest date the by-election could be held (First Monday on or after (D)): Mon Jan 20, 2014 Mon Mar 24, 2014 Mon Apr 28, 2014
(F) Last the by-election can be called (180 days after (B)): Tue May 27, 2014 Tue Jul 29, 2014 Mon Sep 8, 2014
(G) 36 days after (F): Wed Jul 2, 2014 Wed Sep 3, 2014 Tue Oct 14, 2014
(H) Latest date the by-election could be held (First Monday on or after (G)): on or after Mon Jul 7, 2014 on or after Mon Sep 8, 2014 on or after Mon Oct 20, 2014

Trinity-Spadina late (more likely?) notification scenario

    Trinity-Spadina, ON
(A) Date of the vacancy: Wed Mar 12, 2014
(B) Date the Chief Electoral Officer was notified of the vacancy: Mon Mar 24, 2014
(C) First day the by-election could be called (11 days after (B)): Fri Apr 4, 2014
(D) 36 days after (C): Sat May 10, 2014
(E) Earliest date the by-election could be held (First Monday on or after (D)): Mon May 12, 2014
(F) Last the by-election can be called (180 days after (B)): Sat Sep 20, 2014
(G) 36 days after (F): Sun Oct 26, 2014
(H) Latest date the by-election could be held (First Monday on or after (G)): on or after Mon Oct 27, 2014

Assuming the PM would call all three by-elections together, the available E-Days meeting the criteria for all 3 vacant seats are Monday May 12, Tuesday May 20 (the day after Victoria Day), Monday May 26, or Monday June 2, 9, or 16. I doubt by-elections would be called for June 23 or 30, or even July 7, so that leaves six likely by-election dates. And if the new MPs were to be sworn in and presented to the Commons before it adjourned for the summer, it would have to be one of the earlier dates rather than the later ones (though they could still be sworn in after the House adjourned).

Chantal Hébert rightly notes that these by-elections will be called in the wake of the Québec provincial election, where voters go to the polls on Monday, April 7, and which might be expected to set at least some of the agenda for federal voters to consider in their by-election ballot questions.

But in a large media market the size of Toronto, which will already be dominated by the early mayoralty air-war and pre-election positioning on the Ontario provincial scene, a federal by-election in Trinity-Spadina could easily be lost in all the cacaphony. For all the sound and fury we political junkies observed during the Toronto Centre by-election last fall, it's worth remembering that the average voter in that riding was probably barely aware it was happening at all.

On the Ontario provincial side of things, the provincial Liberal convention is slated for the weekend of March 21-23 in Toronto, with a budget to follow anytime in the four to six weeks after that. A Robert Benzie story from January in the Toronto Star suggested the provincial Liberals were looking at an election date of Thursday, May 29, which under Ontario legislation would have to be called on Wednesday, April 30, the week the legislature returned from its Easter break week. The legislature also passed a series of interim supply motions on February 25, covering the period from April 1 to Sept 30, 2014, so should a budget be delayed or fail to pass, at least the government could continue to function. This seems to imply a later rather than earlier budget, but there's probably also a lot of minority government head-fakery going around too.

That leaves us with a strategic calendar looking something like this:

  • Mon Mar 17 – Ontario legislature returns from one-week March break
  • Fri-Sun Mar 21-23 – Ontario provincial Liberal convention in Toronto
  • Sun Mar 23 – First day Trinity-Spadina federal by-election could be called ("early notification scenario") for an E-Day on or after Mon Apr 28
  • Mon Mar 24 – House of Commons resumes sitting after two-week March break
  • Thurs Mar 27 – First Toronto mayoralty debate potentially including Ford, Soknacki, Tory, Stintz and Chow
     
  • Fri Apr 4 – First day Trinity-Spadina federal by-election could be called ("late notification scenario") for an E-Day on or after Mon May 12
  • Mon Apr 7 – Québec provincial election
  • Tue Apr 8 – all hell breaks loose (kidding! … though maybe not, eh …)
  • Fri Apr 11 – Commons adjourns for two-week Easter break
  • Thu Apr 17 – Ontario legislature adjourns for one-week Easter break
  • Fri Apr 18 – Easter Friday
  • Mon Apr 21 – Easter Monday
  • Tue Apr 22 – (assume a new Québec government is sworn in this week or next)
  • Mon Apr 28 – House of Commons and Ontario legislature return from Easter break; earliest possible federal by-election date assuming all 3 ridings called at once, and CEO was notified by Speaker of Chow vacancy on the day it happened
  • Wed Apr 30 – the day an Ontario provincial writ would have to be issued for a Thurs May 29 general election
     
  • Mon May 5 – possible federal by-election E-Day, if CEO notified by Speaker of Chow vacancy the day after it happened
  • Sun May 11 – last day to call the Macleod federal by-election for an E-Day of June 16
  • Mon May 12 – possible federal by-election E-Day, if CEO notified by Speaker of Chow vacancy when the Commons returns on March 24
  • Fri May 16 – Commons adjourns for one-week Victoria Day weekend break
  • Sun May 18 – last day to call the Macleod federal by-election for an E-Day of June 23
  • Mon May 19 – Victoria Day
  • Tues May 20 – possible federal by-election E-Day
  • Mon May 26 – Commons returns from one-week break; possible federal by-election E-Day
  • Tue May 27 – Last day to call the Macleod federal by-election, period. (for an E-Day of July 7)
  • Thurs May 29 – Ontario Liberals preferred election day, according to January Robert Benzie story
     
  • Mon June 2 – possible federal by-election E-Day
  • Fri June 6 – last regular sitting day of the House of Commons for the spring
  • Mon June 9 – possible federal by-election E-Day; extended sitting days of the House of Commons begin for a two-week period
  • Fri June 20 – last scheduled day of extended sitting days on the Commons calendar
  • Tues June 24 – the first Fête Nationale after the Québec election.

Not to ignore Alberta readers, but all these eastern considerations only apply to the Alberta federal by-elections if all three vacant seats are to be called at once.

If instead the Prime Minister decides not to spring forward with all three now, but to fall back to an autumn call in downtown Toronto, he could have the Alberta by-elections launched as soon as his party's candidates are in place. More on the by-election candidates and nomination races next time.

Math-challenged Transposition of Population not up to usual Elections Canada standards

February 4th, 2014 | 14 Comments

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

It's probably the last thing Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand needs to hear right now, but the Transposition of Population his office released last Friday as part of the 2013 Redistribution does not add up.

Election data geeks – officially known as "psephologists" – have been exchanging emails, comparing notes on the reliability of the data, and wondering if it can be fixed.

But approaches to Elections Canada so far have proved fruitless.

At issue is the population being transferred from each of the old ridings to each of the new ridings. The population counts add up by new riding, but not by old riding. So for example 102.9% of the old riding of Avalon's population is allocated to new ridings, while only 98.1% of the old Brampton-Springdale's population is accounted for.

The errors are all within plus or minus 5%, but previous transpositions have always added up in both directions. This is not just academic – political parties need to have those percentages accurately, so that EDAs from out-going ridings can transfer their assets in the proper proportions to the new ridings. But, here, the outgoing Avalon EDAs would have to come up with extra money or extra surplus sign stakes, while the outgoing Brampton-Springdale EDAs would have money left over. The ratios are also used by psephologists and political scientists more generally to project results backwards and forwards.

The agency, in conjunction with a contact at Statistics Canada, decided to reproject population counts from old ridings to new ridings using ratios derived from the redistribution of elector counts from old to new. The first problem is: they used the wrong ratios. Viz: if a part of your old riding makes up 50% of my new riding, it does not necessarily follow that I am inheriting 50% of your old riding. I might be getting 75% of your riding, and 25% of another one, even though both chunks represent 50% each of my new one.

However, even using the correct ratios, the old riding populations add up but now the new ones are off. Meaning that populations don't redistribute between ridings in the same proportions as electors, and so the entire assumption behind this Transposition is not exactly iron-clad. This makes sense when we consider that different ridings have differing numbers of non-elector residents (i.e., people who are not yet citizens, or have not yet attained voting age).

