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Posts Tagged ‘Liberal 2013 Leadership Contest’

Guest Post: A Referendum on Electability – The 2013 LPC Leadership Race

May 4th, 2013 | 10 Comments

Although crazy work commitments are keeping me away from all the blogging I'd like to be doing, we were fortunate to snag a guest-post from a political scientist who studied the recent federal Liberal leadership race. Thanks to David McGrane for sharing his recent data and findings with Pundits' Guide readers.


A Referendum on Electability – The 2013 LPC Leadership Race

by David McGrane

David McGrane, Ph.DThe day that the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC) announced its leadership results, I attempted an experiment with administering a ‘virtual exit poll.’  I set up a 10-15 minute online survey. Just when the leadership results were announced, I posted a link to the survey several times on twitter and Facebook ads began to run that were targeted at LPC supporters. Respondents were entered into a draw for one of ten $20 Tim Horton’s cards as an incentive.

Unfortunately, the experiment did not work.  Depending on where the question was placed in the survey 200 to 330 out of the 104,000 LPC voters completed the survey. As such, the attrition rate was rather high as the survey when along.  Over half of these respondents were from Ontario, while the other respondents were scattered throughout Canada.  Of the 324 respondents who stated their first choice in the leadership the breakdown was a follows: 66% Trudeau, 15% Hall-Findlay, 12% Murray, McCrimmon 3%, Cauchon 2% and Coyne 2%). Registered supporters made up approximately 30% of the sample. In this sense, the sample under-represents Trudeau voters and over-represents voters from Ontario and Hall-Findlay supporters.

When using a convenience sample, such a small sample size prevents me from presenting firm findings about voter behaviour in the LPC leadership race.  On the bright side, the LPC in Saskatchewan did e-mail the survey to their members at the same time. Using this method, I got about 350 or 15% of the Liberal leadership voters in Saskatchewan to fill out the entire survey.  The lesson is that you can’t do ‘end run’ around parties in surveying One-Member-One-Vote leadership races in Canada. You basically need their co-operation or you are out of luck.

I will be using the 350 respondent sample of Saskatchewan Liberals for a future academic paper. However, in this blogpost I will use the other sample of 330 Liberals outside of Saskatchewan to glean some tentative conclusions about why Trudeau won in such a landslide. That is really my question. We knew that Trudeau would probably win the LPC leadership…but why did he win so big?

The intent of the questionnaire was to test what factors influenced LPC voters when they decided to choose their preferred leadership candidate. To limit the length of the survey, I asked questions concerning only the top three candidates (Justin Trudeau, Joyce Murray, and Martha Hall Findlay).  The results are presented below. The sample for these results ranges from 330 LPC voters for questions placed at the beginning of the survey to 200 for question placed at the end of the survey. 

While this sample should not be considered ‘representative’ in a scientific sense, it does give us some clues to the strength of the brand that Trudeau developed among LPC members and registered supporters during the leadership campaign. From the data that I have gathered, Trudeau had significant advantages over his two nearest competitors in all areas of the campaign. However, the areas where Trudeau had the largest advantages were ideology, voter contact, endorsements, and electability.  The biggest factor in Trudeau’s win was his ability to convince LPC that he was the candidate that would win the party the most seats in the next election.  Contributing to his image of electability, respondents felt that Trudeau was a good speaker who looked good on television and that he could provide inspiring, compassionate, and strong leadership to appeal to those who did not vote for the Liberals in the last election. When it came to electability, Trudeau seemed to be a near perfect 10 and that is why he won in a landslide.

But, I did say a ‘near’ perfect 10. The data does reveal some of what the Liberals who took this survey regarded to be their new leader’s liabilities and it reads like a Conservative Party attack ad.  We can see some of the criticism of Trudeau as ‘policy lite’ coming out.  Despite having a much larger and better funded campaign machine, the respondents in the survey were no more aware of Trudeau’s policies than they were aware of the policies of his two closest competitors.  Further, the respondents in the survey were somewhat skeptical about Trudeau’s understanding of the economy and his experience outside politics.  Compared to Trudeau, they saw Martha Hall Findlay as the more knowledge and intelligent candidate who had a better grasp of the economy and superior experience outside of politics. Murray was seen as an honest and moral candidate who had good experience inside and outside politics. Though they couldn’t match his style, Hall Findlay and Murray were seen as having some the substance that Trudeau lacked.

Ideology and Policies

My data indicates that Trudeau did a very good job at positioning himself in the middle of the left/right ideological spectrum of the Liberal Party.  Respondents were asked to place themselves, Trudeau, Murray, and Hall-Findlay on an 11-point scale with 0 being the far left of the LPC and 10 being the far right of the LPC.  The mean placement for the LPC voters was 5.96, which was close to how they judged Trudeau who scored 6.15. The other two candidates were judged to be more on the ideological extremes of the LPC. Hall-Findlay was viewed as being on the right of the LPC with a score of 7.54, while Murray was viewed at being on the left of LPC with a score 3.87.

On two of the controversial issues of the campaign, the LPC voters seemed to side with Trudeau. For instance, respondents were asked to place themselves on the following scale: 0 = the Liberal Party of Canada needs find ways to co-operate with the NDP and Greens to prevent vote splitting and defeat the Conservatives in the next election and 10 = the Liberal Party of Canada should run candidates in all ridings in the next federal election and not cooperate with the NDP or the Greens in any way. The mean of 7.56 clearly leans towards Trudeau’s position of non-co-operation.  The Northern Gateway pipeline ended up being a divisive issue in the LPC leadership race with Hall-Findlay strongly supporting it and Murray strongly opposing it.  As such, respondents were asked to indicate their position on the following scale:  “0 Liberals should oppose pipelines to bring raw bitumen from Alberta’s oil sands to the West coast and 10= Liberals should support the development of Alberta's oil sands through the building of pipelines to West coast.”  The mean of the respondents was 5.70 indicating that Trudeau’s wishy-washy position of supporting the Northern Gateway pipeline but not its current route was the safest position to take.  

The fact the Trudeau was more ideologically in tune with LPC voters in the survey came out when respondents were asked how much they agreed with his policies that they had heard about. Of those who remember hearing about Trudeau’s policies, they were asked to indicate their level of agreement on a 1-5 scale (1=agreed with all of his policies, 2=agreed with most of his policies, 3=agreed with some of his policies and disagreed with others, 4= disagreed with most of his policies, 5=disagreed with all of his policies). Trudeau scored a mean of 2.14.  When the same question was asked of other candidates, Hall-Findlay scored 2.71 and Murray scored 3.06.   

Effectiveness of Trudeau’s Campaign Machine

Interestingly, the Trudeau campaign had an advantage over other campaigns when it came to contacting voters but it did not do a superior job at communicating Trudeau’s policy positions.  On a scale of 1-6 (1= zero contact and 6=over 20 contacts), the Trudeau campaign scored a mean of 4.65 compared to 3.45 for the Hall-Findlay campaign and 3.44 for the Murray campaign.  However, when respondents were asked if they remembered hearing about any of the candidates policies, Trudeau’s advantage nearly disappears.  On a scale of 1-3 (1=hearing about several policies, 2=hearing about one or two policies, 3=hearing about no policies), the Trudeau campaign scored a mean of 1.57 that was relatively close to the means of 1.61 for the Murray campaign and 1.69 for the Hall-Findlay campaign.


As could be expected, the respondents were much more impressed with Trudeau’s endorsements than with the endorsements of the other candidates. Using a 0 to 10 scale (0=not impressed at all and 10=very impressed), respondents were asked how impressed they were with the candidates’ endorsements by “MPs and other notable people.” The mean for Trudeau was 7.00 which was much higher the mean for either Murray (4.89) or Hall-Findlay (3.80). 


