October 21st, 2012 | 19 Comments
[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]
The Prime Minister has called three federal by-elections for November 26 in the vacant ridings of Durham, ON, Calgary Centre, AB, and Victoria, BC.
The call came while NDP leader Tom Mulcair was addressing his party's federal council in Ottawa, with nominated Victoria NDP candidate Murray Rankin in the front row of the audience. Mulcair and Rankin addressed the media afterwards, telling them that the party planned to accelerate its nomination timelines in the other two ridings. A three-way contested nomination had been scheduled for next Saturday October 27 in Calgary Centre, while another two-way contest was scheduled for Monday October 30 in Durham.
The call also came a day after the governing Conservatives nominated their remaining candidate, Vancouver Island Technology Park president Dale Gann, in Victoria riding. Gann was acclaimed yesterday, according to a brief on the Victoria Times-Colonist's website, though hopefully we'll get more coverage of that meeting later on.
Most interestingly, of course, the by-elections were called *before* the Supreme Court released its ruling on the Etobicoke Centre case, leading to much wild speculation on Twitter. I'm actually in the middle of writing a long contrarian analysis of that case, but got sidetracked by covering Rankin's speech this morning, and then the by-election call, so bear with me.
Here's what we know about the state of the race in each riding, moving from east to west:
Conservative candidate Erin O'Toole was out at a church pancake breakfast with his phone off, and missed a few calls this morning he says, one of which was advising him of the official launch of the campaign. O'Toole is a lawyer, and the son of the current PC member of the Ontario provincial parliament for the same riding. He was acclaimed back on August 24, after former Conservative M.P. Bev Oda announced her resignation effective July 31, 2012, and after two other nomination contestants (Chris Topple and Thomas Coughlan) withdrew from the race. He's had the usual round of ministerial visits, and looks to have a well-developed campaign in place.
The Liberals re-appointed their 2011 general election candidate, former vice-president and chief operating officer of the Toronto Board of Trade Grant Humes, at the beginning of this month (October 1). No other candidates seemed to be under consideration. Humes' candidacy was supported by a visit from Interim Leader Bob Rae, and the riding association has been gearing up since August 19 according to their website, though his own site is not up yet and he doesn't have a politician's "page" on Facebook.
The Green Party has apparently said that it will not run a candidate in Durham, but I haven't seen that confirmed anywhere online as yet. According to their riding association's website, they were ramping up for the by-election as of two days after the announcement of Oda's resignation, but there hasn't been any activity on the site since then.
UPDATE: The Durham Greens website has now been updated to report that they will be running a candidate (but no name as yet).
UPDATE: The Christian Heritage Party does have candidate Andrew Moriarity in place, however.
Activity by the NDP in the riding was lower profile until just this past week, when suddenly the former mayor of Brock Township (also a former Durham MPP) Larry O'Connor announced on Twitter that he would be seeking the party's nomination. O'Connor also recently ran to be the vice-chair of the Métis Nation of Ontario, and traces his ancestry back to the community of Blind River. He is being contested by Kim King of Port Perry, who recently retired as a provincial probation and parole officer in Uxbridge, according to the Uxbridge Standard. The original nomination meeting date of October 30 is now apparently being moved up.
UPDATE: The NDP nomination meeting has now been moved up to October 23.
Interest in the nominations alone would tend to suggest the riding will remain a two-way Conservative-NDP contest, though for the NDP they will be taking the opportunity to build a better organization in the riding than they could have counted on before. Their 21% vote-share and 2nd place standing in last year's general election would have come in the absence of really any kind of on-the-ground campaign, so we'll see what kind of difference a ground game and spending more than 3% of the limit makes when not facing a government incumbent.
Calgary Centre, AB
Well-known political commentator, communications consultant and former managing editor of the Calgary Herald, Joan Crockatt, defeated a large slate of opponents to win the Conservative nomination on the fourth ballot last August 24 in this traditionally Conservative seat, and will almost certainly be the only woman from a major political party contesting any of the three by-elections.
Although she's pro-choice and a supporter of equal marriage, Crockatt's candidacy otherwise is considered a win for the more conservative Wild Rose side of the movement in Alberta over their red tory cousins, leading some to believe that there could be an opening for a "progressive" candidate to win the riding, presuming the "progressive" forces could be somehow combined. Enter the registered third party "1 Calgary Centre", founded by Naheed Nenshi's former pollster Brian F. Singh and some other named and unnamed backers. Alberta being Alberta and Calgary being Calgary, "progressive" now means everything to the left of Joan Crockatt, with even the Progressive
Conservative Canadian candidate, Ben Christensen – a backer of Calgary's occupy movement last year – participating in yesterday's 1 Calgary Centre "unconference" beauty contest of the non-Joan Crockatt candidates.
The only nominated candidate or nomination candidate to Ms. Crockatt's left not to participate in yesterday's 1 Calgary Centre forum was Liberal Harvey Locke, a former provincial Alberta Liberal party president
and former city councillor. [UPDATE: no, that's my memory playing tricks with me]. Locke and his team opted not to participate in that conference in favour of hosting a visit from putative federal Liberal leadership contender and party House Leader Marc Garneau, but then tweeted frequently about how very very busy they were, perhaps regretting the decision later in the day. They are running as the historic alternative, with Locke's first leaflet emphasizing his record as a "progressive entrepreneur", who is "fiscally responsible, socially progressive, and environmentally responsible". His team was dropping flyers across the riding yesterday afternoon.
