The people of Nanaimo have been casting ballots a lot lately.
In the municipal election last October, former Nanaimo MLA Leonard Krog won the mayorship and with Krog’s seat at the legislature vacant, a provincial byelection was held in late January. Sheila Malcolmson, who stepped down as Nanaimo-Ladysmith member of Parliament, was among those seeking the legislature seat and won.
As part of that chain reaction, a byelection for Malcolmson’s federal spot was called by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for May 6. Michelle Corfield earned the nomination for the Liberal Party, John Hirst for the Conservative Party, Bob Chamberlin for the NDP, Paul Manly for the Green Party, Jennifer Clarke for the People’s Party of Canada and Brian Marlatt for the Progressive Canadian Party.
Was a May federal byelection truly necessary though? Yes a federal byelection had to be called, Elections Canada said, but some political pundits, and even some candidates, speculated that Trudeau and the Liberals would just leave the seat vacant and meld byelection and federal election voting.
In fact, when the byelection was announced in March, the NDP didn’t have a candidate and had to expedite their nomination process.
Like any other federal electoral area, there are relevant issues that candidates are campaigning on.
Corfield said “good-paying jobs,” “food security,” and marine infrastructure are important issues for her.
Hirst said he would seek federal funding for the riding and a foot passenger ferry and eco-tourism at Mount Benson are items on his list.
Chamberlin pointed to housing as an issue he thought was important.
Manly said issues related to climate change are ones that he is concerned about.
Clarke said freedom of speech is important, expressed concern about the budget deficit and favoured a “re-formulation of federal equalization payments.”
Marlatt said he felt seniors’ health care issues are being neglected and wants “increased funding and goal-oriented health care delivery” in order to cut down on wait times.
These are complex issues that can’t be addressed overnight.
I’m all for the electoral process and democracy, but there really isn’t much time between May 6 and Oct. 21, the anticipated federal general voting date. Will the successful candidate be able to fulfill their promises in the short time between the byelection’s conclusion and the drop of the 2019 election writ? Not likely.
Also, money will be spent in order to elect an MP for a term less than six months. The 2015 federal election was said to cost about $443 million, and while the price tag for the May 6 byelection won’t be that high, is it worth it to spend any amount of money for such a short term? It isn’t like the balance of power in Ottawa will be swayed by the results, as the Liberals have a comfortable majority in the House of Commons.
Maybe the prime minister is looking for something to distract from the SNC-Lavalin situation. Maybe he’s looking to gauge the mood of the electorate prior to the federal election. Regardless, asking people to vote for an MP with a general election on the horizon is questionable.
Nanaimo area voters will head to the polls, yet again, in and around May 6 for a new MP, much like they did for municipal and regional district representatives and school trustees in October and much like they did for an MLA in January.
The fun will begin again with new nomination meetings and another election come the fall.