Quebec politicians denounce rise in online hate as Ottawa prepares to act

Ironic given some of the political discourse in Quebec:

Death threats over an animal control plan, personal insults over stop signs, social media attacks targeting spouses — these are examples of what politicians in Quebec say has become an increasingly difficult reality of their jobs during COVID-19.

From suburban mayors to the premier, politicians in the province have been raising the alarm about the rise in hateful and occasionally violent online messages they receive — and some are calling for stronger rules to shield them.

On Saturday, Premier Francois Legault denounced the torrent of hateful messages that regularly follow his online posts, which he said has worsened “in the last months.”

“Each time I post something now, I’m treated to an avalanche of aggressive and sometimes even violent comments, and to insults, obscenities and sometimes threats,” Legault wrote on Facebook.

Several Quebec municipal politicians have announced they won’t be running again in elections this fall, in part because of the hostile climate online. Others, including the mayors of Montreal and Quebec City, have spoken in the past about receiving death threats. In November, police in Longueuil, Que., arrested a man in connection with threats against the city’s mayor and other elected officials over a plan to cull deer in a municipal park.

Philippe Roy, the mayor of the Town of Mount-Royal, an on-island Montreal suburb, says he’s leaving municipal politics when his current term ends, partly because of the constant online insults directed at him and his spouse.

While taking criticism is part of the job, he said he’s seen a shift in the past two years toward more falsehoods and conspiracy theories, which he said are undermining the trust between elected officials and their constituents. After 16 years in politics, he said he’s tired of the constant accusations directed his way.

“When people are questioning your integrity, you start saying, ‘Well, maybe I have better things to do somewhere else,’ ” he said in a recent interview.

The problem is serious enough that the group representing Quebec municipalities has launched an awareness campaign and drafted a resolution denouncing the online vitriol. It has so far been adopted by some 260 municipal councils.

Suzanne Roy, the group’s president, says the campaign was launched in response to a “flood of testimonials” from mayors and councillors about an increase in abuse and hate speech during the pandemic.

She attributes the phenomenon to a rise in “stress and frustration.”

“People, without having the proper tools to manage their stress, will let off steam on social media and write inappropriate statements towards decisions taken at city council about a stop sign at the wrong place, a hole in the road, everything,” she said in a phone interview.

Roy, who is mayor of Ste-Julie on Montreal’s South Shore, said she experienced the perils of social media firsthand earlier this year when someone stole her identity online and posted anti-COVID conspiracy theories from her Facebook account.

She is among those pushing for stronger rules to combat hate speech, and for platforms such as Facebook to take quicker action to remove hateful comments or restore someone’s identity when it’s stolen. She said the platforms need to take down the messages as soon as they appear to ensure debate remains respectful and false messages aren’t spread.

“It’s a question of debate and a question of democracy,” she said.

Federal Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault has promised to introduce new legislation to combat hate speech this spring.

In an interview Tuesday, he said the legislation will define five categories of illegal online activities and create a regulator. The regulator’s job would include pushing online platforms to respect the law and to remove hateful messages within 24 hours.

He said the bill’s goal is to take stronger actions against hate speech, child porn and non-consensual sharing of intimate images. He was careful to say that it would not tackle misinformation, saying it’s not the government’s job to “legislate information.”

Guilbeault said his government has also had to contend with critics who accuse the government of wanting to limit free speech, a charge he denies. Rather, he says the aim of the legislation is to ensure that laws, such as those against hate speech, are applied online as they are in the real world — something he argues will protect free speech rather than stifle it.

“Right now in the virtual world and, I’m sad to say, in the physical world, we’re seeing the safety and security of Canadians is being compromised, that freedom of speech is being affected online,” he said in a phone interview.

“We’re seeing it now with Quebec politicians who say, ‘No, no I don’t want to run for politics, it’s so violent.'” He said the chilling effect extends to equity-seeking groups and racialized Canadians, many of whom avoid the platforms because they’re constant targets of abuse.

“How does that protect free speech?” he asked. “Well, it doesn’t.”

Suzanne Roy says her group, the Union des municipalities du Quebec, gives new councillors some training on how to manage social media accounts, including advice on handling adversarial situations. She says the advice generally includes not getting into debates online and instead steering people to more formal channels to express their opinions, such as city council meetings and public consultations.

Philippe Roy, the soon-to-be ex-mayor of Mont-Royal, says that while there appear to be strong candidates to take his place, he’s already met people who have been discouraged from running by the prospect of online hate — something that bodes poorly for the future if the problem isn’t tackled.

“We’re losing people who could give back to the community, and that’s one of the threats that comes from this situation,” he said.

Source: Quebec politicians denounce rise in online hate as Ottawa prepares to act

A seat at the table: inside efforts to boost diversity, Black representation in federal candidate nominations

We will likely see the extent to which these efforts improve representation in the expected election later this year:

Achieving a representative House of Commons requires diversity among the candidates nominated for election, and since 2019, new efforts are being made both within political parties and beyond to increase diversity, including Black representation, in federal politics.

But new rules only go as far as a party has the will to take them, and Samara Centre for Democracy research manager Adelina Petit-Vouriot notes that between 2004 and 2015, only 17 per cent of all candidates were nominated through “clear contests.”

“I’m skeptical of whatever rules and procedures parties put in place for themselves, because, at the end of the day, they’re often not followed and it’s up to parties themselves to regulate their nomination rules,” said Ms. Petit-Vouriot. “There’s often many loopholes or rationales that they can use to appoint many candidates and to reduce the competitiveness and openness of their nomination contests.”

In 2019, based on a dataset compiled by Samara, The Hill Times, and McGill University’s Jerome Black, roughly 15.7 per cent of all candidates who ran for the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, Greens, the Bloc Québécois, and the People’s Party were from a visible minority group, compared to 12.9 per cent in 2015.

Looking specifically to Black representation, 49 candidates in 2019 identified as Black: 21 ran for the NDP, 11 for the Greens, seven for the Liberals, six for the People’s Party, and two each for the Conservatives and Bloc. In the end, five Black MPs were re-elected (all were incumbents), making up just 1.5 per cent of the House. (Liberal MP Marci Ien’s byelection win last year brings that to six MPs, or 1.7 per cent.) Based on the 2016 Census, Black Canadians make up 3.5 per cent of the population. 

Velma Morgan, chair of Operation Black Vote (OBV), noted many Black candidates in 2019 were incumbents, meaning parties largely “didn’t bring in new people,” and the number ultimately elected dropped. Overall, she gave parties a “C” grade for their efforts.

“It’s extremely important for the government to have different people, different voices—in particular Black Canadian voices—at decision-making tables, so when policies come out, it doesn’t adversely affect Black communities,” said Ms. Morgan, and for the opposition, diverse voices are key to holding the government accountable for issues affecting the Black community.

