Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Longest Campaign

Gloria Galloway, one of the Globe and Mail's anti-Tory strike force troopers, claims that the Conservative Party campaign is already falling apart because of the departure of six nominated candidates in the GTA and Quebec.

Conservative Leader Stephen Harper is hunting for more candidates in Quebec and the Toronto area after an exodus of nominated contenders that some attribute to the length of the campaign and others to the party's failing fortunes.


Leslie Soobrian, a former Toronto candidate who is not running this time, said Mr. Harper has been working hard and deserves some credit for that. Mr. Soobrian said the campaign's length has made the proposition more difficult for some.

But some also feel that the battle is lost. One recent poll put the Tories 16 points behind the Liberals in Ontario.

"It seems to be a long campaign and it seems to be a hopeless one in this city," Mr. Soobrian said. "Some of these candidates know they can't win, and compound that with a long and drawn-out campaign. I guess that's the decision they have made."

Even though Galloway tried her hardest, she couldn't disguise the real reason for the departure of these candidates. All the parties had to rush their nominations in advance of a late-spring election that everyone was expecting until the NDP made its deal with the devil.

When it became clear that the election might not come until next spring, some candidates' plans had to change. How could the party expect everyone to put their lives on hold for an election call that might not have come for another year?

It's also rather rich for Galloway to claim that the current polls in Ontario were driving away candidates from running. The Conservative Party started from even further behind at the beginning of the 2004 election, with much more internal division following a leadership campaign and defections of high-profile members, mostly from the embittered Red Tory faction.

If there had been a time for people to start running from the party, it should have been then, when Paul Martin looked merely bruised, not broken, by the initial Adscam revelations, and when expectations of a 200+ seat Liberal majority danced in everybody's heads.

They didn't then.

And they won't now, know that we know that Gomery's initial report will come out early in November, returning the Liberals' corruption and incompetence to the front pages. The public will not likely accept the Liberals' hairsplitting about the difference between the report and the recommendations to come out later. They've been told to expect an election call within 30 days of Gomery's report. And they'll be expecting it this time. Claiming that the Canadian people don't want an election at that time will ring hollow.

The Conservatives have much more going for them than they did at the beginning of the 2004 campaign; a solid policy platform, a campaign treasury overflowing with donations, and a motivated grassroots.

So a few candidates have walked away because circumstances didn't permit them to wait around for another year to campaign. The local EDAs can rerun the nominations with little trouble. That's hardly a sign of a collapsing party.

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