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Posts Tagged ‘Vacant Seats’

Summer By-elections to Challenge Party Organizations

May 12th, 2014 | 4 Comments

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

What if they called a by-election and nobody came … out to vote, that is.

That's the challenge now facing candidates and campaigners in the four federal by-elections called Sunday for Monday, June 30. The day before Canada Day. On what probably half the country will try to take off work as part of an extra-long weekend. Good luck with that!

Trinity-Spadina NDP candidate Joe Cressy installs his first election sign, with the assistance of Toronto city councillor Mike Layton and Davenport MP Andrew Cash, as the media looks on

The Prime Minister certainly had some unexpected scheduling challenges in calling the vacant Ontario seats. Although everyone had expected NDP MP Olivia Chow to resign her seat in Trinity-Spadina to seek the Toronto mayoralty, which she did on March 11, few expected long-time Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis to resign his Scarborough-Agincourt seat on April 1. Given that it would be a decent target seat for the Conservatives' ethnic outreach strategy without "Jimmy the K" as the incumbent, the governing party obviously took an interest in trying to seize the moment by including it with the other three vacant ridings. But that pushed the timetable back.

While everyone anticipated a spring provincial election in Ontario, in fact it had been expected for June 26. But then provincial NDP leader Andrea Horwath signalled her loss of confidence in the Liberal government the day after the May 1 budget, and Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne seized the opportunity to dissolve the legislature later that Friday afternoon and move to an earlier election call. Wynne opted for an early dissolution, even though the theoretical election day of June 5 was already known to be unsuitable by reason of a Jewish religious holiday, thus pushing voting day out to June 12, and many observers believe she did so to avoid further potentially damaging testimony before the legislative committee considering the gas plants closure scandal.

But now Wynne's preferred timing landed on top of the next federal by-election window, leaving the PM with two remaining options: either a late June trip to the polls for four or five ridings, or a call now for the two Alberta seats, with the Ontario ridings called mid-August for mid-September, before the Ontario municipal elections got into high gear for an October 26 E-Day. And the Macleod by-election had to be called for May 17 at the latest, so tick tock.

Industry Minister James Moore campaigns with Macleod Conservative candidate John BarlowThe end result is that voters will go to the polls, in both Macleod and Fort McMurray-Athabasca in Alberta, and Trinity-Spadina and Scarborough-Agincourt in Ontario, on June 30, while the late Jim Flaherty's seat of Whitby-Oshawa will wait for another round of by-elections probably in the very early or the late fall. The delay in Whitby-Oshawa seems to be a complete non-controversy locally where they're still mourning Flaherty's loss (although the usual suspects on Twitter still tried to ratchet up the predictable faux outrage).

Sunday's call also means that the federal writ period will be longer than the minimum of 36 days specified in the Elections Act. This means that the expense ceilings for the by-election candidates, and those for their parties, will have to last 51 days, or about 50% longer than usual.

So: a longer-than-usual Ontario provincial writ period, a longer-than-usual federal writ period, plus Ontario municipal pre-election preparations all going on at the same time. Toronto voters in those ridings are going to be campaigned-out and ready to get out of Dodge by the beginning of July. The question is whether or not they'll go vote first.

Naturally, a situation like this calls for an Advance Poll / advanced voting strategy, a domain that has without a doubt favoured the Conservatives in the past.

Fort McMurray-Athabasca Liberal candidate Kyle Harrietha and his sign crew erect the first highway sign of the by-election

The governing party won't seriously contest Trinity-Spadina, just as the NDP won't in Macleod. The Liberals put out a news release Sunday afternoon claiming they are the only party that will contest all four seats. But it would be a cold day in July before Macleod returned anyone but a Conservative to Ottawa, and as a long-time Liberal said to me, "if we lost Agincourt things would have to be really bad". So, really, most of the battle will take place between the NDP and Liberals in Trinity-Spadina, with an honourable mention to Fort McMurray-Athabasca for the possibility of making inroads against the government's previous winning margin there, and bragging rights for a renewed fight on the new boundaries in 2015.

The by-election riding and candidate records have now been added to the Pundits' Guide database, viewable here. More on them in a future post.

RE-UPDATED: Fifteen MP Retirements and Their Impact in 2015

April 22nd, 2014 | 22 Comments

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

Thirty new ridings, plus now fourteen fifteen retiring MPs and counting, adds up to a lot of open seats in the next election. And without the incumbency advantage, open seats always come with a higher risk of turnover. That means a lot of competitive races to watch in 2015.

[UPDATE: Mike Allen also announced his retirement this past March, so that's fifteen, now. Thanks to a reader for pointing this out, though I would have gotten the post updated earlier had not our power gone out at nearly the same time.]

[RE-UPDATE: Now that our power is back on, I've added a bullet point on Allen's New Brunswick riding, and also added the missing retirement details for Barry Devolin and Irwin Cotler as well.]

In addition to the 12 MPs who have resigned from the House of Commons since the 2011 general election plus the two who died in office (9 of whom have already been replaced in by-elections), a further 14 15 MPs (10 11 Conservatives and 2 each NDP and Liberals) have already announced they won't be running for re-election in 2015.

According to the Conservative Party strategy documents obtained by the Toronto Star in February, 11 caucus members did not intend to re-offer in 2015, and 16 others were "unsure". Given that document would have been written after the Ted Menzies and Brian Jean resignations, but before Jim Flaherty's sudden passing, the 10 11 Conservatives listed below plus Jim Flaherty would [UPDATE: more than] account for the 11. I take this to mean that if any of the unsure 16 are to announce their retirements, it may not come until closer to the expected election date in October, 2015.

The five vacant seats awaiting by-elections (remember they are currently vacant, and so are 2003 Representation Order ridings) are:

  • Macleod, AB – after Conservative M.P. Ted Menzies resigned to pursue private sector opportunities and help his community of High River recover from last year's floods. The Conservatives and Liberals both have nominated candidates in place, and the last day for the PM to call the by-election (May 17) is fast approaching.
  • Fort McMurray-Athabasca, AB – after Conservative M.P. Brian Jean resigned suddenly to pursue other opportunities. The NDP and Liberals both have nominated candidates in place, with the Conservatives set to nomination over a three-day period this coming Thursday to Saturday, laying the groundwork for a call as soon as Sunday.
  • Trinity-Spadina, ON – after NDP M.P. Olivia Chow resigned to run for Mayor of Toronto. The NDP has a nominated candidate in place, while the Liberals need a whole separate blogpost to do their candidate situation justice.
  • Scarborough-Agincourt, ON – after Liberal M.P. Jim Karygiannis resigned to run for a municipal seat on Toronto City Council. No-one has yet nominated a candidate here, although I'm hearing that Liberal memberships are being signed up at the furious pace you'd expect in the former seat of "Jimmy the K".
  • Whitby-Oshawa, ON – after the late and lamented former Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty passed away suddenly of a heart attack the other week in his Ottawa condo. The unexpected timing of this vacancy might see this riding and Scarborough-Agincourt … and perhaps Trinity-Spadina … put off until the early fall before the Ontario municipals on October 28.

But since we're about to spend lots of time looking at the by-election ridings over the next few months, let's look at the retiring MPs' seats now instead, and see what impact their leaving could have, by looking at the new ridings that will wind up being open seats.