Trudeau’s largest advantage over his opponents was in the area of electability. The voters in the LPC leadership race who took the survey clearly believed that Trudeau was most able of the candidates to win more seats for the party in the next election.  Respondents were asked: “On a scale of 0 to 10, during the leadership race, how did you rate the ability of the following candidates to win more seats for the Liberal Party of Canada in future elections? 0 = not very able to win more seats, 10 = very able to win more seats.”  Murray scored a mean of 4.89 and Hall-Findlay scored a mean of 5.48.  Trudeau scored a whopping 9.88 which is close to a perfect 10! 

The media may have played a role here as 96% of the respondents choose Trudeau as the candidate that the media thought would win the most seats for the LPC in the next election.  When asked on a 0-10 scale how favourable the media coverage of the candidates was (0=not very favourable and 10=very favourable), Trudeau scored a mean of 8.74 compared to the lower scores of Murray (6.41) and Hall-Findlay (6.14).

Leader Abilities and Character Traits

The respondents were given a list of things at which successful leaders of political parties much excel. The respondents were then asked how they rated the abilities of the three candidates in these areas based on 1-4 scale (1=poor, 2=fair, 3=good, 4=excellent).  The mean scores for Trudeau were highest on “looking good on television” (3.84), “being a good public speaker” (3.65), and “being able to appeal to those who did not vote for the Liberals in the last election.”  Trudeau’s lowest scores were “being hard for the Conservatives to attack” (2.34), “having good experience outside of politics” (2.62), and “understanding the economy” (2.65). By coincidence, the two latter themes were picked by the Conservatives in their first attack ads against Trudeau. Perhaps, voters in the LPC leadership race had some of the same concerns about Trudeau as the Conservatives’ focus groups.

As for Hall-Findlay, she beat Trudeau on “understanding the economy” (3.06 versus 2.65), “being hard for the Conservatives to attack” (2.69 versus 2.34), and “having good experience outside of politics” (2.91 versus 2.62).  The only area where Murray beat Trudeau was her experience outside of politics  (2.96 versus 2.62). Although, reflecting her standing as a MP, she did come close to beating Trudeau when it came to “having good experience inside politics”: Murray scored 2.91 to Trudeau’s 2.96. Finally, all three candidates scored nearly the same on “understanding social policy issues like healthcare and education” (Trudeau scored 3.03, Hall-Findlay scored 2.93, and Murray scored 2.92). 

Similarly, respondents were given a list of positive character traits and asked how well these traits described the three candidates (1=not well at all, 2=not to well, 3=quite well, 4=extremely well).  Trudeau scored highest on “inspiring” (3.62), “compassionate” (3.52), and “provides strong leadership” (3.37) and his lowest scores were on “knowledgeable” (2.93) and “sensible” (3.05). Hall-Findlay beat Trudeau when it came to “knowledgeable” (3.16 versus 2.93) and “intelligent” (3.36 versus 3.14) while her lowest scores were on “inspiring” (2.39).  Murray narrowly beat Trudeau on three traits: “moral” (3.27 versus 3.22), “honest” (3.26 versus 3.24), and “knowledgeable” (2.99 versus 2.93).  Murray’s weakest score was on “provides strong leadership” (2.34).


According to this data, Justin Trudeau won a landslide in the LPC leadership race because the campaign became a referendum on which candidate could deliver the most seats for the party in the next election.  Trudeau was able to build up an image for himself in the party as the candidate who had the most endorsers, contacted LPC members and registered supporters the most, took positions that had broad support in the party, and was favoured by the media.  He had an image of a compassionate and inspiring candidate who was telegenic, a good speaker, and attractive to traditionally Liberal voters who may have drifted away to support other parties. All of these factors led Trudeau to be seen as the most ‘electable’ candidate. Once he was seen this way, whatever reservations Liberals may have had concerning his experience outside of politics or his political knowledge faded. His campaign took on an air of invincibility and he steamrolled to victory. 


David McGrane, Ph.D, is a Professor of Political Studies at St. Thomas More College in the University of Saskatchewan, and the author of the chapter on the NDP in the regular Carleton University collection “The Canadian Federal Election of 2011”. He has studied several federal and provincial leadership conventions in Canada. Read more at

Liberals doing it all wrong

March 13th, 2013 | 19 Comments

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

Earlier today, Liberal leadership candidate Marc Garneau dropped out of the race after failing to generate a debate on substance versus flash.

This is too bad, because he never really tried.

Garneau wanted a debate on substance with Justin Trudeau, but he never raised a substantive issue for the debate. The best he came up with was to ask "what is your position on the middle class?". How can you even have a position on that? I don't know what that would even be.

It's like the hackneyed start to so many badly-written political speeches: "This campaign is about leadership". It's not *about* leadership, if you have to say it is. If a campaign is truly about leadership, then show some. Same goes for substance. Actions speak louder than words.

The young woman who ran the organic farm stall at the Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market, and challenged Justin Trudeau on fossil fuel subsidies and inter-party cooperation last weekend, could have taught Garneau a thing or two. She didn't issue a news release, hold a 130-S, and dispatch her spinners on Twitter. She just asked Trudeau the questions. And then watched him skate.

Instead the Liberal leadership race has been marked by a series of too-clever tactics and gimmicks, by a gang of folks who don't even do them well for the most part anymore. For example, if you're going to make a big attack, don't signal it to your target days ahead of time and give him the chance to prepare.

And now comes the inevitable battle over the rules. What Liberal contest is complete without one of those. Because no-one trusts one another to act in the overall good of the party, rules multiply and become unwieldy, and then when they crack under their own weight, people argue over them and try to press their own advantage all over again.

One candidate who is doing most things right is Joyce Murray, who although I disagree with her crazy elite-accomodation scheme to withdraw electoral choices from voters in the hopes of steering their choice elsewhere, at least has a clear unique selling proposition to distinguish her from the other candidates. She has also made sustainable development and electoral reform key parts of her platform, and has an actual electoral strategy to try and win the leadership contest using the contacts of organizations like and

Another is Deborah Coyne, who is making a clear pitch to the policy descendants of the Trudeau Sr. era, if not the groupies, with her work to update the classic strong central government strain of federal Liberal thinking — though she doesn't seem to have a political strategy for winning the vote, and seems intent on winning a role in the party's future policy development instead.

Even Martha Hall Findlay staked out some turf on the right of the spectrum, mixed with a personal style that is usually charmingly frank and self-depracating, and an electoral strategy that focussed on building up a concentration of support out west. But again, she hurt her own cause when she made her own big attack move personal rather than substantive.

But, no, political "substance" isn't found in 44-point economic plans that no-one can remember, or earnest invocations to "be bold" either.

It's taking a substantive policy issue, that resonates with the political coalition you want to appeal to and creates a meaningful difference with your opponents, finding compelling language to distill and communicate its essence, and then provoking debate over it for the purpose of winning people over to your perspective.

At one time, there was nobody better at doing that than the federal Liberal Party. But on the eve of their fifth and final leadership debate, and the deadline for voter registration, it seems many of them have just forgotten how.

UPDATED: A Tale of Two Leadership Races

February 17th, 2013 | 39 Comments

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

Satellite trucks filled the parking lot at Mississauga's International Centre to see nine candidates at times stumble their way through the first real debate on their way to picking the leader of the third party in the House of Commons.

The combative and fast-paced format was designed to see which of the federal Liberal leadership contestants could master the art of the pithy clip in today's rapid-fire media environment, while still conveying something of substance or connecting to a deeply held value. The answer: very few of them.

Many have still not answered the very simple question of why they are in the race at all, what their unique selling proposition or positioning statement is, or how specifically they plan to lead the party back out of the wilderness. Others are unconsciously channelling the very tabloid TV format they nominally object to, trying to interrupt or take cheap shots in service of landing some mythical punch that would become the clippable moment of the debate.

