I’ve lived through a couple of Federal elections in Guelph, but never in my life have I encountered the paradox of this by-election. On the one hand there’s a great deal of excitement, and on the other there’s the standard by-election response of apathy. After all, how much can one seat change the government?
Well, it seems from the chatter that what this by-election will reap, not just here in Guelph but in the two ridings in Quebec also going to the polls, is an indication as to whether Canadians want to roll the dice on a general election this fall. Either that or we’re going to do this in staggered bits as in the recently announced September 22 by-election in Don Valley West.
Now, the wonderful thing about the by-election has been the cavalcade of special guests that have passed through out humble abode upon the Speed River both before and after the writ was dropped. Under ordinary circumstances of a general election, we in the Royal City must usually count ourselves fortunate if a party leader does a drive-by while swinging through our region. In 2006, then Prime Minister Paul Martin talked to University of Guelph poli-sci students before pulling up to Molly Blooms for a pint with then MP Brenda Chamberlain and the unwashed masses.
In this by-election though all the major party leaders have popped in at one time or another, some of them put heavy emphasis on that “another” category. Take our old friend Jack Layton, par example. He returned to Guelph this past weekend for a canvassing blitz/barbecue, preceded by a press conference in John Galt Park. Unless I’m mistaken, Layton’s been here on average about once a week since the start of the by-election on July 25.
Not to be outdone, Green Party leader Elizabeth May has come in second with most number of leader visits, and from what I’ve been told by a well-placed source in the Green’s national office, she’ll be here two or three more times in the weeks to come. This will include a weekend long stopover the weekend before the election, the originally scheduled date of the party’s national policy review which was put on hold when the by-elections were called.
This brings us to the leaders of the top two parties and apparently for Stephen Harper visiting Guelph is a lot like seeing The Godfather Part III – once is enough. Harper made a campaign-style swing through southern Ontario last week, with a stop in Kitchener where he rallied with Guelph Conservative candidate Gloria Kovach. There’s historical precedent that states that a sitting Prime Minister does not stump in a riding holding a by-election, so I guess it could be said that the PM exercised a loophole in that tradition and campaigned in the next town over instead.
Stéphane Dion, meanwhile, seems to be more focused on a national campaign as he tests the tenor and desire of Canadians’ willingness to go to the polls a year early, although he did return to Guelph last Friday for some old fashioned canvassing. His Guelph candidate, Frank Valeriote, seems to be doing fine though running a seemingly bizarre kind-of grassroots campaign, for a member of the Official Opposition Party, I mean. since the writ was dropped, the Royal City’s only been visited by Scott Brison at Valeriote’s campaign office and a number of high-profile members at the Ontario Young Liberals’ Summer Fling at the U of G a few weeks ago.
And as of last Monday, the final slate of candidates is officially listed as follows: Libertarian Party of Canada - Philip Bender; New Democratic Party - Tom King;Marijuana Party - Kornelis Klevering; Conservative Party of Canada - Gloria Kovach;Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada - Karen Levenson; Green Party of Canada - Mike Nagy; Independent - John Turmel and Liberal Party of Canada - Frank Valeriote.
For more by-election coverage, visit my blog at http://guelphbyelectionbeat.blogspot.com/