Sunday, April 15, 2007

BC Backroom deal ousts Liberal

Lawyers Mike Mulligan, left, and Troy Desouza are both casualties of political battles. Liberal Mulligan says he was pushed out of the nomination race by a party eager to recruit women candidates. Conservative Desouza lost the nomination in 2004, but is back in the campaign this year.
John McKay, Times Colonist

Backroom deal ousts Liberal
Would-be Island federal candidate walks away amid party's push to recruit more women

Cindy E. Harnett, Times Colonist April 15, 2007

Liberal Mike Mulligan and Conservative Troy Desouza have both been knocked out of the poltical ring after nomination races gone wrong, but whereas one has returned full of fight, the other is demoralized and is calling it quits.

Desouza lost his nomination in 2004 in a third-round ballot he thought was clinched while Mulligan lost perhaps an even more crushing battle just weeks ago -- when backroom manoeuvring resulted in him being nudged out of the race.

In a 2004 race to represent the federal Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca riding, Desouza lost the nomination in round three by just seven votes. However, he's back to represent the riding in 2007.

But just weeks ago, Mulligan claims he was the collateral damage on a senior-level push to see more women elected.

Bruce Young, the federal Liberals' B.C. campaign co-chairman, admits he talked to Mulligan to gauge whether he could be persuaded to step aside -- to allow nominee Anne Park Shannon to secure candidacy for the Victoria riding.

"Our leader [Stephane Dion] would like to have women in ridings that are winnable, so I was canvassing his flexibility," Young explained.

But the chat's been overblown, Young said, and he was "surprised" Mulligan subsequently "voluntarily withdrew."

But Mulligan alleged in an e-mail to supporters:

"He advised me that [the female candidate's nomination] could be accomplished in any number of ways, including her direct appointment, denying approval for myself or anyone else to run against her, or by manipulating the process in a variety of other ways."

Gravely "disappointed," Mulligan said in an interview, "it shows a lot of disrespect for all the local people who worked tirelessly [on my campaign]."

Shannon said she knew nothing of any attempt to unseat Mulligan and wouldn't have endorsed it.

Allan Warnke, a Malaspina University-College political science professor, said senior Liberals haven't learned that their "spin and manipulation and control" often backfires.

"The Liberals haven't learned the basic lesson of what nomination stands for, that it's free and open and that anyone who wants to seek office can," Warnke said.

Over in Saanich-Gulf Islands, longtime Liberal Kit Spence, working in Pakistan on contract, recently pulled out of that nomination race after environmentalist Briony Penn -- asked to run by influential senior Liberals -- declared her candidacy.

Riding association president David Kelly said there was no pressure on Spence to step down but the optics are poor, say pundits.

Norman Ruff, a retired UVic political science professor, said Spence "bowed out to the inevitable." Penn, a woman, is also a high-profile Green party environmentalist, the type with whom Dion wants to build bridges.

"Briony Penn was the first public acknowledgment of that and today it was confirmed with the unprecedented [endorsement by the Liberals of Green Party leader Elizabeth May in Nova Scotia]," Ruff said.

Warnke said the Conservatives and NDP are no better in terms of nomination race interference, but comparatively speaking "the Liberals have had more troubles with this."

National political parties determine nomination rules and often give discretionary powers to their provincial counterparts.

The recruitment of candidates is a principal function of political parties, Ruff said: "Parties exist to win elections and to do that they have to recruit candidates."

The Conservatives seem to exercise their own brand of internal discipline whereas "perhaps the Liberals are too clever by half in their attempts [to control the outcome of nomination races]. It's a contrast in style," Ruff said.
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Such interference isn't new, said Ruff, and it would be impossible for chief electoral officers to try to regulate the unwieldy process were it within their mandate, he said.

Elections Canada sets forth rules on financing around nomination races while more general rules kick in after a candidate is selected.

In the Conservative party's former incarnation as the Canadian Alliance in 2000, Harvard-educated economist Robin Richardson challenged sitting MP Keith Martin in a nomination race to represent Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca.

It wasn't long before Richardson, a former Christian preacher, launched anti-abortion attacks on Martin, accusing him of being "pro-death" -- at one point pulling out a coat hanger to illustrate a point.

The Conservatives today are more savvy in controlling special-interest or embarrassing candidates. They've instituted two refundable deposits: A good conduct bond, refunded at the end of the nomination race if all rules are followed, and a $1,000 non-frivolous bond, refunded if the candidate garners at least 10 per cent of the vote on the first ballot.

"It's an attempt to make sure only serious candidates, who are organized and can win, run," said Victoria lawyer Bruce Hallsor, a senior Conservative organizer.

Once elected, all federal candidates of all political parties must put up a refundable $1,000 and acquire 100 signatures from registered electors.

Mike Witherly, the Liberals' B.C. campaign director, said everyone benefits from the organizing, debating, fundraising and exposure gained in nomination races.

However, throwing them open to anyone this year may defeat the more laudable goal of encouraging more women to run, he said. "It would be unhelpful if it resulted in 308 white males representing the Liberal party."

This isn't the first time, of course, Liberals pulled strings to attract more women to politics.

In 2004, former B.C. ombudsman Dulcie McCallum, after a grassroots revolt, declined an invitation from then Liberal prime minister Paul Martin to be the appointed Liberal candidate in Saanich-Gulf Islands.

The Liberals quickly found another strong woman, TV personality Pia Shandel, to run. However, just a week into her nomination bid, Shandel was yanked by the Liberal national committee for controversial remarks she made.

Still, that didn't stop the Liberal machine. Hand-picked Victoria lawyer David Mulroney leapt into the nomination race just three days before the vote -- discretionary powers were used to waive the standard seven-day entry deadline -- and he ousted businessman Bob Russell.

Ruff said the antics in southern Vancouver Island are a reflection of contrary B.C. politics and the view many of the high-profile ridings seem up for grabs.

"To some extent if locally we've seen those strong-arm tactics, it's because the stakes are high, and the seats are seen as winnable seats," Ruff said.
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To date, the federal Liberals have elected 20 candidates in B.C. with 50 per cent, thus far, women. The Conservatives have about 26 of 36 candidates nominated and the NDP has about 22 of 36 candidates ready to run. The Greens are behind that.

On Vancouver Island, the Liberals have selected candidates in three of six ridings, the Conservatives have all six ridings filled, the NDP has selected four candidates and the Green party has one candidate, Andrew Lewis, thus far on the Island.


Victoria: Anne Park Shannon

Saanich-Gulf Islands: Briony Penn

Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca: Keith Martin (incumbent)


Victoria : Jack McClintock

Saanich-Gulf Islands: Gary Lunn (incumbent)

Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca: Troy DeSouza

Nanaimo-Alberni: James Lunney (incumbent)

Nanaimo-Cowichan: Reed Elley

Vancouver Island North: John Duncan


Victoria: Denise Savoie

Saanich-Gulf Islands: (nomination date April 21)

Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca: Jennifer Burgis

Nanaimo-Cowichan: Jean Crowder (incumbent)

Vancouver Island North: Catherine J. Bell (incumbent)


Saanich-Gulf Islands: Andrew Lewis

-- Times Colonist staff