[Click on image to play CBC-The National's story on yesterday's debate]

CBC "The National": Liberal Leadership Candidates Face Off, Saturday February 16, 2013

While it's become fashionable to champion the value that political neophytes could bring to our system of governance, yesterday's debate clearly demonstrated how politics is a trade that takes considerable skill and experience to do well in; and that not enough of those on stage have completed a sufficient apprenticeship inside or outside of politics to pass muster for the top job. They will need to sharpen up their offerings considerably to justify the expense and effort of staying in the race. It could be that their best contribution to party renewal at this point is to withdraw.

The vacuous but earnest hejiras of several entrants should end now, as should the preening ego trips of others. Meanwhile, the cryogenic candidacy of Martin Cauchon, who still has evident political skills but hasn't had time to update his content or frame since the last decade, needs more resuscitation than time will probably allow at this stage.

Deborah Coyne, I believe, is being unfairly lumped in with the no-contribution candidates, as she shows up well-prepared for every debate, and is clearly the candidate of the strong central government wing of the federal Liberal tradition. She's running a cost-effective campaign suited to its more modest goals, and contributes points of substance with dignity and without personal attack.

Likewise, Joyce Murray has enhanced her reputation as a serious candidate by gracefully defending her controversial "cooperation" proposal for joint nominations with the NDP and Greens against some pretty ham-fisted and clunky attacks from the political amateurs on the stage. A proposal, by the way, that may enjoy more support amongst grass-roots Liberal members than amongst the political operatives who have been attending the leadership debates (h/t @Impolitical), and so should be accorded the respect of a well-considered response.

The gentleman from space, former astronaut Marc Garneau, is probably in the best position of any candidate to give Justin Trudeau's candidacy the kind of dignified vetting it so clearly needs. But Garneau will need to retool his attack a little, as when you criticize another candidate for lacking substance, you better have a quiver-full of your own proposals ready at the tip of your tongue, in order to make the contrast. Having supporters post links to your website on Twitter after the fact just dulls the impact.

Which brings us to the incompetent, nasty and probably career-ending political attack from Martha Hall Findlay yesterday, when she questioned Justin Trudeau's use of the phrase "middle class" based on a personal attack of his family's wealth. If you are going to shoot the King, you do not miss. If you are going to attack, for heaven's sake game out the likely response. Unlike the interesting chess moves we saw in last year's NDP leadership race (see: "The Push, the Pin, the Polls…"), here the Queen just attacked the King from the square right next to him, and was promptly removed from the board, suddenly undoing all the good work she had done to resuscitate her reputation within the party after two other disastrous strategic moves in the past (leading the charge to back Stéphane Dion in 2006, and then spending most of 2011 campaigning in ridings other than her own, which she had told everyone was "safe" but lost narrowly as a result). I do not see how Hall Findlay recovers from this misstep, but if Stephen Carter is as good a political operative as he says he is, he'll have to be proving his worth over the coming weeks.

INSTA-UPDATE: Almost as soon as this blogpost went to press, I noticed that Martha Hall Findlay had posted an apology to her website. It must be getting a lot of traffic, because I can't currently load the page, but I'll comment further if there's anything to add once I can.

From my perspective, the GTA debate was a turning point in the leadership race. I doubt there is anyone left with the ability or organization to catch Justin Trudeau, and very few are left with the legitimacy to vet him. Trudeau took the political openings his inexperienced opponents left him yesterday, and when Hall Findlay foolishly teed him up for the big moment, he hit it out of the park. (Sorry to mix the sports metaphors there.) Garneau has yet to really land a glove on Trudeau, and in fact was forced to defend the young dauphin after Hall Findlay's assault on him proved so unpopular with the audience.

Liberals do not want to see personal attacks against the man who will almost certainly become their leader, and whose persona invokes the hope that better days are returning for their once-great party. They need to give him the chance to improve quite a bit more and lose a bit of the swagger. But more importantly, they need to hear more from him about how he'll lead them out of the wilderness than has yet been on offer. If Justin Trudeau won yesterday's debate, it was only because most of his competitors lost it so badly.


Meanwhile in Saskatoon, far from the radar of the national media, four leadership candidates completed the fourteenth and final debate in a six-month race to pick the next provincial leader of the NDP opposition, and likely the next premier of Saskatchewan.

Saskatchewan NDP Leadership Candidates Face Off, Saturday February 16, 2013; credit: Greg Pender, Saskatoon Star Phoenix

[Photo credit: Greg Pender, Saskatoon Star Phoenix]

Like the federal Liberal Party, the Saskatchewan NDP had used its glory days as a crutch for one leadership campaign too many in 2009, when its old boys network engineered the installation of former deputy premier Dwain Lingenfelter as "the only one who could win". But a series of clumsy attack ads against the province's popular premier Brad Wall, coupled with Lingenfelter being the wrong leader to sell a decidedly left-wing opposition platform in the fall 2011 campaign, led to predictable results, and the party is now having the wide-open race it needed four years ago.

Featuring two MLAs with backgrounds in teaching (Trent Wotherspoon) and the provincial public service (Cam Broten), along with a medical doctor whose 2009 leadership run nearly caught Lingenfelter (Ryan Meili), and a nationally known labour economist (Erin Weir), the competitive race has featured a detailed and for the most part gentlemanly contest of ideas about resource royalty rates, the provincial tax system, rural farm ownership, the determinants of health, uranium mining, the emerging role of first nations youth in the province's economy and society, and lengthy discussion of how to rebuild and reinvent the party from the ground up.

While fundraising totals and social media counts give some indication of how active the various campaigns are on the ground relative to each other, in fact it possible to see a path to victory for nearly every candidate in the race, as two different recent polls suggest.

[Click on image to open full-sized version]

Leadership Contestant Fundraising, Expenses and Cumulative Balance, Sask NDP Race, Sept 2012 - March 2013 (reporting to end of January, 2013)

The amounts being raised and spent are small by national standards – although it's fair to say that some of the provincial NDP candidates will have raised more than some of the federal Liberal candidates to date – but they're being reported on every month. And the number of eligible voters stands at 11,000 – not large, but likely greater than the number of federal Liberals enrolled in the province, and showing a large increase in the number of youth members. On the other hand, the lack of diversity in the Saskatchewan race – four white male candidates in their thirties – stands out starkly against the range of candidates seeking the federal Liberal helm, and is the all-too-predictable result of years wasted not recruiting sufficient numbers of women and diverse candidates in that section of the party, who would then be ready to step forward.

All four candidates are using NationBuilder as their website and online-organizing platform, by the way; a fortuitous coincidence that should assist the party in integrating the data from all four campaigns afterwards to help the rebuilding process.

It will be interesting to look back in five years, and see which of the two leadership races produced the greater change in their party's rebuilding and growth prospects.


UPDATE: Here is the text of Martha Hall Findlay's apology from her website, during the 5 minutes or so when it came back up for air over the past hour:

2013 – MHF Comment – Leadership – An Apology, and the “Middle Class”

There are some who believe that I overstepped a line in the Leadership debate yesterday. To Justin, his family and to those who were offended, I apologize. My comments were not meant to be personal, in the sense of being in any way a comment on Justin’s character – indeed, I have the greatest respect for Justin’s passion, enthusiasm and commitment.

My concern is what I have been saying from the beginning: that to lead the Liberal Party and to lead this country, particularly when the economy is the most important issue facing Canadians, we need leadership that not only understands the many challenges facing Canadians, but also understands how to meet those challenges.

When choosing a Leader, it is a person’s record of experience, substance and achievement that are important, regardless of the circumstances into which that person was born.

I am proud of my educational achievements, my background of success in law and business, my record of fulfilling responsibilities to my employees and to my family. I agree with other of my co-candidates, that platitudes and lack of concrete policy ideas are not enough. We all have lofty goals, but it’s how we plan on achieving them that is critical.  Clear ideas, clear goals and clear plans of action are what we need to regain the trust and confidence of Canadians.

