Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Can we try not to screw up Don Valley West too please?

Writing recently on the nomination brouhaha still simmering in the Saskatchewan riding of Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River, I put the events in the larger context of the poor handling of nominations by the Liberal Party of Canada across Canada. Unfortunately, warning signs are emerging another cock-up may be brewing in Don Valley West, if the party leadership doesn’t take quick and decisive action.

First, however, back to Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River for a moment. I’d written earlier that the LPC should have waived-off Orchard long ago if the riding was reserved for an appointment. It appears, however, that the LPC may have done just that. Maybe:

David Orchard knew full well that the federal Liberals wanted an aboriginal woman to run in a northern Saskatchewan byelection and shouldn't be surprised that one was handpicked to do so, MP Ralph Goodale suggested Wednesday.

The twice failed Tory leadership hopeful - and anyone else who expressed interest in running as a Liberal in the Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River riding for that matter - signed a paper warning that leader Stephane Dion may appoint a qualified woman candidate, such as Joan Beatty, Goodale said.

"Everyone was informed about the leaders prerogative to appoint a candidate and the leader might want to exercise that prerogative if the appropriate strong, female, northern-riding resident came forward," Goodale said in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press.

Goodale’s comments are predictably dismissed as “spin” by Orchard campaign manager Marjaleena Repo:
She said Orchard, who delivered key delegates to Dion during the Liberal leadership race, was told that the party was looking for an aboriginal woman to run. But when they couldn't find one, she said Dion encouraged Orchard to put his name forward.

I think there’s lots of spin going on here. Certainly Goodale’s revelations, if accurate, cast Orchard’s actions in another light. However, if Dion did give Orchard an eventual go-ahead…well, it’s all a mess and I think there’s plenty of blame to go around. I think Orchard is far from innocent, I think Goodale is far from innocent, and I think the campaign team is coming off like the Clampets.

Nevertheless, my original thesis stands: the LPC did a piss poor job of managing this and a number of other nominations, making avoidable foul-ups that give the party a black eye at times we should be gaining ground.

A repeat in Don Valley West?

Which brings us to the highly coveted (read: winnable) Toronto-area riding of Don Valley West, now held by the retiring John Godfrey. This same article points to potential nomination trouble ahead in this riding:
Meanwhile, some Liberals fear a similar controversy is brewing in the Toronto riding of Don Valley West, which will become vacant in July when Liberal MP John Godfrey retires.

Potential candidates were warned late last year that Dion intended to appoint a star candidate in the safe Liberal seat. But insiders say Dion's efforts to recruit David Pecault, chairman of the Toronto City Summit Alliance, failed and now a number of would-be candidates, tired of waiting, are starting to get organized.

Former MP Sarmite Bulte has filed nomination papers, constitutional expert Deborah Coyne, who ran for the Liberals against Jack Layton in the last election, is intending to file her papers shortly and up to a dozen more are said to be interested.

Insiders predict that Dion will eventually appoint a candidate in Don Valley West but will face a huge backlash if he waits until candidates have already sold thousands of memberships.

And the Hill Times adds another name to the mix:
Jonathan Mousley, former legislative assistant and senior policy adviser to former Liberal Cabinet minister David Collenette in the Jean Chr├ętien Cabinet, will run for the nomination in retiring Liberal MP John Godfrey's (Don Valley West, Ont.) riding. Mr. Godfrey won the riding in the last election with 53.3 per cent of the vote.
Remember Mark Warner, the nominated Conservative candidate for Toronto-Centre dumped by the CPC leadership? He may be in the mix too (story is from November):
Godfrey acknowledged yesterday that Warner's name has been bandied as his possible successor in Don Valley West, where he's been the MP since 1993. Before then, the riding was a Progressive Conservative one, and Godfrey thinks Warner could have appeal there.
Interesting to see Deborah Coyne, cousin of Andrew, back in the mix. She took on Jack Layton for the Liberals in the last election and had the Toronto-Danforth nomination again before deciding not to run there last month. While I like her as a candidate, I’m not keen on riding swircheroos and the optics of this, even if Don Valley West is her home riding, are iffy. So I’m of mixed feelings there. As for the potential return of Sam Bulte, another riding switchero from Parkdale-High Park where she lost her seat to the NDP in the last election, and Gerard Kennedy will run in the next one, I’m sure the digital copyright folks are already gearing-up.

Anyway, the point is with such an attractive riding in play the names are coming out of the woodwork and there is a lot of interest, high profile and otherwise. This is also exactly the sort of riding Dion has said he’d like to set aside for the appointment of qualified female candidates to meet his 1/3 female candidates goal.