By contrast, an exercise that calculated riding population transfers based on summing the population of the 2011 Census Dissemination Blocks contained within them – which must have been the previous methodology used by Elections Canada – was far more precise. I do not know why it wasn't used this time, but I fear budget cuts and/or the reduced timelines resulting from last year's amendments to the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act may be the culprit. The populations counts generated in earlier transpositions were always accurate in both directions, but now they are merely estimates. It is as though the Transposition of Population has gone the way of the long-form census.

[click image to open full-sized PDF version]

Demonstration of the Distortions Introduced when Basing Population Transpositions on a Transposition of Elector Counts, 2003 to 2013 Representation Orders

I give a demonstration of the errors using Brampton ridings here, but for those who are interested in greater detail, I've also reproduced the exchange I had with Elections Canada to try and point out the problem and/or get clarification on why the numbers were off.

Here's what I wrote to my contact at the agency's media relations service:

——————————

For example:

–> Look at the old Avalon (2003-10001), which is split up between:
* the new Avalon (2013-10001)
* the new Bonavista-Burin-Trinity (2013-10002), and
* the new St. John's South-Mount Pearl (2013-10007) ridings

and therefore those 3 riding files.

The old population of Avalon is correctly listed in all three files as 78,908, but gets allocated between the 3 new ridings as follows:

* 61,048 to 2013-10001
* 17,123 to 2013-10002
* 2,521 to 2013-10007

This adds up to 80,692 – a difference in allocated population of 1,784 (or 2.9%) !!! I cannot believe that such a magnitude of over-allocation is a mere rounding error.

There are numerous other examples of either over- or under-allocations of the old riding's population to its descendant ridings:

* old Brossard-La Prairie (2003-24011) is under-allocated by 2,432
* old Hull-Aylmer is under-allocated by 2,924
* old Mississauga-Brampton South (2003-35047) is over-allocated by 5,137, while Mississauga-East Cooksville (2003-35048) is under-allocated by 6,988

… And it continues in much the same manner right across the country.

Now, these mis-allocations of population all zero out across the country, but the errors are bigger than I've ever seen in your earlier Transpositions (± 5%).

And – note – the only major errors I see are for the transpositions of Population. The transpositions of Electors and Valid Ballots are all within ±2 at worst (not 2%, but 2 voters), and most are bang on. The transpositions of votes also add up to within tolerable tiny errors.

Which is what makes this truly weird, because your Methodology section says that the transposed population percentages were calculated using the same ratio as transposed electors. Yet the electors match, while the populations don't.

——————————

And here's the answer my contact received from the subject matter experts in the agency:

——————————

As described in section 3.7 of the document, the population counts for the old FEDs [ed. FED=Federal Electoral District] were published by Statistics Canada. The population counts for the new FEDs were derived by independent commissions in consultation with Statistics Canada and are based on the 2011 Census of Population. These are official counts that require no calculation. These old and new FED's population counts are used to derive the population transferred to the new FED or population taken from the old FED.

The population transferred to the new FED or population taken from the FED is derived using the ratio calculated from transposed electors on lists. This ratio is then multiplied by the population count of the new FED to obtain the population transferred to the new FED or population taken from the old FED.

In the case of Avalon (new FED), the calculations were as follow:

1) Electors on lists from section 4.3 tables
a. 48192 electors are transposed from old Avalon
b. 16176 electors are transposed from old St. John's East

2) Ratios:
a. Ratio for old Avalon=48192/(48192+16176)=0.748671
b. Ratio for old St. John's East=16176/(48192+16176)=0.251329

3) New FED's Population for Avalon: 81540
a. For old Avalon=0.748671*81540=61048
b. For old St. John's East=0.251329*81540=20492

——————————

If you were going to use ratios of electors from old to new ridings, here's how those calculations should have been done in my view, in order to faithfully represent what a transposition is supposed to do.

1) Electors on lists from section 4.3 tables
a. 48192 electors are transposed from old Avalon to new Avalon
c. 14200 electors are transposed from old Avalon to new Bonavista–Burin–Trinity
d. 2032 electors are transposed from old Avalon to new St. John’s South–Mount Pearl

b. 16176 electors are transposed from old St. John's East to new Avalon
e. 60248 electors are transposed from old St. John's East to new St. John's East

2) Ratios:
a. Ratio for old Avalon=48192/(48192+14200+2032)=0.748044
b. Ratio for old St. John's East=16176/(16176+60248)=0.211661

3) New FED's Population for Avalon: 81540 || old FED population for Avalon: 78908, for St. John's East: 100,559
a. For old Avalon=0.748044*78908=59027
b. For old St. John's East=0.211661*100559=21284

But, even there, that only adds up to 80,311, which is 1,229 short of the 81,540 census population calculated for Avalon by the Boundary Commission. So, now we know that population doesn't move between old and new ridings in the same proportion as electors. Hence, the Census Dissemination Block population method should have been used.

Using 2011 Census Dissemination Block populations, that we sum using GIS software and best guesses where the Dissemination Blocks crossed riding boundaries, we get the following counts:

 * 59591 in population from old Avalon to new Avalon
 * 16855 in population from old Avalon to new Bonavista–Burin–Trinity
 *   2462 in population from old Avalon to new St. John’s South–Mount Pearl

   (for an accurate old Avalon total population of 78,908)

 * 21992 in population from old St. John's East to new Avalon
 * 78567 in population from old St. John's East to new St. John's East

   (for an accurate old St. John's East total population of 100,559)

 *         5 in population from old St. John’s South–Mount Pearl to new Avalon
 *   3519 in population from old St. John’s South–Mount Pearl to new St. John's East
 * 79327 in population from old St. John’s South–Mount Pearl to new St. John’s South–Mount Pearl

   (for an accurate old St. John’s South–Mount Pearl total population of 82,851)

All of which also add up to:

 * new Avalon population of 81,583 (should be 81,540) +43
 * new St. John's East population of 82,086 (should be 81,936) +150
 * new St. John’s South–Mount Pearl population of 81,789 (should be 81,944) -155

And with the layers and lower-level Block-Face 2011 Census population information available from Statistics Canada, those totals could have been made perfectly accurate.

How Redistribution Information is shown on a Pundits' Guide riding profile page

I'm currently working on getting the Transposed results into the Pundits' Guide database, but that work ground to a halt when things stopped adding up. The section of a riding profile page that shows Redistribution Info for a riding (what percent of each riding it came from, and what percent of its own population went to what other subsequent riding) has always been calculated on the fly using an accurately cross-referenced table of transposed populations from old to new. Now those won't add up to the proper riding populations anymore for the new Representation Order.

Other psephologists have pointed out to me that the documentation of which polling divisions were transferred from old ridings to new ridings was not correct either, inasmuch as they show a minimum and maximum poll number for each section, regardless of whether the section includes polls that belong with a different riding, or overlaps a subsequent section. One of them (known as Krago at the US Election Atlas) provided me with this fictitious example to demonstrate:

Let's say the old riding of Ottawa-Duffy is split between the new ridings of Ottawa-Harb and Ottawa-Wallin as follows:

 * Polls 1-50: Ottawa-Wallin
 * Polls 51-100: Ottawa-Harb
 * Polls 101-150: Ottawa-Wallin
 * Polls 151-200: Ottawa-Harb

It would show on the Transposition of Votes as follows:

 * Ottawa-Wallin: 100% Start: 1 End: 150 Polls 100 Votes …
 * Ottawa-Harb: 100% Start: 51 End: 200 Polls 100 Votes …

It is frickin' useless to check if it is actually correct.

Something does not seem right when the bigger our data, and the better our software, the worse our public datasets are for accuracy. I really wish Elections Canada and Statistics Canada would go back to the drawing board and produce an accurate dataset for the Transposition of Votes and Population for this Representation Order.

Chong Bill Needs Some Sober First Thought

December 5th, 2013 | 9 Comments

[First appeared as a column for National Newswatch, on December 3, 2013]

Whoa. At this rate, the Michael Chong #ReformAct bill could be adopted unanimously before it’s even tabled in the House!