A comment on my concern over the use of the word “class”:

We all know that we have economic disparity in Canada – too much. We have lower income people who struggle to make ends meet, a great many who get by with the basics, and people who are well-to-do. We also have a great many who, by dint of hard work, improve the situation they started with for themselves and their families. We all know that our society is made up of people of a variety of income levels. But for me, the words “middle class”, “lower class” and “upper class”, although we hear them often in the US and the UK, are terms that carry with them a societal judgment, connotations of social ‘standing’ that I would prefer we not have in Canada.

My objective is to improve access to opportunity for all Canadians, whether it’s a kid at Jane and Finch in Toronto, in Attawapiskat, or in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. We cannot ignore the income disparities that we have – indeed, our focus must be on increasing equality of opportunity. All Canadians want jobs. All Canadians want a better future for their kids. All Canadians want to be proud of their country.

My colleagues in this race have all come from different backgrounds, and have had access, in different ways, to the great opportunities this country can afford. I myself had the benefit of excellent education, opportunities and role models when I was young.

This campaign will have its moments, some we might regret, and we will all face challenges and criticism. It is politics. I will say, though, that if there is a Liberal in this country who doesn’t believe that the next leader will come under intense scrutiny from the Conservatives, the NDP and the Green Party they are mistaken. We need a leader who has the ability to withstand that inevitable scrutiny, to take them on, and indeed – take the fight to them.  I have the ability and the commitment to do just that.

Trudeau Q4 Fundraising Juggernaut Signals Beginning of the End of the Liberal Leadership Race

January 31st, 2013 | 22 Comments

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

It is just not sporting to declare a political contest over before the voting starts, and that's not something we at Pundits' Guide would ever do. But Justin Trudeau's leadership campaign raised fully 58.4% of the $1.15M in leadership donations reported by the Liberal Party in the fourth quarter of 2012.

If it's not over already, and that's not the writing on the wall, then please just ignore the rubenesque diva in the corner singing swan songs for the also-rans from here until April 14. It's not nice to call her a fat-lady-singing anyway.

The $673K reported by Trudeau's campaign through their party's fourth quarter financial return does not even include a further $90K raised prior to his registration as a candidate — funds, in that case, that were not eligible for a federal political contribution tax credit the way these donations directed through the party are (nothwithstanding the 10% tithe the party keeps in this case to cover the leadership contest overhead).

Liberal Leadership Contestant Fundraising Directed Through the Liberal Party, 2012 (Q4)

Leadership candidate Total ($) Pct
Grand Total $1,153,535.11 100%
* Fry is not a candidate in the current federal Liberal leadership race, but is still raising funds to retire a debt from the 2006 contest. Missing from this list are 2013 entries David Bertschi and Martin Cauchon, neither of whom became registered leadership contestants until January of 2013.
Figures total the "Directed amount" of contributions, as that is the best indicator of fundraising potential, not the "total contribution" which could include the value of goods and services deduced from the ticket, and not the value after the party's 10% tithe.
Justin TRUDEAU 673,156.53 58.4%
Martha HALL FINDLAY 149,877.45 13.0%
Marc GARNEAU 122,616.11 10.6%
George TAKACH 106,233.00 9.2%
Joyce MURRAY 56,554.06 4.9%
Karen McCRIMMON 20,275.00 1.8%
Deborah COYNE 16,355.00 1.4%
Hedy FRY* 8,467.96 0.7%

Seven of the nine candidates in the current Liberal leadership contest reported donations in the final three months of 2012, as did Vancouver Centre M.P. Hedy Fry, who is chipping away at the remainder of her debt from two contests ago. Fry hosted the first leadership debate of this contest in her downtown riding two weekends ago, where the new crop of candidates tested their lines against the prohibitive front-runner. The second debate will be held in Winnipeg this weekend.

Joining the race in time for the Vancouver debate, but not in enough time to raise funds before year-end was former Chrétien-era justice minister and then-Outremont M.P. Martin Cauchon. Also missing from the Q4 return was David Bertschi of Orléans, Ontario, another late official registrant even though he announced his candidacy last fall. Karen McCrimmon from the other side of the nation's capital was able to raise over $20K, albeit that 94% of it originated from within Eastern Ontario.

Bunched up in a rivalry for a distant second place finish financially are former Willowdale, Ontario M.P. and 2006 leadership aspirant Martha Hall Findlay, Westmount–Ville Marie, QC M.P. and former astronaut Marc Garneau, and Toronto-based tech lawyer George Takach who has never run for office but served a stint as a political aide back when Liberals actually ran things in Ottawa.

The regional distribution of funds raised by the various candidates does tend to confirm what is known anecdotally about their relative pockets of strength, but again Trudeau wins in every Postal District (first letter of the postal code) except BC, where he finds himself slightly behind the province's home-grown candidate Joyce Murray. Murray however comes up short in the national comparison, hovering somewhere between Takach and the two smaller campaigns of Karen McCrimmon and Toronto lawyer Deborah Coyne.

Martha Hall Findlay's campaign is showing more strength in the west financially than other non-Trudeau candidates, except for Marc Garneau who passed her for second place in Alberta. She also shows some fundraising prowess in Ontario, though Takach beat her in Toronto, and Garneau bested her in Eastern Ontario. And finally, she won the non-Trudeau candidate sweepstakes for fundraising in Nova Scotia.

But frankly, the lion's share of money being raised for this leadership contest, as with the party's vote in the last election, is coming out of Greater Toronto, Montréal, and Ottawa (65% of all leadership fundraising came from the H, K. L, and M postal districts). Only BC came close to breaking 10% of the take, while the economic powerhouse of the country, Alberta, provided just 5.1% of the funds for the Liberal leadership race before Christmas.

[Click on image below to open PDF containing the regional distribution by Postal District.]

Looking at the cumulative fundraising by leadership campaign out of this dataset (and remember it doesn't include the $90K already reported on Mr. Trudeau's leadership registration report), Mr. Trudeau nearly doubled his take in the final days of the calendar year, a good part of that coming from an apparent leadership dinner in Sudbury, ON, along with some ceiling contributions from Regina, the Toronto area and elsewhere dated December 31.

[Click on image to open full-sized version]

Federal Party Quarterly Returns

Meanwhile, the federal parties reported their own fundraising totals for the fourth quarter of 2012 at the same time. No doubt these will be spun various ways by all concerned, but the thing that struck me was how three of the political parties came down off their election year highs the way you would normally expect to see in the first non-election year of a majority mandate, while the NDP and Greens more or less held onto their 2012 fundraising levels, with the NDP increasing theirs every so slightly.

What the NDP wasn't able to do, however, was move the needle ahead of the Liberal benchmark even as their red rivals receded a bit comparing annual hauls year over year. Liberal Party Executive Director Ian McKay told reporters in January that the party had had the "best December ever", which I haven't verified but seems plausible. However they didn't have a better fourth quarter than 2006.

Other popular spin-o-matic explanations for fundraising numbers include the old stand-by "Our members were also being hit up for leadership contributions", in which case you would have to add $1.72M to the NDP's total for 2012, and $1.28M to the Liberals'.

As for the Conservatives, they did not raise more in the fourth quarter than all the other parties combined, but they continued to raise more than any of them, from more donors both large and small. Also of interest, the Bloc Québecois put on a year-end push and got their fundraising back into a post-Québec provincial election high gear, raising a good enough chunk of money from large donors in the fourth quarter for us to remark that they aren't rolling over and playing dead yet.

You can see the full results here, but for now a quick table of the parties' fourth quarter and year-to-date 2012 fundraising results..

Party Q4 ($) YTD ($)
Cons $ 5,088,617 $ 17,260,373
Lib $ 2,789,855 $ 8,370,483
NDP $ 2,478,938 $ 7,679,351
Grn $ 801,058 $ 1,700,270
BQ $ 281,547 $ 434,283

UPDATED: Tactical Implications of the Liberal Leadership Rules

January 17th, 2013 | 8 Comments

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

The Federal Liberal Party gave a briefing to the Ottawa media to update them on eligible candidates, contest rules, and various deadlines. The Hill Times has a good overview of the session, but here's a briefing note with more of the details that would be of interest to Pundits' Guide readers.

