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Posts Tagged ‘Election Timing’

Re-up-UPDATED: How a little-noticed clause in the Fair Elections Act up-ends all conventional election timing speculation

January 15th, 2015 | 41 Comments

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

UPDATE: See below for two points of clarification – on the indexation of third-party spending limits, and the scope of the limitation on fundraising cost exemptions.

RE-UPDATE: [Feb 2, 2015] On further examination of the legislation, Elections Canada lawyers believe the daily pro-rated value of the central and candidate expense limits should be increased by 1/36th for every day the writ period exceeds 37 days, not 1/37th.

Re-Up-UPDATE: [moments later] Never mind; 1/37th is the correct amount of the daily pro-rate. Mea culpa.

Anyone still debating the question of an early election date, versus a fall election date as planned, is completely missing the point. The question nowadays – thanks to a little-noticed amendment buried in the Fair Elections Act –  is not what day the election will be held. It's what day the election will be called.

Until now, most of the conventional wisdom has sounded a lot like the unnamed Liberal source quoted by Paul Wells the other day:

“They’ve got $40 million to spend,” my Liberal source said of his Conservative foes, who are still winning each quarter’s fundraising competition. “They can only spend $25 or $26 million in a writ,” that is, during a formal campaign period, because Elections Canada monitors these things closely. “Why would they go now?”

The reason it sounded that way is because – until now – such a calculation would have been right.

It depended on the fact that, while there was no legal limit on the length of the writ period, there was a hard limit on how much could be spent during an election campaign, regardless of its length.

A fixed expense ceiling, but no fixed length to the campaign. That was the system we used to have. Then we added a fixed end to the campaign period in the Accountability Act, but no fixed beginning. Still, the fixed expense ceiling served as a financial incentive not to drag it out too long, and keep the campaign affordable enough for every party to be on the same level playing field – at least during the writ period. If, as they say, "campaigns matter", then at least there was reasonably affordable parity for serious entrants during the period that mattered.

But the fixed expense ceiling was ended in the Bill C-23 (Fair Elections Act), as part of its massive rewrite of "Part 18 – Financial Administration" of the Canada Elections Act. The version adopted by Parliament is now published as Chapter 12 of the 2014 Statutes of Canada, and although its provisions haven't been consolidated into the online version of the Act yet, they did come into force on December 19, 2014. Here's the relevant section:

Maximum Election Expenses

430. (1) The maximum amount that is allowed for election expenses of a registered party for an election is the product of

(a) $0.735 multiplied by the number of names on the preliminary lists of electors for electoral districts in which the registered party has endorsed a candidate or by the number of names on the revised lists of electors for those electoral districts, whichever is greater, and

(b) the inflation adjustment factor published by the Chief Electoral Officer under section 384 that is in effect on the date of the issue of the writ or writs for the election.

Election period longer than 37 days

(2) If an election period is longer than 37 days, then the maximum amount calculated under subsaection (1) is increased by adding to it the product of

(a) one thirty-seventh of the maximum amount calculated under subsection (1), and

(b) the number of days in the election period minus 37.

A campaign has to be a minimum of 37 days – the day it's called plus 36 more. But it has no maximum length. So, in the olden days, you would have to take the campaign expense ceiling and make it last the length of the campaign, which meant that for well-funded parties with control over the election calendar, they'd delay the dropping of the writ as long as possible, and outspend in the pre-writ period trying to lay down the campaign narrative and define their opponents, knowing their less well-funded opponents had to keep their powder dry for the campaign whenever it came.

The extra-long campaign that spanned the Christmas holidays in 2005-2006, however, really stretched some parties' budgets. The need to make a fixed campaign budget last for a longer campaign led to a lot of the improvising that resulted in so-called In-and-Out scandal.

So naturally, the thinking would go, if you had a longer campaign you ought to be able to have a higher spending limit, right?

Except that having an unlimited pro-rated election campaign expense ceiling – without a limited campaign period – opens a huge back-door for a well-financed political party that controls the timing of an election to spend its opponents into the ground.

Setting a fixed election date in legislation was supposed to equalize the power over election timing between the government and the opposition. Everyone would know when the election was, and could plan accordingly. It didn't matter that no fixed beginning was set down in law, because the fixed election spending ceiling would keep the campaign relatively short.

But now, what's to stop the Prime Minister from calling the election on July 1st for October 19th? "Under the Canada Elections Act, nothing" replies Elections Canada spokesperson John Enright. "And the expense limits for parties and candidates would be pro-rated 1/37th per day for each extra day."

Wrap your mind around the implications of that one for a minute or two.

Suppose the national party's expense ceiling for a 37-day campaign works out to $26 million, as realistically ball-parked by Wells's source. The new provisions in the Elections Act mean that for every day longer than 37 days the writ lasts, the spending limit goes up by roughly $700,000.

For every extra week, then, it would increase by $4.9M.

An extra month? Add on another $21M.

Tack on the whole summer, for argument's sake, and suddenly you're looking at a 110 day campaign with a national expense ceiling of $77 million dollars to be competitive. Spending at those levels, given Canada's restrictive fundraising laws, is no longer an equalizer – it's a blunt instrument to beat your opponents to death and into bankruptcy with, and would leave the bankers to decide which of the government's foes to finance to the max to try and compete even remotely fairly.

And that would not even be the real limit, because the Act also exempted fundraising costs from the ceiling, and you can pack an awful lot of messaging and voter contact into fundraising, as anyone on the year-end party email lists could attest. [UPDATE: That was wrong. It exempts the costs of running a fundraising activity like a cocktail party, but the provision on telephone/email etc solicitation for funds was dropped.] (Not a lot of serious policy gets discussed, however, adding to the woes already identified by Chantal Hébert). And there would be no requirement to spread that spending out over the entire campaign period – instead you could just hold your fire and then dump millions and millions of dollars more in advertising into the final 3 weeks.

With $40M on hand – and remember that the Fair Elections Act did not impose any limits on the 50% rebate of those paid election expenses either – the Conservatives could now leverage that $40M with bank loans of a further $40M (secured by their rebate) to spend the limit, and still have money left over to transfer to their candidate campaigns  … who now would also have to cope with expense ceilings of three times their previous amounts. In other words, the typical candidate spending limit of $80K would in that hypothetical situation become nearly a quarter of a million dollars

And those candidates would have a much harder time than the parties to secure financing for the difference, thanks to the ridiculous and unworkable loan provisions also written into the Bill against the advice of such wild-eyes radicals as the Canadian Bankers' Association, who would have to administer them. The new regime requires bank loans to be guaranteed by a consortium of individuals each guaranteeing no more than their annual contribution ceiling MINUS the amount they'd already actually contributed in cash. No bank or credit union wants to issue a loan for $45,000 guaranteed by 30 people for $1,500 each. Not going to happen. So, if the riding association didn't already have most of the limit banked ahead of time, their candidate would be put impossibly behind the 8-ball in a mega-length campaign.

Now, there would be some down-sides to a mega-long election campaign from the governing party's perspective. For one thing, once a writ drops, most government advertising would have to cease, and most government-funded ministerial travel along with it. Cabinet ministers still managing complex, sensitive or risky portfolios (defence, security, or anything to do with financial markets or the price of energy are some contemporary examples) might have their attention impossibly distracted from either their role or their re-election. It would blow a huge hole into Elections Canada's own election budget, so I suppose there could be some public backlash as well, though the bet would be on it dissipating after a day or two. And long campaigns can be risky for incumbents.

But they're just as risky for challengers, especially ones who haven't personally experienced the pressure-cooker of a national campaign before. And the challenge of suddenly needing to raise and spend three times what you'd planned on might be insurmountable. Plus, Auditors-General don't usually release reports during election campaigns; just sayin'.