British Columbia (5 retiring MPs)

 * Conservative M.P. James LUNNEY – (currently Nanaimo-Alberni, BC; announced his retirement on Oct 11, 2013 because of the new riding boundaries) – Lunney's seat is to be split 60:40 between its primary descendant seat, the new more NDP-friendly Courtenay-Alberni riding, and the all-new seat of Nanaimo-Ladysmith. [Open seat is Courtenay-Alberni]

 * NDP M.P. Jean CROWDER – (currently Nanaimo-Cowichan, BC; announced her retirement on Jan 23, 2014 in order to spend more time with her family; Crowder has agreed to serve as co-chair of the 2015 NDP national campaign, however) – Her old riding splits almost exactly in half, with slightly more going to its primary descendant, the new Cowichan-Malahat-Langford, and slightly less going to the all-new Nanaimo-Ladysmith seat. [Open seat is Cowichan-Malahat-Langford]

 * Conservative M.P. Russ HIEBERT – (currently South Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale, BC; announced his retirement on Feb 20, 2014, saying he never intended to be a "career politician") – Three-quarter of Hiebert's current seat will live on as the new South Surrey-White Rock, while the Cloverdale portion goes to the all-new Cloverdale-Langley City riding, both of which would be expected based on demographics and historic voting patterns to remain strongly Conservative. [Open seat is South Surrey-White Rock]

 * Conservative M.P. Colin MAYES – (currently Okanagan-Shuswap, BC; announced his retirement on Apr 12, 2014, saying that after 10 years as an MP it was time to move on) – There will be very little change to Mayes' riding (certainly no population change) as a result of the redistribution, although it is being renamed *North* Okanagan-Shuswap. It would be expected to stay Conservative, barring some unusual shifts and vote-splits (the last time it didn't was during the free trade election of 1988). [Open seat is North Okanagan-Shuswap]

 * NDP M.P. Alex ATAMANENKO – (currently British Columbia-Southern Interior, BC; announced his retirement on October 29, 2013, citing his upcoming 70th birthday in 2015 and saying that was time to retire) – The primary descendent of Atamanenko's current seat is the new somewhat-less-NDP-friendly South Okanagan-West Kootenay riding, with the Nelson area going to the new now-more-NDP-friendly-than-it-was Kootenay-Columbia, and another less populous portion centering on Princeton going to the new Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola. Meanwhile the new west Kootenay seat gains the Penticton area from the old Okanagan-Coquihalla, along with Nakusp and the east side of Upper Arrow Lake from the old Kootenay-Columbia. The NDP has always held a strong core vote in the south interior of BC, but could not win many federal seats after the Liberal vote collapsed completely and folded into the Conservatives. The two Kootenay ridings come into play for the NDP when the old populist "Reform" vote is weak, and the Liberals regain enough strength to cut into the red tory side of the Conservative base. [Open seat is South Okanagan-West Kootenay]

BC Analysis: The net result in BC is five open seats, with two of them book-ending a brand-new seat on Vancouver Island, and another contributing a portion to the brand-new seat in Cloverdale. The fourth is almost unchanged, while the fifth is part of a significant realignment of boundaries in the province's southeast corner. At this stage, I don't expect the Liberals to be a factor in any of them. The upper Vancouver Island seats are not exactly historic Liberal territory, nor are the Kootenay ones. South Surrey and North Okanagan should stay Conservative (the former more strongly than the latter), the NDP would be expected to pick up Courtenay-Alberni (notwithstanding its status as a narrow nominal NDP loss in the 2011 transposition, this is the most ideal configuration of a central Vancouver Island seat for the dippers) and keep Cowichan-Malahat-Langford (close in the transposition, but I don't believe it will be as close with actual candidates when the times comes), while South Okanagan-West Kootenay will be a toss-up between the orange and blue teams, and depend on candidate recruitment and campaign effects. The Christy Clark government will be mid-term by the time the federal election comes around, which is the only NDP upside of not winning the last provincial election.

Alberta (2 retiring MPs)

 * Conservative M.P. Laurie HAWN – (currently Edmonton Centre, AB; announced his retirement on March 10, 2014, saying that reaching 68 years of age at the next election meant it was time to move on) – All but approximately one-sixth of Hawn's current riding will carry on as the new Edmonton Centre, with the remainder (reportedly more Conservative-friendly polls) being added to the new Edmonton West riding, while a smidgen of the old Edmonton-Spruce Grove gets added in. [Open seat is Edmonton Centre]

 * Conservative M.P. Diane ABLONCZY – (currently Calgary-Nose Hill, AB; announced her retirement on July 4, 2013 ahead of a cabinet shuffle, citing the changing boundaries and her 22 years of elected service by 2015) – Ablonczy's seat is almost exactly bisected into the new Calgary Rocky Ridge riding (its primary descendant by a hair) and the new Calgary Nose Hill, with a small surfeit going to the new Calgary Confederation. Current Conservative Calgary Centre-North M.P. Michelle Rempel has just been acclaimed in the new Nose Hill, while Rocky Ridge remains an open seat, though apparently at least under consideration by current Calgary West Conservative M.P. Rob Anders now that he's lost his bid for the Calgary Signal Hill nomination to Ron Liepert. [Open seat is Calgary Rocky Ridge]

AB Analysis: The net result in Alberta is two open seats: one each in Edmonton (which is being heavily targetted by the opposition, in spite of the early nomination and then sudden withdrawal of the NDP's star candidate Lewis Cardinal) and Calgary (which could still be back-filled by Conservative M.P. Rob Anders after losing his bid for Calgary Signal Hill). While the former riding could change hands in 2015, the latter is less likely than other Calgary seats to do so.

Saskatchewan (4 retiring MPs)

 * Conservative M.P. Ray BOUGHEN – (currently Palliser, SK; announced his retirement on Aug 27, 2013, saying a policy of two terms and out makes sense) – The primary successor of Boughen's seat is the new Moose Jaw-Lake Centre-Lanigan riding where current Regina-Lumsden-Lake Centre (RLLC) M.P. Tom Lukiwski plans to run in 2015, leaving the new much more NDP-friendly Regina-Lewvan riding as the open seat. Palliser split 60:40 between the new Moose Jaw seat and Lewvan in the redistribution, while RLLC split 25:75 between those same two seats. The NDP has just unfrozen nominations in Saskatchewan, and economist Erin Weir recently announced a bid to challenge Regina-based lawyer and 2011 Palliser candidate Noah Evanchuk for the Regina-Lewvan nomination. The meeting is expected to be held sometime in June, while the Liberals are expecting to nominate here over the summer. To date I have not seen a Conservative name in circulation for the Lewvan nomination. [Open seat (domino effect) is Regina-Lewvan]

 * Conservative M.P. Maurice VELLACOTT – (currently Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, SK; announced his retirement on Jun 25, 2013, citing a variety of reasons including a desire to spend more time at home with his family after 19 years of elected office) – Here again, with Vellacott out of the running, the primary descendant of his current seat is the new Humboldt-Warman-Martensville-Rosetown which circles Saskatoon, and that's where the current Saskatoon-Rosetown-Biggar Conservative MP Kelly Block has finally decided to run, leaving the new Saskatoon West as the open seat and a nominal NDP win. [Open seat (domino effect) is Saskatoon West]

 * Conservative M.P. Garry BREITKREUZ – (currently Yorkton-Melville, SK; announced his retirement on Apr 11, 2014, saying it was time to spend more time with his family) – This is one of the ridings least touched by the redistribution in Saskatchewan, and is considered a safe Conservative seat since Lorne Nystrom lost it for the NDP to then-Reform Party candidate Breitkreuz in 1993. Before then it was part of the pro-Canadian Wheat Board "red square" of rural ridings, but grain marketing and transportation seem to have taken a back seat to gun registration and natural resources as vote-determining issues in rural Saskatchewan. Until that changes, voting patterns are unlikely to change here. [Open seat is the new Yorkton-Melville]

 * Conservative M.P. Ed KOMARNICKI – (currently Souris-Moose Mountain, SK; announced his retirement early on Feb 28, 2013, as he anticipated heavy competition for the nomination to replace him) – Also largely untouched by the redistribution, and will be Conservative until the cows (and all other livestock) come home. Not surprisingly, a fifth candidate has just announced a bid for the Conservative nomination here, which is expected to come to a conclusion in the fall of this year. [Open seat is the new Souris-Moose Mountain]

SK Analysis: The net result in Saskatchewan is four open seats, two of which should easily stay with the governing Conservatives and two of which seem headed to the opposition NDP. A January 2014 story from CP's Jennifer Ditchburn, however, suggested Conservative insiders don't rule out future retirement announcements from (Saskatoon) Blackstrap MP Lynne Yelich and Battlefords-Lloydminster MP Gerry Ritz, although the latter was on Dimitri Soudas' list of MPs recommended for an early nomination meeting in February.