UPDATE: Note several clarifications and additions below, courtesy of the helpful folks over at LPC headquarters. Thanks!

The Contestants

Nine contestants passed all the party's requirements in order to qualify for a spot on the ballot, all of whom are well known by now.

[Note that under the Election Act, a "candidate" is someone who runs for a seat in the House of Commons, while a "contestant" is someone who runs in a nomination contest or leadership contest. I will use both terms interchangeably, so as not to sound too jargony. But it's important to know the difference if you're using the Elections Canada website.]

The party is willing to say that each contestant has met all the candidate registration requirements. But it will not be releasing, for example, which provinces each candidate relied on to meet the "at least 100 signatures from each of 3 provinces" nomination requirement. We learned over the past weekend that it had been an issue for late-comer Martin Cauchon's nomination papers, and that he was trying to make up signatures in Manitoba. One might surmise that the provinces relied on for the nomination papers might give an indication of the various candidates' regional bases of strength, but that's reporting that will have to come by asking each of the different leadership campaigns. It's not coming from the party.

The Electorate

To be eligible to cast a vote for the next Liberal leader, you have to be a member or supporter in good standing as of the cut-off on March 3.

Note that any Canadian who is eligible to vote can enroll as a "supporter" of the Liberal Party at no cost. This description has a few implications. First is that anyone under the age of 18 cannot enroll as a "supporter", but is eligible (if over the age of 13 I believe) to become a party member which costs $10. [UPDATE: However, the membership fee is waived for those aged 14-17.] Same goes for non-citizen permanent residents, as I understand it. Both members and supporters have voting rights for the party leadership, while members can vote on other party matters, and run for a position within the organization or to be a candidate.

But there is a second step to go through before a member or supporter is able to vote, and that's voter registration. This process is designed to confirm the individual's contact information, their eligibility, and their location/residence for the purpose of determining where their vote will be counted. [UPDATE: The Liberal Party points out that security questions will also be included here.]

The registration process starts on Monday, January 21 for those members and supporters already known to the party, and continues until the registration deadline of March 14. Members and supporters will receive a registration package (which is already in the mail, I gather), and they have to return it before the deadline. [UPDATE: Email is being used for most supporters, except those not having an email address, who will receive a package the old-fashioned, snail-mail way.] The package will include various declarations, notably that the supporter supports the principles and values of the party, and is not a supporter or member of another political party. There may still be a charge in order to register, but McKay believes that to be unlikely. I'm told the party is conducting the convention on a cost recovery basis, however.

The party notes that, currently, its "universe" of potential voters stands at 100,000, including 55K members and 45K supporters who have enrolled through the party's website.

Meanwhile, leadership campaigns are signing up supporters and the occasional member. Memberships are still handled through the provincial-territorial associations (PTAs), though you can also join through

But – and this is a big BUT – Canadians who sign up to become supporters of the Liberal Party through the website of one of leadership contenders, instead of through, will not become known to other leadership contestants until after the March 3 cut-off. Also, those counts are not included in the above figure of 45K.

Leadership campaigns are understandably concentrating on signing up non-paying supporters, rather than paying members, and each has been given access to a website widget by the party to use on their website, for the purpose of enrolling supporters. The supporters all go into the central party's database, but the ones who sign up through a given candidate's website are known only to that candidate's campaign until after March 3.

So, until March 3, a leadership campaign can communicate with all the current members, and any supporters who sign up through the party's website, and any other supporters who have signed up through their own website, but not those who signed up through the website of another campaign.

After the March 3 cut-off, a "preliminary voters list" is compiled and distributed to the various leadership campaigns, who will have an opportunity to scrutinize it and file any challenges, while the registration process concludes. After the registration cut-off on March 14, the "final voters list" is prepared and sent to all the campaigns and presumably the electronic voting vender, Dominion Voting Systems of Toronto*.

Then everyone on the final list will be sent a voting package containing a PIN, which will be able to be used for either telephone or online voting during the one-week voting period from April 6-14.

The party has not decided yet the level of detail in which it will report to the public the membership and supporter counts, and whether by category and/or province. Of course, as part of the final result, the number of eligible voters will be announced, but detail beyond that has yet to be determined.

The Voting and the Results

So, eligible registered voters (whether members or supporters) will receive a voting package, and once voting opens (after the April 6 showcase in Toronto, as I understand it) they will be able to cast their ballot either by phone or online, anytime during the following week until the polls close. "Voting day" which has to be designated under the Elections Act, is April 14, but nothing in the Act prevents early voting.

Dominion Voting Systems is a vendor of voting machines to many jurisdictions in the United States, and has also conducted for example online voting for municipal elections in Peterborough. Interestingly, former Chief Electoral Officer Jean-Pierre Kingsley serves as the Chair of its Advisory Committee.

Naturally, journalists in attendance at Wednesday's briefing were most curious to know whether the Liberals could avoid the distributed denial of service attack (DDOS) that plagued voting at the NDP's leadership convention last March, and other security issues. Executive Director Ian McKay did not take the opportunity to mau-mau the NDP on this one (for fear I suppose that other problems could come back to haunt the Liberals), but noted that in their analysis of what happened at the NDP convention, the short voting window was what caused the problems. I tend to agree, because the short time windows to vote on each ballot, while the convention was being covered live on television, made for a very attractive target to a hacker.

The Liberals, by contrast, will not be voting in separate rounds of voting for each ballot. They'll be casting a single preferential ballot, the results of which will be announced on April 14. And they'll have all week to do it.

It's unlikely that a glut of voters trying to access the server all at once would become an issue in that case, not least because it will be in the interest of each leadership campaign to pull their votes earlier rather than later in the week.

So, less dramatic, perhaps, but also less attractive to a hacker looking for another notch in his bedpost.

No online form of voting is completely immune from difficulties, whether in security, privacy, scrutinability or otherwise. But at least a DDOS could not completely derail a voting process as designed in this way.

Votes will be tabulated electronically, by riding, and then each riding's counts will be weighted to 100 points. The bottom candidate will figuratively "drop off", and the next preferential choice still on the ballot of his or her voters will receive those votes, leading to another drop off, another re-apportionment, another count, another drop off, and so on until one candidate obtains more than 50% of all the preferences.

During the NDP race, someone set up a mock ballot at to simulate the preferential ballot portion of their voting (though that ballot's link shows it is no longer current), and sure enough someone enterprising has already set up a similar mock ballot for the Liberal race, giving us all something to follow obsessively, and all the campaigns something to spend time freeping. Unfortunately it contains too many unofficial candidates, is missing two of the official ones, and the current leader (Alex Burton) is not even in the real race. But maybe the owner if she or he reads this, could be persuaded to cull out the irrelevant names and add the two missing ones.

The entire counting process at takes less than a tenth of a second, and it probably will not take all that much longer for the Liberals in reality. But of course there's TV to consider, so no doubt it will be dragged out in some way or another.

Because the results will be tabulated electronically, they will theoretically be available by "ballot", by province, and/or by riding. But again, the party has not yet decided how much information to release and when.


The party also outlined further details about the debates, which you'll be able to read about at their leadership website. All debates will be livestreamed through their website at, in addition to any live coverage they garner from the networks.

Executive Director Ian McKay said that the supporter category did not seem to be unduly hampering their normal membership levels, and he also indicated that fundraising by the leadership candidates was not hampering the party's own fundraising efforts, noting that they had had their "best December ever" (results that will be reported in a few weeks).

Oh, and there will be a deadline for any leadership candidate who wants to withdraw from the race without appearing on the ballot, but McKay says they'll be taking advice from their vendor on what the optimum day is for that, so nothing specific to announce there as yet.

