As someone who spent a lot of time working and volunteering in politics, there are certain things that I have come to both appreciate and shake my head at, sometimes at the same time. One of those is local riding associations and how they operate. A well-run riding association, with dedicated volunteers and donors, can be an amazingly powerful thing. They can be the sole difference between getting folks elected or not, and when done right, can create positive ripple effects for a good decade.
But a poorly run riding association is the bane of the existence of any organizer or candidate. A poorly run EDA can chase good volunteers and donor’s way. They can alienate members and supporters. They can be so inwardly looking that it becomes blind to the glaring realities right before them. And in doing so, they become the best friends of their opponents in other parties, as poorly run riding associations help elect other parties’ candidates. Period, end of story. So it was through that lens that I couldn’t help but notice this story that came across my Twitter feed this morning, about a move taken by the Conservative Party EDA in Milton. It’s a story that left my head shaking for multiple reasons:
Look everyone, this is the sign of a party that is shooting itself in the foot at every single chance they get. I appreciate that a candidate would want to bring in some of their own supporters onto a riding executive when they get elected, that’s more than fair. I get that some people don’t like being defeated in an election for said riding executive positions, that’s also so fair. But this story smells of more than that to me and comes off as extremely short sighted by this candidate and his team.
First off, any riding association worth its salt would realize the value and extreme strategic importance of having a popular former MP on their board or involved in their campaign. Lisa Raitt may be someone who I disagree with on many things, but she is generally viewed as a well-liked politician. You can easily argue that she lost her seat in the last election not because of her own work, but because of the party she was attached to. That being said, Raitt is someone who would be a huge asset to this new candidate, or at least should have been. Raitt is exactly the kind of person you’d want to be out there speaking up for you, trying to convince people to support your first-time candidacy as a relatively unknown candidate. So to do this to her is not just dumb, it’s insulting. You didn’t just push her aside, you threw her out the door. That is just plain dumb on their part, period.
Secondly, this smells of really bad new-candidate hubris. Most people who have volunteered on riding associations have their own stories about new candidates coming along, claiming they know it all, that they are God’s gift to political campaigning and act accordingly. Purging a riding association of all of its executive, after they have actually won election campaigns, screams that to me. It says that just because they won a nomination race, that they know better and know everything, that they have nothing to learn from these people that had been there before. Not only is that arrogant, but it’s also blindly dumb. I’m not saying this new candidate doesn’t know a damned thing, but he clearly doesn’t know everything. Plus, winning elections is about growing your tent, growing your base and bring in more people from all around. It’s not about throwing out people for the simple reason that they weren’t on “your team”.
After a nomination race, people from all teams need to come together to have the best chance of winning the big prize during a general election. And that’s why this story is not just stupid, but will likely cause this new candidate more grief than good. By doing this, not only has he pushed away people who likely wanted to help him win, but he’s insulted probably the most prominent member of his party in his entire area code. That’s just plain dumb, no matter how great you think you are in your own mind.
But that’s the amazing part of this story; it’s far from being the first time we’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen plenty of times and watched how moves like these took solid, functioning riding associations that were in position to win campaigns and turned them into rubble. It’s boneheaded moves like those that people not only remember for years, but they can also render a riding association dysfunctional for even more years. So yeah, well done new Milton Conservative EDA, you’ve joined this dubious club of nitwits. Congrats as you undercut yourselves, made yourselves less competitive and helped your opponents in the next campaign. I’m sure that current Liberal MP Adam van Koeverden will be smiling at this news and heck, he might even send you a thank you card or a gift basket. That’s typically what you do when someone hands you such a present completely unprompted. And who knows, maybe the next time that someone decides to play Machiavelli in their local riding association they will keep this in mind. I doubt it, but hey, one can hope, right? Man oh man!