“We could do a lot better in ensuring that we have more Black candidates. There’s a lot of Black Canadians who are willing and able to run, and they just need to feel as if they’re welcomed and will be supported when they run.”

Diversity was a key plank in Green Party Leader Annamie Paul’s recent leadership campaign. When she took her party’s helm on Oct. 3, she became the first Black woman to lead a federal party in Canada.

“It was and remains a big commitment of mine to make sure that our party is truly diverse,” she told The Hill Times. While the party’s record on diversity historically has been “not great,” she said one of the reasons she believes she was elected leader was her background in working to increase diversity in politics.

After the 2019 election, the Greens launched an internal review of all party processes, including those related to candidate recruitment—an effort Ms. Paul brought her weight of experience to last October. Ms. Paul previously founded the Canadian Centre for Political Leadership, aimed at helping equity-seeking groups pursue public office, and in 2019 became a co-architect of OBV’s 1834 Fellowship Program, aimed at preparing Black youth for civic leadership. 

With its review, the party wanted to set the “gold standard in terms of best practices for diversity and inclusion,” said Ms. Paul, and that meant filtering “every single” party policy and process through a “diversity and inclusion lens,” to understand the “minutia” of the different barriers to inclusion. 

“You really have to look at it holistically. How are you reaching out to potential candidates? Which communities are you reaching out to? It’s even the small things: what is the wording of your nomination package?”

The process led to the creation of a Candidate Support Form requiring riding associations to provide detailed information on available resources to nomination candidates; longer nomination periods; a riding association guide on recruiting and retaining candidates and volunteers from equity-seeking groups, which associations must confirm they have received and reviewed; and a rule that nomination contests with only one candidate can only be closed if that candidate is from an equity-seeking group or unless the riding association is determined to have made all reasonable efforts, among other things. There is no application fee to run for nomination.

“You might look at something and not see on the face of it what it has to do with that, but, for instance, having a particular spending limit for pre-campaigning, that’s something that’s going to make a difference,” said Ms. Paul.

On. Feb. 5, the Greens launched a national candidate recruitment drive, “Time to Run,” which Ms. Paul described as the “marquee element” in its attempts to ensure candidate diversity, not just along racial and ethnic lines, but “socio-economic, regional, gender identity, work—we’re looking for a new kind of person to run.” 

“I’m really proud of the work that we did—I highly recommend it to every political party. We already feel the impact of that and definitely, we wanted to make sure it was reflected in our candidate recruitment for the next election,” said Ms. Paul.

Often, parties’ attempts to increase representation come in the form of diversity search committees for nomination races, said Ms. Petit-Vouriot, which “isn’t necessarily a solution in and of itself.” 

“There are larger issues at play than simply inviting candidates who are from underrepresented groups to involve themselves in politics,” she said. 

The probable circumstances of the next election are also likely to “reduce the possibility of newcomers getting involved,” said Ms. Petit-Vouriot, as snap elections often mean shorter nomination campaigns and more appointed candidates. COVID-19 has complicated fundraising efforts for political parties themselves and could “really hurt less established candidates, she said, “those who might not have those political connections, or the connections to finances.”

‘These things don’t happen by accident’: McGrath

The NDP—whose leader, Jagmeet Singh (Burnaby South, B.C.) became the first racialized federal leader in Canada in 2017—performed best among the federal parties in candidate diversity in 2019, with visible minority groups accounting for 22.8 per cent of its slate.

While NDP national director Anne McGrath touted the party’s record, she said as it works to nominate candidates, “we would like to do even better this time, and we’re working hard on it.” 

“It’s really a matter of being kind of dogged and persevering to make sure that equity and diversity are at the top of everybody’s agenda when we’re searching for candidates and organizing nominations,” she said.

Before a riding association can request a nomination meeting, NDP rules require at least one declared nomination candidate be from an equity-seeking group, and the party has an equity policy, with the stated goal of having at least 50 per cent of all federal candidates be women, trans, or non-binary individuals. The policy also sets a goal that women, trans, or non-binary individuals be candidates in at least 60 per cent of ridings deemed reasonably winnable, and a goal to have candidates who “reflect the diversity of Canada” in at least 30 per cent of reasonably winnable ridings, with “special attention” to be given to ensure “equity-seeking candidates” are nominated in ridings where an incumbent isn’t seeking re-election. 

A lot of the work to ensure diversity happens at the “grassroots level,” said Ms. McGrath, but “at the same time, we also at the leadership level do make approaches to candidates that we see kind of emerging, whether its in the African-Canadian community … in the BIPOC community.”

“These things don’t happen by accident. Unless you are really intentional and focused on making sure that you have a diverse slate that represents the makeup of the country, it’s not going to happen,” said Ms. McGrath.

A key ask in Operation Black Vote’s upcoming call to federal parties—a rehash of its 2019 asks, which Ms. Morgan noted weren’t achieved—is asking them to run Black candidates in winnable ridings.

“Just running a Black candidate isn’t enough for us, they need to run in ridings that the parties deem is winnable for them,” she said. Running Black candidates in ridings long held by another party is just “a check mark.” 

Among other calls related to ensuring Black representation among senior political staff and the public service, Ms. Morgan said OBV is asking parties to ensure Black candidates get support and mentorship, and “get nominated early enough so that they can actually engage in their riding.” 

Since 2019, the Liberal Party has expanded a rule in its nomination search criteria for unheld ridings that says no nomination meeting can be called until an electoral district association (EDA) demonstrates, with “documented evidence,” a “thorough search” for candidates who are underrepresented in the House, including candidates who are “women; Black, Indigenous, or people of colour; LGBTQ2; people with disabilities; and marginalized communities.” Previously, this rule only extended to women.

Braeden Caley, senior communications director for the Liberal Party, said the change is “absolutely” having an impact on current nomination efforts.

“That rule is one aspect of it, as well as a lot of work by field organizers, EDA chairs, local volunteers, to fulfill the recruitment of that search, to approach community leaders from all different backgrounds who reflect the demographics of their community, who reflect communities who are underrepresented in Parliament,” said Mr. Caley.

Of the 83 Liberal candidates nominated to run next election as of Feb. 5, Mr. Caley noted 43 are women and 22 do not identify as white; within that, three identify as Black (all incumbents) and three as Indigenous. 

In 2019, racialized people made up 18.9 per cent of the Liberal slate; overall, 2.1 per cent were Black and 5.3 per cent were Indigenous. So far, 26.5 per cent of candidates nominated are not white, and Black and Indigenous candidates each make up 3.6 per cent.