Ontario and Quebec (3 retiring MPs)

 * Conservative M.P. Barry DEVOLIN – (currently Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock, ON; announced his retirement to his riding association on Nov 13, 2013, after serving three terms) – All but 6% of Devolin's current riding will live on under the same name (with the rest added to neighbouring Peterborough), and the new and old ridings are equally strong Conservative seats. [Open seat is the new Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock]

 * Liberal M.P. Irwin COTLER – (currently Mount Royal, QC; announced his retirement on Feb 5, 2014, citing a desire to spend more time with his family) – While the Conservatives have longed for a chances at this seat, given its significant Jewish profile, their candidate from the last election Saulie Zajdel was caught in the net of the Montreal corruption investigation last summer. The riding should remain a strong Liberal seat, given the resurgent support of Quebec anglophones and allophones for the Trudeau Liberal party, and the new version is virtually unchanged from the boundaries Cotler currently represents. [Open seat is the new Mont-Royal]

 * NDP-turned-Liberal M.P. Lise ST-DENIS – (currently Saint Maurice–Champlain, QC; a Liberal party official told the Daniel Leblanc of the Globe & Mail on Jan 24, 2014 that she "was not coming back") – The once-and-again seat of former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien, this riding went Conservative for a term in 1988 after Chrétien resigned the first time, and then Bloc for three terms after he retired, before getting swept up in the orange wave of 2011. Even St-Denis herself seemed to credit Jack Layton for her win, when she crossed the floor to the Liberals after reportedly refusing the NDP's demands she move into the riding. Her treatments for non-Hodgkin lymphoma no doubt also played into her desire to stay in the Montreal area and leave politics. [Open seat is the new Saint Maurice–Champlain]

Central Canada Analysis: The net result in Ontario and Québec will likely be the status quo, with Devolin's seat staying Conservative, Cotler's seat staying Liberal, and Saint Maurice–Champlain seeming likely to return to the NDP based on the expectation of a further BQ-to-NDP vote shift.

[UPDATE: Mike Allen is a late edition to this post. Thanks to a reader for pointing out his retirement announcement to us.]

Atlantic (1 retiring MP)

 * Conservative MP Mike ALLEN – (currently Tobique – Mactaquac, NB; announced his retirement on Mar 19, 2013, saying it was time to pursue other opportunities that would allow him to be home more) – The riding is another one barely touched by redistribution, and has nearly always voted Conservative, save for the days when the party split into Reform and PC wings allowing the Liberals up the middle. It certainly would be expected to stay that way now. [Open seat is the new Tobique-Mactaquac]

Conclusion

In addition to the open seats created by the 30 new ridings and associated incumbent MP shifts that we looked at last time, the 14 15 ridings which will wind up as open seats as a result of MP retirements also offer some opportunities for opposition pick-ups at the governing Conservatives' expense, including 2 in Saskatchewan, 1 in Edmonton, 1 on Vancouver Island, and a couple of possible Conservative pickups from the opposition.

Remember, though, that to win a majority, the Conservatives have to keep every seat they currently have, and pick up at least another 8-10 of the 30 new seats being added to the Commons. This is looking like a harder and harder task.

—————-

In coming blogposts, we'll look at the by-election riding nominations, party nomination counts for the next general election, and then start to catch up on all the rest of the nomination news.

UPDATED: Conservative 2015 Majority At Risk As Incumbents Flee to Safer Ground

April 14th, 2014 | 16 Comments

The Conservatives risk conceding the majority supposed to have been their due when 30 new seats were added to the House of Commons. In many of the 30 new ridings, sitting MPs have taken their incumbency advantage with them and fled to safer ground, leaving the remaining open seats more — and sometimes far more — vulnerable to the NDP and Liberals.

And since their party can't win a majority without both keeping all their current seats and adding a third of the new ridings, the utility-maximizing actions of a group of individual Conservative MPs all add up to the collective weakening of their governing party. Clearly Adam Smith's maxim does not apply to electoral politics.

UPDATE: Thanks to a reader for some further information on the new Hastings-Lennox and Addington riding in Ontario, which suggests it might be another safe-flight seat as well. See below and also updated Table PDF as well.

Josh Wingrove was the first to identify this as a GTA trend in a piece for the Globe and Mail published a few weeks ago now. I didn't see the analysis until halfway through my own review of the 30 new ridings, but can confirm that Wingrove's trend applies nationally.

The principle here is that open seats (ridings with no incumbent MP running) are hardest to win – especially in areas with non-traditional demographics for the given party's base, next hardest are first-time incumbencies in swing seats, and next hardest are traditional swing seats with or without incumbents. Of course, seats with a classic demographic and ideological profile for a given party are the easiest holds for them, with or without incumbents.

When we make an assessment of the "winnability" of a riding after redistribution, it is tempting to treat the nominal results of the last election transposed onto the new boundaries as gospel. But that is only making the same old mistake amateur pundits make in every single election: previous results don't always predict future outcomes. They have to be read together with several other factors:

* The Incumbency Effect – or the absence thereof. As I've argued elsewhere, incumbency is not something one should weight over top of party vote. Rather the absence of incumbency should be factored as a discount to party vote, and the absence of a known, name candidate counts as a further discount. This becomes a real issue in open seats, especially where the retiring incumbent was first elected under very different circumstances and in a riding that does not fit the natural demographic and ideological base of his or her party (a good example is what happened to the Liberal vote in the open seat of Equimalt-Juan-de-Fuca, BC after Reform-turned-Liberal M.P. Keith Martin retired in 2011).

* The Assimilation Effect – Chunks of a riding with a certain contest profile, when transferred to another riding with a different contest profile, will tend – all other things being equal – to vote more along the lines of the contest in the new riding. For example, my guess right now is that the level of Green vote we see in the transposed results for the new Saanich–Esquimalt–Juan de Fuca, BC will not continue into 2015: those were Elizabeth May votes from the old Saanich–Gulf Islands, most of which will revert to the NDP's Randall Garrison, thereby enhancing his effective 2011 margin above the 1.8% the transposition calculates. One could expect the same thing to happen to the Liberal vote from the north shore when it joins the Conservative-NDP contest in the new Burnaby North-Seymour, BC.

* The Demographic Effect – A lot of the lost Liberal ridings in 2004 were in rural Ontario, untraditional Liberal turf where let's be honest, they only won them in the first place in 1993 thanks to a divided opposition to the right, and a particularly weakened NDP to the left. Incumbency then carried some of those seats past 2004, but as we've seen, that benchmark was rarely achieved again once such a seat was lost, especially in ridings more demographically fitting the newly-united Conservative Party's core vote. Fast forward to the 2011 election, and we realize that the Conservatives similarly won a number of ridings around the outskirts of Toronto that were not their usual demographic preserve, based on a strong central campaign and historically weakened Liberal Party and/or some Liberal incumbents who took their "safe" seats for granted. 2015 is a make or break election for these first-time Conservative incumbents, and it's many of them who are heading for demographically safer ground thanks to the opportunity provided by the new seats.

