Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Story in Brantford-Brant: Is it just whining or is there something to it?

Its now made the news: Liberal riding association executives have resigned in protest over what they considered unfair standards in that ridings nomination race, which didn't end up being much of a race because there was only one candidate, Danielle Takacs.

Well, this is a doozy, and its something we've heard before, sadly.

But... whats really going on? Well, lets see.

As part of full disclosure, I endorsed Danielle awhile back to become the candidate. She's a former blogger that I've read and liked, and for further disclosure, I was asked to by another blogger, Scott Tribe, who has been organizing on her behalf. Some other Libloggers and ProgBloggers did the same. Despite this, I don't feel like I have any bias in her favour, I just want to know the truth - but hey, don't let that stop you from spamming me.

Anywho, the complaint basically revolves around members only being told of a "nomination deadline" two hours before it was said to close. This precluded any other candidates except Danielle, who had been in the race since early 2014 (nomination papers were available since January 2014), from joining in. Thus, there is some shady goings-on and two EDA executive members, plus maybe more, have decided to resign.

So if this issue revolves around the problem of when the nomination was called, lets look at that.

The main document to look at for nomination rules is "National Rules for the Selection of Candidatesfor the Liberal Party of Canada," found freely available on the website. The first point to look at is section 1, "Call of Candidate Selection Meetings." I highly encourage people to read this entire document, but here is the truly relevant parts for right now:

1.3 Responsibility for fixing Meeting date.
Each Provincial or Territorial Campaign Chair is responsible to fix the date(s) of each Meeting in their province or territory but may only do so with the consent of the National Campaign Chair

1.4 Call of Meeting.
Each Meeting must be held on the date fixed by the relevant Provincial or Territorial Campaign Chair in accordance with the directions (substantially in the form approved by the National Campaign Chair) provided to the relevant EDA President by the relevant Provincial or Territorial Campaign Chair. In relation to the Meeting, the relevant Provincial or Territorial Campaign Chair shall (a)set a period of notice for the Meeting of between 13 and 20 days and (b) set the date (which shall be not later than two days and not earlier than seven days before the beginning of the period of notice for the Meeting) by which a person must have been a member of the Party in order to be eligible to vote at the Meeting (referred to as the “Cut-off Date”). The process of fixing a date for the Meeting and providing directions for the holding of the Meeting is referred to as issuing the “Call” of the Meeting.

Essentially, the power to call the meeting is in the hands of the PTAs, - in this case the Liberal Party of Canada (Ontario), or simply LPC(O) - whose Campaign Chairs - in this caser (I believe) are David McNaughton, Natalie St-Denis, Navdeep Bains, and Gordon Ashworth - ensure that the EDA has met the Candidate Search Criteria, laid out in the same document.

Speaking of, there are more sections dealing with the responsibilities of nomination candidates, which I'll lay out the relevant ones below:

1.8 Nomination Contestant approval criteria.
In order to be a Qualified Nomination Contestant in an Electoral District, a person must meet the following requirements, except to the extent waived or varied pursuant to Rule 14.3 in respect of any Potential Nomination Contestant:

(c) deliver to the relevant Provincial or Territorial Campaign Chair, by no later than a date fixed by the relevant Provincial or Territorial Campaign Chair, original copies of the following forms fully and frankly completed and properly executed and, if required, notarized:

(i) a nomination form, in Form 6 (which may be in one or more counterparts), signed by at least 100 members of the EDA or at least 15% of the members of the EDA on the date set by the National Election Readiness Committee, whichever is less;

(ii) where the Potential Nomination Contestant is a sitting Member of Parliament for the same Electoral District or of a Component Electoral District (as defined in the National Redistribution Rules) in the immediately prior general election or byelection, Form 1A, and in all other cases, Forms 1 and 2; and

(iii) Forms 3, 4, 5 and 8 and all other forms required by the relevant Provincial or Territorial Campaign Chair;

(iv) a Liberalist User Agreement and Rules of Use, in Form 10;

(d) deliver to the relevant Provincial or Territorial Campaign Chair, by no later than a date fixed by the relevant Provincial or Territorial Campaign Chair, a non-refundable payment from the Nomination Contestant Nomination Account of $1,000;

What this all means is that you have a lot of stuff to do before you can be a qualified candidate, and much of it is set at the discretion of the LPC(O)'s Campaign Chairs. They do this based on a number of criteria, mostly around eligibility, the quality of candidates, and the input of the EDA, etc.

Brantford-Brant's nomination date was set for September 21st, which means members must have received a notice by at the latest August 8th, but they got in on the 5th. According to these upset members of the executive, they got the notice and were told that the deadline for any contestants would be two hours later.

It so happens that my riding's nomination was two days earlier, on August 19th. We received our notice at 7:00pm August 5th as well, and at the bottom of the notice was such:

In order for a Nomination Contestant to be eligible to run for nomination, they are required to file completed Forms 1 and 2 (or 1A if applicable), 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, and 10, and all other requirements under the National Rules prior to the close of nominations on August 5, 2014 at 5pm.

Damn, those Brantford-Brant guys were lucky - our contestant cut off was two hours earlier than I got the notice! The difference here being that our entire executive knew about our candidate, and there has been no issues with candidates who lucked out. Or is there a difference at all...