A final wrinkle is that the so-called "third parties" – groups who are not registered political parties, but who want to advertise during the election campaign, did NOT have their ceilings pro-rated. So, each group will have a hard $150K ceiling to work with for the entire writ period nationally, plus $3000 for any riding it wants to specifically advertise about, no matter how long or short the campaign. I expect a number of third parties – LeadNow.ca for example, or the pro-pipeline groups – have planned more expensive pre-writ ad campaigns that are not subject to those ceilings. But if the writ were issued early, all those ad buys would have to stop in their tracks. [UPDATE: of course those third party spending limits spelled out in the Act are at least subject to the inflation adjustment, so the Third Party national limit, for example is now over $200K.]

We'll get an early taste of what's to come with the required launch of the Peterborough by-election, which must be called by May 6. It has to be called by May 6, but the only restriction on voting day is that it be on a Monday at least 36 days after May 6. The first Monday at least 36 days after May 6 is June 15, but the Prime Minister could do what was done in Ottawa Centre before, which was to call an early by-election that then got folded into the general election campaign. This means the candidates in Peterborough should now expect to have to spend 4 1/2 times the old spending limit to get from May 6 to October 19. Same goes, though at a slightly lesser rate, for candidates in Sudbury (although notably, the Chief Electoral Officer still has not been notified by the Commons Speaker of Glenn Thibeault's January 5th resignation, so the clock hasn't started ticking on that riding's federal by-election just yet).

How the parties come out of this election financially will be critical to the future health of our democracy. Justin Trudeau has already signalled that he intends to turn his back on Jean Chretien's election reform of the per-vote subsidy. And unless any one party wins a majority of the 338 seats in the next House of Commons, the country could be back into an election again in 2017.

A democracy without a robust party system is a prime takeover target for monied interests. This is why all citizens should care so deeply about the fairness of elections. It sounds like it's all just dickering over inside baseball by party insiders, but it isn't. The political parties are the (for the most part, voluntary) bodies who identify, recruit, train and finance the candidates we all get to choose between on the ballot. Take away their level playing field, and you are only an election or two away from losing any real effective choice for yourself on that ballot.

Just because the Prime Minister could in theory call an election for the fixed election date early and spend his opponents into the ground, doesn't meant that he should, or would. A true leader is marked not only by his actions, but also his restraint and wisdom. Even though we fully expect the PM to vigourously contest the next election, he is no doubt also mindful of the fact that he's heading into the legacy stage of his reign.

For myself, I think the next Parliament should amend the Canada Elections Act again, to set a maximum length alongside the minimum length for a federal general election campaign period, and I hope to see that plank in one or more of the parties' election platforms.


As for all the #TeamSpring vs #TeamFall nonsense, I cannot bring myself to believe that the federal Conservatives would want to run an election campaign concurrently with either or both of the expected Alberta provincial election (mid-March call for a mid-April vote is the prevailing wisdom), or the Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership contest which concludes the first weekend of May.

I also remember how all the expected fuss over the tell-all book by Julie Couillard on Maxime Bernier in during the 2008 election campaign amounted in the end to nothing more than a half-day story at most, so I think the potential impact of Senator Duffy's trial is being highly-overrated by people who spend too much time living and breathing the Ottawa narrative.

Everyone I've spoken to who's in a position to know, or who knows someone in a position to know, says that the next federal general election will be held on Monday, October 19, 2015 as stipulated in the Canada Elections Act. Until now, however, no-one's thought to ask them when it will be called. Hopefully that can be rectified soon.

Election Cycles and Timing the Political Market

March 16th, 2011 | 41 Comments

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

Many observers remain baffled at how an apparently stable polling environment could give rise to such seemingly self-destructive election fever. As a public service, I'll try and explain why.

To do so, let's start quickly by revisiting January's "Reader's Guide to Election Speculation", which laid out my take on some of the underlying principles at play. At the time I wrote:

  • The people who want an election the most will deny wanting it the most vigourously. So will the people who want it the least.
  • Pre-election politics is more like backgammon than chess: it's the art of strategically positioning yourself over the long-term to maximize the tactical advantage of good luck in the short-term, and minimize the damage of bad luck. There is no point rolling double-sixes if you're blocked, or unable to use good luck to advance at least some of your objectives.
    • It also follows that at least some political success is the result of chance, but no-one will ever admit when it was (or admit that defeat was the result of strategic or tactical failure).
    • It further follows that some defeats are the result of tactical failures, rather than strategic ones. Assuming the long-term strategic positioning is not gravely affected, they can be easier to overcome.
  • Past performance does not predict future outcomes. But it has a sticky impact on them, meaning that unexpected changes can sometimes take two elections to unfold. For example, it took two tries for Josée Verner to win a Québec City seat for the newly-formed Conservatives, the NDP to win Edmonton-Strathcona with Linda Duncan, etc.
  • "Doing well in 'the polls'" between elections is not the objective of a political party. Winning seats is. A party that wins seats will move up in the polls (and vice versa).
  • Political parties are always making estimations of their likelihood of gaining or losing seats, and the likelihood of their competitors doing the same. In doing so, they always overestimate their own rate of success and underestimate that of their opponents.
  • The government will fall, or an election will be called, when at least one of those parties makes a significant error in assessing its position, and the relative strengths of its opponents.

To understand what's going on in Ottawa right now, we need to elaborate on the last two points further, and I'm going to try and use the metaphor of a stock market to help make some of these points. It's not a perfect metaphor, and we could get bogged down in the whys and why nots. But for argument's sake let's say that deciding when you want to have an election is like trying to time the market.

No-one buys into the market because they're convinced it's stable — to the contrary. They commit to a buy or sell decision when they think it's about to move, in the hopes of catching a sudden rise (or fall, if you're shorting your opposition), or else to limit their losses on a security that's outlived its usefulness.

But of course it's not only one party that gets to decide the timing in a minority parliament. Even though the Prime Minister can ask that parliament be dissolved, a minimal sense of proprietary requires he make a case for doing so, which usually entails making a convincing argument that the other parties in the House will not adopt his program.

Thus for every actor who is convinced the market it set to move one way, another actor must be found who believes the opposite, or the transaction can't proceed. It's not that their true interests must coincide, it's that their perceptions of those interests must be in opposition to each other's at the same time  — and one actor or the other is wrong.

Moreover in Canada's multi-party electoral system at the moment, it requires more than one party believing it's not in their interest to have an election at any moment (what's been the case most of the time); and at least three believing it is in their interest to actually have one at the same time to precipitate its onset.

We'll know in six to eight weeks who was right and who was wrong, but for now let's turn to look at the electoral cycle. Leduc, Pammett, McKenzie & Turcotte reviewed a lifetime's worth of Canadian Elections in their 2010 book, cá độ bóng đá trên điện thoại Dynasties and Interludes. Not all elections are created equal, I would argue. Some are incremental and some transformative. The incremental kind perpetuate dynasties, while the transformative ones change them. And I suppose some transformations take more than one election to unfold, or are tentative and can be turned back again in a subsequent election (hence, the interludes and the stickiness of change referred to above).

Every political party is either trying to catch a wave of momentum that will sweep in the next transformation, or wait until the tide goes out to lock in their current position. Occasionally a political party will want to bail before things get worse, in order to regroup for another time.

At least one political party is said to be trying to cá độ bóng đá trên điện thoại recreate the conditions of the most transformative election in my lifetime, 1993, but will that effort produce the same outcome, and if so for the same party?

To get a sense of who's right and who's wrong, if you follow this approach, we don't look at the polls today (the current price), but at the fundamentals of each party. And perhaps we couple that with some technical analysis that tries to find reliable signals of a stasis that's about to move. This leads to a few different approaches:

  • a growth play – might be looking to build on current trends that could carry them up a few more notches
  • a blue chip (or red chip) – might be trying to build on its long-time market dominance and name recognition
  • a value opportunity – might be a once-solid name, that's been beaten up a couple of times, but brought in new management to systematically address its weaknesses and rebuild for the future, but whose current price doesn't yet reflect its latent value
  • a speculative startup – might be hoping for a big pop based on its novelty and a glut of good news coverage
  • a niche player – isn't trying to compete across the entire field, but is satisfied to dominate its corner of the market

Parties on the ascendance are creative, full of energy, have new ideas about what will move the political market, and seem able to attract a large group of people to carry those big plans out. Parties at the top of the cycle seem indomitable and ubiquitous, but can have problems when the creative cadre that got them there either can't manage in the new environment or move on, though they have the dual forces of carrot (patronage) and stick (party discipline) to help attract and keep the people they need. Parties turning the corner back down again recycle the same techniques to greater and greater extremes, but to lesser and lesser effect. The exact length of time between the moment of self-parody and the loss of government (or official party status) can be mercifully short, or unbelievably painfully long.