* The Campaign Effect – Parties will decide not to contest seats they think they can't win, even when part of the unwinnable seat is a traditional area of support and a good demographic and ideological fit. Without the attention of a fully-funded campaign, the party's vote fades even in that strong area. Should the area later get remixed with other strong areas of party support under new boundaries, however, and the new riding get treated as a priority seat, the party's vote-share could be expected to rise back up to historic levels. This is the effect that's made all the redrawn Regina and Saskatoon seats far more attractive to the NDP than previously (not just Regina-Lewvan and Saskatoon West), in spite of what the transposed results might indicate. It will also make smaller now-more-urban seats in southwestern Ontario, such as Cambridge, more likely NDP targets, and the same goes in other Ontario seats for the Liberals.

These four effects combined explain why it's never a good idea to discuss the Transposed Results in the present tense, or to pretend that they "predict" in any way which way the new riding will go in the next election. 63 of 308 ridings changed hands party-wise between the 2000 Transposition and the 2004 General Election, in other words one in five. Psephologists use a quick shorthand to say things like "it's a nominal Liberal win", but they all understand the four effects and take them into account. We should avoid saying things like "Elections Canada predicts that party X will win the new riding", because that's not what the Transposition is telling us at all. What it does say is that IF every voter had voted the same way in 2011, but under the new boundaries, their votes would have been tallied in this way. That's a really big IF.

[So, unfortunately, a very good piece of work by the Edmonton Journal's data journalism department about the changing Edmonton boundaries was marred by the breathless analysis that "revers[ing] the Tory tide … won’t happen unless voting patterns change from 2011″. Well, duh.]

So with that in mind, let's take tour of the 30 new ridings, and then summarize the findings in a table and discuss them. I'm defining a "new riding" as one which is not the "primary descendant" of an old riding, in terms of the share of the population being passed from old to new. In English: the new riding that gets the biggest chunk of population from an old riding is its "primary descendant" riding; while the 30 leftover ridings are the "new" ones. I'm then defining the "open seat" as either the new or primary descendant riding with no incumbent running in it.

The *new* ridings are:

Ontario (15 new seats)

The very first riding we'll consider in Ontario exemplifies the national trend particularly well, so we'll spend a bit more time explaining the principle there, and then skip along the others a bit more quickly to confirm the breadth of its application.

* Rideau-Carleton: Population-wise, the majority of the old Carleton-Mississippi Mills goes to the new Kanata-Carleton, and the majority of the old Nepean-Carleton goes to the new Nepean, so the new riding is Rideau-Carleton in the middle. The new Rideau-Carleton does take more of the old Nepean-Carleton than it takes from the old Carleton-Mississippi Mills though. Gordon O'Connor if he runs again will run in the new Kanata-Carleton, Pierre Poilievre will slide over to run in the new Rideau-Carleton, and John Baird recently announced that he will run in the new Nepean. So ironically this leaves the new Ottawa West-Nepean riding as the open seat the Conservatives would have to win. Now, most people in Ottawa are considering Nepean to be the new seat per se, as in: "John Baird is leaving Ottawa West-Nepean to run in the new riding of Nepean". But Ottawa West-Nepean is the area's traditional bellwether seat, it contains a lot of public servants, and the Liberals and NDP both have their eyes on it. [New seat adopted as safer ground (domino effect); open seat is the far less safe Ottawa West-Nepean.]

* Hastings-Lennox and Addington: While the new Lanark-Frontenac (where I believe Conservative MP Scott Reid has said he will run) gains the rural part of Carleton-Mississippi Mills along with some rural areas of the old Kingston & the Islands, the new Hastings-Lennox and Addington riding is otherwise composed almost 50:50 of the old Prince Edward-Hastings and the parts of Reid's current Lanark – Frontenac – Lennox and Addington riding that it will lose. The new riding should be safe Conservative turf, although the NDP came second last time, and the Liberals are organized here good and early. [New seat = open seat.] UPDATE: A December, 2013 clipping from the Belleville Intelligencer points out that current Prince Edward-Hastings Conservative MP Daryl Kramp (who lives in Madoc, ON) has not yet indicated where he'll run. Madoc is in the new Hastings-Lennox and Addington riding, which is also a safer Conservative prospect, so if Kramp were to run there (and he ran in a similar riding under the old 1996 boundaries so it's not out of the question), then the new less-Conservative friendly Bay of Quinte riding would become the open seat.

* Scarborough-Rouge Park: This new riding gains the Scarborough parts of the old Pickering-Scarborough East riding plus about a third of the old Scarborough-Rouge River. It transposes to a pure 3-way race last time: 35L-32C-31N. The current Pickering-Scarborough East Conservative MP Corneliu Chisu has announced a run in the new Pickering-Uxbridge next door, as reported by Wingrove in the Globe. I'm inclined to believe the Conservatives' maxed out their Scarborough support in the last election, and that they'll run third in an NDP-Liberal fight this time around. [New seat = open seat, and friendlier to the opposition than riding picked by the Conservative incumbent.]

* University-Rosedale: I'm sure everyone's familiar with the prospects for this new riding, given the recent Toronto Centre by-election where the Conservative vote in Rosedale completely collapsed to the Liberals' benefit, and given the ensuing unpleasantness required to secure newly-elected Liberal MP Chrystia Freeland's sinecure in the better side of the old riding for her. This is the first time we notice that Conservative incumbents are not the only ones fleeing for safer ground. [New seat adopted by Liberal incumbent as safer ground; open seat is Toronto Centre which is friendlier to the NDP, especially after the by-election results in both cases.]

* Don Valley North: The new Don Valley North riding is about 50:50 Willowdale and Don Valley East from the old boundaries, and the Liberals believe it's a good prospect (e.g., Rana Sarkar is running for the nomination here rather than in Scarborough-Rouge River where he ran in 2011). However, current Conservative Don Valley East MP Joe Daniel is also running in the new Don Valley North, so in fact it's the new Don Valley East that's the open seat, and that seat is even more favourable to the opposition in its demographics and 2011 voting trends, and both opposition parties have their eye on it. [New seat adopted as safer ground; open seat is Don Valley East.]

* Markham-Unionville: Ironically, this is the new riding in this area: current Oak Ridges-Markham MP Paul Calandra is running in the new Markham-Stouffville, which takes the largest chunk of his old riding; while current Markham-Unionville MP Liberal John McCallum has said he's running in the new Markham-Thornhill, which takes the bulk of his old riding. This leaves the *new* Markham-Unionville as the open seat. [New seat = open seat that was a nominal Conservative win by 12 points.]

* Aurora–Oak Ridges–Richmond Hill: The current Richmond Hill Conservative MP Costas Menegakis plans to run in this new seat, and brace yourself for a Jason Cherniak candidacy for the Liberals against him. This leaves the new Richmond Hill as the open seat. [New seat adopted as safer ground; open seat is Richmond Hill that was a nominal Conservative win by 8 points.]

* King-Vaughan: A completely new seat. Julian Fantino if he runs again would be expected to run in the new Vaughan-Woodbridge. [New seat = open seat that's a nominal Conservative win by almost 30 points.]

