The renomination targets
In the last federal election, Justin Trudeau found himself transformed from leader of a corporal’s guard staring irrelevance in the face to prime minister heading a majority government. All of a sudden, everyone was a Liberal. A Liberal candidacy has become a valued commodity.
Mr. Trudeau has in the past taken the position that, assuming more than one person wants to be the Liberal candidate in a particular riding, there should be a contest for the nomination. This has not gone down very well with sitting MPs, who argue they should receive automatic renomination. It would be unfair, they argue, if some Johnny-come-lately worked the riding and built up an unmatchable base of support while they were stuck in Ottawa attending to the nation’s business.
With the government’s mandate more than half completed and nomination meetings looming on the horizon, something had to give. And give it has.The Liberal party has now issued targets for MPs to meet if they want to be renominated without a contest. The targets are quite specific. The incumbent MP must have participated in at least two “voter contact days of action”; knocked on at least 1,500 doors or made 5,000 phone calls; raised half the money needed for a campaign and made a written plan for raising the rest; signed up at least 30 new monthly donors; and obtained signatures of support from 150 registered Liberals in the riding.
The targets seem arbitrary, but at least they have the virtue ot measurability (for instance, that’s 150 signatures of support, rather than a “significant number”). They also seem quite daunting.Take knocking on 1,500 doors. I don’t know what the industry standard is, but I’m guessing you should be able to make 100 knocks in a day—more if people don’t answer or if you take your task literally and just knock and move on without waiting to see if anyone’s home. But that’s still 15 days’ work. And anyway, how can you verify an MP’s assertion that he did knock on 1,500 doors? It’s not as though you are going to receive 1,500 testimonials about how “that knock on my door changed my life.” Do you have to bring along a knock count auditor?
There’s a lot more constituency work that could have been made the subject of targets. One measure always used to be how well the candidate could hold a baby. I would have expected there to be a requirement for a minimum standard of interaction with babies. Was the baby transmitted from mother to candidate and back again without droppage? Did the candidate make the baby smile, or did it start shrieking the moment it went into his embrace? Of course, it would be unfair to deny a candidate a renomination based on one baby incident. You’d have to have a significant sample (say at least 10) and a significant incident rate (say 25 per cent) to give him a failing grade.
Also noticeable by their absence from the targets: parades. Nothing shows a candidate has the feel of a community like a parade. Did the candidate march in at least three parades in the past year? Did she smile and wave and look pleased to participate, even though she was asked to wear a Smurf costume?. There are also no requirements for a minimum number of visits to seniors’ homes, speeches to service clubs or appearances at cheque presentation ceremonies— all of which should be part of a day’s work to an MP in peak form.
The targets could have ventured into all those areas, but I think it’s better they did not; If I watch a parade and see an MP wearing a Smurf costume, I would not like to entertain the possibility that she was only doing it so as to meet her parade quota. And let’s be fair here. The Liberals are trying to balance respect for the investment a sitting MP has made in his career with the need to attract fresh blood. It seems to me that they have come up with a reasonable compromise—one that rewards the recruitment of people and money. Which is what poliltics is all about.