Now, investors in the securities markets can buy and sell to their hearts' content, and even purchase derivatives to try and hedge those bets. But parties get one shot at timing the political market for that electoral cycle (though the transaction takes about five weeks before it closes), and then they have to live with the consequences for at least several years afterwards (never mind the voters). You can see that this single decision about timing is very tricky, and it's not always driven by short-term factors, but by a hopefully experienced read of where things are set to move, rather than where they are today.

So, to come full circle, not every party is right about its reading of its current position, but they all seem to have come to a certain determination about the coinciding of their immediate and opposite interests.

What is your take on the fundamentals of each party, and the timing strategy they should be using right now? Is there any party that should be holding off right now? Who is the value play? Which party has nowhere to go but down? And who is most likely to surprise?

UPDATED: Expect the Unexpected in Coming Weeks

March 14th, 2011 | 4 Comments

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

Three exhibits this past weekend alone demonstrate how unexpected events can throw a monkey wrench into plans already being made on the run.

UPDATE: See below for more updated coverage of the vote totals in La Pointe de l'Île.]

  • The sudden retirement announcements of three more British Columbia members Saturday morning (two from the Reform Party Class of 1993) will have the Conservative Party moving smartly to replace them with new candidates, and in the case of Stockwell Day's riding of Okanagan-Coquihalla, BC, have former Liberal candidate Ross Rebagliati thinking twice about whether he should have stepped down last year. Three Liberals (Shan Lavell, Gordon Wiebe, and John Kidder) are now in the running for a contested nomination to replace him, that has been advertised for Tuesday, March 15, although one party official told me it had been postponed. The NDP has yet to nominate in that riding either, leaving the Green Party's Dan Bouchard as the only nominated candidate for now. The main competition in Chuck Strahl's riding of Chilliwack-Fraser Canyon and John Cummins' riding of Delta-Richmond East will be for the Conservative Party nominations, and four candidates are already said to be jockeying for the latter prize: Howard Jampolsky, Maria Devries, Dale Saip and realtor Keith Roy.
  • Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe's bid to have the former Hochelaga NDP candidate installed as the Bloc candidate in retiring M.P. Francine Lalonde's now open seat of La Pointe de l'Île on Sunday, ran headlong into a little hiccup known as party democracy. In fact, Le Devoir reported last month that some members of the riding association were none too keen on Duceppe's having virtually annointed Jean-Claude Rocheleau before Christmas, and were demanding a proper nomination meeting. Of course, a similar thing happened on the road to Daniel Paillé's by-election nomination for the Bloc in Hochelaga, but on that occasion Mr. Duceppe got his way. So further to Wells's First Rule ("For any given situation, Canadian politics will tend toward the least exciting possible outcome"), I let myself believe he would again this time. But while Paillé had only been up against one other candidate by the time his vote was held, Rocheleau was facing two other candidates: long-time party activist Ginette Beaudry and environmentalist Nicolas Montmorency. Québec commentator Jean Lapierre attended the nomination meeting after an earlier interview with Duceppe on TVA, and reported all the happenings on Twitter. Basically, Rocheleau was ahead [UPDATE: the story from L'Avenir de l'Est tells it the opposite way] behind by 11 votes on the first ballot, Montmorency was dropped off, suppertime came, the folks who weren't as angry went home to eat, and the others ganged up on him and elected Beaudry. Rocheleau's Facebook page was taken down within four hours. Lapierre called it a defeat for Duceppe and Lalonde, who had endorsed Rocheleau's candidacy, and almost immediately the NDP announced that Thomas Mulcair would be presenting another group of Montréal candidates this coming Wednesday evening.
  • Well-known Manitoba blogger "Hacks and Wonks", who is also a member of the Conservative riding association in the target seat of Winnipeg South Centre, had a bit of a spit-take on Twitter Sunday evening, when he opened up his email and discovered a four-hour old letter of resignation from their candidate Raymond Hall. The Winnipeg Free Press reached Hall within the hour, who confirmed the resignation but declined all further comment. This is in a riding where the Conservatives were expecting to give long-time Liberal M.P. Anita Neville a real run for her money, with a very active pre-election campaign under way by all appearances, and apparently the Conservatives have also made a significant outlay in preelection advertising here, most of which – with Hall's name on it – is money down the drain, for a riding association that after all only had $2,400 in the bank at the end of 2009. As H-and-W said on Twitter, it will have to be a "speedy nomination" now, because separately he's hearing that May 2 will indeed be the election date. In an interesting sidebar, Hall had defeated Neville's cousin, the developer Hart Mallin, for the Conservative nomination back in July 2009. It's unclear who could step into the breach at this point to replace him.

The resignation of the three British Columbia Conservatives leaves only Dick Harris from the Reform Party Class of 1993 in that province. He had been up at the Prince George-Peace River nomination meeting on Friday night, when Public Eye Online first reported that Stockwell Day was to announce his retirement the following day, and Harris reportedly had not heard any news on that score at the time. Long-time Reform Party supporter Bob Zimmer defeated 6 other contenders to win the right to run in Jay Hill's stead, and will now face former Deputy Premier Lois Boone for the NDP, Hilary Crowley for the Green Party and a Liberal to be named later.

In another noteworthy nomination over the weekend, Tamil broadcaster Ragavan Paranchothy was acclaimed as the Conservative candidate in Scarborough Southwest, ON.

This brings us up to 17 Members of Parliament who have either resigned already (3 of them) or are retiring at the next election (the other 14). This is on the low side, compared with earlier totals, as compiled by Professor W.T. Stanbury for a paper we wrote together a few years back:

General Election Number of Incumbents Not Running Again
1984 36 of 267
1988 44 of 277
1993 66 of 285
1997 40 of 291
2000 22 of 301
2004 54 of 297
2006 28 of 306
2008 33 of 304
41st 17 of 308
or 14 of 305


It was also unexpected to me (not really) that after researching and writing four blogposts carefully explaining Bill C-12, the legislation that seeks to amend the seat apportionment formula in the constitution to permit the creation of new seats for Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia, that anyone could ever get it wrong again. But indeed it's happened.

So, to summarize:

  • Bill C-12 does not actually create the seats.
  • It would amend the seat apportionment formula in the Constitution.
  • The seat apportionment formula is only used after a decennial census (the next one will be this summer on July 1, 2011) has reported its population totals by province, and the number of seats it computes is then sent to the Electoral Boundaries Commission to set the boundaries.
  • The resulting number and shape of the seats is called a Representation Order.
  • The new Representation Order will come into effect for the first election after it's adopted.
  • That won't be this election, and IT WOULDN'T HAVE BEEN EVEN IF BILL C-12 HAD PASSED the House and Senate in all stages last week. The process also has nothing to do with the last (non-decennial) census at all.

Only the reader who is truly loyal to the Globe and Mail would take the time to point this out, so please forgive me.

UPDATED: Dancing as Fast as I Can, Senator: Long-awaited Nomination News Catchup

July 9th, 2010 | 8 Comments

The Conservative Party’s campaign director, Senator Doug Finley, was threatening an election Thursday afternoon, after a number of opposition Senators voted to remove clauses from the omnibus budget implementation bill at the Senate Finance Committee.? From the Canadian Press story filed after the meeting:

Finley said he’s hopeful senators will eventually bow to the will of the elected Commons, which has already approved the bill. But if they don’t, he said: “Let’s dance.”

“We’re ready to go to an election if we have to. The buses, the planes, the trains, the money, the war room — everything’s ready to rock and roll,” said Finley.

“We’re in good shape for an election.”

