Elizabeth May’s By-Election promise: Will fortune favour the bold?

Elizabeth By-Election Bound?

Elizabeth By-Election Bound?

According to an interview given to the Canadian Press by Elizabeth May, and published in the Westcoaster.ca, Elizabeth May promised to run at the earliest By-election opportunity, anywhere in the country. I think that’s rather a bold promise, given that actuarial mortality tables, and the vagaries of politics will govern precisely where the next by-election will be called. A similar promise was made by Elizabeth May when she was elected Leader two years ago, and that didn’t turn out as well as it might have. Now I must confess that I counseled against Elizabeth May’s London North-Centre by-election run in 2007. I suggested that it was an unlikely spot to elect Elizabeth, and that failing in a By-Election would cripple her credibility. Elizabeth was adamant about running, because she had made a public commitment to run at the earliest opportunity. I was pleasantly surprised by the flood of volunteers and cash that ensued. If it weren’t for the badly mis-managed campaign, Elizabeth May would have had a seat in Parliament. Even more pleasantly surprising was the media’s willingness to accept the spin that a strong second place was a victory of sorts. Still, I would have thought that Elizabeth had learned her lesson about promising to run a race in a location yet to be determined.

There are no By-Elections on the immediate horizon, but the first intimations of a possibility now exist. CBC reported on January 13’th that Independent MP Bill Casey won’t be seeking re-election. That isn’t to say that Casey will resign, but he has indicated pretty certainly that he is seeking to pursue another career. I may be wrong, but it sounds like the very popular MP will be leaving if the right offer comes his way.

It doesn’t take a ‘rocket surgeon’ to figure out that Elizabeth really, really wants to win a seat next to her hometown. She wanted to work from home so badly, she was willing to delude herself that the double dealing Peter Mackay was vulnerable in Central Nova. She genuinely believed that she had a chance there in the 2008 general election. Since Bill Casey currently represents Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, which is the riding adjacent to Central Nova, Elizabeth will really, really want to believe in winning there. Will her belief be correct?

To answer, let us have an objective look at Casey’s riding. Since it was created it has been very damn solidly Progressive Conservative, with the exception being the annihilation of the

Bill Casey Independent

Bill Casey Independent

Conservatives when Mulroney fled politics. Bill Casey was able to take it independent after being kicked out of the Conservative caucus in 2007 over the budget vote. He is very popular, and it can be fairly argued that he bore the Progressive Conservative banner more truly than does today’s Conservative Party. I think it’s fair to say that, like much of Nova Scotia, this riding is as Progressive Conservative as it gets. Certainly far more consistently so than Alberta, for example. Other than the above noted exception, the PC’s always out polled the next two party’s combined. In 8 out of the last 13 elections, they won an outright majority. The rest of the time they merely beat the crap out of their Liberal foes. There is more to be said against Elizabeth’s Chances, but the best argument against is that a close split in the vote simply doesn’t exist.

The arguments in favour of Elizabeth May running in Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley are fourfold. Firstly, this is Elizabeth’s stomping grounds. She has a pretty good network of friends and supporters in the area, and is the quintessential neighbourhood activist. That will translate into volunteers. Secondly, the long standing incumbent, currently independent Bill Casey has demonstrated that loyalty to the new and improved Conservative Party brand is pretty thin. With a popular incumbent retiring, long standing loyalties will be disturbed, and this represents an opportunity to capture progressives amongst the Progressive Conservative camp. Thirdly, it’s a By-Election, and so nobody much gives a damn. There will be an opportunity to appeal to Nova Scotian’s fair mindedness, and invite them to allow 1,000,000 Canadian Green Party voters to have at least one representative in Parliament. Since the National Government will not be at stake, people might just toss Elizabeth May their vote. Fourthly, there is unquestionably a ‘leaders premium’ that Elizabeth would earn with the electorate.

If we compare Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley to Central Nova, I guess that the chances for a seat in a by-election are pretty good. It will depend upon the other contenders, and will require a real-to-goodness campaign manager though. My arguments in favour were compelling enough that I changed the title of this post from ‘look before you leap’ to ‘will fortune favour the bold?’ It’ll certainly be much better than keeping her promise to run in Central Nova a second time, and holding the seat next door will be an excellent excuse to break her vow to run against Mackay in un-winnable Central Nova in the next general election. Elizabeth Mat must be cautious now. If she runs again, and fails, she risks more than just being held up for ridicule by the press. Her own Party wants and needs better organizing skills at the centre.

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4 Responses

  1. The woman is extremely talented. We need her in the House.

  2. […] I mentioned in a previous post, Bill Casey, the Independent, and formerly Progressive Conservative incumbent in the next door […]

  3. My reading of the news stories reporting Mr. Casey’s intentions were that he intends to serve out his full term, but was merely signally his intention not to run again, in order to give other candidates sufficient time to get organized.

    Unless circumstances were to change suddenly (for example, some wags down east have suggested him as a replacement for Rodney MacDonald), it seems unlikely that his seat will open up before the next general elections.

    • Hi ‘guide’,
      Yes, that is his stated intention. The question is, will he change his mind and maybe get a great offer? As I’m sure you’ll agree, when you’re in the jobs market, sometimes you have to jump on an offer, and that just might happen here. There’s also the slim hope that Elizabeth will change tack on Central Nova, and run here (there) in the next general election.

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