A commentariat gravely worried about party group-think has shown itself all-too-ironically-susceptible to the very same affliction, as one columnist after another trips over himself or herself to jump in front of the parade.

Things have deteriorated so badly in the last two days that I’ve been told it really doesn’t matter what’s actually in the bill, because in politics everything is appearances, and people have to be seen to be lining up behind democracy.

But it does matter what’s in a piece of legislation that seeks to amend the Elections Act and the Parliament of Canada Act, and we do need to debate it at length. What’s really wrong with our democratic system is that this is almost never done anymore. We’re all about Omnibus budget bills and Twitter fights being storify’ed now. Neither is a very good way to make laws. And the only way to change that is to say “stop”.

As for the bill (aka “the Bill that will single-handedly restore the Westminster tradition and fix Parliament”), it hasn’t been tabled in the House of Commons yet, but somehow we already know what’s supposed to be in it, so there goes another overlooked Westminster parliamentary tradition out the window.

If the reports are accurate though, the Bill would formalize in legislation a party caucus’ ability to call for and effect a leadership review. I say formalize, because there is nothing in the law currently preventing party caucuses from doing this very thing now, and indeed they have done so frequently in our current system: Joe Clark was pushed into a leadership review, Michel Gauthier was pushed out as leader by the Bloc Québécois caucus, a good part of Stockwell Day’s caucus left him and the Canadian Alliance and joined the remainder of the Tories instead. And a significant group of Paul Martin backers were hatching plots to oust Jean Chrétien as Liberal leader and Prime Minister.

At least two fairly current provincial examples also exist:

* the BC NDP where the “gang of twelve” faced off with leader Carole James, ultimately pushing her out and arguably setting in motion the events that led to the re-election of Christy Clark’s BC Liberals; and

* the Newfoundland & Labrador NDP where the entire caucus recently called for a leadership review of Lorraine Michael who promptly had her director of communications read their letter over the phone to the CBC instead of meeting with them, thereby losing half her caucus in the process, and more than half of her party’s standing in the public opinion polls.

So, it’s not that a caucus CAN’T call for a leadership review or push a leader out, it’s that they apparently won’t, and/or they don’t. I fail to see how enacting legislation formalizing this authority gives them any more actual power to do so, or makes them any more accountable back home for not showing some backbone.

Power is defined as having the ability to influence an outcome, while Authority is defined as the legitimate right to exercise a power. If caucus members choose not to exercise the power they clearly have now courtesy of their numbers and bully pulpits back home, no amount of authority by legislation will make any difference.

Part of the reason it won’t is that people join political parties because they share certain views about how the country should operate and certain common ideas about public policy. Another part of the reason is that if you don’t hang together, you’ll usually hang separately. Sure the occasional lone wolf will be lavished with media attention for stepping outside the team, but that’s a last resort if you want to actually get things done in government, which as everywhere else is most often accomplished by being able to work well with others.

I also think the rationale for this provision of the Chong Bill mixes up the powers of party leadership with the more substantial powers entailed in being a Prime Minister. But, regardless, both are only exercised with the active or passive consent of backbenchers.

But, many commentators will assert, this Prime Minister and/or this government have exercised powers of discipline and control never-before-seen in the Canadian parliamentary system. If so, I maintain, it’s because they enjoy the consent (reluctant or otherwise) of a Conservative party caucus that displays a never-before-seen level of deference to authority and acquiescence in the government’s means of implementing its agenda.

The one bad thing formalizing this authority in law might accomplish is to exacerbate regional tensions further, given that until recently most Canadian political parties have had regional bases of support and regional wastelands. Taking control away from delegates to party conventions, or even from party members (and now party supporters), means taking authority away from nationally representative deliberative bodies, and putting it into the hands of a potentially regionally unbalanced caucus.

There is another option, however: one that’s more rooted in the tradition of collective action and solidarity, than in deference to authority and falling in line during battle. That is: if the caucus members disagree, then let them do so. Kind of like going on strike against the caucus and party leadership: “members of the caucus unite: you have nothing to lose but your priority office space, SO 31s, committee memberships, and parliamentary delegation travel!”

Should the Conservative caucus decide to withdraw its consent for the iron rule of its leadership, what about the remedies the Bill would impose to mitigate any consequences for mutiny and going all wild-cat? It proposes that a delegate from the local riding association be the one who signs the candidate’s party endorsement letter rather than the leader.

Big whoop, as they say. Because party headquarters can still deregister the riding association, and the leader appoint another candidate instead. Or the party can decide to de-prioritize the riding, refusing central services (including the provision of the party logo artwork, the leader’s tour, transfers of resources, staffing, opinion research, voter ID, telephone town-halls, regional ad buys and database access, and so on). Meanwhile, a rejected MP can always run as an independent in the same riding instead or run for another party. Either way, mutually assured destruction usually follows, whether the leader signs the endorsement letter or someone else does.

[The purpose of the endorsement letter is to signify which candidate can run with that party’s name on the ballot in a riding; and is also used to calculate the party’s national spending ceiling in that election, given it’s based on the number of ridings where that party endorses a candidate.]

For new candidates, parties will still need to vet them (or “green light” them, as one party calls it) before they run for the nomination. This is because a rogue candidate can cost the party’s members and donors a lot of money and lost time during an election campaign: every day lost to a candidate eruption costs a major party 1/36 th of its national ceiling, or just over half a million dollars. The only leader to try it the other way (nominate, then vet) was Elizabeth May and the Green Party. Then they ran into a candidate who mused about rape or something on Facebook in Newton-North Delta, and subsequently changed their procedures as well. After losing Georges Laraque and tens of thousands of dollars in the Bourassa by-election, you can be sure they’ll be vetting harder now, too. Their party members and donors will demand it.

As to the third reported provision: is it really only up to a party leader who sits in caucus? Perhaps in the Conservative caucus, perhaps in others, but only where the leader already enjoys the support of caucus. Caucus officer positions have been elected in the NDP in the past, though I believe Jack Layton moved to an appointment system after 2011 with the arrival of all the new MPs.

So, to summarize, all the legislative authority in the world can’t make the weak and powerless suddenly powerful, except in the most counterproductive ways possible, none of which are probably in the public interest. The bill is a solution in search of a problem, albeit born out of the noblest of intentions. It should be tabled, and then it should be thoroughly and non-partisanly debated, perhaps amended, and in the best traditions of private member’s business, it should be decided through a non-whipped vote.

I commend all the debate and discussion on how to strengthen our democracy, but what would really get me excited is a bill to end the use of Omnibus legislation and time allocation. Maybe then we could start properly debating some of the issues that really affect Canadians. The fact we’re not getting that kind of bill from a government backbench MP just shows how much they truly do consent to their government’s legislative strategy.

Justin Trudeau, Jack Layton and the Future of Cooperation

November 27th, 2013 | 45 Comments

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair looks skyward towards Jack Layton, November 27, 2013 (cbc.ca) Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau on election night with MP-elect Emmanuel Dubourg, November 25, 2013 (ctv.ca)

While Justin Trudeau's Liberals are trying to shape an economic policy that "builds from the middle out", the political challenge they face is to rebuild their party's vote-share from the centre out.

During the last general election, as John Ivision and others reported at the time, the Liberals' objective was to pursue a two-election strategy in which they would roll over the NDP in 2011, and then having consolidated the centre-left could turn rightwards and defeat a new Conservative leader in 2015. This was the strategy advocated by then-Ignatieff chief-of-staff Peter Donolo, the bulk of whose political experience came in the NDP-less era from 1993 forward, and who readily admits now that they underestimated the NDP in the lead up to the 2011 campaign.

Others have pointed to the lack of fit between the more blue-Liberal vibe of leader Michael Ignatieff and the nod-left tone of the party's "Family Pack" platform. If the party wanted to shift to the left to pick up NDP seats, undoubtedly they had the wrong leader to do so. But at the end of the day, it was exposing their flank to the right that was more costly to the party's seat count on May 2.