With the rumours of a possible appointment and many names coming forward, Dion and the LPC need to learn from the mistakes of Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River, Outremont, Scarborough-Southwest and the other ridings where they’ve bungled the nomination process.

The party need to make clear immediately its plans for this riding. Will it be a completely open nomination process? If so, say so and let people organize. Will it be a semi-open nomination process with only female candidates (a la Vancouver-Quadra)? Or will this riding be reserved for appointment, in which case people should stop campaigning?

The uncertainly cannot be allowed to fester. To allow people to start organizing now, and then make an appointment later, is unacceptable. The decision needs to be made immediately, and it needs to be made public. This will prevent any confusion, or any attempts to sow confusion.

The LPC has the chance to defuse this bomb before it goes off. Let’s hope this time they decide to do so.

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Steve V said...


I think we are starting to see the downside of Dion's quota system. There are a myriad of levers available to the party brass, that allows them to back certain candidates, attract candidates, motivate local support, without appointments to reach a arbitrary target. Dion could get his 1/3, or close to it, without the top-down approach, which has alienated many in the local ridings, not just the one's you've mentioned. There was an organic way to achieve this goal, one that would still have involved some "arm-twisting", but in a far more subtle manner, without negative impressions.

Mark Dowling said...

Let's just get rid of electoral ridings and go to a pure list. The situation as it stands favours carpetbaggers and insiders so why not just do it properly?

Dan McKenzie said...

I'm a little worried too Jeff. I don't know the list of potential candidates, but I don't know how you could chose to appoint one over the other. Might be best to let this one play out.

Dr. Tux said...

Message copied from my own blog.

Enough with the dumping on Mr. Orchard.

The most important thing we need to do is maintain cordial, civil relationships between Dion and Orchard. Both men have explicitly stated their mutual respect for one another. That is the most important thing for us to maintain.

The response of bloggers to this whole thing has only inflamed the controversy. We need to come back to respecting one another. I'm not gonna name names, but bloggers who have expressed less than respectful sentiments towards Mr. Orchard know who they are.

Mr. Orchard is a strong liberal and he is an asset to us in defeating Mr. Harper. This is not an argument along the lines of 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend.' Rather, this is to say that Mr. Orchard is, in himself, a strong, articulate liberal, whose values and opinions have a place within the big-tent party.

Let's keep building bridges so we can continue building momentum.

Anonymous said...

From the inside, there have been talks between Deborah Coyne and Mark Warner in the past few months. Deborah's declaration means that Mark may choose to sit out and support her.

Don't forget Rob Oliphant, who stood down for Bob Rae at Toronto-Centre.

Since this is T.O., every one of them deserve to get in to the House. An open nomination process will attract attention in the news. Having two women running ensures this.

Burton, Formerly Kingston said...

OK, Is not a member of the LPC or for that matter any party, but why in the hell would the LPC be giving out nomination papers in the first place if they plan on appointing a lot of Candidates. Why not just list the riding where they will appoint and then open the nomination process in the others. By the way Jeff, As you can see by my blog name, a riding jumper for the LPC is not very likely but I can tell you right now, I would not care if it was Bob Rae himself, if he parachuted into my riding I would vote for the other team on the matter of principal. Just my thoughts,

SteelCityGrit said...

Deborah Coyne paid her dues when she accepted a riding (Toronto-Danforth) that nobody wanted. She ran there, and ran very well. But Jack has another election in him, and she is simply too good of a candidate to waste for the sake of perceived 'optics.' If we send her to Ottawa she will accomplish major things.

All of this is beside the fact that she has lived in the riding, knows it intimately, and is best suited to represent it.

I really really hope Dion lets this one run its course democratically. But either way, it has to be Coyne.

Parila said...

Mushroom, I am not sure that Warner is out. In the last two weeks he has been quoted in the Star and in the Hill Times stating that he was leaving his options open. It would be a shame if he was out. There are no visible minority Liberal M.P.s from Toronto (I am not talking about Brampton or Mississauga). I also hear that Abdul Ingar, a Mulslim organizer and supporter of Kathleen Wynne will also be seeking the nomination. There is no point in appointing a "Hillary" if we lose the core "Obama" vote in the riding.

kenlister1 said...

2 points for you to consider.
First, regarding candidates switching ridings i dont see the problem with it. certainly cons have no right to do criticize it since anyone familiar with alberta conservatives will list off to you a man named stephen harper did this after leaving politics in calg west and returning to have it filled by anders so choosing calg southwest instead.
Also, currently you need look no further than tim uppal who lost twice in edmonton-millwoods, the riding he and his family live in. now it is occupied by mike fLake so he somehow got a non contested nomination in the con stronghold of edmonton sherwood park to replace ken epp for the upcoming election.