“There have been some incredibly important conversations about that [how to reduce barriers to increase diversity], not just since the last election, but over the last year in particular. A lot of it has to do with meeting the standard of this rule, but it’s not only this rule that will make that possible, it’s about a concerted effort by volunteers,” including bringing more diversity to the political process overall, from campaign managers to riding association boards, said Mr. Caley. 

Two years ago, he noted, the party launched a “Safe Campaigns” initiative, involving training for candidates and campaign teams “to ensure that everyone, regardless of their background … is able to participate in campaigns and the party in a way that feels safe to them and inclusive and welcoming at all times.” 

Asked about efforts to run diverse candidates in winnable ridings, Mr. Caley pointed to recent federal byelections—like Liberal MP Marci Ien’s 2020 win in Toronto Centre, Ont., and Trade Minister Mary Ng’s 2017 win in Markham-Thornhill, Ont.—as evidence of such efforts. 

The Conservative Party’s nomination rules make no mention of diversity or considerations for equity-seeking groups. Requirements to run for the Conservatives include a $1,000 “good conduct bond,” which is generally returned, an interview process, and 25 local signatures. (The Liberals’ application fee is a non-refundable $1,500; the NDP doesn’t have one.) 

Like the Liberals, the Conservatives protect incumbent MPs by acclaiming them if they meet certain criteria.

Ms. Petit-Vouriot noted that, with incumbents often protected, it means “safer seats go to those who have already ‘made it,’ and that can help preserve inequalities in representation under gender, ethnicity, Indigeneity lines.”

As of Feb. 3, the Conservatives had 150 candidates nominated. Cory Hann, communications director for the party, said a breakdown of candidate demographics could be provided after the full list is released (as of Feb. 8, the party had announced 54), but noted “Conservative supporters and staff have been asked to work their networks and encourage people from all backgrounds to get involved in our local campaigns, whether that’s as a candidate or campaigner.” 

“The candidates we’ve nominated so far all have varying backgrounds both professionally and personally, and we’re proud of that,” he said. 

New Conservative groups aims to boost representation

Outside the party, new efforts are being made to bring Black Canadians into the fold with the recent launch of the Conservative Black Congress of Canada—a spin-off group from the Canada Black Congress founded by former CPC leadership contender Leslyn Lewis in 2009. (Ms. Lewis, a co-founder of the new group, has been nominated to run in the longtime Conservative riding of Haldimand-Norfolk, Ont.)

National chair Tunde Obasan said the congress aims to educate Black Canadians on Conservative values and encourage them to join “the Conservative family across the country.” 

Mr. Obasan said he was involved in former leader Andrew Scheer’s (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask.) 2017 leadership campaign and Ms. Lewis’ 2020 bid, and “each time,” when he reached out to Black Canadians, the feedback he got was “not encouraging.” People would question why he was supporting the party, and tell him “you don’t belong there,” he said. 

“I went back with those feedback and actually looked deep … ‘do I actually belong to the Conservative Party? Or [do] I belong somewhere else?’ And I found that, in reality, I actually belong to the Conservative Party, because that is the only party that supports who I am, that supports my values as a person, right. And I know that all these, my values represent, it’s very similar to most immigrants, particularly Black Canadians,” said Mr. Obasan, who immigrated to Canada from Nigeria in 2012. 

Mr. Obasan said he then wondered why Black Canadians he spoke with instead turned to other parties, and to his view, “the only thing I found is this: there is not enough representation of them within the Conservative family, and based on that, they just believe that they don’t belong there.”

It’s something Mr. Obasan said his organization aims to change, by reaching out to grassroots organizations and encouraging Black Canadians to become party members and to run (though he said currently, efforts are focused on the former). From what he’s seen of nomination contests for the next election so far, he thinks representation among CPC candidates will “definitely be better than 2019,” for a number of reasons, including Ms. Lewis’ leadership run. Mr. Obasan noted he’s seeking the party’s nomination in Edmonton-Strathcona, Alta., a currently NDP-held riding where former CPC leadership candidate Rick Peterson is also running.

Asked if he’d like to see the Conservatives introduce nomination rules to try to ensure diversity, Mr. Obasan said it’s “not something we have considered at this time … we are not asking for special consideration.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole (Durham, Ont.) spoke at the congress’ Jan. 24 virtual launch, as did MP Garnett Genuis (Sherwood Park-Fort Saskatchewan, Alta.), and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, among others. Roughly 300 people took part, said Mr. Obasan, and during the event, he raised the 2019 stats for Black candidates, and the fact the CPC only nominated two, “and I said that this is something that we want to change.”

“[Mr. O’Toole] was there from beginning to end … for him to stay the entire event, that means that he’s concerned about the community and he wants to hear our concerns,” said Mr. Obasan.

Ms. Morgan said since her organization launched in 2004, she thinks there’s “been some movement” in improving representation in federal politics, but that’s largely thanks to efforts by organizations like OBV and “a push from the community, than it is a push from political parties.” 

Source: A seat at the table: inside efforts to boost diversity, Black representation in federal candidate nominations

Vaughn Palmer: Failure to recruit female and minority candidates killed Liberal hopes in BC election

One element:

The B.C. Liberal party executive is calling on members and supporters to join “open and honest conversations” and “serious and exciting debates” about the party future.

But two recent statements from Liberals — one a defeated MLA, the other a former candidate — may be more honest and exciting than the current leadership can survive.

Taking direct aim at party leader Andrew Wilkinson was Jane Thornthwaite, beaten in her bid for a fourth term as Liberal MLA for North Vancouver-Seymour.

Source: Vaughn Palmer: Failure to recruit female and minority candidates killed Liberal hopes

Electoral candidates shouldn’t need white-collar backgrounds

Good piece by Mike Morden of Samara:

After the votes are counted tonight, 338 candidates will be headed to Ottawa to claim their seats as members of Parliament. The other 1500-plus candidates will be headed home. For some of them, that will mean coming to terms with a rough financial picture.

Running for office in a competitive campaign is very expensive. Serious candidates have to leave or quit their jobs, forgoing income for weeks or months. Some won’t have jobs to return to, if they weren’t fortunate in having flexible employers. The self-employed will have to make up for lost time and lost clients.

Drumming up sympathy for politicians is a difficult business. But it’s important to see the costs of standing for election, because those costs mean that few of us will ever be in a financial position to run — or to do so seriously. Our political class is drawn from those who have the means. The result is a form of underrepresentation in our national politics that often goes unnoticed or unchallenged. We need to find ways to make running for office more accessible.

The Samara Centre has been working with research partners and a team of volunteers to compile demographic profiles of all 2019 federal candidates in the major parties, based on information made public in candidates’ biographies. This data, which is not yet published, reveals the predicted underrepresentations — of women, Indigenous people and people of colour. But it also reflects class- and occupation-based underrepresentations. We can’t identify the income levels of candidates, of course, but we can make some inferences based on the information available to us.