* Brampton Centre: While the new Brampton East is the primary descendant of the old Bramalea-Gore-Malton, it became a nominal NDP win in the transposition, and so not surprisingly current Conservative B-G-M MP Bal Gosal was just acclaimed in the new Brampton Centre instead. The new seat's composition is around 50:50 from the old Brampton-Springdale and the old Bramalea-Gore-Malton, but current Brampton-Springdale MP Parm Gill is running in the new Brampton North, which is the primary successor of his old riding. [New seat adopted as safer ground; open seat is Brampton East, a nominal NDP win and currently held provincially by first-time Peel Region NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh who ran here federally in 2011.]

* Brampton South: Again, a new seat, but current Brampton West MP Kyle Seeback is running here, rather than in the new Brampton West, which becomes the open seat. The old Brampton West is divided between the new Brampton West and Brampton South, with slightly more going to the former. [New seat adopted as safer ground; open seat is Brampton West.]

* Mississauga Centre: A completely new seat. [New seat = open seat that's a nominal Conservative win by just 5 points.]

* Milton: The new Oakville North-Burlington gets more of the old Halton than the new Milton riding does, but current Halton MP Lisa Raitt lives in Milton, while Eve Adams as we all know is trying to win the Conservative nomination in Oakville North-Burlington, rather than Mississauga-Malton which is the primary descendant of the old Mississauga-Brampton South where she was elected. [Incumbent moving into new seat; different seat adopted by other incumbent as safer ground (if she can win the nomination). Open seat would then wind up being Mississauga-Malton where former MP Navdeep Bains has recently been nominated for the Liberals.]

[SIDEBAR: If I were advising Eve Adams, I would tell her that she has made herself such a liability to her party by pursuing the Oakville North-Burlington nomination that she's better off withdrawing from that race, and going back to Mississauga-Malton, where winning the riding against a strong Liberal would be her best chance of getting back in her blue team's good graces.]

* Flamborough-Glanbrook: Technically more of the old Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough-Westdale goes to the new Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas, but as the incumbent Conservative MP David Sweet prefers to run in Flamborough-Glanbrook, it's likely that the Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas is the seat that will be open. This is on the assumption that Dean Allison from the old Niagara West-Glanbrook doesn't prefer to run in Flamborough-Glanbrook rather than the new Niagara West. [New seat adopted as safer ground; open seat is Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas.]

* Kitchener South-Hespeler: gets just slightly less than half of the old Kitchener-Conestoga, along with a rural chunk of Cambridge. The old Kitchener-Conestoga Conservative MP Harold Albrecht will stay in the new Kitchener Conestoga, and Conservative Gary Goodyear will stay in the new Cambridge. The nominal results put Kitchener South-Hespeler as a slightly more vulnerable seat than the other two for the Conservatives; but in making Cambridge more urban, the new boundaries also make it a more desirable target especially for the NDP which is enjoying newfound provincial strength in southwestern Ontario at the moment. So, the new riding in fact might wind up being a safer Conservative seat than Cambridge where Goodyear is staying. [New seat = open seat.]

* Barrie–Springwater–Oro-Medonte: contains slightly less than half of the old Barrie riding, plus small chunks of Simcoe North and Simcoe-Grey; the current Barrie MP Conservative Patrick Brown plans to run in the new Barrie-Innisfill, which showed higher nominal Conservative support in the transposed results, but is also the primary descendant of his current seat. [New seat = open seat.]

Alberta (6 new seats):

* Peace River–Westlock: A new north-western riding that's carved out of the old Peace River, Yellowhead, Fort McMurray-Athabasca and Westlock-St. Paul. With a 78% transposed vote-share, the Conservatives will not be in any danger here, regardless of who's running. [New seat = open seat.]

* Edmonton Manning: This is a new riding in the city's northeast, taking in fairly equal portions of the old Edmonton-Sherwood Park and the old Edmonton East plus a bit of the old Edmonton-St. Albert. No incumbents appear to be running here, but Daveberta.ca reports that businessman and former Edmonton East riding president Ziad Aboultaif is running for the Conservative nomination. Current Edmonton-Sherwood Park Conservative MP Tim Uppal who was thought to be considering a bid here, has now declared a bid for Edmonton Mill Woods in the city's south end instead — which has no overlaps with his current seat at all. [New seat = open seat.]

* Edmonton Wetaskiwin: A new rurban seat assembled mainly from parts of the old Edmonton-Leduc, Wetaskiwin, and Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont; the current MP for Edmonton-Mill Woods-Beaumont Mike Lake is running for the Conservative nomination here, even though the majority of his current riding is going into the new Edmonton Mill Woods, into which Tim Uppal is now jumping. This leaves the primary successor of Uppal's old Edmonton-Sherwood Park riding – the new Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan – as the open seat. [New seat adopted as safer ground (domino effect). Open seat is Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan]

* Calgary Shepard: A new riding composed mostly of the old Calgary Southeast and less so of the old Calgary East. No incumbents have declared here as yet, so for the moment we'll assume it to be an open seat. [New seat = open seat.]

* Calgary Nose Hill: a new seat that is NOT (by a hair) the primary descendant of the old riding with the same name, even though it draws the bulk of its population from portions of the old Calgary Nose Hill, along with parts of the old Calgary Centre-North, whose current MP Michelle Rempel has just been acclaimed here, leaving its primary successor, the new Calgary Confederation as the open seat. [New seat adopted as safer ground. Open seat is Calgary Confederation, which had the lowest transposed Conservative vote of any new Calgary seat from the 2011 election.]

* Bow River: composed of portions of the old Crowfoot and a bit less so of the old Medicine Hat; this is the riding where the country singer George Canyon had wanted to run for the Conservatives until he pulled out this past week citing health concerns. Genuinely open seat. [New seat = open seat.]

British Columbia (6 new seats):

* Nanaimo-Ladysmith: A new riding composed of fairly equal parts of the old Nanaimo-Cowichan and the old Nanaimo-Alberni. It's nominally NDP in the 2011 Transposition, but only by a 5% margin with a 45% vote-share; if the Conservatives are in an offensive posture by 2015, they would be targetting it for sure — particularly since the riding will be a completely open seat, with both Nanaimo-Cowichan NDP MP Jean Crowder and Nanaimo-Alberni Conservative MP James Lunney retiring at the next election. On the other hand, the "assimilation effect" and "campaign effect" could combine to put the NDP in a much stronger position with the new boundaries. [New seat = open seat.]

* Burnaby South: This is a new riding composed of the old Burnaby-New Westminster and Burnaby-Douglas ridings (more the former than the latter), though current Burnaby-Douglas NDP MP Kennedy Stewart has announced a run in the new Burnaby South rather than take his chances with the new riding of Burnaby North-Seymour that is his riding's primary descendant. The now-open Seymour seat is a nominal Conservative-NDP contest by 9 points, with an above average Liberal vote share for the region given the previous contest in the old North Vancouver. For that reason, application of the so-called "assimilation effect" ought to make it an easier NDP seat than the nominals indicate, though the riding would be more difficult to service as an MP given it spans both sides of the bridge. Meanwhile Burnaby-New Westminster NDP MP Peter Julian intends run in the new New Westminster-Burnaby riding. [New seat adopted as safer ground. Open seat is Burnaby North-Seymour.]

* Vancouver Granville: A new urban riding carved out of the middle of (in order) the old Vancouver Centre, South, Quadra and Kingsway; it is nominally a Conservative win with a 5% margin and a low 35% winning vote share, with the NDP in a strong third (35C-30L-24N). With the right candidate the Conservatives could target it in an offensive posture, but assuming they'll likely be playing defence nationally by 2015, a Liberal-NDP contest is more likely. [New seat = open seat.]