There was certainly more positioning than policy being considered during the Liberal leadership race of 2012-13, with the exception of Deborah Coyne who laid out extensive policy options, Joyce Murray who staked out clear policy positions and electoral strategy on the party's left, and Martha Hall Findlay who explicitly advocated a blue Liberal shift, having personally paid the price for lack of sufficient right-ward defences as her Willowdale seat fell along with sufficient others in north Toronto and the 905 to give the Conservatives their majority.

The approach of the Trudeau leadership campaign was for the most part to defer the left-vs-right decision as long as possible, by emphasizing values of Liberal pride, and "hope and hard work", rather than stake out policy positions that could constrain their options down the road. And what policy positions Trudeau did advocate were balanced off against one another. For a position against Northern Gateway, there was support for Keystone XL. For a strongly free trade orientation, there was opposition to ending supply management.

More recently, it has become clear to some observers (not only me) that the Liberals are orienting themselves economically more towards the right. This is a wise decision on their part, given the current weakness of the Conservative government, and also the availability of seats that should be low-hanging fruit for them that the NDP is unlikely to contest on a priority basis. Think Willowdale, but also Eglinton-Lawrence, York Centre, Thornhill, Newmarket, Vaughan, Oak Ridges, Halton, Oakville, Burlington, Wellington-Halton Hills … pretty much any seat with high average incomes and educational attainments, and no historic working class or social democratic voting traditions.

Even in Toronto Centre on Monday, the Liberal margin was bolstered generously from the Liberal-Conservative swing polls in Rosedale, while the NDP added to its strength south of Bloor and otherwise defended its base vote which should be sufficient to win the seat on its new boundaries in 2015.

To the extent that Justin Trudeau's election night remarks about Jack Layton were premeditated rather than ad-libbed, I'm guessing that this clear on-going effort to usurp the upbeat positioning of Barack Obama, personified by Jack Layton in Canada until his recent death, is a key part of the Liberals' play towards their left flank (along with the legalization of marijuana). Again, it's their best play, particularly given the sunny magnetism and youthful demeanour of their new leader, who is strong on the hustings if not in the House. But it did not prove sufficient to collapse the NDP vote in either of the central Canadian by-election seats.

Where Trudeau went too far on Monday night, was in explicitly trying to claim Jack Layton's mantle so soon after his death (and if you doubt the continued depth of feeling about this on the orange team, you haven't watched how your orange friends' Facebook feeds change every year on May 2, August 22 or any of the other meaningful anniversaries). First of all, it was an over-reach of Quayle-an proportions in the sense that if you have to say you're the next Layton instead of simply showing it, the proposition suddenly becomes ridiculous. Secondly, it showed Trudeau not to be a gracious winner (the way Layton had always been) and incapable of observing the gentleman's convention that election nights are for marking the temporary end of hostilities, to allow the parliamentary process to proceed.

But with more far-reaching consequences, Trudeau's comments touched a nerve within a party that has to this point maintained a disciplined public face of solidarity even as it grappled with its own changing of the guard. He at once thoroughly galvanized his competitors for the centre-left behind leader Tom Mulcair, and caused real damage to any future working relationship between the two opposition parties. These are mistakes the far more strategically adroit Layton would never have made, as he prized above-all his ability to work across party lines.

Looking ahead, there are seats the Liberals' growth at the expense of the Conservatives makes easier for them to win (such as the two-way races listed above), and others where it puts the NDP in a better position to win (Saskatchewan, southwest Ontario, and the interior of BC for example). The shadow cast by unpopular provincial governments mid-term will be felt more by the Liberals in 2015 (think Nova Scotia and BC) than by the NDP (as this past month in Manitoba). If the Liberals pursue their current path, and the government continues to suffer under the weight of its own scandals, they could see the Canadian political spectrum reshaped into a Liberal-vs-NDP contest with the Conservatives holding up the rear as a third party: arguably a better reflection of the range of Canadian political views that we have at present.

On the other hand, if they try to fight on two fronts simultaneously, any mistake could see them squeezed from both sides.

The Status Quo By-Elections That Supposedly Changed Everything

November 26th, 2013 | 13 Comments

Behold the status quo by-elections that supposedly changed everything. After months of the full pundit treatment, each party kept its seats in the face of stiff competition and shifting terrain.

 

Nov 2013 By-Election Results

By-Election Metrics – 2013 By (Nov)

Metric Brandon-
Souris
, MB
Provencher, MB Toronto
Centre
, ON
Bourassa, QC
Winner MAGUIRE,
Larry (M)
FALK,
Ted (M)
FREELAND,
Chrystia (F)
DUBOURG,
Emmanuel (M)
Contest Cons-Lib Cons-Lib Lib-NDP Lib-NDP
Polls 210/210 195/195 268/268 204/204
%TO 44.7% 33.6% 38.0% 26.2%
Raw Margin 391 6,315 4,438 3,051
Votes/Poll 1.9 32.4 16.6 15.0
% Margin 1.4% 28.2% 12.8% 16.7%
% Marg 1-3 36.7% 49.9% 40.4% 35.0%
% Marg 1-4 39.2% 54.3% 46.2% 43.4%

 

Conservative candidate and former Arthur-Virden MLA Larry Maguire squeaked through for the government in Brandon-Souris, MB by a margin of 391 votes or 1.4% of the vote, obtaining a 44.1% vote share, over her nearest competitor Liberal Rolf Dinsdale (at 42.7%), while NDP candidate Cory Szczepanski took one for the team, coming in at just 7.4%, as voters punished the federal NDP for the provincial government's sales tax hike to pay for flood mitigation. Maguire saw the Conservative vote drop by some 10,000 votes since the 2011 general eletion, while Dinsdale picked up almost the same number. Lower turnout accounted for the NDP and Green drops.

Likewise in Provencher, MB, Conservative candidate Ted Falk was able to carry the day with a 58.1% vote-share, even as he shedded 14,800 votes since the 2011 GE. His nearest Liberal opponent picked up around 4,100 of them, while the NDP shedded 5,200.

But it's in the hotly contested riding of Toronto Centre, ON that we see the most interesting movements. The Conservatives lost some 14 percentage points in vote-share over 2011 GE, while the NDP picked up 6 and the Liberals gained 8. But did the NDP really gain 6 points from the Conservatives? Likely not, given that the Conservative vote dropped by some 9,600 votes, and the NDP dropped a further 4,200. It was the Liberals who actually gained 5,800 votes or so, even over Bob Rae's performance in 2011. Of course we'll need to see the poll-by-poll results to know who or where that came from for sure, but it seems likely more of it came from 2011 Conservative voters than NDP ones.

Finally, we now know that the low advance poll turnout in Bourassa, QC was simply presaging the low turnout on Election Day itself. Liberal Emmanual Dubourg handily won, increasing his vote share by 9 points, while the NDP held its ground, and the Bloc and Conservatives both fell back.

Taken together, the by-election results provide some evidence that the Liberal Party grew in this round of by-elections from out of its right flank. Given that the media winner of the last round of by-elections was Elizabeth May's Green Party — which is nowhere in the current round – it remains to be seen how long-lived the impact of this growth will be.

Party Scorecard – 2013 By (Nov)

2013 By Lib NDP Grn BQ Cons Rest
Vote
Pct
43.0%
(+17.5%)
21.6%
(-5.2%)
3.5%
(-0.4%)
2.3%
(-1.3%)
28.2%
(-11.1%)
1.4%
(+0.5%)
Seats 2
(-)
0
(-)
0
(-)
0
(-)
2
(-)
 0
(-)
2nds 2
(+2)
2
(-2)
0
(-)
0
(-)
0
(-)
0
(-)
Rebate
Eligib.
4
(+2)
2
(-2)
0
(-)
1
(-)
2
(-1)
0
(–)
Raw
Vote
44,368
(+1,459)
22,233
(-22,751)
3,598
(-2,987)
2,387
(-3,718)
29,102
(-37,062)
1,411
(-55)

Bourassa sees biggest drop in Advanced Voting

November 20th, 2013 | 3 Comments

Advance Poll Turnout as a percent of Registered Electors, 2011 GE & 2013 By

The north Montréal riding of Bourassa saw the biggest drop in advanced voting of the four by-election ridings, when compared to the 2011 general election.