For example, on the basis of publicly available information alone, it becomes clear that most candidates hold one or more university degrees; by comparison,  fewer than 30 percent of working-age Canadians have those credentials. Lawyers, entrepreneurs and private sector executives are well represented among candidates. So are office holders from other levels of government, and some middle-class professionals like teachers. But what about service workers in retail or hospitality? What about child care workers, or tradespeople? They’re largely absent from Canada’s political class.

None of this is remotely surprising. But it should bother us more than it does.

Education and income are strong predictors of Canadians’ attitudes toward political issues and of their general views of Canadian democracy. They are stronger predictors, in many cases, than the other identities we carry. There’s evidence that working-class politicians behave differently in office, that their life experiences inform different priorities. Our white-collar parties and Parliament make substantively different decisions than they would with a more economically diverse membership. And working-class Canadians don’t see themselves reflected in their leaders, strengthening the existing tendency toward greater political dissatisfaction and distrust.

These demographic absences are reflected in how politics is done, and for whom. Indeed, the lack of a lived experience of the working class is apparent in the political discourse today, which has become peculiarly conscious of just a single class: the middle class (whoever that is). It’s also reflected in the woolly notions held by political elites about what a working-class Canadian is in 2019 (it almost always involves a hard hat).

Much of the responsibility for recruiting a more diverse candidate slate falls to the parties. But fixing economic underrepresentation, deliberately and through policy, is not easy. It involves wrestling with social and economic structures that are pervasive and deeply entrenched — beyond the reach of most available political reforms.

Nevertheless, we can think creatively about policy avenues to make political candidacy more affordable and more accessible. We can start by replacing some of the income that is lost when someone seeks office. Employment insurance provides income support for people who are unexpectedly unemployed. But it is also a tool to replace income for people who have to step away from work temporarily, to do something that is personally costly but beneficial to society — like raising a baby or caring for a sick family member. This logic can be applied to political candidacy.

The federal government should consider a new carve-out in the Employment Insurance Act, to allow registered (non-incumbent) candidates for federal, provincial and municipal elections, if they are otherwise eligible for EI, to collect it for a limited period (say, for a maximum of 50 days, which is also the maximum length of a federal campaign). Right now, candidates aren’t formally disqualified from collecting EI. But they have to be available for work and job-searching in the usual ways while collecting the benefit. Anyone who is truly campaigning full-time, with the goal of actually winning and holding office, is essentially ruled out.

This should be changed. There would be some potential for abuse, but that’s no different from the conventional uses of EI. In fact, when it becomes necessary, distinguishing between real and fake candidates would be, relatively speaking, easier to adjudicate.

It’s really important that good people put their hands up to run in our elections. It’s really important that those people aren’t only the relatively wealthy. Replacing candidates’ income is a small change. Obviously, it wouldn’t be enough to overcome the huge structural obstacles facing working-class Canadians: precarious employment, lack of time and a want of political resources like personal access and fundraising networks, to name a few. The take-up would likely be small. And it may prove that more targeted measures are needed to move the needle on working-class representation.

But it’s a simple policy step to help relieve the immediate financial costs of candidacy. It would also send a message to some of the people who most need to hear it: that whatever the political class looks like today, it’s supposed to be of you, and for you — and, in fact, it needs you.

Source: Electoral candidates shouldn’t need white-collar backgrounds

Business tops experience among 2019 candidates, one-third have run for office before

Been fun helping out on this:

Whether debating at town halls, canvassing, or presenting their cases online, it’s a near record year for candidates, with 2,146 running, including 1,741 candidates offering for the six major parties and pitching themselves to Canadians in this election.

One-third of the 2019 Conservative candidates cite their business credentials in their online biographies—far more than their competitors, though business is a top job among all parties. Conservative candidates are more likely to be business owners, while the Liberals are fielding the most lawyers, and the NDP and Greens are popular among professors, teachers and students. Those in arts and entertainment industries are more common among the left-leaning parties, while military and police officers are more likely to appear on the CPC and the People’s Party of Canada’s slates.

This is according to an analysis of the most recent occupations of more than 1,700 people vying for the 338 seats in the next Parliament and was pulled from party biographies and other sources. The analysis is based on research conducted by The Samara Centre for Democracy and The Hill Times in partnership with researchers Jerome Black and Andrew Griffith.

While there are clear clusters of people with certain professional backgrounds who decide to take the leap for federal public office, the skillsets among MP hopefuls in this election are wide: from a semi-professional chess player, to chemists and truck drivers, to the three Olympic athletes trying their luck at a new type of contest.

There are 318 candidates running who have sat in the House, including 288 incumbents and 30 former MPs trying to make it back to Parliament. The Green Party has three former NDP MPs running for it, the PPC has two former Conservative MPs on its slate, and both Independent incumbents are former Liberals.

For many, the campaign trail is familiar territory. At least one-third of the slate is made up of campaign veterans, having previously run for or held political office at the municipal, Indigenous, provincial and territorial, or federal levels. The Liberals, with the most incumbents, lead the pack with at least 214 who fit in that figure, followed by 161 Conservatives. Only 78 NDP candidates cited past political runs, followed by 60 Green and 20 Bloc.

There are 318 candidates running who have sat in the House, including 288 incumbents and 30 former MPs trying to make it back to Parliament. The Green Party has three former NDP MPs running for it, the PPC has two former Conservative MPs on its slate, and both Independent incumbents are former Liberals.

Past political experience

Political experience Bloc CPC Green Liberal NDP PPC Grand Total
Current MP 10 81 3* 162 29 1 288
Past MP 1 18 2 7 2 30
Provincial/Territorial representative 2 11 1 12 1 27
Municipal representative
34 15 24 18 6 97
Past federal, provincial candidate 7 11 36 10 14 7 85
Indigenous government
1 3 4 6 14
Elected in another country
1 1
School board trustee
5 3 2 3 1 14
Total 20 161 60 214 78 18 556

There are clear differences across the parties for professionals they recruit or appeal to—often in expected ways, like business and the Conservative Party, said Paul Thomas, a senior researcher with Samara and Carleton University professor.

“In an ideal world you would have people from all backgrounds in all parties” and those interested would be reflected in the priorities of each, Prof. Thomas said.

The data shows that isn’t happening, he noted, with some sectors disproportionately represented (like business people, professors, and lawyers), while the more precarious sectors (retail, restaurant, or service) have fewer people running for federal office.

“This comes back to the question of whether politics is accessible across employment backgrounds? Do we have people who have experience, say in the retail sector, or in trades, feeling like their views are well represented?” he said.

That’s long been the case, with sales and service experience cited among about five per cent of MPs over the past 10 parliaments, while skilled occupations sat around 20 per cent, according to a Maclean’s analysis in 2015. Double the number appeared in law, social science, education, government services and professional occupations.