* Delta: This is a new riding that takes the Delta city portions of Newton-North Delta and Delta-Richmond East to make a very strong Conservative riding, to which current Delta-Richmond East MP Kerry-Lynne Findlay intends to switch. This leaves the new riding of Steveston-Richmond East – the primary successor of Findlay's old seat – as the effective open seat, but it is if anything more strongly Conservative. [New seat adopted. Open seat is Steveston-Richmond East.]

* Cloverdale-Langley City: This new riding is constructed from portions of the old Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale, Langley, and Fleetwood-Port Kells. It is traditionally a very strong Conservative seat, but so far no incumbents have declared here — perhaps surprisingly given that incumbent Surrey-White Rock-Cloverdale MP Russ Hiebert is stepping down at the next election. [New seat = open seat.]

* Mission–Matsqui–Fraser Canyon: This new riding has been assembled from portions of (in order) the old Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission, Abbotsford, and Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon. It shows up as a strong Conservative riding based on the transposition, but in fact could have some very good potential for the right NDP'er. Candidate recruitment will be tricky though, given how disparate the riding is. The current Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge-Mission MP Randy Kamp is staying in the new Pitt Meadows-Maple Ridge. [New seat = open seat.]

Quebec (3 new seats)

* Mirabel: The population increase in the Outaouais made those three ridings more urban, and created space for a new rural seat here in western Quebec, carved mainly out of the old Argenteuil-Papineau-Mirabel riding, along with (in order) Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, Terrebonne – Blainville, and Rivière-du-Nord. The NDP holds all the surrounding ridings, and that party has been playing its cards very close to its chest in terms of Quebec nominations and announcements for the most part, and probably wisely so for the time being. [New seat = open seat, probably.]

* Terrebonne: As the population of Laval increased enough for four full seats, rather than 3 1/2 with the other half stretching north, the north shore seats were also re-arranged, such that slightly more of the old Terrebonne-Blainville went to the new Blainville than to the new Terrebonne. Incumbent Terrebonne-Blainville NDP MP Charmaine Borg has yet to announce on which side she'll be running. [New seat = open seat???]

* La Prairie: A south shore seat, and given that the south shore has been home to a lot of 3- and 4-way races in the last few elections, here we do see some earlier announcements designed to entrench whatever incumbency effect can be cemented between now and 2015. Current NDP Brossard-La Prairie MP Hoang Mai is planning to run in the new Brossard–Saint-Lambert, probably leaving the new La Prairie as the open seat, depending on where current Châteauguay-Saint-Constant MP Sylvaine Chicoine chooses to announce. Sadia Groguhé (currently Saint-Lambert) has announced for the new LeMoyne riding, Pierre Nantel (currently Longueuil-Pierre Boucher) will run in the new Longueuil, and Djaouida Sellah (currently Saint-Bruno–Saint-Hubert) plans to run in the new Montarville. We can speculate on the impact of such announcements, but none of these seats are near the top of the Conservatives' short priority list in Quebec right now, I wouldn't think, though Quebec Federal Liberal section president and former MP Alexandra Mendès has declared for Brossard–Saint-Lambert as well as Mai, making that riding already the most interesting contest on the south shore.

Summary

In order to win even a bare majority of 170 / 338 seats in the next election, the Conservatives must keep every seat they currently have (160 after a vacancy is declared in the late Jim Flaherty's Whitby-Oshawa, ON seat), win at least 3 of the 5 upcoming by-elections, hold all those seats and then go on to win at least 7 more of the 30 new ridings.

[Click on image to open full-sized **updated** PDF table]

The 30 'new' 2013 Representation Order Federal Ridings, and their Effective Open Seats after Incumbent MP Nomination Shifts (punditsguide.ca)

The 2011 results transposed onto the new boundaries put 23 of the 30 new ridings into the Conservatives' nominal win column, but in 9 of those seats, the incumbent from a neighbouring riding has fled to safer ground there, leaving behind more vulnerable open seats that jeopardize the first half of the majority formula. A further 9 Conservative MPs have already announced they don't plan to seek re-election, leaving still more open seats.

Moreover the proviso that the Conservatives keep every seat they currently hold is made more difficult by the redrawing of more urban boundaries in the western cities of Regina, Saskatoon, and Edmonton, and the changing boundaries on Vancouver Island, southwestern Ontario, and New Brunswick. To counter those losses, the governing party would have to try and look for potential gains in the Quebec City area and its south shore, and perhaps areas recently won by the CAQ in last week's provincial election.

But it would be trying to do so with public support over 10 points lower than its benchmark in the 2011 campaign, and facing two very determined opposition parties, each with different areas of strength. On the other hand, with so many open seats, the government would finally be able to do some much-needed rejuvenation of its caucus, and perhaps present a fresher face to the electorate.

The road to a 2015 majority now looks to be like a much steeper climb for Stephen Harper.

Re-UPDATED: Once again, nomination races take early by-election focus

March 18th, 2014 | 6 Comments

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

A progressive Conservative in Macleod and a strong Libertarian [UPDATE: and New Democrat] in Fort McMurray-Athabasca are the only two three by-election candidates finalized so far, but the coming weeks will see a number of interesting nomination contests unfold.

UPDATED: See below for Conservative nomination key dates in Fort McMurray-Athabasca.

While your guide has had her nose down doing some client work, and assembling an Ontario Pundits' Guide database (see on.punditsguide.ca for the end-result), some of by-election nominations races have already concluded, while others are just picking up steam. Let's take a look at where things stand today.

Macleod, AB

Western Wheel associate publisher John Barlow defeated three other nomination contestants – University of Calgary and Hill staff alumna Melissa Mathieson (whose High River home became the focus of the Prime Minister's Alberta flood cleanup photo op), Springbank businessman Scott Wagner and Blackie area rancher Phil Rowland – for the Conservative nomination on March 8. Originally from Saskatchewan, Barlow had previously run a close second for the provincial Progressive Conservatives against no less than Wildrose leader Danielle Smith, and was the only candidate in the nomination race not to be endorsed by the National Firearms' Association over his less than strident position on the RCMP's seizure of weapons during last year's Alberta floods. He won after 3 days of balloting spanning Pincher Creek, Claresholm, and ending in Barlow's hometown of Okotoks where 1,200 of the 1,500 ballots were cast.

The Liberal race so far features Husky Energy technician and former U Lethbridge student president from Okotoks, Dustin Fuller, who has been reassuring people that a Liberal government would not bring back the gun registry, and says the RCMP seized the High River weapons "without due process" and without being subject to any inquiry. I am not aware of an NDP candidate for the area as yet.

As Daveberta points out, the federal riding overlaps provincial seats mainly held by Wildrose MLAs. But given that the blue team has nominated someone from the Progressive Conservative wing of the party, I just don't see an opening for the Liberals here in the same way we saw with Brandon-Souris, particularly not with the candidates on offer from the opposition party to date, notwithstanding some well-attended events with Justin Trudeau in the riding last year.

Fort McMurray-Athabasca, AB

If we were going to see a Brandon redux anywhere in the current round of by-elections, it might well be in the more northern vacant Alberta seat – and even that would be stretch, though it could set the Liberals up for a more competitive race in the smaller seat next time around. And indeed, unlike Macleod, the party already has two nomination contestants in the field, and a nomination meeting date set. The membership cutoff was March 13, and the meeting will be held on March 29.