The percent of registered voters who cast a ballot at one of the Advance Polls, open this past Friday, Saturday and Monday, dropped by almost half in Bourassa, QC, from 4401 or 6.3% of registered voters in 2011, to 2210 or 3.2% of registered voters in the current by-election.

By comparison, advanced voting was down by roughly a third of the 2011 GE rate in both Toronto Centre, ON and Provencher, MB.

Only in Brandon-Souris, MB has advanced voting in the current round of by-elections come close to matching that observed in the last general election; an indicator of the strong interest in the contest, and either presaging a change in hands for the seat, or a robust effort by the better-organized Conservatives at getting some of their vote out early.

Machine- or incumbency-politics should have favoured the Liberals getting a strong start in Bourassa as well, but I expect that external factors explain the poor showing. The federal by-election there has suffered from a low profile in comparison with the municipal elections across Québec which ran until November 3, and a lack of vote-determining ballot questions, both of which factors would tend to favour long-standing voting patterns and promote complacency.

There was also a good deal of confusion amongst voters, the campaigns report, given that the former M.P. Denis Coderre was running for mayor, and high-profile Green Party candidate Georges Laraque stepped down as the race was starting, after a lengthy and visible pre-election campaign.

These factors also no doubt explain the NDP's decision to take some dramatic and visible steps with weeks to go before E-Day, such as offering a free concert by their rock-star candidate Stéphane Moraille at the Bar Lindberg, launching their "Club-Privilege-Libéral" sign-campaign and website, holding a rally (video here) in the same room as Justin Trudeau did the week before, and vigourously prosecuting the street sign war (and associated sign-war-crimes, one assumes). Elizabeth Thompson has a good round-up of the campaign in iPolitics.ca that's required reading for those trying to catch up on the Bourassa race (see also the by-election wrap in Tuesday's La Presse), but the bottom line is that Liberal candidate Emmanual Dubourg is sitting on a comfortable lead even as he's facing a determined challenger.

A little sidebar now on filling rooms, body counts, and the marketing of the two opposition leaders: the Costa Del Mar is the only hall in Bourassa riding having the size to hold nomination meetings, rallies, and other large events. I've been there 3 times during the by-election race, once each for the Liberal and NDP nomination races, and this past Monday for the NDP's rally. Blogger Justin Ling referred to it as kitsch-y, but I think it's charming, and has probably hosted many a happy big italian wedding. There is a smaller room (used by the NDP for their nomination meeting), and a larger room used by the Liberals for their nomination meeting, and by both Trudeau and Mulcair for their big rallies this past week. It's rated for 350 people, but there was a bit of a frucus about the claimed attendance at both events.

Here is what the room setup looked like for each one. First, Mr. Trudeau on November 12.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau at a rally in Bourassa, November 12, 2013

Next, Mr. Mulcair on November 18.

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair at a rally in Bourassa, November 18, 2013

Both approaches are leader-focused, but in one the leader stands in front of party branding and towers over the audience which watches passively and claps; while in the other one the leader is raised but surrounded with a more active audience that waves signs portraying party messaging.

Keystone XL, the new PC party, and the Nov 25 federal by-elections

November 17th, 2013 | 29 Comments

If Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is so willing to publicly state his support for the Keystone XL pipeline in Washington, why won't his candidate in Toronto Centre, Chrystia Freeland state whether she agrees with it at home?

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and Brandon-Souris Liberal candidate Rolf Dinsdale (source: Twitter)The answer lies in what's becoming evident about the Liberal Party's new strategic positioning: they are staking out turf as the new progressive conservative party of Canada.

In Brandon-Souris, they're running Rolf Dinsdale, the son of the long-time PC member of parliament, Walter Dinsdale, who has been endorsed by another former PC MP, Rick Borotsik, and the Liberals are clearly cutting into traditional Conservative Party support by embracing that tradition.

But that shift to the right – even with a fake left on marijuana policy – risks leaving the party's centre-left flank open in Toronto Centre. Hence the need to remain vague on the kinds of policy details that make it hard to straddle the middle of the political spectrum.

The week before the commentariat pounced on Trudeau's sexy fundraiser in next-door Trinity-Spadina or his speech days later in Bourassa, it was in fact his first trip to Washington as Liberal leader that started to register on the doorsteps in Toronto Centre, particularly the unequivocal support he expressed for Keystone XL.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau expresses support for Keystone XL pipeline, Washington DC, October 24, 2013 (Chip Somodevilla / GETTY IMAGES)

The issue figured so prominently, that the NDP used an opposition day motion in Parliament the Thursday before the break week to raise it further and get the Liberals on the record, a debate that Trudeau missed to attend the now-infamous "ladies night" fundraiser. The motion will be voted on this Tuesday evening, November 19.

NDP support is now trending upwards in Toronto Centre in Forum tracking, as canvassers report hearing from voters in swing polls that they don't recognize the current Liberal Party. And after ducking a debate specifically on climate change, Freeland then avoided answering direct questions on Keystone from NDP candidate Linda McQuaig in the Rogers Cable debate Wednesday night, and again twice in Saturday's abbreviated all-candidates meeting at the University of Toronto. [That meeting was interrupted by several screaming fits from frequent candidate Kevin Clarke, after an earlier disruption by John Turmel, and then cancelled altogether.]

[Click photo to view the debate on CPAC]

Toronto Centre NDP candidate Linda McQuaig in the Rogers TV all-candidates debate, November 13, 2013 (source: Facebook)

Freeland says that she doesn't envisage any disagreements with her leader and caucus, since she will be heavily involved in drafting their policies, though that only makes her reluctance to answer the Keystone question more noteworthy. Instead her campaign started to portray her as Toronto Centre's "transit advocate" late last week. The Liberals have also tried to highlight differences between McQuaig's writings on tax policy and NDP leader Tom Mulcair's preference for corporate tax hikes over personal tax increases.

With just a week to go in the four federal by-elections, Brandon-Souris will see a few more all-candidates meetings; Bourassa has no further meetings scheduled after a single meeting last weekend where Liberal candidate Emmanuel Dubourg had to leave after 30 minutes to attend another event outside the riding; and the Conservative front-runner in Provencher, Ted Falk, has been reluctant to debate much either.

But three significant all-candidates debates remain in Toronto Centre this week, in what's looking like a closer and closer race:

  • Wednesday November 20, 7 – 9 PM – hosted by the association of community associations, and moderated by John Tory (Jarvis Collegiate, 495 Jarvis St.)
  • Wednesday November 20, broadcast at 8 PM (repeated at 11 PM) – on TVO's The Agenda, hosted by Steve Paikin http://theagenda.tvo.org
  • Thursday November 21, 7 – 9 PM – Rosedale United Church Sanctuary, 159 Roxborough Drive

NDP leader Tom Mulcair greets supporters in Toronto Centre, November 12, 2013 (photo: Ian Campbell; source: Facebook)

The final week of the by-election campaign will demonstrate whether the Liberals can grow out their base, from their current squeezed position in the middle, on both sides equally; or whether by shifting right to try and pick off a Tory-Conservative seat like Brandon-Souris, they've allowed a resurgent Tom Mulcair and Linda McQuaig to occupy much of the centre-left in their old Toronto Centre stomping grounds for the NDP.

POSTSCRIPT: It does look like the Liberals are trying to change the terrain of debate for the final week to their old standby: national unity. It will be interesting to which of the two issues becomes the vote-determining question for Toronto.

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

October 20th, 2013 | 16 Comments

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.

UPDATED: NDP, Liberals and Greens set Nomination Meetings as By-election Countdown Continues

October 3rd, 2013 | 13 Comments

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

The Liberals and Green Party will both hold nomination meetings in Brandon-Souris next Wednesday, October 9, while the NDP will nominate its fourth and final candidate in Provencher on Sunday, October 20.

UPDATE: Tim Naumetz is reporting in The Hill Times tonight that, indeed, former Conservative party supporter Rick Pauls has been green-lit to run for the Liberal nomination in Brandon-Souris. So next Wednesday's Liberal nomination will be contested after all. "The requirement is that you be a member and supporter and completely committed to the party at the time you are nominated," Liberal M.P. Ralph Goodale told Naumetz.