It’s a question of “symbolism,” in what it signals to a population that may feel distrust in or disaffected by politicians. It’s also a question of “legitimacy,” he said,  in that those voices should be represented to help with good policymaking.

“There also is the reality of polarization so if people find themselves believing one particular party can represent their best interest, that doesn’t necessarily lend itself well to compromise,” and it can be worrying to see over-concentration of types within a party.

Hopefuls most likely to cite business experience

Candidates most commonly cite their business credentials when wooing candidates, which was mentioned in 20 per cent of candidate profiles, followed by 10 per cent who fit in education, and eight per cent who work in government institutions (whether as staff or as representatives, like city councillors), seven per cent in legal professions, and six per cent in health care.

The Conservatives had the most business owners, at 42, followed by the People’s Party’s 24, the Liberals with 24, Greens with 23, and NDP with 7.The Conservatives were also far more likely to draw out with recent experience in the armed forces (15) as were the PPC (11).

Lawyers have long been an overrepresented profession in the House, and it was the second most common profession this election, with at least 46 running for Liberals, 26 for the Conservatives, 16 for the NDP, 10 for the Greens, and 8 for the PPC.

But that shift has changed over past Parliaments as more business people get elected, according to a 2013 Toronto Star. Before 1993, between 22 and 38 per cent of MPs in each Parliament were lawyers, but that moved down to 15 per cent,

About 10 per cent of each of the Liberal, NDP, and Green candidates are in the education field, with half that amount running for the Conservatives. Twenty-two per cent of the Bloc Québécois candidates cite education as a recent job before running for federal office.

There are a combined 35 professors running for the Liberal, NDP, and Green, while the CPC has four.

Almost a third of the PPC candidates didn’t have their professional experience publicly listed, and so couldn’t be categorized.

In some cases—for the PPC and gaps in other parties—that may signal they’re placeholder candidates that national parties put on the ballot to make sure all 338 ridings are covered. Many of the more minimalist biographies appeared for candidates running in long-shot ridings— facing off against some Conservative candidates in Alberta, for example.

More than 100 PPC candidates didn’t have a website—mostly in Quebec where the party leader Maxime Bernier is trying to keep his seat, Newfoundland and Labrador, and P.E.I.—with many using Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter profiles as their primary place for campaign communications.

That’s likely more a function of them being a new party rather than any particular attempts to hide, said Mr. Thomas, noting it was the party without a standardized web template for candidates.

Their candidate pages were also more likely to have gaps in personal information, focusing instead on issues, values, and platform promises.

“Possibly because it’s a new political movement with distinct political philosophy, people were trying to demonstrate their commitment to cause as compared to lay out their professional experience,” he said. That kind of signalling also came out with Green candidate, he noted, with nearly all biographies making references to environmental commitments.

Liberals have highest education

The analysis also tracked when candidates cited educational experience, ranging from college degrees up to a PhD. More than 200 of each of the Conservative, Green, and Liberal candidates have undergraduate degrees or higher, while the NDP reported 148 and the PPC, 95.

To Mr. Thomas it was “quite striking” to see so many Liberals (141) with postgraduate degrees. Liberal candidates most commonly had PhDs (19), followed by the Greens (11), and the Liberals also have the most masters and law degree holders (122), followed by the Conservatives (97).

Education level Bloc Québécois Conservative Green Liberal NDP People’s Party of Canada Grand Total
Undergraduate degree 29 106 121 78 77 61 472
Post-graduate degree 18 97 74 122 64 29 404
PhD 1 7 11 19 12 6 56
Community College 4 14 19 4 10 15 66
Trade certification / license 1 9 13 2 5 7 37
Total 53 233 238 225 168 118 1035

Though a complete picture can’t be captured as candidates are inconsistent with the amount of information they publicly share about their background and qualifications, Prof. Thomas said how political candidates present themselves matters, as does the experience they choose to highlight.

The low numbers is likely due, in part, to underreporting as both were less consistent with the biographies on party websites.

Even if under-reported, candidates are more likely to be higher educated than the average citizen. In 2016, 54 per cent of Canadians had college-and-above qualifications, compared to at least 58 per cent of those on the ballot this year.

Top occupation, by category

Occupation Bloc CPC Green Liberal NDP PPC Grand Total
Business (owners, entrepreneurs, consultant, realtors) 7 113 54 84 25 70 353
Government (all positions, excluding MPs) 8 51 17 50 34 14 174
Education 17 20 41 36 40 13 167
Law 3 27 10 50 19 9 118
Health care + social work 5 16 18 23 28 10 100
Trades, engineering, construction 3 8 18 6 11 32 78
Media / communications 4 19 9 16 5 8 61
Arts/Entertainment 5 2 26 4 15 3 55
Student 4 1 17 3 23 48
NGO 3 6 13 7 17 46
Military, police, and corrections 1 15 4 4 3 11 38
Agriculture 1 13 7 4 3 4 32
IT sector 2 5 8 2 4 7 28
Restaurant, service and retail 2 3 4 1 12 4 26
Labour / union 3 1 2 16 22
Director / manager 1 2 1 6 3 3 16
Sales 2 4 2 3 1 12
Human resources
3 3 3 1 1 11
IT sector 2 3 2 2 2 11
Scientist 4 3 1 2 10

Top occupation, by job title

Title Bloc Québécois Conservative Green Liberal NDP People’s Party of Canada Total
Business owner 1 42 23 24 7 32 129
Lawyer 3 26 10 46 16 8 109
Teacher 7 8 19 7 15 4 60
Student 4 1 17 3 23 48
Professor 2 4 7 14 14 4 45
Farm / agriculture 1 13 7 4 3 3 31
NGO Director 3 5 6 4 11 29
Entrepreneur 9 9 4 5 27
Engineer 1 3 8 4 3 7 26
Municipal councillor
8 1 8 6 3 26
Armed Forces 1 10 3 2 1 7 24
Political staff, federal
9 7 8 24
Consultant 6 4 7 4 2 23
Social work 3 2 6 3 8 22
IT sector 2 3 7 2 1 6 21
Realtor 3 5 4 2 2 3 19
Public servant, provincial 3 5 3 4 2 2 19
Nurse 1 1 2 3 9 2 18
NGO staff 1 7 2 6 16
Trade 2 2 1 5 6 16
Service industry 2 3 7 3 15
Business manager 2 6 2 1 4 15
Journalist 7 2 4 1 14

Source: Business tops experience among 2019 candidates, one-third have run for office before

Bloc leader apologizes for candidates’ Islamophobic and racist social media posts

Of note (pro forma apologies):

Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet apologized Thursday after media outlets uncovered a number of Islamophobic and racist social media posts by candidates running for the sovereigntist party.