The Senator’s comments are being taken reasonably seriously by some political watchers, and I would include myself in that category.? While others believe either that the specific issues being excised from Bill C-9 (the right to sell AECL without parliamentary approval, the elimination of the monopoly on international postal delivery for Canada Post, the environmental assessment provisions, and the tax on financial services) would not make very good election issues (being argued by Adam Radwanski for example), or that Senator Finley is rattling his annual sabre as campaign director to keep his own troops on their toes throughout the summer (a wise insight of Greg Weston’s on this evening’s CBC Power & Politics show, scroll to 44:50), I am with the group who believes the general issue of “parliamentary gridlock”, perhaps coupled with “unelected Senators thwarting the will of the elected Commons”, might be thought to give good enough cover to call an election during an opponent’s moment of weakness, much as was argued by Nik Nanos a few weeks ago in the Hill Times.? This is notwithstanding the contention by the Globe and Mail’s Gloria Galloway or NDP blogger the Jurist that in fact the budget bill will probably wind up being passed unamended when it finally reaches the Senate floor on third reading.

UPDATE:? And I should add that the Prime Minister’s spokesperson Dimitri Soudas is saying that Canadians do not want an election and the prime minister “is not looking to call an election this fall.”? Which is either a definitive No, or definitive deniability, depending which way you were already leaning on that question.

In any event, Senator Finley covers a lot of the ground in terms of what election readiness means, but of course the one other aspect is nominations progress, and high time it is for an update of that!? Let’s start with the party currently rattling all those sabres.

  • Dauphin – Swan River – Marquette, MB – We earlier noted that wildlife conservationist Robert Sopuck had been running for the nomination in this now open Conservative seat (incumbent Inky Mark having announced his retirement over a year ago), but it was unclear from his website and other online evidence whether he was officially nominated or not.? Thanks to a reader for getting in touch to confirm that indeed Mr. Sopuck was acclaimed last Oct 19, 2009.? His only declared opponent so far is returning Green Party candidate organic farmer Kate Storey, who was her party’s second nominated candidate across the country for this election cycle back on March 24, 2009.? Mark first won the seat for the Reform Party in 1997 on a four-way split against one-term Liberal M.P. Marlene Cowling, a PC candidate and a New Democrat, but chalked up solid majorities in every subsequent election, regardless of the banner he carried, and without spending even half the spending limit in the last three elections.? (PS, It looks like the Google Map is not working for this riding, probably because it’s so detailed that the KMZ file exceeded 4 MB.? There’s a way for me to simplify those files, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet).
  • York Centre, ON – Fast-forwarding up a bit closer to the present, Conservative blogger Stephen Taylor announced a few weeks ago on Twitter that Mark Adler, founder of the Economic Club of Canada, would be running in this riding.? When I looked it up, I learned that he had been acclaimed back on April 22.? Adler is taking over from 2008 candidate Rochelle Wilner in one of the three North Toronto ridings where the Conservatives moved to within 5-6% of their Liberal incumbents last time out.? He’ll be running against three-term Liberal M.P. Ken Dryden, a former cabinet minister and leadership candidate for his party, who was first elected as part of the Class of 2004 after the retirement of three-term Liberal M.P. Art Eggleton (later appointed to the Senate), and will also be running against returning NDP candidate Kurtis Baily (who is active in his party’s Aboriginal Affairs Commission), and first-time Green candidate Christina de Souza (no biographical information available at time of writing).? The last election saw Dryden’s share of eligible voters drop by some 9 points, with Wilner picking up 1.5 of them and the rest staying home, while the NDP and Greens held a steady 10 percent of the electorate between them (the same share going back to 2004).? Most of the Conservatives’ growth in vote here actually came between 2004 and 2006, and is now found in the north-east part of the riding.? Still, with a 52.3% turnout in 2008, they came within 8.8 votes per poll of benching Dryden, and certainly outspent him 96% of the limit to 86% trying to do so.? Neither of the two main parties has a riding association return posted at Elections Canada for 2009 as yet.? [I should add here that I babysat for Ken and Lynda back in 1979-80, when I was at Carleton, he was doing his bar admission exams at the University of Ottawa, and they rented a house up the street from my parents’ place.? My only brush with hockey fame.]
  • Lethbridge, AB – As we first reported on Twitter, business consultant Jim Hillyer won a 5-way contested nomination on June 19, 2010 to carry the flag for the Conservatives in this southwest Alberta riding, which has been won by some flavour of Conservative candidate with over half the vote since anyone can remember.? Hillyer will now join returning 2008 candidates Mark Sandilands of the NDP, a retired University of Lethbridge professor, and Geoffrey Capp of the Christian Heritage Party, a security guard in Lethbridge who previously ran for his party numerous times in Yukon.? Hillyer takes over the Conservative candidacy from five-term M.P. Rick Casson, who announced his retirement earlier this year.
  • Mississauga South, ON – Meanwhile not only do the walls have ears, but so do Go Train passengers; as an intrepid Pundits’ Guide correspondent overhead there a few weeks ago a conversation about the status of the Conservative nomination in this riding.? It seems that Stella Ambler, who ran in nearby Bramalea – Gore – Malton, ON in 2008, was acclaimed as candidate the previous night (which would have been June 28), and the rather loud passengers who had apparently been at the meeting said something to the effect that “[2008 candidate] Hugh Arrison had declared a few months earlier his intentions to run, but apparently he received some pressure from the party that they wanted a ‘new face’ for the riding, particularly a female one.”? Ambler, a long-time party activist and most recently Director of Regional Affairs for Jim Flaherty, moved into the riding a year ago, and says she wants to replace the “mediocre Liberal representation” she believes it’s had.? The riding has been represented since 1993 by Liberal M.P. Paul Szabo, but while he did say he’d be running again were the election to be held last fall, according to one of our readers he also said at the time that were it come to come later, he might have to “rethink his priorities“.? A chartered accountant, Szabo has run here since [UPDATE:] first ran here in 1980, finally winning after the 1993 retirement of reknowned Conservative M.P. and maverick Chair of the Commons Finance Committee, Don Blenkarn, and obtaining 44%-52% of the vote on his successful outings.? Still, this is another riding where the Liberal share of eligible voters has been dropping over the past two elections, and notably had Hugh Arrison maintained his party’s raw vote from 2006 under Phil Green, he would have been able to defeat Mr. Szabo, whose percent of eligible electors also fell by the same 4 points or so, in spite of ramping up his spending from 57% of the limit in 2006 to 83%.? The Conservatives appear to be strongest in the middle of the riding, Lorne Park, and indeed that’s where Ms. Ambler and her family moved to, this time last year, as she says on her website.? Running for the NDP is first-time candidate Farah Kalbouneh, a young woman of Palestinian-Jordanian background, best known for her involvement with the Yalla Journal (a Jewish-Palestinian youth dialogue project).? The Greens also have a new candidate, for this riding anyway, in Paul Simas; an airline service director and sea cadet lieutenant.? Simas, who was born in Brazil, previously ran federally in 2004 in the neighbouring riding of Mississauga – Brampton South.? Thanks to a Twitter follower for that name.