After picking candidates at contested nomination meetings in Bourassa, QC on September 25 and Brandon-Souris, MB on September 26, the NDP is now sitting at three candidates nominated, as are the Liberals after their September 25 acclamation in Provencher, MB. The Conservatives have a full slate of four by-election candidates in place, while the Greens have two.

This leaves a hole in the Green ticket in Provencher, and so far still no evidence of a Bloc Québécois candidate in Bourassa, as we run down all the nomination news since last time.

Bourassa, QC

Bourassa NDP candidate Stéphane Moraille celebrates her victory, September 25, 2013 (photo: @pierrelucdaoust)

Pop singer and lawyer Stéphane Moraille beat PSAC vice-president Larry Rousseau and 2011 candidate Julie Demers in a packed and energetic room of 140-150 in Montréal-Nord, the same night that Projet Montréal was launching its city-wide municipal campaign further south at the Vieux-Port last Wednesday.

Moraille joins ex-NHL player, green products frontman and Green Party Deputy Leader Georges Laraque, chartered accountant and former Viau PLC MNA Emmanuel Dubourg for the Liberals, and architectural technician Rida Mahmoud for the Conservatives. The first three were born in Haiti or have Haitian roots, while Mahmoud originates from the Ivory Coast though he is a member of the Haitian young chamber of commerce.

Still to nominate, but intending to do according to this recent riding profile in Le Journal de Montréal, is the Bloc Québécois. Needless to say, with four vis-min candidates in the race already and the Quebec values charter debate brewing, it would not be a stretch to expect the Bloc to nominate a pur-et-dur francophone here, even if it is a very allophone riding and right next door to Maria Mourani's seat.

Candidate Bio Twitter Facebook
Emmanuel DUBOURG ELECTED – Former Viau MNA, Haitian emigré @EmmanuelDubourg 3,079 Page
Georges LARAQUE APPOINTED – Former NHL player, Deputy Green leader @GeorgesLaraque 136 Page, Profile
Rida MAHMOUD ACCLAIMED – Architectural technician, hails from the Ivory Coast   53 Page, Profile
Stéphane MORAILLE ELECTED – Lawyer, musician/singer @S_Moraille 723 Page, Profile
{BQ} Identity will be made public at an "opportune time"      

Moraille, probably from her years as a performer, has a real presence on stage and, courtesy of her legal training, commands a scrum as expertly as Dubourg did the month before, though with a more emotional approach. The two will make for a very interesting contrast between the poet and the accountant. I suspect they will both be skating circles around their less polished Green competitor, if not on the ice, at least during all-candidates debates. I haven't observed the Conservative in action yet, and so don't have an opinion on his political skills.

Green Party leader Elizabeth May has been in to campaign with her candidate, as has NDP leader Tom Mulcair with his, the day after the NDP nomination. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau already campaigned with Dubourg, but I haven't seen further events scheduled for him there since then. Steve Blaney will be attending a fundraising cocktail party with Mahmoud on Thursday night.

Meanwhile the campaigns are slowly but surely getting their web and social media presence assembled, and their campaign offices open. It's hard to see how their campaign signs are going to compete with all the municipal campaign signs I saw up when I was there last week, but the street poles in Bourassa (where they put their signs in a Québec election campaign, rather than on people's lawns) are going to be very colourful indeed.

Toronto Centre, ON

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and Federal Finance and GTA political Minister Jim Flaherty celebrate a $1 billion federal contribution to build Scarborough subways and LRTs, September 23, 2013 (photo: Frank Gunn / The Canadian Press)The appearance of the Prime Minister with the Mayor of Toronto on Sunday, September 22, followed by an appearance with Finance Minister and GTA political minister Jim Flaherty the next day to announce federal funding towards the Scarborough subway and LRT, did not go unnoticed by Conservative candidate Geoff Pollock, who issued a news release casting the announcement as a $1 billion investment in Toronto's future through TTC expansion.

The Scarborough subway debate is an enormously complex and contentious debate, for those of you who weren't following it all summer. It figured prominently in the City of Toronto's budget debates, the provincial Scarborough-Guildwood by-election, and the aftermath of those provincial by-elections at Queens Park, made all the more problematic by the precarious political and possibly legal situation of Mayor Ford.

Basically the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) had a fully-funded transit expansion capital plan prepared and approved by all three levels of government, which included all light-rapid transit (LRT) for Scarborough. LRT is 10 times less expensive than building subways (which will run into several billion dollars or more), and LRT can have more stops along the route than subways. According to Mayor Ford, however, people in Scarborough were telling him, "Rob, we want subways, we don't want LRTs", mainly because they thought that the LRT tracks would take up two lanes of traffic (feeding his cars-vs-transit rivalry, though the plan was in fact to run them in unused railway corridors). Switching to subways from the already-approved LRT plan would also grind the entire TTC capital plan to a halt, and could only have been managed with a) more money from the province, b) more money from the feds, and c) new municipal taxes, not to mention d) a further delay in any TTC construction in Scarborough, whose residents to this point are taking buses to the edge of the old City of Toronto before they can transfer onto a subway line, and will be continuing to do so now for at least the next decade with this new delay. Meanwhile no money would be left over to help relieve the new pressure on the downtown Toronto subway lines.

Toronto City council eventually voted to back Ford's gambit on the Scarborough subways, with the progressive Scarborough councillors backing Ford because his subway idea was suddenly so popular amongst their constituents. The province subsequently agreed to the subway plan (and their candidate in the Scarborough-Guildwood by-election who had campaigned in favour of the previous TTC plan in her earlier job, switched her position and came out in favour of subways for Scarborough), but it did so without the extra money needed, so now the Mayor really needed his federal allies on board.

That the Prime Minister and Finance Minister have stepped in Sunday and Monday to help their friend in a Scarborough/suburb-vs-Toronto/downtown, cars-vs-transit gambit, with $1 billion for the Scarborough subway plus LRT lines, might be considered a negative for their downtown Toronto by-election candidate in some quarters, but Pollock argues it's an investment in the entire city's future. I guess we'll see if the Toronto vs Scarborough tensions come out in this federal by-election to the same extent the Scarborough vs Toronto tensions came out in the summer's provincial one.

Candidate Bio Twitter Facebook
John DEVERELL ACCLAIMED – Former journalist, democratic reform activist, lives in Pickering @Dev4TOCentre 146 Page
Chrystia FREELAND ELECTED – Journalist, editor, Alberta-born Rhodes scholar @cafreeland 3,322 Page
Travis McCREA APPOINTED – Leader of the Pirate Party of Canada @vote_travis 81 Page
Linda McQUAIG ELECTED – Toronto Star columnist, author @LindaMcQuaig 1,343 Page
Geoff POLLOCK ACCLAIMED – Lawyer, Churchill devoté @geoffpollock   Profile

Meanwhile, NDP candidate Linda McQuaig and Liberal candidate Chrystia Freeland are receiving a lot of attention from their respective leaders, and former leaders. McQuaig and Mulcair have met to discuss their views on tax policy, and they co-hosted (along with fellow nomination candidates Jennifer Hollett and Susan Gapka) a rowdy pub night to help kick off the campaign, a few days before McQuaig was introduced by Ed Broadbent at the 2nd annual Jack Layton lecture. Former MP Bob Rae was helping Chrystia Freeland set up her new campaign office, and leader Justin Trudeau was in the riding campaigning with her again Wednesday. Trudeau also named Freeland along with Nova Scotia MP Scott Brison as co-chair of an economic advisory panel not long after her nomination.

The Globe and Mail published a very interesting set of side-by-side interviews with Freeland and McQuaig on income inequality, At the time I tweeted that I thought they would make for a good debate as well, but Graham Fox of the Institute for Research on Public Policy had already responded to a similar suggestion from Liberal blogger @impolitical that the IRPP liked the idea of such a debate, and to "watch this space". McQuaig seems to have adopted a strategy of pushing Freeland to defend her views and her chosen party's record on inequality, while Freeland has said she will engage in a debate only within the context of an all-candidates forum. McQuaig repeated as late as yesterday in response to an older tweet of mine that she's "game" for a debate, which makes me think there are all-candidates debate negotiations on-going already.