“They all regret having shared in the past videos or messages containing inappropriate comments,” Blanchet said in an emailed statement.

“They apologized. As leader of the Bloc Québécois, I add my apologies on their behalf to the entire population of Quebec.”

Blanchet’s statement does not name any of the candidates, though it indicates he has spoken to five individuals — four women and one man.

The apology is almost certainly in response to articles published Wednesday in the Globe and Mail and Thursday in the Journal de Montréal that documented numerous posts, tweets and shared links on Facebook and Twitter by: Caroline Desbiens, a candidate in the Beauport riding; Lizabel Nitoi, running in Marc-Aurèle-Fortin; Valérie Tremblay in Chicoutimi–Le Fjord; and Claude Forgues in Sherbrooke.

The four candidates named in the Globe and Mail and Journal de Montreal articles. (Radio-Canada)

The fifth candidate is likely Nicole Morin, a Bloc candidate in Saint-Maurice–Champlain who was found to have shared a video by the far-right group La Meute.

The four Bloc candidates cited in the Journal article issued identical statements of apology on social media Thursday. The apologies note that Le Journal “considers” the messages Islamophobic, but the authors don’t state whether they agree with the assessment.

Desbiens’ remarks were in a publication promoting a law on secularism in 2013. She said she worried that women would soon be forced to either wear a veil to go grocery shopping or be thrown in jail. She also praised France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen.

Nitoi shared a groundless article about the intelligence of Muslims. Tremblay has shared several anti-Islam messages and conspiracy theories on Twitter since 2016, the Journal de Montreal reported.

Forgues shared a video on Facebook that states “Islam is a disease” and contained other intolerant remarks about Muslims, according to the Journal.

The boilerplate apologies, written in the first person, all say that the candidates did not mean to offend.

The four candidates go on to affirm in their statements their “total and complete support for the values and program of the Bloc Québécois … which in no way advocates measures that go against some communities, whether cultural or religious.”

The controversy lands ahead of the second French-language debate, set for Thursday.

The Bloc Québécois has been building momentum ever since the first French-language debate last week. Polls suggest Blanchet was the big winner of that contest and that the Bloc’s support levels have increased as a result.

Source: Bloc leader apologizes for candidates’ Islamophobic and racist social media posts

Liberals keeping Cape Breton candidate despite past racist, sexist remarks on social media

Hard to defend keeping this candidate apart from the need to save a safe Liberal seat.

In contrast, the Conservative decision to dump their candidate in Burnaby North-Seymour was easier, as the Conservatives ran third, albeit with 28 percent of the vote in 2015:

Justin Trudeau says past racist and sexist social-media posts from a Liberal candidate in Cape Breton were “unacceptable,” but the party is not dropping Jaime Battiste from its election campaign roster.

Sunday marked the first time Mr. Trudeau has publicly commented on Mr. Battiste’s remarks since Friday, when the Toronto Sun revealed past Facebook and Twitter posts in which the Liberal candidate for Sydney-Victoria made offensive remarks about women, Indigenous girls, gay men and Chinese people with accents. Mr. Battiste has since apologized for the posts, which date back as far as 2011, saying he wrote the posts during “difficult times” in his life.

Speaking to reporters in Plainfield, Ont., Sunday, Mr. Trudeau was asked if he felt he was limited in the action he could take against other Liberal candidates because of past photos of him in blackface and brownface, but he didn’t answer the question directly.

“We recognize that Jaime Battiste … took responsibility for his actions and has apologized,” Mr. Trudeau said.

In response to an interview request for Mr. Battiste, the Liberal Party referred to his apology instead.

Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer had the day off on Sunday, but his party took to Twitter to ask if Mr. Trudeau needs to “see more before he finally fires him.”

Meanwhile, the Conservatives were dealing with another controversial candidate of their own. The party dropped Heather Leung as its candidate for Burnaby North-Seymour on Friday over offensive comments she made about the LGBTQ community.

However, video posted by CityNews in Vancouver on Saturday showed Ms. Leung’s team still putting up Conservative campaign signs with her name on them.

In a statement on Sunday, Conservative spokesperson Simon Jefferies said Ms. Leung has been told she cannot use the party’s name or logo, or represent herself as the Tory candidate.

All of the major parties have had candidate troubles. Cameron Ogilvie stepped down as Conservative candidate in Winnipeg last month over discriminatory social-media posts.

Source: Liberals keeping Cape Breton candidate despite past racist, sexist remarks on social media

Unpacking the People’s Party’s Fear of ‘Radical Multiculturalism’

Will see how this turns-out post the debates. And while I haven’t compiled candidate data (working with Samara and others to do so), anecdotally there so seem to be a fair number of visible minorities, some immigrants, some subsequent generations, among their candidates:

The People’s Party of Canada says it is “inclusive,” but how does that square with its calls to scrap the country’s Multiculturalism Act, tighten our borders, promote “Western civilization values” and cut immigration by more than half?

More diversity will “destroy what has made us a great country,” leader Maxime Bernier tweeted last year in a long, Trumpian thread.

Bernier, who narrowly lost the Conservative leadership to Andrew Scheer in 2017, founded the People’s Party in September 2018.

Since then, it has alarmed critics across the political spectrum, including some former supporters who are worried that xenophobic, and even racist, members of the radical right, as seen in the U.S. and Europe, now have a political home in Canada.

“What the PPC is doing risks normalizing far-right ideology,” said Brian Budd, a PhD student in political science at the University of Guelph who researches right-wing politics and populism in Canada.

The party uses the language of inclusion to communicate its ideas, noted Budd.

Those studying far-right parties in Western democracies have found that the most successful ones in Europe use the language of liberalism, civic values, and the national interest as a Trojan horse to normalize discrimination in the mainstream.

The strategy allows such parties to say they’re pursuing national unity when they’re actually promoting exclusion. It allows them to posit that hate speech is actually the free speech of a democratic society.

“It’s a built-in defence against accusations of racism,” said Budd.

It’s the kind of strategy that Conservative Kellie Leitch used in her bid for re-election in 2015. Leitch said she wanted to establish a “barbaric cultural practices” tip line to “defend Canadian values.”

Bernier used a similar approach in his Twitter rant against diversity, warning that “people live among us who reject basic Western values such as freedom, equality, tolerance and openness.”

While populist right-wing parties, including the People’s Party, have attracted supporters who are white supremacists, Budd doesn’t view the party as all-in advocating for a “homogenous, white European society.”

The party has been quick to point out that it has candidates who are immigrants and people of colour — proof, it has said, that it is not anti-immigrant or racist.

And it is willing to accept newcomers if they “share fundamental Canadian values, learn about our history and culture and integrate in our society,” Bernier has said.

