Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Prelude to the Election - Nominations

For all intents and purposes the country is already in the midst of an election campaign. Despite the fact that the election is still months away from being called it is very clear from the behaviour of the party leaders that that is merely the last formality. If memory serves the Prime Minister recently made an important announcement regarding security, which for the record sounded exactly like a stump speech, not in Parliament, but in York Region, north of Toronto. This so happens to be a critical area for the Conservative Party to hold if it hopes to maintain power. Similarly Tom Mulcair (NDP – Outremont, QC) has been crossing the nation trying to build goodwill. I have seen more than a few pictures of the Leader of the Opposition behind counters, wearing aprons and meeting people in normal settings.

Generally, more quietly, has been the steady nomination of candidates around the country. I have recommended this resource many times before, but once again I wish to highlight the excellent work Alice Funke is doing in collating all of this information at her website, link here.

Here’s an interesting point. The Conservative have nominated 202 candidates so far, of which only 37 are women for a percentage share of 18.3%. For the Conservatives to have approximately 50% of the candidates be women they would have to nominate 95 women in the remaining 134 seats they have left available. The Liberals lead in nominations with 203 candidates, of which 33.5% are women. The NDP have nominated 133 candidates and are doing the best with 41.4% of their candidates being women. Obviously there are many metrics to see how representative a slate of candidates are, but gender is a quick and easy one at a first glance.

The redrawing of riding districts will make for a very different campaign. There are a growing number of open seats where no incumbent, or a sitting MP will be contesting. While incumbency is less powerful in Canada than say the United States it remains a factor in the benefit of the MP. There are about 50 seats that are open, roughly one in seven in the country. Much of the parties’ resources will be dedicated to winning these contests.

Nomination contests are also interesting moments inside political parties that the public rarely gets a view of. There are two types of contests for a nomination: acclaimed and uncontested. Both have positive and negative implications for the party. Acclamations occur when only one candidate seeks the nomination to run for the party. While every situation is different it could be because the incumbent or another strong candidate is running and therefore scares off competition. Perhaps influential people lean on challengers and they withdraw from the race. Another possibility is that the person has volunteered to be the sacrificial lamb. In politics we rarely discuss the candidates who stand no chance but wave the banner anyway. They are needed and they are valuable, but the prestige of winning 10% or less of the vote is not so wonderful. A high number of acclamations may suggest that the party I unable to naturally attract fresh blood and talent or that too much pressure is being applied in some way.

Contested nominations can be signs of a healthy, vibrant party. Many candidates fighting for the right to run for the party in the election suggests not only are they engaged, but they believe they can win. However, these divisions can be fractious and spawn deep resentments within the party locally, regionally or nationally. The Liberals have suffered badly from this leading up to the 2015 election as time and time again it appears meddling from the central party is skewing nominations. The most grievous and recent example is the recruitment of Eve Adams (LPC – Mississauga-Brampton South) to the party and the effort to parachute her into the Eglinton-Lawrence riding.

It seems likely by the end of the summer the parties will have selected around 300 of their candidates to go into the election in October. I poured over the information for the ridings in around my old ridings in Ontario and found it interesting to see who it was throwing their hats in the ring to become our next class of parliamentarians. For those interested there is plenty of time to get involved and help pick, or even to be one of these candidates.

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