Meanwhile, Green Party candidate John Deverell filed a complaint with the CRTC that his candidacy had not been included in early broadcast stories about the Toronto Centre race. Of course, to that point, the only event on his website was a notice about an NDP meeting on electoral reform in Toronto-Danforth that he planned to attend and participate in. But later his campaign did start to rev up and generate a bit of its own news, and leader Elizabeth May has booked in a town hall as part of her "Save Democracy from Politics" tour on October 10. Deverell seems far more interested in running on the issue of proportional representation than the environment, though that may change as the issue of the Enbridge west-to-east corridor emerges locally.

Provencher, MB

As expected, ex-riding president Terry Hayward, a farmer from Anola and former federal public servant and agriculture industry representative, was acclaimed the Liberal candidate last Wednesday, September 25 in Lorette, when Justin Trudeau visited the riding to packed rooms everywhere. He has since had a campaign visit from MP Carolyn Bennett as well.

The NDP has now scheduled (and in fact re-scheduled) its nomination meeting for October 20 (from Oct 6), though it will move the meeting up if the by-election is called sooner. So far, the only declared candidate is Natalie Courcelles Beaudry, a constituency assistant and former Parliamentary Page, and that's all I really know about her right now, except that she has been involved with a francophone charity in Lorette.

They will join already acclaimed Conservative candidate Ted Falk, a business owner and credit union director. Falk's domain-name is still parked, but no website or Facebook/Twitter accounts are up yet, at least not the campaign kind. Probably more importantly, though, he hosted a barbecue for 250 of his closest friends and supporters this past Tuesday.

Also, after a "chance" encounter between the Liberal leader and a local food bank volunteer on his pot proposals, which was recorded by Steinback online and went viral, Falk issued a released reacting to Trudeau's comments, saying if the government's current measures to control the available of pot weren't working, as Mr. Trudeau claims they aren't, perhaps stronger penalties were required instead.

Candidate Bio Twitter Facebook
Natalie COURCELLES BEAUDRY DECLARED – Constituency assistant, former Parliamentary Page      
Ted FALK ACCLAIMED – Business owner, credit union pres     Profile
Terry HAYWARD ACCLAIMED – Retired public servant, ex-farm org pres, lives in Anola @TerryHaywardMB   Profile

Brandon-Souris, MB

So much needs to be written about Brandon-Souris to catch us up from last time, but given the time and the state of my cold, I may have to rush through it a bit, though luckily for me, Aaron Wherry and Tim Naumetz have picked up the slack in the meantime.

Brandon-Souris NDP by-election candidate Cory Szczepanski, October 2, 2013First off, the NDP selected Labour Council President Cory "the Welder" Szczepanski over their 2011 candidate John "the Engineer" Bouché at their rescheduled nomination meeting last Thursday September 26. There were about 60 in attendance, but as one wag asked the Brandon Sun's reporter, "Is it true the NDP in Brandon-Souris has a bigger nomination meeting than the Conservatives?". Indeed they had.

Meanwhile Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau had been through town the day before, appearing with the man everyone assumed would shortly be acclaimed the Liberal candidate, Rolf Dinsdale. Recall that Dinsdale's main competition, Frank Godon, dropped out late the week before to endorse Dinsdale, citing a desire to do what was right for the party, and the need to take care of his ailing parents.

Killarney--Turtle Mountain mayor and prospective Brandon-Souris candidate Rick Pauls, September 25, 2013 (photo: The Brandon Sun)So, now the Liberals were in the cat-bird seat – being able to mau-mau the Conservatives for failing to have an open, or at least contested, nomination meeting, but not needing to organize such a contest themselves. And – even better – now it looked like there was a grumpy Conservative prepared to run as an independent after Chris Kennedy said he wouldn't – Killarney-Turtle Mountain Mayor Rick Pauls. Oh goody, yet one more name on the ballot to split the Conservative vote, thought the Liberals: "go Rick go!". Pauls was intending to run on behalf of all the people who had bought Conservative memberships but didn't get a chance to vote in the Conservative nomination, surely a noble cause if you're a Liberal.

So noble, in fact, that some Liberals decided to approach Pauls to run for them instead. Meaning that now the Liberals had a contested nomination on their hands. And Rolf Dinsdale had some competition. And was back to one less name on the by-election ballot at the end of the day, even if he did win the Liberal nomination. Talk about unintended consequences.

Around this time, over on the Conservative side, Chris Kennedy told the Brandon Sun's Jillian Austin that he had sent five packages to Ottawa over the course of the nomination contest, and believes the tracking number that made it into the public domain was his final set of memberships, not the nomination papers he swears he sent on Tuesday. Rather than release all five tracking numbers though (perhaps he didn't have them, perhaps he understandably wanted the whole thing to just go away), Kennedy said he was trying to move on and create a new life outside of politics.

But not, apparently, before signing a letter together with the other unsuccessful and/or withdrawn nomination contestant, Len Isleifson, pledging their support to Larry Maguire as Conservative candidate. The letter landed with a thud, and had all the sincerity of a confession signed under duress by a political prisoner, in the eyes of those now determined to characterize the Conservative nomination as a fiasco (though, notably, this does not include all Conservative supporters – or even all Kennedy supporters). But it probably hardered Pauls' desire to run at all, and then his subsequent decision to run as a Liberal, so irritated were he and his fellow travellers about their loss of the right to vote in the Conservative race. A call Pauls reportedly received from now-Conservative nominee Larry Maguire, asking him "what it would take" to win his support, seems to have been the final straw.

Brandon-Souris Liberal by-election nomination candidate Rolf Dinsdale performs solo, September 28, 2013 (photo: The Brandon Sun)So, with Pauls now gunning for the Liberal nomination, Rolf Dinsdale took the evening of the NDP nomination off to go and play music in a local bar, and promptly had what could be most charitably described as a "biography malfunction". Unnamed sources, who nevertheless smelled like teen war-room (I may be mixing up my grunge with my punk, but stick with me), had a bit of a field day with Dinsdale calling himself a Facebook-executive on his bio instead of an-executive-of-a-firm-that-had-the-exclusive-rights-to-sell-Facebook-advertising-in-Canada. Yeah! What was he thinking, when the second one rolls right off the keyboard so much more smoothly than the first (she says, stopping to double-check and see if she made exactly the same erroneous abbreviation … yep; saw-ree). This also gave an opening for the anonymous sources to engage in some other what-should-have-been-blindingly-obvious-it-would-happen-eventually kidding around about the non-abbreviated name of Dinsdale's band and his nom-de-axe, plus highlighting some of the more, uh, non-traditional songnames on their playlist.

Dinsdale needed the missing chapter from his former bandmate's book — the one that should have been written about how to defend your a** from getting kicked in politics — because his first reaction was to tell Graeme Bruce of the Brandon Sun that the whole biznak had left him feeling "rattled" and rethinking if he still wanted to run, owing to some stern – even threatening – emails he received after the first story. The reaction to that interview with the local paper which also went national and seeing how badly the story turned out, however, seems to have stiffened his resolve; and now Dinsdale says he's planning a vigourous run against, not one, but two Conservatives: one for the Liberal nomination, and one for Parliament. Not a bad line at all, though it does slightly undercut his original unique selling proposition as being the Liberal who could appeal to progressive Conservatives. And the process leaves the NDP able to haul out their old chestnut about "Liberal-Tory, same old story" and post links to the Mouseland video yet again ("black cats–white cats"). Brandon Sun editor James O'Connor has withdrawn his unqualified endorsement of Dinsdale, and now says he will vote for whichever one of the two wins the Liberal nomination. Pauls still hasn't heard if he's been green-lit by the Liberal Party yet, but should any day now. Don't try all this at home, kids; politics is harder than it looks from the outside.