In other Conservative candidate news:

  • Thunder Bay – Superior North, ON – I always learn something new sifting through the various political blogs, and that’s how I found out that Conservative candidate Michael Auld, who won a very closely contested nomination in this riding this time last year after a coin toss broke the tie, has apparently had to step down to take care of some health concerns.? The riding association issued a news release to that effect on June 17, covered by TBNewswatch.com.? While Richard Longtin of Lakehead University is declared as one candidate to replace him, Nipigon Mayor Richard Harvey, whom Auld defeated last year for the nomination, has also now announced that he intends to run again.? Should he be successful in winning the nomination, Harvey would be facing first-term NDP M.P. Bruce Hyer, who recently congratulated him for his role in the 10 years’ work of bring the Paddle-to-the-Sea park to Nipigon; and also lawyer Yves Fricot, the winner of last year’s 3-way contested Liberal nomination (who received a visit from Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff this past May).? Hyer won last time after running twice previously against former Liberal M.P. Joe Comuzzi, who left his party’s caucus after voting to support a Conservative budget, crossing the floor sometime later but then retiring at the next election.? Hyer had come within 408 votes of defeating Comuzzi in 2006, and won in 2008 with roughly the same raw vote (while doubling his campaign spending from 43% to 86% of the limit against an augmented Liberal budget as well), but a falling Liberal vote, some of which moved to the Conservatives’ Bev Sarafin, but most of which stayed home, turning the riding into a three-way race.? It remains a three-party race when looking at the riding associations’ year-end 2009 financial returns as well, with the Conservatives reporting net worth equivalent to 36% of the limit, while the Liberals reported 28% and the NDP 26%.? The Green Party has not nominated a candidate here as yet, while meantime the Marijuana Party registered a new riding association last autumn.? In any event, we send all best wishes to Mr. Auld for a successful and full recovery.
  • Prince George – Peace River, BC – Although he’s made no formal announcement to that effect, many locals in Fort St. John are working under the assumption that long-time Conservative M.P. Jay Hill will retire before the next election, something he hinted at to John Ivison of the National Post last February after fellow B.C. Reform Class of 1993 member Jim Abbott announced his own retirement in Kootenay – Columbia, and which led the Prince George Citizen to speculate somewhat humourously on his possible replacements at the time.? Speculation heated up again more seriously when well-connected conservative blogger Alex Tsakumis wrote that BC Liberal-turned Independent MLA Blair Lekstrom (Peace River South, since 2001) had been “eyeing that seat”, and might consider switching and running federally.? Indeed Lekstrom, who had just resigned from Gordon Campbell’s cabinet and left the BC Liberal caucus to sit as an Independent over the HST issue, refused to rule out a run federally in a subsequent interview with local radio.? Hill, for whom getting anything less than 60% of the vote constitutes a tough election, has been mum on his future since the House adjourned, although I know he was being asked about it.? His wife Leah Murray however, who is well-known in Ottawa as an event planner, was just appointed as a Director with National Public Relations, a job that I don’t think would be inconsistent with her husband’s role in cabinet, but which would be a bit more high-profile for her.? No other party’s candidates have been selected as yet.
  • Vaughan, ON – This one is hot off the presses from Vaughan Today’s Twitter feed, after the Globe and Mail reported earlier in the day that retiring OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino is not ruling out any future run politically.? Fantino, whose July 31 retirement was announced by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty on Wednesday but seemed to have been deliberately set for after the G-20 meeting concluded in Toronto, has been named as a possible candidate for mayor in Vaughan, or as its federal or provincial representative.? The mayoralty race there is already crowded, however, with long-time Liberal M.P. Maurizio Bevilacqua all but officially announced, and former Liberal MPP Mario Racco also in the race.? Meantime a provincial run would pit Fantino against his long-time friend MPP Greg Sorbara, something he has repeatedly rejected in the past.? For these reasons, former provincial PC leader and CFRB radio-host John Tory told the Globe he believes Fantino has a federal run in mind, and Vaughan Today is also now saying that it’s doubtful Fantino would run municipally, but that a federal run is likely.? This would certainly explain why such a potentially good Toronto-area Conservative seat, with the likelihood of no Liberal incumbent, would have been left unfilled on their slate for so long.? And Fantino, who could well have been called as a witness before any summer hearings of the Commons Public Safety Committee on G-8/G-20 security, now looks to be off the hook there as well, given that the Conservative members of the committee seem opposed to such a study.? Were he to run federally, he’d have a 15 point margin to make up, likely against a non-incumbent.? The NDP has also nominated a new candidate here, Kevin Bordian (no biographical information available at time of writing).? Interestingly, Bevilacqua’s domain-name from the last election is no longer registered, however mauriziobevilacqua.com is promising a new website soon.

Next up, the Liberals.? If you have nomination news to share from your part of the country, or niche in the political spectrum, why not drop us a line by email, or join in on Twitter @punditsguide.

Class of 2004 Reaches “Freedom 35”

June 1st, 2010 | 0 Comments

[Welcome, National Newswatch readers!]

Members of Parliament first elected in 2004 have already reached their “Freedom 35”, the Pundits’ Guide can exclusively report, as their pensions are now guaranteed.? This means the gloves are off in any upcoming election showdown, and perhaps also signals the beginning of a new round of retirement announcements.

While the 2004 general election was held on June 28 — making MPs first elected that year pensionable on June 28 of 2010 — any election called or forced now would still guarantee their pensions, so long as they are Members of Parliament and alive on June 28, and regardless of whether they are defeated even a week later.

Section s.57 of the Elections Act requires that an election writ last a minimum of 35 days plus voting day.? Members of Parliament remain MPs until the day they are defeated or retire.? Thus whatever else might happen now, the Class of 2004 will still qualify for the MPs’ pension plan.

Most media commentary to this point has assumed that elected Members would be reluctant to take any steps to jeopardize that status prior to June 28, but in fact the rules as currently written mean that any move to dissolve parliament or adopt a non-confidence motion now, would make no difference to the pensionable status of the 75 MPs set to qualify at the end of June.

Those 75 represent 24% of the 307 current Members of Parliament, and include Liberal M.P. Ken Dryden (York Centre, ON), NDP Leader Jack Layton (Toronto – Danforth, ON), and former Conservative and now-Independent M.P. Helena Guergis (Simcoe – Grey, ON), amongst others.

Here is the breakdown of newly-pensionable, and all currently-pensionable M.P.’s by party in the House of Commons. Recall that the seat of Winnipeg North, MB is now vacant, since the resignation of NDP M.P. Judy Wasylycia-Leis to run for Mayor of Winnipeg.? For our earlier listing of long-serving MPs by year of first election, see this blogpost from last November.

Party Current
TOTAL 307 75 (24%) 176 (57%)
* The seat of Winnipeg North, MB, which elected NDP M.P. Judy Wasylycia-Leis in 2008, is currently vacant.? Helena Guergis who was elected as a Conservative in Simcoe – Grey, ON, now sits as an Independent.
Lib 77 15 (19%) 56 (73%)
NDP 36* 8 (22%) 15 (42%)
BQ 48 16 (33%) 32 (67%)
Cons 144 35 (24%) 72 (50%)
Ind 2* 1 (50%) 1 (50%)

Who Voted How on the Omnibus Budget Bill

May 31st, 2010 | 11 Comments

We always watch the annual pre-summer election scare maneuvers closely here at the Pundits’ Guide, in order to priorize summer work on the guide’s database as against the likelihood of a snap election.?

So naturally I’m following the emergence of the omnibus budget implementation bill, C-9, as a possible issue that could put the government’s confidence of the House at risk.?

Since the Hill Times first reported last Monday on serious qualms about the number of items included in the bill from such various sources as Queens University professor Ned Franks,?Liberal Senator Joseph Day, and the NDP’s Environment critic Linda Duncan (Edmonton – Strathcona, AB), the bill has attracted commentary from a number of senior members of the national media.?

And then yesterday, NDP Leader Jack Layton publicly urged Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff to revisit their decision to allow the bill to pass third reading in the House, arguing that the opposition parties had some negotiating clout to obtain concessions from the government at a time it might be reluctant to be defeated, given the impending G8/G20 summit (and, I would add, the upcoming Royal visit).?

Unfortunately, the reporting of who has voted how on the Bill so far, has not been as detailed as I would have liked in order to?handicap the scenarios?going forward.??And one comment in particular made by Jane Taber on CTV’s Question Period today did not seem to jive with many of the other reports on the issue.? But since it was a statement of fact, it does allow us to fact-check the comment, and take the opportunity at the same time to examine the overall record of reporting on this issue.?

Ms. Taber said on television this morning that?the NDP was being “hypocritical”:?

The hypocrisy of this whole thing is that when this was in committee, Mia, it went, there were 2,200 clauses that were actually approved by all the parties in less than an hour, and Pat Martin, the NDP MP, congratulated the Conservative chair of the committee. James Rajotte said you should get paid by the clause. And now the NDP are doing this. I mean what are Canadians to think?? [emphasis added]?

Other comments in the media this week about the different parties’ support or opposition for the bill include Tom Walkom in his?cá độ bóng đá trên điện thoại Wednesday column for the Toronto Star:?

