Prof. Gerald Baier, a Canadian politics expert at the University of B.C., said he considered it strange the number of incumbent New Democrats who decided not to run this fall, especially with the party ahead in the polls.
“Usually, that attracts a lot of people who want to stick around,” he said in an interview. “I was actually surprised by the number of the people who had been in opposition and now that they are in government and they are tired of it that quickly.”
Among the NDP cabinet ministers not running are Judy Darcy, Doug Donaldson, Scott Fraser, Michelle Mungall, Scott Simpson and Claire Trevena.
The portfolios they held included: forests, energy, mental health and addictions, poverty reduction, transportation and Indigenous relations.
Finance Minister Carole James announced last March she would not be running in the 2020 election for health reasons.
The departure of seven Liberal MLA’s, including veterans Rich Coleman, Linda Reid and Ralph Sultan, gives Liberal Leader Andrew Wilkinson the opportunity to put a new face on his party, said Prof. Kimberly Speers, a Canadian politics expert at University of Victoria.
“Certainly, those who have served a political party as an elected member for a long time, sometimes they can also be seen as the old guard,” she said. “If they’ve been affiliated with a previous leader or thinking within a party, sometimes a new leader or new members might think it’s time to get rid of the old guard.”
Baier said the NDP turnover gives party Leader John Horgan the chance at renewal for his group while offering opportunities for his members.
The current NDP vacancies allow Horgan, if the NDP is re-elected, to promote from his backbench or reward newly elected members of the legislature, said Baier, adding members Sheila Malcolmson and Bowinn Ma are possible new ministers.
The candidacy of three former federal New Democrat members of Parliament: Fin Donnelly, Murray Rankin and Nathan Cullen, also provides Horgan with the possibility of having three experienced politicians who could be potential cabinet ministers, Baier said.
But the possible arrival of new NDP faces may also force Horgan to change his political style of leaving ministers on their own to handle their duties as he has done with James and Health Minister Adrian Dix during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It might mean he may be a little more hands-on, because certainly the feeling was with James and Dix he could just leave them in those jobs,” Baier said. “He’s had utter confidence in them because he’s known them since they were puppies.”
With the Liberals, the departures of Donna Barnett, Linda Larson, John Yap, Steve Thomson and Sultan, Reid and Coleman, gives Wilkinson the chance to renew the party, but he may not have much time, said Baier.
“The question is, is Wilkinson making the party in his own image? I don’t know,” Baier said. “I think people still don’t have a good grip on who he is.”
Speers said the COVID-19 pandemic may have played a part in decisions made by the politicians not to run again.
“I think it’s given everybody a time to reflect and perhaps revamp their priorities in terms of what is really important,” she said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published October 4, 2020.
Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press
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Canadians will not be heading to the polls for a snap fall election now that the Liberal government has survived a confidence vote on a Conservative motion to create a special committee to probe the government’s ethics and pandemic spending.
MPs voted 180-146 to defeat the opposition motion.
Earlier today, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said that his party would not give Prime Minister Justin Trudeau an “excuse” to send Canadians to the polls in the middle of a global pandemic — signalling that Trudeau’s government would survive today’s confidence vote.
In a news conference just two hours before a crucial confidence vote, Singh declined to say exactly how his MPs would vote or whether they might abstain.
“We are voting for Canadians. We are voting against an election,” he said.
Singh said the NDP will still work to get answers on the WE Charity scandal through the Commons ethics committee, and that his party will push the government for more pandemic support for Canadians.
“People need help right now. They need confidence in the future. They’re not looking for an election,” he said.
“So New Democrats will not give Prime Minister Trudeau the election he’s looking for. We’re not going to be used as an excuse or a cover. We’re going to continue to do the work that we need to do.”
The Bloc Québécois had already confirmed it will support the Conservative motion, while the Green Party indicated that its three MPs would vote against the motion.
The vote is expected to happen around 3:15 p.m. ET and CBCNews.ca is carrying it live.
The opposition day motion would have created a special committee to probe the Trudeau government’s ethics and spending in response to the pandemic — including the controversial WE Charity contract to administer a student volunteer grant program.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not recuse himself from talks on the agreement, even though several of his family members had been paid for speaking engagements by the organization.
The Liberal government has declared the vote on the Conservative motion a matter of confidence that could trigger an election — a high-stakes move that NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called a “farce.”
In a news conference before the vote, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said if the motion doesn’t pass, he would continue to work with other parties to hold the government to account. He criticized the government and Trudeau for framing the vote as a confidence matter.
“His designation of this vote as a confidence vote shows that he’s willing to put the electoral fortunes of the Liberal Party ahead of the health, safety and well-being of Canadians,” he said.
“Most Canadians would think that’s unacceptable.”
WATCH / Erin O’Toole on confidence vote:
Speaking to reporters after the Liberal caucus meeting, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said the government needs the confidence of the House to do its job.
“I really believe at the end of the day common sense will prevail and we’re going to get through this,” she said.
Freeland also said that legislation for several new pandemic supports for Canadians and businesses needs to be passed and an election could jeopardize that.
WATCH / Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland on possible election:
Heading into their weekly caucus meeting this morning, NDP MPs said they had not yet decided on a path forward and would talk about how to proceed behind closed doors.
“At the end of the day we have a lot of moving parts and we’re still in a pandemic and we’re still committed to fighting for Canadians and we’re going to continue to do that,” said Ontario NDP MP Matthew Green.
“We have to look at what all the variables are going in to this discussion and do what’s best for the country.”
Asked by reporters if the NDP had an obligation to support the Conservative motion, NDP ethics critic Charlie Angus said, “There’s many ways to skin a cat, my friends.”
WATCH / NDP MPs on today’s confidence vote:
Conservative House leader Gérard Deltell said the ethical questions surrounding the government require a special committee with a clear mandate. He said it’s the “duty” of opposition parties to hold the government to account.
“This is what the issue is all about with this motion, and what we see right now is a prime minister who will do whatever it takes to call an election,” he said.
“The only Canadian who would like to have an election today is the prime minister. The only Canadian who would like to freeze the government for a few months is the prime minister by calling an election.”
The Conservatives amended the original motion to state that voting to launch the committee should not be considered grounds to order an election.
It also dropped the “anti-corruption committee” label it initially proposed.
Bloc Québécois House leader Alain Therrien said the WE Charity issue is so complex that it requires a special committee to get answers.
He said the Liberals’ “scorched-earth” approach to politics is the product of a “club of cronyism” and renders compromise impossible.
He also criticized the NDP, suggesting the party’s MPs have obediently followed Liberal demands.
“The NDP have acted in the last little while a little like the Liberals’ lap dog,” he said.
‘Unwelcome drama’: Paul
Green Party Leader Annamie Paul issued a statement urging the parties to cool their jets, calling the brinkmanship “unwelcome drama.”
“The Liberal and Conservative parties’ high-stakes, high-tech game of chicken can have no winner,” she said.
“They should leave such games outside of Parliament, and focus on the urgent needs of people in Canada. I ask members of Parliament to dial down the rhetoric, which is not in keeping with the seriousness of this unprecedented moment, so that we can get back to working on the critical matters at hand.”
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