That can be understood as “conditional multiculturalism,” said political scientist Erin Tolley of the University of Toronto.

The party’s immigrant candidates have said that they don’t see a problem with limiting immigration or with Bernier’s view that immigrants must assimilate and take on the party’s definition of “Canadianness.”

Rocky Dong, the party’s candidate in Burnaby North–Seymour, used a metaphor to explain his support for the policies.

“If you have one chopstick, it breaks easily,” he said. “If you have many chopsticks, they’re hard to break.”

Integration is crucial to national unity, said Dong, 48, who arrived in Canada from China in 2001. He helps international students integrate on a daily basis at work, connecting them with housing and education.

Another party candidate, Baljit Singh Bawa of Brampton Centre, who immigrated to Canada from India in 2000, said he was able to integrate thanks to his own drive to improve his English and a three-year stint working in Dubai “to get that international exposure, to get myself out of my comfort zone.” He wants others moving to Canada to integrate in similar ways.

Budd said that immigrant candidates allow the party to showcase its idea of the model minority — “the immigrants who have come in and successfully assimilated without support from the state.”

“A lot of Canadians like to think that Bernier is simply importing something successful from elsewhere,” he said. “But what he’s really doing is trying to adapt ideas and discourses to the Canadian context.”

Having these model immigrant candidates adds a made-in-Canada flavour to the kind of populism Bernier is building; it’s more visibly colourful than whiter movements in other Western democracies.

“It’s about population management,” said Budd, “while ensuring the privilege and supremacy of European culture.”

According to the party’s platform, it seeks to manage newcomer populations by:

  • Cutting immigration to between 100,000 and 150,000 people a year (Last year about 321,000 people immigrated; in the peak year under Stephen Harper, 280,700 arrived in 2010);
  • Focusing on economic immigration to fill labour gaps, while stopping the intake of temporary workers and people entering through family reunification programs;
  • Interviewing newcomers to ensure they subscribe to “Canadian values and societal norms;”
  • Eliminating the Multiculturalism Act and spending on multiculturalism;
  • Stopping “illegal migrants” and “false migrants” entering via the U.S. border;
  • Move to a reliance on private sponsorships to pay for refugee settlement, ending government support.

Bernier describes his vision in the liberal language of “harmony and the maintenance of our Canadian national identity.”

He has also attempted to justify his plans economically for his libertarian supporters, saying the party aims to cut down on state-funded “specialist services” for “freeloaders,” said Budd.

Bernier has said that some cultures, like First Nations, Cape Breton and Quebec’s Eastern Townships “deserve to be nurtured” because they were “developed in Canada” and “don’t exist anywhere else in the world.”

Political scientist Tolley said regional cultures are true of any country. “It is interesting that they’re trying to suggest that these regional cultures can’t exist alongside immigration and multiculturalism,” she said.

The party’s desire to clamp down on immigration and promote “Western civilization values” has led critics, including some former supporters, to accuse it of attracting and harbouring racists, white supremacists, anti-Semites and conspiracy theorists.

People’s Party events have been attended by such far-right individuals as Faith Goldy, an advocate of the conspiracy theory of white genocide who has verbally attacked immigrants and Islamic culture; Paul Fromm, a self-described “white nationalist” based in Hamilton who directs several far-right groups in Canada; and members of the Northern Guard, a militant anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim group that is an offshoot of the Soldiers of Odin.

This has caused trouble with some party supporters.

In July, the entire board of a Winnipeg riding association resigned, saying “racists, bigots, anti-Semites, and conspiracy theorists” had a large presence in the public conversation around the party.

The board members also said they were “appalled” to see “disinformation and distrust… encouraged with wink and a nod now.”

Last week, People’s Party candidate Brian Misera of Coquitlam–Port Coquitlam called on Bernier to “do more to help us disassociate from far-right groups that really have no place in our society.” The party has since revoked Misera’s candidacy, saying that he broke Elections Canada rules by acting as his own financial agent.

Bernier has responded by saying he doesn’t know everyone who attends his rallies and that “people who are racist and [don’t] believe in the Canadian values aren’t welcome in our party.”

Sanjay Jeram, a senior lecturer in political science at Simon Fraser University, believes Bernier’s failure to condemn these far-right elements more strongly is linked to efforts to build the new party.

“My feeling is he’s trying to cobble together a party that’s having trouble with organization,” said Jeram. As an upstart party trying to compete with the Conservatives, Bernier “can’t afford alienating people who he might not want part of the bigger message.”

Jeram said that debate about immigration levels shouldn’t be taboo but cautions against empowering more dangerous anti-immigration constituents. “The party should be more careful to screen candidates who have views that might actually incite violence,” he said.

“In a liberal democratic society, we shouldn’t be limiting debate. But that debate can go into the realm of targeting people for their race, gender, ethnicity or religion and making them vulnerable. It’s possible for people to take those messages and turn them into the legitimization of violence or discrimination.”

Stewart Prest, who also lectures in political science at SFU, said the party’s language is worth scrutiny. For example, it often decries what it calls “radical multiculturalism.”

That “could translate into disliking a particular group, Muslims being singled out,” he said.

Bernier’s attempt to redefine immigration and multiculturalism is a “grand project,” said Prest, as Canada’s mainline parties have agreed for a generation that immigration and multiculturalism are a part of the country’s foundations.

“But these messages can get picked up a number of ways and open the door to even more radical conversations.”

Tolley said that why the potential impact of the People’s Party should not be dismissed despite the party’s low support, currently at three per cent, according to the latest CBC aggregate of available polling data.

Tolley gives the example of the Reform Party, also an opponent of multiculturalism, which in the 1990s was able to change the conversation around immigration, making it an economic issue rather than a social one.

Last week the Leaders’ Debates Commission invited Bernier to participate in leadership debates.

Many experts wonder how the People’s Party’s narratives on immigration, refugees and multiculturalism might shift how other parties and the Canadian public talk about these topics.

People’s Party candidate Rocky Dong says they are only preaching “common sense.”

“We don’t hate the people outside. We just love the people inside the fence.”  [Tyee]

Source: Unpacking the People’s Party’s Fear of ‘Radical Multiculturalism’

Justin Trudeau s’explique sur le cas de Hassan Guillet

For the record:

Justin Trudeau admet que son équipe a tenté de trouver une solution pour maintenir la candidature de Hassan Guillet dans Saint-Léonard-Saint-Michel. Elle a finalement été révoquée après que le B’nai Brith eut révélé des déclarations passées jugées « antisémites » du candidat.

« Dans toute situation, on essaie toujours de créer des façons de rassembler les gens et non de les diviser. Mais quand il est devenu évident que les propos étaient inacceptables, il a fallu qu’on lui demande de quitter », a déclaré M. Trudeau, lundi, en marge d’une annonce à Waterloo, en Ontario.

