The first week of June has finally come and with that the Fall Federal Election keeps getting closer and closer. There are only a few weeks left on the Parliamentary calendar, although with so much left on the agenda for the Liberal government to get done before rising for the Summer there are good odds that the government will try to extend the sitting days to get big things done, like the new NAFTA 2.0 ratification. But usually by now, we are so very, very close to basically being in full on election mode. Once MPs leave Ottawa for the Summer, the campaign is basically on in earnest.
So it is with that in mind that I thought it would be a good time to check in on where the parties are at in their preparations for that campaign. There are many ways to measure that, whether it be fundraising totals or the launch of platform pieces, which we’ve been getting bits and pieces of from everyone so far. But for me probably the biggest sign of a parties positioning is the nomination of candidates. How many are in place? How many are still needed to be found? How many star candidates do you have? These are all good signs as any to tell you the state of things. It was with that in mind when I saw this news come out in the Hill Times on Wednesday, news that told me a lot:
For me when I look at these numbers of nominated candidates, the totals for the Liberals, Conservatives and Greens really didn’t shock me. They seemed to be quite normal and on pace for where I would expect them, or at least not significantly off the pace. But there are two parties’ numbers that really tell the biggest story of what we might see in the Fall: The New Democrats and the People’s Party.
For the Orange Team, I have to admit that I was more than a bit shocked to see that only 87 candidates have been nominated to date. That’s only 25% of the full slate that will needed to be filled; being at that total in June before an October election is a bad, bad sign. It’s bad for many good reasons. For starters, when put together with the fundraising figures, which have been a struggle, this is another bad mark against the organizational situation of the NDP. The fact that candidates don’t seem to be lining up to run for Team Singh is not a good sign, and leaves a very serious possibility that the party might not have a full slate of candidates. That looks even worse when you consider that the Greens are much closer to filling half of their slate, with less money and organization to do it.
Secondly, there are candidates out there waiting on nomination meetings to be called. So it is legitimate to ask the question about why this is taking so long for some potential green lights when the party is already so far behind the ball? I have had some people seeking a nomination express that to me already. Now I know that some of these are moving, but to have less than 100 nominated candidates at the start of June is a very bad spot to be in.
Finally, having delayed nominations ensures that many candidates will not have the chance to campaign over the Summer, the best time they would have to do so. Summer is a great time to get out door knocking, meeting constituents and raising your profile and money. Time is the best thing you can give any candidate, especially a new one who needs to build their profile. Under the NDP’s rules, under normal circumstances nomination meetings aren’t called fast, to allow candidates to sign up new members. To be able to vote in an NDP nomination race, you need to be a member 30 days before the vote. So that means there is a timeline that eats into the available time. The only exception to that rule is after an election has been called, but if you’re without a candidate by that point, you’ve already lost that Summer period. So being in the situation that they are in now, they have ensured that more than half of the parties’ candidates will not have that Summer time to campaign, putting them at a further disadvantage. Again, that’s not a good sign and adds to the questions many are having about the position of the NDP.
The other big story here, for different reasons, is Maxime Bernier’s Peoples Party. After a strong showing in the Burnaby-South by-election, there really hasn’t been any good news for this group. The polling continues to be bad, bordering on insignificant. There is lots of infighting and you’re seeing more and more influence from the alt-right within the party. But despite all of that, they already have 217 nominated candidates; two-thirds of their slate is in place.
This is a party that didn’t even exist nine months ago and with next to no organization and little money compared to the Conservatives, Liberals and even the New Democrats, they have nominated almost more candidates than the NDP and Greens combined. That is something that should make everyone stand up and take notice, especially so in Conservative Party headquarters. That makes it very likely that Mr. Bernier will manage to recruit a full slate of candidates an ensure that the PPC will have their name on every ballot cast in this campaign. Organizationally, that’s quite the feat to pull off in less than a year.
That means that there should be a candidate running against every Conservative in the country with the potential to pull votes away from them, no matter how little. Since this party formed, I’ve always believed that if the PPC could get between 5-10% in 30 or so of the right ridings, that could deny Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives government, minority or majority. With this ability to get candidates in place, that possibility seems to be closer at hand. This also means that the odds of this party surviving past this election if none of their candidates win will improve greatly. Bernier has managed to do what “Forces et Démocratie” couldn’t do last election and what really hasn’t been done on a national scale since the Reform Party’s beginnings. That means this could not only effect this election, but others beyond it.
The progress that both the New Democrats and the PPC make in the next couple of months will go a long way to forming what the result of the next election will look like. Both of these results speak to the positions these two parties find themselves in and tell stories of their own. Being the first week of June, it’s not too late for the NDP to turn this around, nor is it too late for the PPC to blow all their work up. But it’s getting very close to that too late, “point of no return”. How they both do in the meantime will have a lot to say about who wins in the Fall and who forms the next government of Canada.