Most recently, the Liberals kept one of their MPs away from the Commons finance committee to make sure that Bill C-9 could get through that stage without their having to explicitly support it.?

… and John Ivison writing the same day for the National Post:?

Linda Duncan, the NDP’s environment critic, tried to split off the environmental assessment provision in the bill into separate legislation, yet she didn’t even win the support of her own party. The Liberals say they will be voting against the bill (although clearly not in enough numbers to defeat it), so they are not interested in making amendments.?

… or as originally reported by Bea Vongdouangchanh of the Hill Times on Monday:?

The governing Conservatives introduced Bill C-9 on March 29. The 904-page bill with 23 sections and 2,208 clauses received seven days of debate in the House at second reading and five days of hearings at the House Finance Committee. The House Finance Committee completed clause-by-clause study of the bill in one day and reported it back to the House on May 13 without amendments. …?

Meanwhile, Ms. Duncan moved a motion last month to allow the House Finance Committee to split Bill C-9 in order to allow more scrutiny of non-financial related matters, but it was defeated in 133-128 vote.?

Other people I’ve spoken with?mistakenly believed that?the Bill must have already passed the House if Senators are discussing how to split it, as in this story from?Gloria Galloway?in Thursday’s Globe and Mail.?

Anyway, it was difficult for me to discern what actually transpired procedurally from all the coverage, so I went to the LegisINFO section of the Parliamentary website to look?up Bill C-9’s entry?for myself.? Here’s what I found:?

  • Bill C-9 was introduced in the House of Commons on March 29, and debated on?2nd reading?for seven days between March 31 and April 19? (see Bill status section here).
  • It passed 2nd reading on April 19, in a vote of 143 (Conservatives plus André Arthur)?to 120 opposition MPs from the Liberals, Bloc Québécois and NDP, with 4 Members paired (2 Conservatives with 2 Bloc MPs), and was then referred to the Standing Committee on Finance for study.? We’ll review who attended the vote below.
  • The following day on April 20, the NDP’s Linda Duncan tabled a motion to instruct the Finance Committee to divide Bill C-9 into two or more bills.? That motion was debated in the House on April 22, Conservative M.P. Ted Menzies moved to adjourn debate on it, and then the?adjournment motion?was adopted (in effect?defeating her motion)?by a vote of 133 Conservatives?to 128 opposition MPs from the Liberals, Bloc Québécois and NDP.? Again, we’ll review who attended the vote below.
  • The Finance Committee devoted eight meetings to hearing witnesses on the Bill, from April 22 to May 12, and on May 13 it voted on the bill clause-by-clause, reporting it back to the House of Commons without amendment.? I detail those votes below.
  • The Committee’s report was tabled in the House on Friday May 14 (just before the week-long break).
  • Four?members of?NDP placed a total of 62 motions to amend the bill on the Notice Paper for Report Stage debate, and the Deputy Speaker grouped them into just two groups: 49 amendments in the first group, and 13 in the second.? No other party moved amendments at Report Stage to the bill.
  • The Bill was debated at Report Stage for two days this past Wednesday May 26 and Thursday May 27, focusing on the amendments in Group 1: 2 from Chris Charlton to reverse the hikes to the Air Travellers Security Charge, 23 from Linda Duncan to delete various environmental provisions from the bill, and 13 from Yvon Godin to delete provisions relating to the elimination of the Employment Insurance fund as a separate account of the government.
  • Group 2, which comprises 13 motions from Tom Mulcair,?has not been debated yet.? None of the Report Stage motions have been voted on yet.? Debate on Report Stage is expected to continue this week, according to the Government House Leader during last Thursday’s reply to the weekly question on future business of the House.? That will be followed by debate on?3rd Reading and a final vote in the House of Commons, before going on to the Senate.

Here’s how the parties voted on the two major votes in the House so far:

Vote Cons Lib BQ NDP Ind
?* The Speaker, who was elected as?a Liberal, does not vote.? Then-Conservative M.P. Helena Geurgis, who now sits as an Independent, did not attend either vote.
Seats? 144 76 + Speaker* 48 37 2
?2nd Reading 142 – Yea
2 – Paired
0 – Absent
42 –?Nay
0 – Paired
34?– Absent*
44?– Nay
2?– Paired
2?– Absent
34??– Nay
0?– Paired
3?– Absent
1?– Yea
0?– Paired
1?– Absent*
To adjourn
Duncan motion?
133?– Yea
0?– Paired
11?– Absent
0?– Paired
18?– Absent*
0?– Paired
7?– Absent
0?– Paired
8?– Absent
0?– Y/N
0?– Paired
2?– Absent*

So, 34 of 76 voting Liberals, or 45% of their caucus, were absent for the 2nd reading vote on Bill C-9, while the other parties had few or no absent members.?

The NDP caucus opposed the motion to adjourn debate on Ms. Duncan’s motion, but not in sufficient numbers to defeat the adjournment motion.? Had?six more opposition?MPs?(and no more Conservative members) been in the House to vote, the?adjournment motion would have failed, and debate would have continued on Ms. Duncan’s motion until it could?come to a?vote.? Note that votes on Bills are scheduled, while votes on motions occur at less predictable times.? Also note that the House never voted directly on Ms. Duncan’s motion.?

The Committee clause-by-clause votes are harder to summarize without explaining certain facts ahead of time.? First is that the Finance Committee has 12 members: a Conservative chair (James Rajotte), a Liberal vice-chair (Massimo Pacetti), and a Bloc vice-chair (Daniel Paillé), along with 5 other Conservatives, 2 other Liberals, 1 other Bloquiste, and 1 New Democrat.? This means that there are normally 6 opposition members, and 5 government members, with the Conservative chair only voting to break a tie.?

Second is that not every vote is a recorded vote: some are adopted by voice vote “on division” when the item is of a clerical nature or the outcome of the vote is obvious, while others are “recorded votes”?if Committee members so request (usually because they want their opposition to be on the record).? An issue might be settled “on division” if the government members supporting it are known to outnumber the opposition members opposing it, or if one or more of the opposition members/parties supports the government’s position, and other opposition members don’t see the benefit of having this (endlessly) noted for the record.?

Third is that many clauses were voted on in groups, such that it might be agreed to?adopt a series of clauses “on division” in one case, or to have a recorded vote cast on one clause apply to the next number of clauses on the same topic if the MPs’ view were consistent across the group.?

With those caveats in mind, here’s a summary of what happened on the 2208 or so?clause-by-clause votes at the May 13 Finance Committee meeting:?

  • Liberal vice-chair Massimo Pacetti was recorded in the minutes as attending the beginning of the meeting, but did not vote on a single clause, and the Liberal whip’s office did not send any replacement for him.? This meant that there were only ever 5 opposition MPs in attendance during the votes?(rather than the normal 6), and thus in the case of a tie the Conservative chair could vote with the government to break the tie —?which he did for 110/363 clauses on which there was a recorded vote that all the opposition members in attendance agreed to oppose.? These included sections governing the Air Travellers Security Charge, Softwood Lumber Export charges, and changes to the Excise Act and Customs Act, along with the provisions allowing the government to sell AECL without prior parliamentary approval, changing intervenor funding before the National Energy Board and Nuclear Safety Board, and Part 20 (changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act).
  • Liberal M.P. John MacKay missed the recorded division on the first two clauses.? In 244/363 of the other clauses on which there was a recorded division, he voted with the government members.? They included the clauses in Part 17 (Federal Credit Unions), and the section revoking Canada Post’s exclusive right to pick up mail bound for addresses outside Canada.
  • NDP M.P. Pat Martin voted with the government on 9 clauses out of the 363 recorded divisions, relating to the taxable status of deemed Canadian property (don’t quote me on this one; I’m no tax expert).
  • The two Bloc Québécois MPs opposed the government on all 363 recorded divisions.
  • The remaining 1840?or so?clauses were adopted “on division”, along with the schedules, the bill’s short and long titles, and the bill itself.