Il y a cependant un flou quant au moment où le PLC a été mis au courant de ces déclarations. M. Trudeau, qui s’exprimait pour la première fois à ce sujet, n’a pas souhaité éclaircir le mystère.

L’organisation B’nai Brith dit avoir porté à l’attention du parti, à la fin du mois d’août, d’anciennes déclarations que M. Guillet aurait faites sur les médias sociaux. Selon le groupe, ces déclarations sont « troublantes, antisémites et anti-israéliennes ».

Dans un des commentaires, daté du 8 juillet 2017, et retransmis par le B’nai Brith, M. Guillet salue la libération, « après neuf mois dans une prison de la Palestine occupée », du militant Raed Salah qu’il qualifie de « résistant » et de « djihadiste ».

B’nai Brith pointe également du doigt une entrevue donnée par M. Guillet à Radio-Canada International, en espagnol, en décembre 2017, où il commente la décision du président américain Donald Trump de reconnaître Jérusalem comme la capitale d’Israël.

M. Guillet dit dans cette entrevue que le gendre de M. Trump, Jared Kushner, « un juif ultra-orthodoxe et un intégriste, pro-Israël », prône la politique « Israel first ».

Le 30 août, le PLC publiait un communiqué de presse pour révoquer la candidature de M. Guillet.

« Si ces déclarations pouvaient être considérées offensantes à certains de mes concitoyens de confession juive, je m’en excuse », a-t-il alors affirmé dans une déclaration qui semblait avoir été préparée pour calmer le jeu et demeurer candidat du PLC.

Lors d’une conférence de presse, quelques jours plus tard, le principal intéressé a déclaré qu’il avait été « trahi » par l’entourage de Justin Trudeau, qui était au courant de ses affirmations controversées.

M. Guillet a aussi affirmé que le parti avait commencé à travailler sur un « plan d’action », dès le début du mois d’août, pour démontrer l’appui de membres de la communauté juive à sa candidature.

En mai, M. Guillet a obtenu l’investiture libérale dans la circonscription montréalaise de Saint-Léonard-Saint-Michel, traditionnellement représentée par un candidat d’origine italienne, après une chaude lutte.

Le PLC a finalement annoncé la semaine dernière que la nouvelle candidate est la conseillère municipale Patricia Lattanzio, qui était arrivée en deuxième place à la course à l’investiture.

Cela n’a pas empêché les conservateurs — qui ont eux-mêmes eu à gérer des problèmes avec des candidats au sein de leurs propres troupes — d’attaquer les libéraux au sujet de M. Guillet dans les derniers jours.

Ils considèrent que l’ancien candidat a tenu « d’horribles propos antisémites et anti-Israël » et ont accusé le PLC de vouloir balayer les propos de M. Guillet sous le tapis avec « une stratégie de relations publiques ».

Source: Justin Trudeau s’explique sur le cas de Hassan Guillet

Bernier picks ridings where PPC has best chance to win in bid to join leaders’ debate

Looking at the choices by percentage of immigrants and visible minorities, quite a range. Appears selection criteria weighted towards candidate name recognition and profile (for full riding detail, see diversityvotes.ca):

  • Beauce: 1.4 percent immigrants, 1.1 percent visible minorities
  • Etobicoke North: 58 percent immigrants, 75.7 percent visible minorities
  • Nipissing-Timiskaming: 4.6 percent immigrants, 2.4 percent visible minorities
  • Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley: 13.1 percent immigrants, 10.2 percent visible minorities
  • Pickering-Uxbridge: 30.2 percent immigrants, 36 percent visible minorities

People’s Party Leader Maxime Bernier has provided five ridings to the federal commission organizing the election leaders’ debate in a last-minute effort to enter the highly anticipated event.

In a letter sent to the Leaders’ Debate Commission, Bernier picks five ridings based on “candidates who are better known in their riding as public figures, and therefore will start this campaign with an advantage that others don’t have.”

It includes his Quebec riding of Beauce and the Toronto riding of Etobicoke North, where Renata Ford, the wife of late former mayor Rob Ford and sister-in-law of Ontario premier Doug Ford, is running.

The commission had asked Bernier to provide it with three to five ridings where he thought People’s Party candidates had the best chance of winning, after saying on Aug. 12 that Bernier did not meet the criteria needed to qualify for the leaders’ debates slated for early October.

Commissioner David Johnston had preliminarily ruled that the People’s Party, as it stood, did not have a “legitimate chance” of electing more than one candidate in the upcoming election.

That determination is based on recent political context, polling and previous general election results. A final list of invited parties will be published on Sept. 16.

The three other ridings are Nipissing-Timiskaming, where local councillor Mark King is representing the People’s Party; Charleswood-St. James-Assiniboia-Headingley, where former Conservative cabinet minister Steven Fletcher is running; and Pickering-Uxbridge, where former Tory MP Corneliu Chisu carries the party banner.

Bernier states in the letter that his understanding of the criteria is that “it simply states that our candidates must have a legitimate chance to be elected in the general election, and not at this time in the election cycle.”

“The election campaign could have a huge impact on this legitimate chance. More so for the other reasons I explained regarding the recent political context, including the high level of volatility and disaffection of the electorate, and the fact that populist parties similar to the PPC have experienced very rapid growth in other Western countries,” Bernier wrote.

He said as the People’s Party is very young, it had little information about the regional distribution of its support across Canada and its concentration in specific ridings. Nor did the party have the money to conduct polls in 338 ridings.

Bernier also included data obtained from Meltwater, a media monitoring company, on how often his name popped up in online and print sources over the last year compared to other party leaders.

The numbers state his name popped up 23,518 times, more than Green Party Leader Elizabeth May and Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet.

As well, data included in the letter shows his name popped up on social media 1.67 million times, more than NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, May and Blanchet.

Bernier also included in his letter columns in publications such as the Toronto Star, National Post and The Post Millennial arguing in favour of his entry into the debate.

Among candidates, Renata Ford, though a political novice, carries name recognition through her politically involved family members.

Meanwhile, King is a council member in North Bay. He was supposed to run for the Tories, but the party removed him as a candidate last month for allegedly using a corporate credit card to purchase party memberships for himself and close family members. He then joined the People’s Party.

Fletcher was a Conservative MP from 2004 to 2015 and had served as ministers of state for democratic reform and transport. Chisu was a Tory MP from 2011 to 2015.

An Aug. 5 Mainstreet Research poll for iPolitics found Bernier to be running neck-and-neck with the Conservatives in his southeastern Quebec riding.

According to the commission’s letter sent to Bernier, the information he provided will now be relayed to an independent pollster before returning to the party for a final comment.

Source: Bernier picks ridings where PPC has best chance to win in bid to join leaders’ debate