Second point re Beatty:
perhaps orchard was or was not encouraged to run. but what is he to do when an NDP MLA says she may run for either party? let her run for the NDP? we all know voting ndp elects a harper government, and would no doubt have made it near impossible to elect orchard or any other lib in the riding due to the split. a competenet ndp candidate did win the riding back in 1997, so faced with the prospect of losing the riding, he did the right thing i believe.
she only became interested after the sask provincial election in the fall so he had little time to wait for her to jump to the federal ndp.
and how would anyone feel about orchard running in a different riding than he ran in previously?

Bailey said...

For whatever it's worth (and it might very well be nothing) both Coyne and Bulte supported Ignatieff for leadership.

But then as we found out in Saskatchewan, Dion doesn't give any favours out just because you supported him for the leadership, which I think is how it should be.

Jeff said...


I think we are starting to see the downside of Dion's quota system.

I haven’t been in favour of the quota system since he proposed it during the leadership campaign. While I support the spirit behind it, getting more credible female candidates in winnable ridings, I think appointments are a clumsy way to do it. Not as much because of bruised riding egos, but because I think it would make them a more credible, and stronger, candidate having gone through the nomination process. I’d rather focus our efforts on breaking-down the systemic barriers that make the nomination process more challenging for female candidates. That preference stated, as the leader does have the power to appoint and he ran on this platform, I’m not going to take issue with him following through…as long as he doesn’t do it in a sloppy and amateurish way. Which, well, he has.
That said, I don’t think the nomination troubles can be traced directly back to the quota system. Remember, Coulon in Outremont wasn’t female, and neither was the name mentioned in the first linked article for Don Valley. Male or female, they’re making a mess of the appointments process.


Might be best to let this one play out.

Either that, or limit the nomination race to female candidates. I believe this was done in Vancouver-Quadra. Either way, they just need to make a decision quickly.

Dr. Tux,

Enough with the dumping on Mr. Orchard.

I don’t believe I have dumped on Mr. Orchard.


Why not just list the riding where they will appoint and then open the nomination process in the others.

A good question. That’s basically what I’m asking for, make it clear to everyone where they stand, whether the riding is reserved for an appointment or open for nominations.


and she is simply too good of a candidate to waste for the sake of perceived 'optics.' If we send her to Ottawa she will accomplish major things.

I like Deborah as a candidate; she’s certainly my choice of the names I’ve heard so far. And if she’s just come from Danforth after the last election I’d be fine with it. It’s the fact she secured the nomination there again for the next election, then dropped it when this more winnable riding became available with Godfrey’s retirement. Maybe it’s a minor thing in the grand scheme of things, particularly in an urban centre, I don’t know. I just wonder how the Liberals in Danforth feel about it.


regarding candidates switching ridings i dont see the problem with it.

Between elections I’m fine with it. When I start to take some issue is when it happens in the same election cycle, ie. Coyne getting the nomination in Danforth and then jumping to Don Valley when it opened, or if a candidate that lost a nom in one riding goes over same cycle to contest a nom in another riding.


Dion doesn't give any favours out just because you supported him for the leadership

In Toronto, I don’t think favouring Dion supporters will be much of an issue… :)

Anonymous said...

"I just wonder how the Liberals in Danforth feel about it."

Some of us are relieved since we got word that there is no intention to appoint Mark Warner to run here. We will have a contested nomination, which is needed to boost membership, war chest etc. Know anybody? Please drop a message here or in my blog. Thanx.

Parila said...

Jeff, one good question that I hope Liberals in Don Valley West will ask of Deborah Coyne is what condition she left Toronto Danforth in. After all, she was the candidate of record and then the nominated candidate for the next election. If she left the cupboards bare and ran away to Don Valley West, I would think that should disqualify her from an appointment or a nomination. Maybe, Mushroom can update us on state of the finances in Toronto Danforth? If the war chest needs replenishing that badly, an appointment might make more sense than a nomination if a Spring election is coming down the pipe.

Anonymous said...

The cupboards are relatively bare.

We are still paying off the loans incurred from the Dennis Mills' campaign.

We will need to sign up new members, thus the need for a nomination.

Parila said...

"Can we try not to screw up Don Valley West too please?"

... apparently not, see http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2008/02/14/4847653-cp.html (Allegations of political shenanigans mar Liberal nomination race).

Although I have some sympathy with Coyne on this, I think her Trudeau "baby-mama" routine suffers from a bit of the Hillary Clinton entitlement syndrome, and her "pimping" of her daughter for electoral purposes is reminiscent of Hillary's use of Chelsea down south. Nonetheless, there is something discomforting, even if not original, with a man of the cloth trying to rig an election, and then invoking his ministerial "integrity" as a shield...!