First into the race was the manager of a Métis local and former consultation manager for the joint industry-province oil sands reclamation organization CEMA, Kyle Harrietha. It was interesting to see Dimitri Soudas speculate in the leaked Conservative Party strategy documents that they might approach the Fort McMurray mayor Melissa Blake to run for them, because in fact it was Harrietha who ran her successful re-election campaign last fall, after running a provincial Progressive Conservative campaign in one of the Fort McMurray seats the previous year. That, and bringing numerous federal Liberal politicians (and me) to see the city and the industry it supports would already given him a good leg up on his competitor for the Liberal nomination – a business agent for an Operating Engineers local, Chris Flett – and a better start than most Liberal candidates on the prairies.

Now all that said, I know quite a bit more about Harrietha than his opponent for a very good reason – we have an extended, blended family connection, and the last two times I visited Fort McMurray I stayed at his place. So take that into account.

On the NDP front, it has identified a candidate from the house of labour, as you'd certainly expect in a resource extraction town like this, and NDP leader Tom Mulcair travelled to Fort McMurray to meet with her while the Liberals were convening in Montreal. No date has been set as yet, and it's not clear whether Suncor heavy truck driver and Unifor health and safety rep Lori McDaniel will have any competition. The NDP looks set to run on the issue of temporary foreign workers among others. UPDATE: Lori McDaniel was nominated on March 13.

[As an aside, I find some of David Akin's claims about where the NDP would and would not run fully funded by-election campaigns quite speculative, and not really consistent with any past history on their part. It defies common sense that a national political party could not run 3 fully funded by-election campaigns simultaneously if it felt that was warranted. And moreover, the way that *party* as opposed to *candidate* spending limits are set for by-elections – i.e., a global party limit is set for the entire round of by-elections to be spent in one or all of the ridings as they choose – gives a party more resources to allocate. The Trinity-Spadina by-election was hardly a surprise to any astute political watchers over the past year. If anything, the Fort McMurray-Athabasca vacancy was by far the bigger surprise. I'm sure David wouldn't write this unsourced, but I'm guessing his sources might be following the old maxim that those who don't know talk, while those who do know, don't.]

One interesting feature of this by-election will be a strong campaign from a Libertarian candidate – firefighter and film-maker Tom Moen – who says provocatively that he wants "gay married couples to be able to protect their marijuana plants with guns". He's running his campaign on a NationBuilder.com platform, and it's certainly the most professional Libertarian candidacy I've ever seen in a federal or provincial race in Canada. Also, he has an interesting, public, and controversial connection with Neil Young.

All of which implies that the Conservative Party had better get its candidate in place soon. Declared so far are Athabasca county municipal politician David Yurdiga, and Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo lawyer Arlan Delisle. However, the party has also approached municipal councillor Guy Boutilier, who has yet to announce a decision, according to Fort McMurray Today. UPDATE: nominations close for the Conservatives on March 24, with a membership cutoff of March 31.

Trinity-Spadina, ON

Once NDP M.P. Olivia Chow resigned her downtown Toronto seat to run for mayor, the starting pistol fired in the Liberal nomination race … and promptly backfired on the first aspiring contestant, Christine Innes. The former two-time candidate launched a website Thursday morning in support of her bid, but was undercut by media calls placed by the Liberal Party outlining why it planned to deny her a greenlight for either the by-election or any riding in 2015. Innes responded to the ruling late in the day by suggesting the true motive was her unwillingness not to challenge Toronto Centre M.P. Chrystia Freeland for the nomination in University-Rosedale. Various proxies litigated the issues of bullying and designating ridings back and forth for several days on Twitter and in the mainstream media.

The takeaway is that many Liberals seemed happy to be rid of Innes, and to have her made an example of, in spite of the now-plainly-obvious damage it has done to the party's commitment to open nominations. Zach Paikin took the opportunity to hang his inevitable withdrawal from his now 5th or 6th riding nomination attempt on an issue of "principle", but while that will get you column inches and called a "star candidate" in the headlines, the truth is he probably would not have won the Hamilton West–Ancaster–Dundas nomination even in the most open nomination race ever organized.

Moving fairly quickly into the vacuum Innes' canning created was COPE labour lawyer and sometime Toronto Star columnist Glenn Wheeler, who was unable to attend his party's recent convention, he wrote, because it would have forced him to cross a picket line set up by a local of his own union. Wheeler's interest was telegraphed by a Star reporter that night, though he hasn't launched a campaign yet as far as I know. We can probably expect him to be challenged, but apparently the party did not have a star candidate lined up when it executed Innes' exit.

Monday morning also saw the show-of-force announcement by long-time-for-his-age NDP activist Joe Cressy in the race to replace Ms. Chow as the party's federal candidate. Cressy, who had to prove he had the moves and stature to contest such a prized nomination, rolled out not one but two profiles by national columnists, endorsements from federal, provincial and municipal politicians, and a number of key activists from the cultural communities within the riding and the party. While the national media all assume Cressy won't be challenged, he knew full well he might be and needed a strong launch, which you'd have to concede he pulled off. No nomination date has been set as yet, given that the party's candidate search policy requires that affirmative action candidates be sought out and asked to run before a meeting can be called.

No sign yet of the Conservatives in this riding, but I suspect we'll see a similar pattern to previous federal and provincial by-elections lately, where only the candidates truly seen to be "in the hunt" for victory will get substantial vote-shares, while the also-rans will underperform their typical general election benchmarks in each riding.

One interesting detail reported by David Akin is that the Speaker won't be signing the warrant notifying the Chief Electoral Officer of the vacancy in this riding until he returns after the Commons break next Monday. That being the case, the earliest call we would see is the first weekend of April for May 12, assuming all three by-elections were held on the same date.

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.

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.

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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      

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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.

Brandon Liberal nomination over before it starts, while some Conservatives still fuming

September 22nd, 2013 | 16 Comments

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

Brandon-Souris Liberal nomination candidate Frank Godon has withdrawn from the race two weeks after he announcedBefore the Brandon-Souris contested Liberal nomination meeting could even be called, the race is all over but the victory lap, as candidate Frank Godon withdrew from the race late Friday.

Is the Wheat City really where open nominations go to die, and democracy develops some kind of weird gluten intolerance?

Not if you take everyone at face value. But let's lay out the chronology and let the reader draw his or her own conclusions.

Declared Brandon-Souris Conservative nomination candidate Chris Kennedy was not accepted as a candidate by party headquartersWhen we last checked in with this "Westman" (i.e., west Manitoba) riding, Progressive Conservative MLA Larry Maguire (Arthur-Virden) had just been acclaimed the federal Conservative candidate, after Brandon city councillor Len Isleifson withdrew from the race, and former Merv Tweed aide, Chris Kennedy, was mysteriously disqualified (in his mind) and/or did not make the cut-off to submit his completed nomination papers (according to CPC HQ).

The Kennedy case is perplexing to outsiders, since Kennedy is adamant that the deposit cheque was affixed to his nomination papers, and that the papers should have arrived in time given he couriered them Tuesday for a Wednesday deadline; while party headquarters is apparently equally adamant to the contrary. 

But the Conservative HQ version is just not sitting well in Brandon, where former Manitoba PC-turned-reluctant-Conservative M.P. Inky Mark is enjoying a bit of an "I-told-you-so", and local commentators are quite shocked at the happenings. Here, for example, is an exerpt from James O'Connor's editorial from the Brandon Sun:

Geez, I’m getting angrier as I write this.

As a former member of the provincial Tories (when I worked for them) and a veteran right-winger in the bloodsport of politics, I am ashamed of the shenanigans which have beset the Conservative nomination process in Brandon-Souris.

And I’m not alone. I hear memberships are being returned to the Tories from people who are also just seething over the injustice.

So I’m supposed to believe that Isleifson — the deputy mayor of Brandon — is lying?