I could?not find any comments in the?Transcript of the Committee’s proceedings for that day in which?NDP M.P. Pat?Martin congratulated the chair (if you have the link, please share it in the comments section below).? However, he did make the following comments just before the last group of clauses (changing the Employment Insurance fund) were voted on:?

Just very briefly, I think what’s worth noting and should be pointed out, Mr. Chairman, especially given the importance of this particular clause and how vehemently the NDP stands in opposition to these particular clauses, is that even though we’re in a minority Parliament, and even though the composition of committees is such that it’s supposed to reflect the membership of the parties in Parliament—in other words, committees are constituted in such a way that the opposition in fact has the majority at committees, and a vote like this would not normally carry, if all of the opposition parties brought all of their members to the committee today….?

Now, the NDP brought all the members they’re allowed to have, which is one, which is me. The Bloc Québécois is in full attendance; they’re represented by both of the committee members they’re allowed to have. For some reason, the Liberals are lacking one member of the committee.
Many of the important votes that we’ve just seen pass in a tie, with the chair breaking the tie—which is a rare occasion…. In fact, committees are constituted in such a way that a neutral chair is not often put in the position of having to break a tie. It’s the exception, not the rule; yet we have just seen the chair vote in favour of a number of articles that the three opposition parties combined are opposed to. In any normal setting, that would mean that those clauses would not succeed, but would fail.
I think it’s worth noting and putting on the record that the majority of Parliament is opposed to these very clauses that have been passing—hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands, of clauses that have been passing in the budget implementation bill. People can draw their own conclusion on the dynamics that are at play here, especially in terms of this one last part, part 24, dealing with the Employment Insurance Act. We’ve let the public down. We’ve let down the people who voted to send us here to Parliament, by not showing up for work to vote against the very clauses they sent us here to vote against.

So I’d like to see a recorded vote on part 24, and I’d like it duly noted that the opposition is not here in full numbers and that this is why these appalling clauses are in fact being passed at the committee stage.

To which Conservative M.P.?Dean Del Mastro replied:?

I have just a quick comment, Mr. Chairman.

In fact, as the member would well know, bills are often brought before the House. We don’t presuppose at committee whether a bill would pass or not; that’s why we have standing votes in the House of Commons.

The member presupposes that the absence of a given member is in fact determining whether these clauses or this bill would succeed or fail. I’d suggest that it’s not fair to project onto anyone whether something would pass or fail if the membership were in fact somewhat different. It may be changing the number of times that the chair is being asked to break ties, but I think it’s unfair to suggest that the outcome of these votes would be any different.

I will leave it to readers to draw their own conclusions as to the accuracy of some of the journalism cited above, and its torque or absence thereof.? What’s clear is it’s time-consuming to research and cover parliamentary procedure properly, it probably doesn’t sell papers, and thus is an easy mark for spin doctors to try and interpret for members of the fourth estate … to their own ends.

Since I wanted to know for myself what actually happened, I sought out the original sources.? Hopefully some readers will find the results of this admittedly long-winded research to be of interest as well.

Newman and Spector: Election Speculation From Two Wise Men

January 1st, 2010 | 7 Comments

Two important columns in as many days from a couple of wise men three time zones apart have me taking the possibility of a spring election seriously. Don Newman is arguing in a column on the CBC Website that the Prime Minister’s prorogation is setting the stage for a spring election. And Norman Spector followed up with a column for the Globe and Mail Politics Online section, circling Tuesday April 13 as the most likely date.

I’ve taken most of the election scares over the past year with a grain of salt (even the one last September, when it put me distinctly in the minority), but the strategy and timeline proposed by Newman and Spector seem plausible now, even if they’re fraught with some risk for the Prime Minister, and are being pooh-poohed by at least one Conservative insider.

I do have a small quibble with the date currently on Mr. Spector’s column, however, because it doesn’t fit the provisions of the Elections Act. Easter Monday is April 5 this year, not April 12. Thus even though the Globe and Mail online corrected the original date from Tuesday, April 12 to Tuesday, April 13 this morning, they were right the first time. Elections have to be held on a Monday (per s.57 of the Elections Act), unless the Monday is a holiday which is the only time they can be pushed to Tuesday. Thus, April 12 would have been the correct date alright, they just corrected the wrong part of the headline.

An election for Monday, April 12 would have to be called on or before Sunday March 7 to allow a 36-day writ. The Prime Minister is calling Parliament back for a Speech from the Throne on Wednesday March 3, with a budget to be tabled the next day on Thursday March 4. Impolitical is suggesting tonight that the budget could contain a measure to eliminate the public subsidies of political parties, which the government has certainly been pretty forthright about including in their next election platform for some time. However, Spector is not suggesting the P.M. would let the budget go to a vote; he’s arguing that Mr. Harper would go straight to the Governor-General, and ask to have Parliament dissolved and an election called.

So, how ready are the parties, cash-wise?

  • We’ll find out how well they did in the 4th quarter fundraising results by the end of January.
  • The next installment of the public subsidy allowance is due on Monday, and will cover the period from October to December, 2009. The quarterly allowance for January to March of 2010 is payable on or around April 1.
  • Central election expense rebates will have already been paid out to the parties’ headquarters. But not every candidate rebate has been paid out from the last campaign yet. Using the number of candidate returns reviewed by Elections Canada versus the number still in “as-submitted” form as a rough indicator, we get the following estimates:
    • Conservatives: 196 reviewed / 307 submitted (307 candidates; 300 rebate eligible)
    • Liberals: 133 returns reviewed / 298 submitted (307 candidates; 270 rebate eligible)
    • Greens: 119 reviewed / 291 submitted (303 candidates; 41 rebate eligible)
    • NDP: 105 reviewed / 304 submitted (308 candidates; 243 rebate eligible)
    • BQ: 61 reviewed / 75 submitted (75 candidates; 71 rebate eligible)

    Of course, not all the unreviewed candidates could have expected rebates either, so I’ll have to take a closer look shortly at how many rebatable candidates have not had their returns reviewed as yet.

  • We don’t know what the parties’ debt situation is at the end of 2009, and won’t until their financial statements are filed at the end of June 2010. Some reporting will have to be done to see what the Liberals, NDP and Greens have to say about this now (over to you, Parliamentary Press Gallery). I don’t believe either the Conservatives or Bloc took out any loans to finance the 2008 election campaign, beyond lines of credit repayable out of their central rebates.
  • We also won’t know about the riding associations’ bank balances at the end of 2009 until the end of May 2010, either. Indeed lots and lots of ridings have still not even filed their mandatory annual returns for 2008 which were due this past May 2009 (all numbers for “as submitted” state, as none have yet been posted in “as reviewed” state):
    • NDP: 279 of 307 registered electoral district associations have filed their required 2008 annual returns to date
    • Conservatives: 264 of 308 registered EDAs have filed, as have
    • Liberals: 254 of 308 registered EDAs
    • Greens: 159 of 239 registered EDAs [UPDATE: I’m advised that only 200 EDAs were registered as of May 31, 2009, however. This filing obligation would have applied to active EDAs at the end of December, 2008, which could have been fewer still, but I haven’t done a thorough count by date myself.]
    • BQ: 56 of 56 registered EDAs

    I’ll try and assemble a picture of their net worth at the end of 2008, but it won’t be a very consistent indicator, since different associations will have been in different states of recovering from the election by the end of December of that year.

Also relevant to readiness is the number of candidates nominated, which is now at the top of my list of new year’s resolutions to catch up on.

Finally, there are a few outstanding legal issues affecting the financial situation of several political parties.

First is the case of L.G. (Gerry) Callaghan et al. v. the Chief Electoral Officer, also known as the “In and out” case, the hearings for which were being tweeted by Glen McGregor for the Ottawa Citizen before the holidays. A successful outcome for the Conservative candidates’ official agents would result in the payment of remaining disputed candidate rebates for the 2004 and 2006 elections to certain Conservative candidates. A successful outcome for Elections Canada could result in a finding that the Conservative Party overspent the limit in 2006. I don’t know when a ruling is expected.

