The Substitute.

It happens. You have all your nominations completed and one of your candidates drops out. That happens for any of hundreds of reasons. It could be anything from illness, bankruptcy or just cold feet. Your party needs a substitute candidate and there is no time left to be democratic about it.

I don’t think I have ever seen it as bad as today’s new democratic party situation. With less than two weeks until the writ of election has to come down, the NDP knew they needed close to 100 more candidates across Canada and then they lose as many as a dozen of their previous candidates in New Brunswick (in 2015) to the Green party.

In most cases when the party becomes desperate, the NDP looks to the riding executive and usually it is the riding president who allows his or her name to stand for the honour of the party. They print a few signs, attend a few all-candidate meetings and (usually) lose gracefully.

But not always. There were some surprise wins in Quebec for the NDP in the 2011 federal election. The credit for that goes to the then leader Jack Layton, who died shortly afterwards.

The classic turnaround in the substitute situation was in the 1974 federal election when the East York liberal candidate had to bow out. The party executive in Toronto looked around and realized they had recently hired a promising young man from East York as the Ontario party’s executive director. David Collenette was told to go home and be the party’s candidate.

David not only did what he was told but he won the election. He also won more elections than he lost over the next 30 years and served in the cabinets of three liberal prime ministers. He served the party well.

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Copyright 2019 © Peter Lowry

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