That seems to be the full wrap. Thanks to the Liberal Party for inviting me to observe and live-tweet the proceedings. I'll see if I can make it out to Vancouver for Sunday's debate.

Don't forget to check out the Pundits' Guide Liberal Leadership social media aggregator page for all the latest Facebook, Twitter, and Google News feeds in one place.


I have to declare a conflict of interest, inasmuch as two young people in my partner's extended family have worked for Dominion Voting Systems, and one still does.

Liberal Leadership could be settled by fundraising

December 1st, 2012 | 5 Comments

The entry fee and other financial rules established by the federal Liberal Party for the conduct of its leadership race could wind up being the decisive factor in the outcome – and leave several aspiring candidates at the altar of unmet fundraising expectations.

To date only Justin Trudeau and Deborah Coyne have been accepted as registered candidates by the Liberal Party, and have filed their Leadership Contestant Registration Reports with Elections Canada. Those reports detail what the candidates have raised and/or borrowed prior to their registration. Here's a summary of what they say:

Contestant Trudeau Coyne
* See note below
Period Starting Oct 2 Oct 5
Period Ending Nov 15 Nov 7
the Hat"
$ 4,627.98
$ 13.64
  $ 1,240.00
$ 77.50
$ 90,063.00
$ 271.27
$ 1,500.00
$ 300.00
$ 94,690.38
$ 142.61
$ 2,740
$ 130.48
Loans Amt

[* Note that this category is not available for leadership contributions made through the registered party, only for those made directly to a contestant's campaign. The Liberals, like the NDP before them, are insisting that contributions to leadership contestants – once they are registered with the party – must go through the party. Thus we will see names and amounts for all donors on all their subsequent reports. Justin Trudeau's campaign opted to report all names and amounts on his registration report in spite of this distinction. I did an exhaustive (some might say exhausting) review of the rules for leadership contestant reporting, during the NDP leadership race (read down half-way for the "Primer" on it).]

Cumulative Federal Liberal Leadership Contestant Fundraising from named donors, per Contestant Registration Reports - Dec. 1, 2012

Looking at these registration reports, a few things become clear:

  • Both registered candidates to date borrowed the funds to pay their first installment of the party's entry fee (Mr. Trudeau from the Bank of Montréal, and Ms. Coyne from herself).
  • And while Trudeau had already raised just under 10% of the spending limit by the time the race had started, Coyne (in spite of being on a near-constant leadership tour since last July, and not registering until mid-November) had raised less than $3,000. UPDATE: Let's remember that contributions made directly to a candidate (i.e., and not going through a party) are not eligible for a political contribution tax credit. Thanks to a regular reader for reminding us of this point.

Now, some of the Liberal Party's own leadership rules will start to have a bearing on what happens next. Consider:

  • The next installment of the entry fee is another $25,000 which is due for all registrants on December 15. Any new candidate wanting to register between December 15 and January 13 would then have to post a $50,000 fee. The third and final installment for registered candidates is due on January 13, and the last day to register as new candidate is Monday, January 14.
  • A candidate such as Deborah Coyne who had not raised the $25,000 needed to pay the second installment as of November 7 would have to raise a net of $657 and change daily until December 15 in order to do so. In the alternative, such a candidate could loan him- or herself another $25,000, or take out a loan at a bank or credit union.
  • The party will not let candidates take out more than $75,000 in loans, nor will it allow any candidate to rack up more than $25,000 in unpaid bills on any of their monthly financial reports to the party. The relevant sections of the rules are transcribed here.


What is the entry fee to become a candidate for the 2013 LPC Leadership?

The entry fee to become a candidate for the 2013 LPC Leadership is $75 000 non-refundable, and payable to the LPC in three installments as follows:

(i)   $25 000 on the date of the leadership contestant’s registration with the Party;

(ii)  $25 000 thirty days after the call of the 2013 LPC Leadership (December 15 2012); and

(iii) $25 000 ninety days before the day of the vote (January 13 2013)

What is the spending limit for candidates for the 2013 LPC Leadership?

The spending limit for candidates for the 2013 LPC Leadership is $950 000, from September 6, 2012, exclusive of the entry fee, transfers made to or withheld by the LPC for the processing of donations or services incurred, and certain policy research expenses, fundraising costs, candidate travel and other expenses as recommended by the Leadership Expenses Committee or the Ad Hoc Leadership Vote and Expenses Committee in the interim.

What is the loan limit for candidates for the 2013 LPC Leadership?

No 2013 LPC Leadership candidate shall exceed or allow his or her leadership campaign to exceed $25 000 in total leadership campaign accrued, unpaid and contingent liabilities, at the time of reporting, nor shall any such candidate or candidate’s campaign exceed a Maximum Total Campaign Debt of $75 000 in the form of loans, held by the candidate and/or third parties, subject to any rules adopted by the Leadership Expenses Committee or the Ad Hoc Leadership Vote and Expenses Committee in the interim, further and subject to any bylaw adopted pursuant to Chapter 15 of the LPC Constitution.

Will there be a levy on donations to 2013 LPC Leadership candidates?

10% of funds donated to 2013 LPC Leadership candidates will be levied by the LPC.

What are the reporting requirements for candidates in the 2013 LPC Leadership?

In addition to the statutory reporting required by Elections Canada, candidates in the 2013 LPC Leadership will be required to produce monthly expenditures reports to the LPC from the outset of the campaign.


To run a fully-funded leadership campaign (let's call that $950K, notwithstanding the other caveats) with a zero balance by the end of the contest on April 14, and assuming that a campaign started fundraising on September 6 (the day from which the party is counting leadership contest expenses), one would have to have raised at least $4,300 on average per day for those 220 days.

Someone wanting to enter the race and at least pay the entry fees on time without going into debt at all, would have had to raise on average $500/day for the 100 days between September 6 and December 15, and then another $862 daily on average for the next 29 days till January 13. And that's not counting any spending on leadership expenses themselves: staffing costs, designing and hosting websites, brochures, business cards, video production, databases, translation, etc., or other non-ceiling costs like candidate travel, polling and opinion research, and fundraising costs.

Then suppose you've made it over the first three hurdles of the entry fee, you still need to raise at least $862 daily on average to avoid running up more than $25K in unpaid bills, unless you don't spend anything. Even if you took out the maximum loan ceiling to cover the entry free, you would have to raise money to cover all other expenses out of fundraising.

We'll get our first look into who is making progress in the fundraising contest when the Liberal Party files its fourth quarter return at the end of January, but if more than a few other candidates don't get registered soon with the party and then Elections Canada, I think we'll know why.

Any campaign not raising a thousand dollars a day is going to have a hard time staying in the race under these rules, unless they are prepared to do so using mostly deficit financing.

Turning to the source of Justin Trudeau's early fundraising as detailed in his registration report, here's the breakdown by region, and contribution size:

[click on image to open full-sized PDF version]

Cumulative Federal Liberal Leadership Contestant Fundraising from named donors, per Contestant Registration Reports - Dec. 1, 2012

You'll notice that 68% of Mr. Trudeau's early fundraising came from donors who have now given their maximum for the leadership race, including 10 $1,200 donors each from Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto, 13 from Vancouver, and another 3 from around Toronto, along with a smattering from the rest of the country. Ms. Coyne picked up donations from Manitoba, the Toronto area and Nova Scotia.

For the latest on the Federal Liberal Leadership Race, don't forget to follow the half-hourly news updates, and social media tickers at the Pundits' Guide LPCLdr portal page: It's recently been updated with the latest candidate announcements and websites.

Pundits’ Guide to the Liberal Leadership Contest

September 23rd, 2012 | 7 Comments

As part of covering the April 14, 2013 Federal Liberal Leadership Contest, I've once again assembled a one-stop shop, social media and news aggregator page to track developments in the race.