Second is the case apparently just decided late yesterday in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice between the Conservative Party’s chief financial officer and the Chief Electoral Officer. The former sought to return a portion of the party’s central rebates for the 2004 and 2006 elections to the CEO, arguing that the amount of GST for which they received a rebate from the Canada Revenue Agency as a non-profit organization, reduced their effective election expenses in 2004 and 2006, and thus the amount of the central rebate to which they were entitled based on those expenses.

Key to the case’s implications is the fact that the Liberal Party also applied for such GST rebates, and could thus also be obligated to return a portion of its rebates, estimated at a half a million dollars or more. Unclear would be the situation for other political parties who never requested their GST payments be rebated by the CRA such as the NDP, according to Bruce Cheadle’s story for the Canadian Press last September.

A successful outcome for the Conservatives could also see calculations of their central spending for 2004 and 2006 reduced by that amount, either reducing or eliminating altogether their risk in being found to have exceeded the 2006 spending limit as a result of the first case.

The ruling is still not published, and it’s as yet unclear whether Elections Canada will file any appeal. I don’t know if any other political parties had standing in the proceedings, or would seek it in an appeal, but I’m not a lawyer and so that’s as much as I can discern about things at this stage without reading the ruling.

We are just learning about it now, because after an email bulletin was sent from Conservative Party headquarters to their own members, the victory was tweeted by Wild Rose, AB Conservative M.P. Blake Richards, then retweeted by Conservative spin doctor Tim Powers, and picked up on by the CBC’s Kady O’Malley, shortly after which the bulletin itself was sent to Paul Wells who blogged it late Thursday night. I expect we’ll see the first mainstream media coverage of the story either Saturday or Monday.

So, that’s where we are on the election watch front on the first day of 2010. Happy New Year to one and all.

Guest Post: Election Economics

September 14th, 2009 | 8 Comments

Tonight, while I work on the nomination news for you, a guest-post by former Canwest News Service National Economics Writer, Eric Beauchesne, cross-posted from the Beauconomics blog.


Election Economics

by Eric Beauchesne

A fall election is just what the economy needs.

Despite claims to the contrary, a fall election would boost, not hurt the economic recovery.

Based on the impact of last year’s October election on the economy, which was then sliding into recession, an election this fall would create some 40,000 full-time jobs across the country.

“With the federal election in mid-October, there were large employment gains in public administration, spread across most provinces,” Statistics Canada noted in an analysis of the employment changes during that month last year. “Most of the increase was among occupations related to the election process.”

“At the same time, employment declined in accommodation and food services,” it also noted in its analysis released in the month following the election. “There was little change for all other industries.”

And that doesn’t include any other positive impact on economic output and employment in both the public and private sectors leading up to and during an election such as that generated by the boost in political advertising at the riding and national levels and travel by candidates and their media contingents.

Further, economists have already dismissed the threat of any economic damage resulting from political uncertainty generated by an election.

Moreover, even another minority government wouldn’t add to the uncertainty as both the two main parties are basically committed to maintaining the current levels of economic stimulus and don’t diverge much on other economic issues.

True, the boost in employment and election related spending would be temporary, but so are government stimulus packages.

And, like other forms of government stimulus, the election related economic boost would help extend the recovery in the domestic side of the economy until the global economic recovery strengthens to the point that it begins to provide some stimulus to the export side of the economy.

Update on the End of the Sitting

June 15th, 2009 | 6 Comments

As an update to my earlier blogpost, “Next Steps in the Current Election Scare“:

  • Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff has asked the Prime Minister to respond to four further questions he believed were left unanswered in the budget progress report, and
  • Ignatieff indicated in response to reporters’ questions that were he to find those answers ultimately unsatisfactory, the Liberals would move to bring down the government by voting against the Estimates, rather than doing so on a confidence motion of their own.

Also, a correction to that earlier post on a key point of parliamentary procedure: I relied on a media report as to when the Estimates vote would be, without double-checking the timeline of the parliamentary budget process. In fact, if we consult the online Compendium of Parliamentary Procedure under the heading of “Supply Bills“, it says:

Supply bills are considered on the last allotted day [i.e., the last Opposition Day] in each Supply period, at the end of proceedings on the opposition motion or the Main Estimates, as the case may be. At that time, the House must proceed through all the motions related to the Estimates, the Interim Supply and the Supply bills without further debate or amendments.

The last allotted day is the day allotted for the Liberal Opposition Day motion, which is currently Friday, June 19. Thus, after the vote on the Liberal Opposition Day motion all remaining votes to dispose of the budget will be put.

This means that the votes to watch will both occur on Friday, unless the Prime Minister takes up the Liberal Leader on his other to extend the sitting, presumably to the last day of the Supply Period, which is specified as June 23 (i.e., next Tuesday).

UPDATED: Next Moves in Current Election Scare

June 14th, 2009 | 0 Comments

A few developments should be recorded and a few new dates can now be confirmed in this spring’s annual pre-summer adjournment election war dance, which we’ve been documenting here lately:

UPDATE: The Main Estimates vote will be held on the last opposition day (currently Friday), not on Thursday as an earlier media report indicated. Please see this later blogpost for further details.

  • This past Thursday, June 11, the Prime Minister released the second progress report on the government’s economic stimulus package which was mandated by his earlier agreement with the Liberal Party that allowed the federal budget to pass in February.
  • Very quickly thereafter, NDP Deputy Leader Tom Mulcair told CBC Newsworld that “There’s nothing in this report to allow us to support the government,” adding that “We don’t trust them. The NDP’s not going to be voting for these guys anytime soon.”
  • And a little later in Question Period, Bloc Québécois leader Gilles Duceppe told the House of Commons that “the Conservatives’ economic action plan is a total flop. I am sure that their good news is not so good for the unemployed, whose numbers increase daily. The deficit is growing every day as well. We have no choice but to refuse to vote funding for this inadequate plan” [translated by Hansard].
  • Then, after finishing an event in Montréal, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff told reporters that “I’m going to look at the report tonight if I get a minute and tomorrow, and then we’ll make a decision. And we’re not going to keep people hanging around. We’ll make a decision and it will be clear: up or down”.
  • Yesterday, Elizabeth Thompson of the Sun media chain reported that Ignatieff would in fact be taking the weekend to consult and decide what to do.
  • And today, we just learn courtesy of David Akin’s twitter feed (@davidakin) that Michael Ignatieff has called a news conference for Monday, June 15 at 11:00 a.m. in the National Press Theatre to announce his decision.
  • Monday, June 15 is also the Bloc Québécois’ last opposition day motion of the sitting, and they will be debating a motion which asks the Government to reject a national securities regulator.
  • On Tuesday, June 16, the House will be taking the deferred recorded vote on the NDP’s opposition day motion from last Thursday proposing changes to the Canada Pension Plan (scheduled for just before the end of government business that day). This vote is not a confidence matter.
  • On Thursday, June 18 the vote on the Main Estimates will be held (these are the departmental line-by-line expenditure plans associated with the federal budget), reports the CTV’s Bob Fife. As a budgetary matter, this vote is by definition a matter of confidence in the government. The voting order on the motion will be Cons/govt-Lib-BQ-NDP-Independent. [UPDATE: This is not correct, however. The Main Estimates vote always occurs on the last allotted day of the Supply Period. See later blogpost for details.]
  • And on Friday, June 19, if the Main Estimates pass on Thursday, the Liberals will present one of the 15+ opposition day motions currently sitting on the Order Paper under their caucus members’ names, or else another motion … which they must give notice of no later than Wednesday June 17. This motion could either be a confidence motion or not, at their discretion. The voting order on this motion will be Lib/movers-Cons/govt-BQ-NDP-Independent.
  • If that vote is designated a confidence vote and passes, then the Prime Minister would have to pay a visit to the Governor-General and ask her to dissolve Parliament, with the earliest election date being Monday, July 27.
  • If not, the Commons is expected to adjourn after the vote until Monday, September 21, with a set of 3 by-elections likely for Tuesday, September 8 (after Labour Day) or Monday, September 14.

INSTANT UPDATE: Kady has the announcement up on her blog.