Or am I supposed to believe that a man as smart as Kennedy, who quit his job and was for the past month driving hundreds of kilometers each day and had a solid and star-studded campaign team to bolster support and sell memberships for his nomination run, is lying?

And what about the statement regarding flexibility in "condensed timelines" made by Barker, the local nomination committee member. Was that a lie?

Or am I supposed to believe that the Conservative Party of Canada has lied?

And what do I make of Maguire’s handlers, several of whom are young former Westman political operatives who now work in Toronto and Ottawa?

In fact, it was one of those operatives, [...], who personally flew to Ottawa to hand-deliver a bundle of memberships Maguire’s team had sold.

Of the situation, Maguire said publicly last week: "All I can say is what I heard from my people."

Exactly.

This is not about Maguire.

I believe he is a pawn in this whole slimy game.

See, I told you tempers were flaring! The rest of the (very long) column is equally scorching. It's behind a firewall, but if you register with the site you can read the whole thing.

Kennedy, though young, is considered hard-working and whip-smart (and not just in the lip-service way that mavericks are always considered to be, by concern-trolls who want to mau-mau their party, but actually really hard-working and whip-smart), and many thought he had an early leg up on the race. Given the strong and widespread belief that the 2010 Conservative by-election nomination in Dauphin-Swan River-Marquette had been heavily tilted in Robert Sopuck's favour, people are doubly inclined to believe the worst in the case of Kennedy v. Conservative central campaign.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the two Manitoba Conservative acclamations last weekend, and the consequent possibility of snap by-election calls, the Liberals moved first to set their nomination meeting day in Provencher for Wednesday, September 25, then confirmed leader Justin Trudeau's attendance at it, then confirmed Trudeau's visit to Brandon the day before (on Tuesday, September 24).

At more or less this exact moment, Frank Godon announced, first privately and then publicly, that he intended to withdraw from the Liberal nomination race in Brandon, and endorse Rolf Dinsdale, a mere two weeks after getting into the race in the first place.

Godon maintains that he needed to spend more time taking care of his elderly parents, and also wanted to do what was best for the party to give them the best opportunity of winning the by-election (ie, not having to have a "byelection" to run, he tweeted, though I think he meant a "nomination"), and he emphasizes that he was not pressured to do so by anyone higher up. Equally, Rolf Dinsdale has said on Twitter that he would prefer to have an open nomination.

But we can also note that the timing of Godon's withdrawal: a) came conveniently just in time for Trudeau to meet his now-lone presumptive nominee in Brandon on his swing through Manitoba, and b) miraculously happened just before the editor of the Brandon Sun decided to endorse the Liberal candidate in the wake of the apparent Conservative shenanigans.

Again, this is probably all on the up-and-up; but on the other hand, by-elections are a marvellous environment for coincidence*.

In any event, my Manitoba sources don't believe this fracas will amount to too much in the end. The Conservatives would still be expected to win Brandon-Souris handily thanks to the rural areas, though perhaps a little less so this time; while the NDP will almost certainly come a distant second like they always do, say my (non-NDP) sources. The Liberals have not had much on the ground in the riding for some time, though you'd have to acknowledge they're doing not badly in the smoke and mirrors department so far this round.

Kennedy is now looking to a provincial run to replace Maguire, and federal Conservatives are telling O'Connor: "It’s done, get over it." O'Connor may not want to, but it's likely all inside baseball to the voters in this traditionally Conservative riding, the same way Sopuck's nomination was a non-issue at the polls one riding to the north in a by-election three years earlier.

The Greens still have no announced candidate, but are expecting announcements soon, and plan to hold a nomination meeting on Wednesday, October 9.

The NDP nomination meeting is still scheduled for Thursday, October 17, with a deadline for candidates to enter the race of Monday, October 7. To date there are two declared candidates, Cory Szczepanski and John Bouché.

Must read, to get au courant:

————————

* If only I could take credit for that delicious phrase, but it actually comes from a terrific court scene in the movie "The Big Easy", where it's applied to the city of New Orleans by a lawyer with a colourful sense of metaphor.

Conservative withdrawals pave way for possible early by-election calls

September 14th, 2013 | 6 Comments

Welcome, National Newswatch readers!

Arthur-Virden MLA Larry Maguire looks set to be acclaimed Conservative candidate in the Brandon-Souris by-election

The night before the NDP and Liberals were set to pick their candidates for the upcoming by-election in Toronto Centre, two Conservative nomination candidates suddenly withdrew from the governing party's contested nomination in Brandon-Souris.

First news emerged from Brandon that Len Isleifson, who we earlier learned had just graduated to the Deputy mayorship of the Wheat City, would no longer be running for the Conservative nod. And then word came through back-channels, subsequently confirmed by Graeme Bruce in the Brandon Sun, that Merv Tweed's former aide Chris Kennedy was also out of the race.

Bruce is reporting from local Conservative Party sources that unspecified issues with the two candidates' nomination applications came into play, but the upshot is two-fold:

  1. Arthur-Virden MLA Larry Maguire will be acclaimed the Conservative candidate for the upcoming by-election in Brandon-Souris, along with Ted Falk in Provencher, and probably Geoff Pollock in Toronto Centre, and
  2. The decks are now cleared for Prime Minister Stephen Harper to call by-elections as early as Sunday, September 15 for all four by-elections, with an E-Day of Monday, October 21 or later.

Note that Saturday, September 14 was the first day a by-election could have been called for Brandon-Souris – the last seat to become vacant of the four now in play. A Monday, October 21 by-election would come five days after the expected launch of the new Parliamentary session and Throne Speech, and ten days before the Conservative Party's delayed convention in Calgary.

That said, certainly the Brandon Sun's reporting suggests that local Conservatives are not expecting an early call, and indeed Conservatives in several of the ridings have been told to prepare for November by-elections.

In other by-election news, the NDP is set to release final membership sign-up figures to their nomination candidates in Bourassa Monday or Tuesday, but campaign insiders who are familiar with the lists in progress are giving star candidate Stéphane Moraille the edge. The Dipper meeting will also be held in the Costa Del Mar in Montréal-Nord (which housed the Liberal meeting last weekend), as it's one of the few meeting rooms in the riding willing to rent to political parties. The NDP is also expecting a candidate to announce shortly for Provencher.

Forthcoming dates to watch:

  • Sun Sept 15 – both NDP and Liberal contested nomination meetings take place in Toronto Centre
  • Wed Sept 25 – NDP contested nomination meeting in Bourassa
  • Thu Oct 17 – NDP contested nomination meeting in Brandon-Souris

We are still waiting on:

  • Final confirmation that Geoff Pollock has been accepted as a Conservative nomination candidate in Toronto Centre, and if so, whether he will be acclaimed, given that no other name has surfaced publicly
  • A date to be set for the contested Liberal nomination meeting in Brandon-Souris, though I was told it was "close" to being decided
  • A nomination meeting date for the Liberals in Provencher, where ex-riding president Terry Hayward is to date the only declared candidate
  • The name of the NDP candidate expected to announce shortly in Provencher
  • Any sign of a viable Bloc or Conservative candidacy in Bourassa

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 Sept 25 meeting with 4-way contest Deputy leader appointed candidate July 9 Dubourg wins Sept 8 2-way contest Leader has ruled out a run for himself
Toronto Centre, ON Sept 15 meeting with 3-way contest Deverell named candidate Sept 9 Sept 15 meeting with 3-way contest 1 declared candidate; nominations closed Sept 11  
Provencher, MB 1 declared candidate 1 approved candidate; nominations closed Sept 11  
Brandon-Souris, MB Oct 17 meeting with 2-way contest 2-way contest 1 approved candidate; nominations closed Sept 11