Meet the "Pundits' Guide to the Liberal Federal Leadership Race" found at:

As before, you can catch the latest news, tweets, and Facebook friend counts for all the candidates, whether declared or still mulling, and I've assembled a calendar of key dates in the race, a summary of the rules, and whatever else I can find that we can count.

And of course, there's an index to all the blogposts I've written and will be writing on the issue of Leadership Contest rules, Leadership Finance, and associated data.

Stay tuned for further updates, as more candidates declare and register. But for now: load and refresh.

UPDATED: Fall By-election Calendar Shaping up Ahead of Supreme Court Ruling

August 24th, 2012 | 13 Comments

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

Political junkies will be able to fix soon – an autumn round of by-elections is set to kick off some time after September 11, although Etobicoke Centre seems less and less likely to be one of them.

[See below for update on list of possible NDP candidates in Victoria.]

With Thursday's announcement by Deputy Speaker and Victoria, BC NDP M.P. Denise Savoie of her pending August 31 retirement, only the Supreme Court's ruling on Borys Wrzesnewskyj's petition to declare null and void the 26-vote Etobicoke Centre, ON win by Conservative Ted Opitz last year remains, before we know the full shape of the fall by-election calendar.

Still, the fact that the Supreme Court has yet to issue its ruling on Opitz's appeal tends to suggest that it is preparing to overturn the lower court ruling, as the reasons for upholding a lower court ruling would seem much faster to write than the reasons to overturn.

This leaves us with one riding where the top prize is the Conservative nomination (Calgary Centre, AB), one riding where the same could be said for the NDP (Victoria, BC), and one complete imponderable that probably would normally have been a Conservative-Liberal contest favouring the Conservatives in the past, but where the NDP came second in 2011, and the outgoing Conservative incumbent's record is of unknown importance to future voting intentions (Durham, ON).

Looking at the likely by-election dates:

    Calgary Centre, AB Durham,
(A)  Date of the vacancy: Thu Jun 7,
Wed Aug 1,
Fri Aug 31,
(B)  Date the Chief Electoral Officer was notified of the vacancy: Thu Jun 7,
Wed Aug 1,
Fri Aug 31,
(C)  First day the by-election could be called (11 days after (B)): Mon Jun 18,
Sun Aug 12,
Tue Sep 11,
(D)  36 days after (C): Tue Jul 24,
Mon Sep 17,
Wed Oct 17,
(E)  Earliest date the by-election could be held (First Monday on or after (D)): Mon Jul 30,
Mon Sep 17,
Mon Oct 22,
(F)  Last the by-election can be called (180 days after (B)): Tue Dec 4,
Mon Jan 28,
Wed Feb 27,
(G)  36 days after (F): Wed Jan 9,
Tue Mar 5,
Thu Apr 4,
(H)  Latest date the by-election could be held (First Monday on or after (G)): on or after Mon Jan 14,
on or after Mon Mar 11,
on or after Mon Apr 8,

Assuming the Prime Minister decides to wait and call all three by-elections at once, the first Monday that would accomodate all three would be Monday, October 22, two weeks after the Commons Thanksgiving break week, and three weeks before their November Remembrance Day break.

Now, if the Supreme Court were to uphold the lower court ruling and declare the May 2011 election in Etobicoke Centre null and void, similar by-election timeframes would apply to that riding as well. We do know that the 102-page transcript of the July 10 Supreme Court hearing of the appeal was completed on July 26, but not much else as to the timing of the ruling, though the Court is bound by the Elections Act to deal with it "without delay and in a summary way". The timing of the Court's rulings are usually signalled two days ahead of time by news release, and no such release has been issued since early August.

But assuming the Court ruled by the end of August, and if it upheld the lower court, then a notice of vacancy in Etobicoke Centre would go to the Commons Speaker, just like with a resignation, and then the 11 day wait before a by-election could be called would start to count down.

The last day to call the first riding that became vacant (Calgary Centre, AB) is 180 days after the Chief Electoral Officer received notice of the vacancy: so, Tuesday December 4. But a call that late would result in a winter by-election campaign straddling the Christmas-New Year's holiday, and is probably therefore out of the running.

Thus, I'm expecting a mid-September to mid-October call for between October 22 and November 26, in those three ridings.

As to possible candidates in Victoria, BC, several names are making the rounds in NDP circles tonight, including MLA and former leader Carole James (whose provincial riding would then be opened up for the current Mayor Dean Fortin, goes one theory), Mayor Dean Fortin himself, councillors Marianne Alto (a former federal treasurer of the NDP), Ben Isitt, or Pamela Madoff, or the northern Victoria MLA Rob Fleming, who attended Thursday's news conference with NDP Leader Tom Mulcair and Savoie. Another name to include in the mix is 2008 Vancouver Centre candidate Michael Byers, who co-chaired Mulcair's leadership campaign in BC and now lives on Saltspring Island.

UPDATE: Lawyer Murray Rankin is another name being advanced for the NDP nomination. With a background in environmental and aboriginal law, he practices in both Vancouver and Victoria, but is affiliated with the University of Victoria where he is the co-chair of the Environmental Law Centre. Given Mulcair's strong support from the bench in the recent leadership race, Rankin is the kind of candidate who would easily fit that profile.

A likely candidate for the Liberal nomination would undoubtedly be the Victoria lawyer and federal leadership candidate David Merner — who as a sidebar is my guess for the identity of Merner is a bilingual Victoria lawyer who, when he worked for the Federal Justice Department in Ottawa, had spent considerable funds running for the provincial Liberal nomination in Ottawa Vanier, before Dalton McGuinty appointed Madeleine Meilleur instead. He has sinced moved to BC, becoming the president of the BC section of the Liberal Party (a position he stepped down from in late June to explore a leadership bid). He also sits on the board of, and has championed a Cullen-like platform of "cooperation", although we learn from Joseph Uranowski at the Equivocator blog that Merner's version does not involve co-operating with the NDP, but rather with the Greens and red tories, and even green tories ("conservation conservatives"). Anyways, the @QuiLiberalWho Twitter feed includes a retweet of an incident on Victoria's CTV station by Richard Madan, and was trying to engage BC Liberals like Dan Veniez (who has clearly been watching "The Newsroom") and a very impatient Jason Lamarche; plus the bullet-point questions being raised on (already a very social media-savvy tease such as you'd expect from a LeadNow devotee) hit on themes like electoral cooperation, the environment, and the justice system, which have been staples of Merner's campaign to date. So, LiberalWho is probably from BC, and probably not Taleeb Noormohamed from North Vancouver, thus I conclude he is David Merner from Victoria. We'll see how well I guessed on September 3.

Another possible Liberal name for Victoria would have to be economist Paul Summerville, a supporter of Bob Rae's who was last seen running for Policy Chair of the Liberal Party at their January convention in Ottawa, though he had earlier run for the NDP in St. Paul's, ON in 2006, supported John Horgan for the provincial NDP leadership in BC, and taken a lawn sign for Savoie in the last election.

Thought not to be interested in another run is 2011 Liberal candidate and former mayor of Oak Bay, Chris Causton, nor his Conservative counterparty Patrick Hunt.

Names being brainstormed for the Conservatives at this early stage include Oak Bay MLA Ida Chong, and businessman Matt McNeill.

As to the Greens, they seem to be more focused on Calgary Centre, which both senior organizer Rob Hines and leader Elizabeth May are claiming they can win, apparently based on candidate selection.

What the Liberals can learn from the NDP Leadership Race

June 13th, 2012 | 15 Comments

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

Today as the nation's capital focuses on the first in a series of votes on the government's budgetary, economic, and kitchen sink policy, another set of votes will be taken on the future of one of the historic players in Canada's political party system.