Candidate Bio Twitter Facebook
Larry MAGUIRE ACCLAIMED – Arthur-Virden MLA, Souris-born, lives in Virden @LarryMaguire4MP 253 Page
Cory SZCZEPANSKI ELECTED – Welder, Labour Council pres (USWA), lives in Wawanesa @Corythewelder   Profile

Anyways. The Liberal nomination meeting is now scheduled for October 9, with a membership cut-off two days before, with leader Justin Trudeau scheduled to return and campaign for whichever candidate those members select, the following day (October 10).

Candidate Bio Twitter Facebook
Rolf DINSDALE GREEN-LIT – Media exec (Walrus, Facebook, Blue Ant Media), political family from Brandon @RolfDinsdale   Profile, Page
Frank GODON WITHDRAWN – Former teacher & US Marine, Métis heritage, lives in Boissevain      
Rick PAULS DECLARED – Former Conservative Party member; Mayor of Killarney-Turtle Mountain      

Not to be outdone, Green Party leader Elizabeth May went from 0 to 3 nomination candidates in a day or two for a meeting also scheduled on October 9. May will be in Brandon for the meeting, and is hosting a fundraising luncheon earlier that day, and an evening town hall after the nomination. Running are CFIA food inspector Layne Tepleski, greenhouse owner David Neufeld, and retiree and historic re-enactment enthusiast Lynwood Walker.

Candidate Bio Twitter Facebook
David NEUFELD DECLARED – greenhouse owner      
Layne TEPLESKI DECLARED – CFIA food inspector      
Lynwood WALKER DECLARED – retiree and historic re-enactment enthusiast      

—————————-

And, I think, that's all she wrote on the by-elections for now. Stay tuned for:

  • a probably contested two-way Liberal nomination meeting in Brandon-Souris, MB on Wednesday, October 9
  • a three-way contested Green Party nomination meeting in Brandon-Souris, MB the same day (Oct 9)
  • an as-yet uncontested NDP nomination meeting in Provencher, MB on Sunday, October 20
  • an announcement, "at the opportune time", of the name of the Bloc Québécois candidate who will run in Bourassa, QC
  • the dropping of the writ, any day between now and November 30 (the last day on which the Bourassa by-election can be called)

Let's re-update the readiness table from last time, to see where the parties are across the four ridings.

Riding NDP Grn Lib Cons BQ
Bourassa, QC Moraille wins Sept 25 3-way contest Deputy leader appointed candidate July 9 Dubourg wins Sept 8 2-way contest Mahmoud acclaimed Sept 16 Leader has ruled out a run for himself; cand to be revealed when "opportune"
Toronto Centre, ON McQuaig wins Sept 15 3-way contest Deverell named candidate Sept 9 Freeland wins Sept 15 3-way contest Pollock acclaimed Sept 16  
Provencher, MB 1 declared candidate for Oct 20 meeting Hayward acclaimed Sept 25 Falk acclaimed Sept 11  
Brandon-Souris, MB Szczepanski wins Sept 26 2-way contest Oct 9 meeting with 3-way contest Oct 9 meeting with 2-way contest Maguire acclaimed Sept 13  

UPDATED: Murphy’s Law and the Conservative Nomination Process in Brandon

September 24th, 2013 | 21 Comments

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

When a normally reticent Conservative Party goes to the lengths of releasing Purolator tracking numbers to counter a growing maelstrom in western Manitoba, you just know the conspiracy genie has gotten pretty far out of the bottle and is not going back in gently.

Popular local Conservative Brandon–Souris, MB nomination candidate Chris Kennedy at first said his nomination application – due two Wednesdays ago – was rejected because it did not include the $1,000 deposit cheque. Later we learn that the application package did not arrive at Conservative headquarters until the Thursday at lunchtime.

Then, as recounted by Brandon Sun editor James O'Connor (behind a paywall):

Kennedy does admit he was pushing the deadline when he sent his package by courier overnight to Ottawa on Tuesday. But he also maintains his application was complete — in every way.

"I'm very shocked and disappointed and a lot of other things," Kennedy told the Sun on Monday, after an emotional weekend trying to come to grips with what I can only characterize as a betrayal by the party he so dearly believes in.

"It hasn't even sunk in yet … If there was something that I did maliciously or … misled anybody then that's a different story, but that wasn't the case here."

Kennedy said that he was told by the party that his nomination application didn't include his $1,000 deposit cheque, a requirement for all candidates.

"Whether I agree with that is another question," he said. "So that's the reason I've been given as to why I'm not a candidate."

Kennedy looked me square in the eye this week and said he recalls filling out the cheque and had another person in the room see him do it.

He says he can't believe he then forgot to staple it to the application form.

Then earlier this week, insiders started to float another theory. If you don't believe the missing cheque allegation, then this application arrived late. The morning after the Wednesday night deadline.

Back to Kennedy and the so-called missing cheque. Last week, he again looked me straight in the face and said he has searched his house high and low and not found the allegedly missing cheque.

But Mary Agnes Welch of the Winnipeg Free Press was able to get the Purolator tracking number, for what she's reporting to be Kennedy's package, from the Conservative Party, and it was published on Twitter by Free Press Brandon columnist Deveryn Ross as 329968575939.

Plug that number into Purolator.ca and you get the manifest of the package. To see the recipient's signature and more details, though, you have to enter the shipper or receiver's postal code. So, I looked up the Conservative Party's postal code on their website, and plugged that in. This showed me the sender's address, and so I looked up the postal code of that address, and plugged that in. Here's what I saw:

[Click on image to open full-sized version]

Detailed Purolator Manifest for waybill #329968575939

The manifest says that the original address was "48 RIVERHEIGHTS DR Brandon, MB, CA" (a residential address), the shipping label was created at 4:04 PM on Wednesday, September 11, and that Purolator picked it up from the " STAPLES AGENT PICKUP at 1645 A 18 ST BRANDON R7A5C6 MB" (the address of a local shopping mall) less than an hour later at 4:52 PM. From there, the package made its way overnight to the address of Conservative Party headquarters in Ottawa (listed as "TORRIES" on the label).

If Kennedy maintains that he sent the package on Tuesday, would we guess that it was picked up from his house on the Tuesday, and the shipment label was not created and the shipment not sent onwards to Ottawa by the Staples Purolator Agent until the next day? Or did Kennedy drop it off at the Staples in Brandon on Wednesday, thinking it was Tuesday rather than Wednesday? Or was this package *not* Kennedy's nomination papers, but some other documentation (for e.g., memberships) that was sent to party headquarters from his or some other campaign. Those are the only three logical possibilities, given the paper evidence now before us. Someone in Brandon is going to have to do more reporting legwork to figure out what the truth is there. I don't even know whether Kennedy lives at 48 Riverheights Drive.

UPDATE: One Brandon contact says that, yes in fact, this is Kennedy's address.

Regardless, if the rules state that the nomination package had to be received by Conservative Party Headquarters by Wednesday, September 11 at 5PM Eastern, this shipping manifest — if it's the right waybill for Kennedy's nomination package — shows that the package did not arrive until Thursday.

By contrast Larry Maguire's package was hand-delivered by someone flying to Ottawa, a nomination expense that will no doubt be recorded on Mr. Maguire's nomination expenses financial report to Elections Canada when that's due in a few months.

As Mary Agnes Welch reports in the Winnipeg Free Press, the Conservative Party could hardly be happy with the way things turned out. A contested nomination fell by the wayside, some new party members are feeling hurt, conspiracy theories are multiplying by the day on the eBrandon.ca forum boards, and either a local Staples Purolator Agent sat on a package for a day, or a promising young future candidate was proved to be a little clerically sloppy — all coincidentally on the same day the new Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is set to arrive in the Wheat City to campaign for his former-PC Liberal candidate, Rolf Dinsdale.

Whatever the truth, this can't have been the way anyone wanted the campaign to start. Hopefully everyone gets re-oriented onto a debate on the issues sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, the NDP announced last night that it will be moving its own nomination up to this Thursday, September 26 from October 17, in case the by-election gets called earlier than would have been the case with a competitive Conservative nomination. Their Bourassa nomination will be the night before, so all the major parties slates are starting to take shape for the four vacant ridings.