Now, why would the LPC(O) do this, you ask? My first guess is that they were simply tired of waiting for candidates to come forward, eight months after nomination papers had been made available. In Burlington's case, our candidate search committee didn't find anyone more interested than the one candidate. If we met the criteria, and the LPC(O) wanted a nomination date set, then what is stopping them? Nothing - these are the rules, after all, and the LPC(O) did abide by them.

In Brantford-Brant's case, the EDA president said that they had struck a candidate search committee, and even found several people "interested" in running. This sounds somewhat fishy to me, considering they had since January to strike a search committee. If they did strike one back then, then what is the issue? Those "interested" people had plenty of time. And if they struck one only recently, then frankly the EDA was just incompetent, and you can't blame the LPC(O) for setting a date - after all, why risk losing the one candidate who has been running for so long by stretching it out, waiting for other candidates to jump in? Wouldn't stretching out the call for the meeting just lead to counter-accusations that the LPC(O) was biased against Takacs by waiting so long? Its almost as if you can't please anybody.

I can't speak to the nitty-gritty details of the Brantford-Brant EDA's problems, but I don't buy the conspiracy theory being put forth here. These other "interested" candidates had since January to run; they chose not to. The EDA had a responsibility to search for candidates and inform the LPC(O) they had found others (outside of Takacs) - I bet if we looked, they probably didn't find anyone serious enough, or they didn't tell the LPC(O), or they are incompetent to begin with.

The biggest reason I find this conspiracy idea lacking is the simple question: why? Why would the LPC(O) go to all these lengths to protect Takacs?

In other cases, such as Chrystia Freeland or Geng Tan, you can make the case that the LPC(O) is favouring a specific candidate because of who they are - Freeland because of her star candidate quality and Trudeau connections, Tan because of his support in the Mandarin community (though that is another case I find people crying over spilled milk). Takacs? She is not a star candidate, she has no specific community ties, and there is no time limit like with Freeland's by-election. There is zero reason to protect her! And if there is something I'm missing, I challenge you to bring it forward.

The facts as I see them right now is that a number of unidentified "interested" people were surprised that the LPC(O) got sick of waiting for them to put their names forward. EDA members are upset for some reason, either because they don't like Takacs or because their pet candidates didn't get a chance to waste more time before deciding on whether to run. Either way, I have little sympathy.

Don't take this to mean that I don't believe the LPC(O) is capable of this kind of thing - they are, we all know they are, and they've done it before. That is the reason why there has been constant backlash against these practices.

 In this case though, its hard see why they would run the risk of upsetting the EDA, and there are so many unanswered questions - whether the EDA lived up to its responsibilities, who these unidentified "interesteds" are, why they didn't come forward sooner, etc. - that I find it hard to believe these disgruntled member's stories. I'm sorry if you disagree, but the burden of proof is on your end, and you haven't met it folks. Bring us more evidence of wrong-doing, including communications and names, and then we'll talk.

Until then, congrats and good luck to Danielle Takacs.


  1. It is unethical to send out a notice "hi everyone, it's too late to run now, okay goodbye". If the party continues it's harper-style ethical campaign, I'll send my membership card back to them.

    1. Teddy, its in the rules - it isn't "unethical," except for those who dither. Nomination papers have been out since January, and its just a quick phone call to LPC(O) to find out what their plans are. Only amateurs are concerned by that sort of deadline - not prepared campaigns.

    2. Rules can be unethical. These ones are. Saying "only amateurs..." is just an excuse for unethical behaviour. Either we can be beyond reproach, or we can continue the old boys club.

    3. You can call it unethical, and perhaps we can agree that there should be a 2-week warning period (aka the window is going to close soon), but it does not erase the fact that there was sufficient time -- in fact, a tonne of time -- to file nomination papers from when they began accepting them. That other nomination meetings were being called around the country should have kicked these potential, and i'd say ditherers, into high gear more than a month prior to the final call. Yes, it could have been handled a lot better. But after waiting so long, and having one person gone and committed to the process, some could argue that any time except when the writ's dropped is too early to stop letting people weigh in. At that rate, you risk losing those who've committed their time, money and effort ...

    4. It does not matter how much time there was from the opening to the declaration of the deadline. 2 weeks, 20 weeks, 20 years, 20 billion years. All that matters is that the deadline was declared to be closed 2 hours before it was.

    5. We'll have to agree to disagree, Teddy. This is the way it is, and its not been a complaint of any others as far as I know. Maybe if its a concern, you should have considered going to the LPC(O) AGM in Markham to find out why.

  2. At this moment, it seems like this is just noise. I don't think this or any other riding minor nomination controversy would hamper the party morale in the long run.

    However, I am a little surprised that there hasn't been more openly interested candidates seeking nomination in ridings such as Brantford-Brant and Burlington, two ridings that the Liberals have a decent chance in winning (if they play their cards right).

    1. I've been thinking about that too, Jay. Burlington should have gotten a rash of interested candidates following Eleanor McMahon's win here, but it was pretty dry (as far as I know, I wasn't in the election readiness or candidate search committee here).

      However, it could simply be down to the fact that its possibly more than a year out until a federal election campaign. The Liberals are focused on early nominations as much as possible, it seems - we want to be prepared. That means getting candidates nominated quickly, which also means that any higher profile candidates thinking of running but aren't sure don't have a tremendous amount of time left. That's just how it has to be, though.