It's the day the leadership of the Liberal Party sets down the rules by which the new Leader will be selected.
The Ottawa bubble is focused on two major storylines in that regard – whether Bob Rae can run, and whether Justin Trudeau will (or should) – but many other issues must be decided, any of which could have an impact on the party's chances of rebuilding and moving forward.
The Liberals arrive at the point of choosing a Leader in a very different set of circumstances than the NDP, and somewhat different from the Bloc Québécois. Like the Bloc, their leader resigned in the immediate wake of a surprisingly poor showing in the May 2011 election, though had both their fortunes unfolded differently, Michael Ignatieff probably had a little more shelf-life as leader than did Gilles Duceppe.
This means that several potential Bloc leadership candidates had already been testing the waters, building a platform and team, and getting ready for a possible leadership run by the time of Duceppe's exit, and that party had a fairly clear process for picking his replacement. Though a minority preferred a longer renewal and decision-making timeline, the Bloc's braintrust settled on a quick leadership race, which featured a smaller subset of the original likely candidates, but a set of them ready to go, regardless. A caucus elder was the obvious choice for interim leader, he led in the interim which was mercifully short, and once the decision was made everyone just got on with it.
The Liberals, by contrast, opted to try and cure themselves of repetitive leaderitis, and thus took a longer period of reflection (which would have also afforded any potential candidates sufficient time to assess the competitive landscape and do the necessary prep work to help them make a good decision when the time came).
Either way, both of those parties will have arrived at leadership launch day with some pretty well-formed leadership campaigns ready to go.
That was not the case for the NDP, many of whose potential leadership candidates were expecting a race as many as four years down the road, and who were thus still assembling their campaigns on the fly behind the scenes after the campaign officially launched. While the media called the race long and tedious, much of the groundwork usually laid months and years in advance was now taking place in real time, and the obvious deficiencies of each candidate were often left unremedied for lack of time to fully address them. In reality, the NDP didn't have much choice in the matter, as they needed to move to a race fairly quickly given the other circumstances, but it did lead to a campaign somewhat lacking in full-on policy development in a number of cases, and candidates who needed some more experience in a number of key skills.
This, I believe, leads to the first lesson the Liberals should learn from the recent NDP Leadership Race:
1. Take the time truly required to ensure that a good number of potential candidates are ready to put their best foot forward in a leadership campaign.
In fact, there are a number of Liberal leadership candidates who have already been travelling to party events across the country, and have campaign teams in various states of readiness. They aren't always the names you hear in Ottawa, but if I was one of those candidates, the Hy's summer patio would be one of my last campaign stops, not one of the early ones, at this stage of the game.
A related issue is getting the incentives right for the appropriate balance between facilitating new blood to run, and not hampering substantive debate between the candidates. Just ask the NDP how difficult it was to get the 9-candidate debate formats right in order to please multiple interests (party members, the media, live broadcasters, leadership candidates, local organizers, etc.). A fully regionally, generationally, linguistically, and visibly diverse group of candidates is also a large group of candidates. And there's only so much you can say of substance in 30-second answers. Hence the next lesson:
2. Make sure the entry rules enable a true and fulsome debate between a set of viable and well-prepared candidates.
Part of what many NDP members pushed the party executive to do was set the rules so as to give them a wide range of choices. In particular, they wanted Mr. Mulcair's candidacy to be viable, which meant giving the party's Quebec section time to catch up in membership work with the rest of the country. In the end, it's not clear the extra time did accomplish that to the extent they hoped for in Quebec, I've argued elsewhere. Perhaps human nature needing a deadline would have accomplished the same work in less time, who knows. But this emphasizes another lesson.
3. Design the process in a way that will help build the party on a long-term basis.
I wonder if the new Supporter category is going to do this for the Liberals. To me, you want people with at least some stake in the outcome making the decisions if they're going to be good ones, and no membership fee = potentially no stake. Of course, all Canadians have a stake in the outcome of electios, but picking the person who will make all the key strategic and resource allocation decisions of a political party in order to help that party win actual seats entails a very different set of intermediate stakes – the kind that riding activists and party election volunteers are much more attuned to.
The Supporter category does have the benefits of (a) being something new, and (b) allowing the party to harvest email addresses of its universe of likely supporters in the next election, so it's not without some merit. On the other hand, I wonder if Liberal Party elders have fully absorbed how potentially disruptive it could be to their party's infrastructure to have a swarm of minimally committed social media denizens vote and run, leaving the party with a leader having little institutional mandate to undertake the reforms they know have to come next. And speaking of next steps …
4. Make sure the race itself doesn't hobble the party in what it needs to do afterwards.
So much money (not by their standards at the time, mind you, but in light of subsequent financial demands) was spent on the 2006 Liberal leadership race on things like salaries and hospitality suites and who knows what other luxuries, that the cupboard was bare amongst party donors by the time a major TV ad buy was needed to respond to the Conservatives. And some candidates are still struggling to pay off those debts.
The spending limit has to reflect the party's new circumstances. The Liberals need to find a leader who can maximize the value of every campaign dollar now, because that's the kind of leader they'll need in 2015.
Another aspect of this lesson is to ensure that all candidates and their teams believe they've been treated fairly, and that all eligible voters (members and "Supporters") feel they've had a fair opportunity to participate and cast their ballots. The contest has to be run by a group of party elders with no other interests than the long-term best interests of the whole organization. High penalties should be levied for hijinks and trying to skirt the rules, and some of the crazy membership rules (you can only get xx number of forms at a time, and only if you have a friend in the department and stand on your head while juggling, etc., etc.) need to be tossed in favour of a system where any Canadian who wants to can join up, and each of the leadeship contestants can have fair and equal access to that new voter. And create a culture that will reward collaboration after the race, rather than exacerbate divisions.
This leads me to the last lesson for the party:
5. Plan for the long-term, focus on what matters, and don't sweat the small stuff so much.
The amount of fuss about an interim leader having some advantage through extra Question Period profile or travel time is out of all proportion to the actual benefit, and overlooks the associated risks for that individual now having a record as well. Every candidate is going to have some inherent advantages and acquired shortcomings before this is all over. It doesn't matter. Also, as Interim Leader, that person was never supposed to make party policy, nor could they be expected to out-poll a honeymooning competitor, or move mountains either for that matter. The leadership process now is supposed to allow the party to pick the best leader for the next task at hand. Focus on that.
Equally, the next interim leader does not need to win every news cycle in Twitterdom. No-one will remember that in a year's time. And any party preference polls taken during the leadership race are purely hypothetical, as will be the ones that test various leadership candidates' names against the current Prime Minister or NDP Leader. Plus, if the GOP primaries were anything to go by, in a large slate, each contestant is going to go through a honeymoon followed by a brutal vetting, so don't count any chickens before they've fully hatched.
Whoever is elected leader will need to have and share a long-term vision for the party, and curb its tendency to manage only to the daily Ottawa news cycle. They will need the trust of the members and a mandate to take the difficult decisions. Twitter stardom may or may not help in all this, but gravitas or down-home common sense might do the job just as well.
As for some of the mechanical details, if the Liberals are going to use online voting, they will be at less risk of a serious Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack if it's used only for advanced voting, or is not constrained to short voting windows while on live TV. If it's high profile and time-limited on the other hand, it's an irresistable target for the parents' basement nerd disrupter squads.
While we're at it, it's not only the Liberals who have some lessons to learn, but the rest of us when following the race. Here are some of the pointers I've taken away;
  • The Ottawa media will crown someone as a front-runner who they know and/or think their audiences already know.
  • For this reason, carrying the mantle of the early "front-runner" is not always all it's cracked up to be.
  • A good idea and a clear message about it can vault an underestimated candidate into the final consideration set, ahead of many other more familiar names.
  • One member-one vote races require organization to win, but organization alone is not sufficient to win them.
  • Regardless of how many other things a candidate does well, it will be One Big Thing that trips them up in the end, and that one big thing is usually knowable or guessable in the first week or so.
  • It can be hard to tell the difference between a Game Changer and a Hail Mary Pass when you're in the thick of a campaign, but it's obvious to pretty much everyone else on the outside eventually.
Are there any other lessons you think can be drawn from recent experience?