At least some people believe that 1 Calgary Centre was set up to try and boost the chances of the Green Party's candidate, essayist and urban renewal guru Chris Turner, though the group vigourously denies that. Turner was acclaimed by his party, with leader Elizabeth May in attendance, last month on September 12, and the Greens are promising a fully-funded campaign, based on momentum and what they call a "once-in-a-generation opportunity to unite our voices and vote for real leadership".
Meanwhile the NDP, which had been playing its cards close to its chest in the riding with a number of low-profile nomination contestants testing the waters, now appears to have recruited a candidate that has some party stalwarts in the province pretty excited. "Vibrant Calgary" executive director Dan Meades, originally from St. John's, Newfoundland and known for his work fighting poverty and as a advocate for the city's poorest citizens, will join diesel engineer Brian Malkinson and armed forces officer Matthew McMillan in the nomination race (social media expert Scott H. Payne having already withdrawn in Meades' favour), and all three candidates attended yesterday's morning discussions at the 1 Calgary Centre conference, and joined Turner and Christensen in the afternoon candidates' panel. The party had scheduled its nomination meeting for next Saturday October 27, but is now in the process of moving that up.
UPDATE: The NDP nomination meeting was rescheduled to October 23.
If Meades is nominated, that will make two by-election candidates with TEDx talks under their belt: Chris Turner's talk on "The Great Leap Sideways" can be found here, while Meades talks about "Time to End Poverty" here and "Challenging Malignant Indifference" here.
Given the calibre of the candidates who have come forward, if Calgary does decide to look elsewhere than the favoured Conservatives, they will have a difficult choice. On the other hand, betting against a Conservative win here would put you at odds with decades of history. The race for second place should keep pollsters and pundits busy enough, and I suspect we'll see a lot of riding polls early on, trying to game the race before it's started and force the hand of one party or another.
It now seems that the acclamation of Conservative candidate Dale Gann was the remaining precondition for the Prime Minister to call the three outstanding by-elections. Gann assumed the post after two other competitors demurred, including BC lobbyist Mike Geoghegan and former candidate Patrick Hunt. He has a very interesting background in promoting, financing and facilitating investment in high tech businesses in the south Island, and is the first Conservative candidate I've seen in a while to refer to his female spouse as his "partner". Cool.
Gann is joining a very strong slate of candidates from the other parties, starting with U Vic law prof Donald Galloway who assumed the Green nomination after his opponent won the tied contest on a coin-toss and then withdrew, and then economist and one-time Toronto-area NDP candidate Paul Summerville who was acclaimed as the Liberal candidate, and finally the NDP's Murray Rankin, an environmental and aboriginal law expert with many high-profile public roles in the province's recent history, who won a four-way contested nomination last weekend and was in Ottawa for meetings when the by-elections were called.
Ironically, every one of the candidates has a relationship with the University of Victoria, the latter three being professors at one time or another, while Mr. Gann is president of the U-Vic-affiliated Vancouver Island Technology Park and Marine Technology Centre.
Again, a very strong slate, but a campaign whose contest Rankin told members of the national press gallery earlier today would probably wind up being a two-way race between himself and the Conservative candidate, and I'd have to agree with him on that at this stage of the game.
Of course, we can't end this post without noting that the Prime Minister called the by-elections before the Supreme Court of Canada ruled on the Etobicoke Centre case. There were some rumours circulating on Twitter that there had been a leak of the court's ruling, to the effect that they upheld the lower court but on a split decision. I'd have to think a leak of a Supreme Court ruling would be unprecedented and very big news indeed. Unfortunately I can't find any other evidence for this assertion.
My own feeling for some time has been that the more time the court took to consider its ruling, the less likely it was to uphold the lower court ruling. Upholding the lower court ruling meaning overturning the election, of course, while overturning the lower court implies sustaining the election result, in case you weren't already confused enough.
Suppose the court did uphold the lower court ruling to declare the election null and void on Thursday, though. What would that do to the by-election clock?
Well, under the Parliament of Canada act, the Speaker of the House of Commons would be notified of the vacancy, and would have to notify the Chief Electoral Officer. Assuming that all happened the same day as the ruling came down, 11 days later (November 5) would be the first day the PM could call a by-election (putting E-Day on Monday, December 17 or after), and 180 days later (April 23, 2013) would be the last day it could be called – for a voting day of Monday, June 3 or after.
Who knows how many other by-elections there might be to call by that time: for example, if Conservative M.P. Peter Penashue's expense ceiling difficulties became serious, Labrador, NL might open up, or if Conservative M.P. Keith Ashfield's health worsened (here's hoping not, of course) Fredericton, NB might become vacant, or if Liberal M.P. Denis Coderre runs – as expected – for mayor of Montreal and/or Olivia Chow succumbs to the not-so-subtle media campaign to take on Rob Ford, we might also see Bourassa, QC and Trinity-Spadina, ON in play.
But all of that is a world away. Today we start the 36 day countdown to three known by-elections, and Pundits' Guide is the place to be if you want the most in-depth coverage of all three.