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June 11th, 2015
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Four federal Liberal candidates have quietly stepped down over the last few weeks, and are in the process of being replaced.
[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]
The first one we know of is lawyer Susan Watt, who won a contested nomination against former Liberal leadership contestant George Takach last November, in Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON. Her resignation was kept quiet by the party, and her photo and bio remained on their website, until it was reported by the CBC's John Lancaster out of Toronto a month later on May 27. Watt's husband apparently received an exceptionally good job offer in Hong Kong, but it appears the party did not want to announce the resignation before it had identified a star candidate to succeed her, and the story was not picked up on by the national media in Ottawa. The riding is currently represented by first-term Conservative M.P. Bernard Trottier, who will be challenged by lawyer Phil Trotter for the NDP in the fall.
The second one we know of is Canadian Forces veteran and former Conservative David MacLeod, who had won a contested nomination last September in Central Nova, NS. His resignation came to light the day Conservative Central Nova MP Peter MacKay announced his retirement from federal politics, presumably when reporters wanted to contact MacLeod for his reaction. In fact, MacLeod had stepped down several days before MacKay, and as CBC Nova Scotia reported, even after the party asked him to reconsider in wake of the seat opening up he still declined to run, and the party then asked the media for privacy on his behalf. Meanwhile former Conservative Field Director Fred DeLorey and Jim Ryan are contesting the Conservative nomination to replace MacKay, and local New Democrats are expecting lots of interest in their nomination now.
However, it may be the third and fourth cases that make for an uncomfortable trend if it continues, as both are aboriginal candidates from urban prairie seats.
The third case I became aware of was the Métis candidate Daniol Coles in Edmonton-Griesbach, AB (successor of Edmonton East). I noticed when updating Alberta candidate contact information that Coles' Twitter and Facebook accounts had both been taken down, even though his profile remains on the party's Candidates page. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau made a high-profile visit to Edmonton last weekend, where he and his Edmonton-area candidates attended a rally to kick off Edmonton Mill Woods candidate Amarjeet Sohi's campaign, and all marched together in the Pride parade. Coles was not part of either event as a candidate, and moreover his LinkedIn page lists an end-date for his candidacy in the riding of June 2015. It's not known when or why he stepped down, but from Twitter replies to his former account, he appears to have been engaged in some vigourous debates over Bill C-51 just before he stopped tweeting altogether. Coles was acclaimed the Liberal candidate here last August, and soon became included in stories about high-profile aboriginal candidates being recruited by Trudeau, alongside Jody Wilson-Raybould and (since defeated for her nomination in Manicouagan) Native Women's Association president Michèle Audette. The riding is a Conservative open seat, with Peter Goldring stepping down, and former journalist and municipal councillor Kerry Diotte nominated for the Conservatives, being challenged by provincial curriculum manager Janis Irwin for the NDP.
The fourth case was rumoured via social media in Regina for several weeks, but can now be confirmed because a potential replacement has stepped forward soliciting memberships. Former Regina police officer and educator Marcel Isnana (son of the late former Standing Buffalo First Nation Chief and himself former Liberal candidate, Melvin Isnana) appears to have signalled his intention to step down to the Liberals, as Della Anaquod is now running for the Liberal nomination in his riding of Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK. Again, it's not known exactly when or why Isnana stepped down. However, his candidate Facebook page has not been updated since the end of April, and family members have been posting items critical of Bill C-51 to social media. Anaquod declared her bid for the apparently re-opened nomination on June 2. Isnana had originally won a contested nomination to represent the Liberals back in September. The riding is held by Commons Speaker and Conservative MP Andrew Scheer, who is being challenged by Agricultural Producers Association manager Nial Kuyek for the NDP.
There is no doubt that the act of measuring something changes its behaviour. In the last two elections, bloggers started counting the number of nominated Liberal candidates who had stepped down for sport, to the point that it became a crippling narrative — much as Liberals now are counting the number of retiring Conservative incumbents before the current election (and admittedly that number is starting to reach fin-de-regime rather than merely renewal proportions). So, it's not surprising that the Liberal party might now be keen to downplay candidate resignations, which could be nothing more than normal turnover, at a time when the public opinion polls have started to move.
But the rule of three says that three or more examples of a phenomenon is a trend, and a trend is a story.
The Conservatives have had 11 nominated candidates step down, but nine of them are incumbent MPs who have already either announced their retirements or vacated their seats. The other two were Marnie MacDougall, who for some unknown reason had to complete a second nomination meeting in order to carry the party banner in Toronto—St. Paul's, ON, and Christopher Lloyd, who had decided to assume the Conservative candidacy in order to run against Justin Trudeau in Papineau, QC as a work of performance art. His candidacy did not last more than a few hours after its raison d'etre was reported by the CBC.
The NDP has lost 5 nominated candidates: Lewis Cardinal for health reasons very early on, then Glenn Thibeault for provincial opportunity reasons last fall, and more recently three Alberta candidates who were since elected to the provincial legislature on May 5, which is the kind of problem as a political party that you like to have.
So, no-one is at crisis levels of losing large swaths of their slate yet, though the count of retiring MPs is climbing and could reach 60 by the day the writ drops, I figure. But some of the secrecy around these resignations does raise questions about the reasons behind them, so it's worth keeping an eye out for any further signs of a pattern.