During any leadership campaign there are lots of strategies and approaches that a candidate and their team will take. Some are above board, ethical and morally defensible, while others are neither of those things. Back in the day we all parties had delegated leadership races, when a few well connected people held much more sway than it now does in one-member one-vote campaigns, you’d hear stories all the time for people getting something for their support. Maybe it was a plum role in the party, maybe it was a seat on a certain committee or a certain portfolio, or maybe it was an uncontested nomination in a safe seat.
Those things happened and for most politicos they are not viewed as the “good old days”, but that’s not to say that they still don’t happen. While individuals may not be able to bring as much of a vote as they could in the past, an endorsement or the support of certain people can still bring a lot of sway and as a result, is sought after. Regardless of what that endorsement might bring, the idea of giving out IOU’s in leadership campaigns is one that still rankles a lot of people and is just not seen in a good light. It’s a sign of just how far you’re willing to go (for the worse, not the better) and ventures far into the grey areas in-between the right and wrong. So it was with that in mind that I saw these Tweets come out from one member of the Conservative Caucus, messages that caught the attention of a lot of people watching this race:
This charge by Scott Reid is a very heavy one, one loaded with a lot of potential peril for any candidate that would actually do this. But what Reid is accusing is happening actually goes a couple steps further than most things that a candidate might offer a potential supporter; an uncontested nomination in an incumbent seat. Reid points to what makes this so seriously wrong; the implication is that sitting MPs who make the wrong leadership choice will later be removed and replaced by someone who is “loyal” to the new leader. That is more than a bit shocking to me and pretty dirty all things considered.
That’s probably why many candidates stepped up to disavow this. MacKay, O’Toole, Gladu, Williamson, Peterson, Karahalios and Singh all stepped forward to say they would never do this and calling it out. Only one potential candidate didn’t do that. No, in fact that candidate went in the complete other direction:
The so-called “Millennial Conservative” Aron Seal was blunt, saying that not only was he doing this, he was going it “unapologetically”, which was a very confrontational way of making that be known. Given that Mr. Seal will likely not get onto the ballot at all, this could all be a tempest in a teapot but here’s the thing; I don’t think that Mr. Reid comes out and says this if it was Mr. Seal. Seal has less than no shot of winning this race, so why worry about the promises of someone who will never win this race? It seems like it raises a lot of bad attention to bring to his own party to try to thwart someone who is no risk at all. No, that doesn’t add up and it feels more like Mr. Seal is putting his hand up to take credit more as an attempt to get some attention.
My initial suspicion about who would be doing this still stands because from what I’ve seen online, a few certain candidates haven’t repudiated what Reid raised. Neither Derek Sloane, nor Richard Décarie, no Leslyn Lewis made a comment saying that they did not do it. Décarie and Lewis re-tweeted Reid’s initial Tweet, but said nothing to say they would never do it. Personally, if I was to suspect any candidate of making such offers for support, it would be one of the more socially conservative candidates, because of the value to social conservatives of getting more from their ranks into safe seats to further advance their issues. That is something that holds a lot of value to them and could be quite the enticement.
Plus for all those who said they wouldn’t do this, I believe them because they had nowhere as much to gain by doing it, especially the higher up you get in the ranking of candidates. Also most of those candidates are presently MPs, so imagine the way that would make many of their current colleagues feel if they were actually offering up their seats and livelihoods in exchange for support. Imagine the caucus infighting that would come then. We’ve seen caucus members quit for much less than that.
Regardless of who is ultimately the one who is doing this, I find it fascinating to see this spill out into the open like this. So far this race is getting further and further off the rails, and a story like this coming out helps to bear that out. This is the kind of a campaign tactic that belongs lost in the past, but the fact that it’s come out in this race, with this party, does add to the narrative about what century they seem to be operating it, and folks, it doesn’t seem to be the present one.