Davies: Election campaign launches ahead of call

By Jake Davies - West Carleton Online

WEST CARLETON – We don’t know when the election will be, but we are already knee-deep in election season in Kanata-Carleton.

And just like 2019, the Kanata-Carleton riding is already above-the-fold news in national papers. Each passing day I put off this column, there seems to be another breaking story focused on the riding.

Election coverage for West Carleton Online started late in 2020 with candidates for the Conservative party declaring their nomination aspirations near the end of the year. Our first story on the process was on long-time foreign affairs journalist and war correspondent Matthew Fisher declaring his intentions published Oct. 21, 2020.

Column header for publisher Jake Davies' column indubitably.

He was certainly the candidate the Conservatives wanted – high profile, politically experienced, a good public speaker with a reputation based on his knowledge of military and foreign affairs and a long career in national media. The perfect candidate to topple two-term Kanata-Carleton Liberal MP Karen McCrimmon. McCrimmon was a second-tier powerhouse in the Liberal government who didn’t earn a cabinet position during her time, but was a loyal soldier, a military veteran and the Liberal incumbent. McCrimmon is well-loved by her constituents and lives in a part of the riding (West Carleton) that had been federally blue most of this century dating back to Scott Reid in 2000 in the former Carleton-Lanark riding, before McCrimmon’s slight surprise win in 2015.

But Fisher passed away last April and suddenly the Conservatives were faced with choosing between three raw political rookies to go up against the Liberal powerhouse and Carp’s Jen McAndrew ended up winning that honour.

The other Kanata-Carleton parties also unveiled their candidates for the riding, all trying to answer the question – how do we beat McCrimmon?

Then, on a Sunday (Aug. 8) evening in the peace of summer, McCrimmon quietly dropped a bombshell – she would not be running in the next federal election.

“It was probably the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make, and I’ve made a lot of tough decisions,” McCrimmon told me the day after her announcement.

It had been rumoured, but this was the first time McCrimmon made an official statement.

Interestingly, she also made sure to tell me she was not pushed, this was her own decision. I didn’t give that comment much thought at the time, but there it is in my notes. I hadn’t even asked the question.

But at almost the exact same time McCrimmon was gracious enough to speak with West Carleton Online about her decision, Kanata-North Coun. Jenna Sudds was releasing a video statement on Twitter and Facebook of her own, moments after the Liberal Party declared Sudds was acclaimed as the Liberal’s Kanata-Carleton candidate.

In roughly the space of a week, Kanata-Carleton had five federal candidates from five different parties, but still no election call.

The process in which the candidates got their leadership position has been somewhat disappointing. I’m not sure if that reflects more on the apathy of the voting public or the chicanery modern federal politics now operates under.

But it is a tragic sign of Canadian politics at the local level. Of all five candidates, only one was chosen through a nomination process and elected by card carrying members of the party who registered to vote for the current nomination process. The other four were acclaimed, and even that’s a bit sketchy in the case of the Liberals.

The Green Party repeatedly put out public calls for candidates but eventually Dr. Jennifer Purdy was acclaimed. The New Democratic Party had been darn silent, but yesterday a Kanata-based reporter said Melissa Coenraad, will represent the party again. There is no mention of it on Coenraad’s Twitter feed. The People’s Party of Canada will seemingly take anyone who will volunteer to run a campaign on their banner with zero resources and Scott Miller has taken up the mantle again in Kanata-Carleton. Those three candidates now each have twice the experience in federal campaigning as the Conservative and Liberal candidates – but as always, money counts and the red and blue each spent roughly $85,000 more on campaigning in 2019 than the richest of the other three parties.

While it’s democratically depressing there was no nomination process needed for those parties, it certainly wasn’t surprising. It’s a lot of work. As McCrimmon told us, 100-hour weeks. And running for a party that has zero foothold in Kanata-Carleton is hard, frustrating work.

But what about the Liberals?

There’s no doubt Jenna Sudds is a credible candidate winning the Kanata-North municipal ward in the 2018 municipal election and leading the community thought its most recent tech boom as the Kanata-North Business Improvement Association executive director before that. If Sudds wins an election, she won’t be finishing her first and only term as an elected politician. I don’t remember her municipal campaign, but I don’t think it included the caveat she would leave if an opportunity to join federal politics arose. But Sudds is well liked in the Kanata area, and her lack of knowledge in the Carleton part of the riding won’t hurt her much in a riding firmly controlled by Kanata’s much larger voting population.

But was she acclaimed as the Liberal Party stated?

It doesn’t feel like it. Sudds was in place, with marketing material ready to go including an endorsement from McCrimmon, at the same time McCrimmon was explaining why she wouldn’t be running again. 

It doesn’t sound like it either. At least one other Liberal wanted a shot at the leadership and she wasn’t shy about letting the public know either.

Order of Ottawa recipient, Kanata-Carleton Small Business Network executive director and federal senior policy advisor Dr. Rouba Fattal told The Hill Times on Aug. 4 she wanted a transparent process to choose the next candidate. She also wanted to be one of those candidates.

“If the party imposed a candidate without due process, we might lose this riding,” Fattal said.

Well, that’s exactly what the Liberals did, and if I was a card-carrying member in good standing with the riding association, I too would be a little miffed I had no say in who would represent my party in my riding in the next federal election. And the party did it in true Liberal style, having a few upper-level managers make the decision; having some backroom negotiations with the candidates; and telling the rest of the party, at the same time as they told the country, don’t worry about it, they know best.

It’s the first shots fired for an election that still doesn’t have a date, but looks like will be just around the corner.

Our June and July Top Five Stories

In June we had 16,445 page views. Here are our Top Five stories from June based on pageviews.

  1. Carp Fair drive-in bingo back this July (June 17, 224 pageviews): A return to some of the Carp Fair’s biggest in-person events.
  2. Reversal: OPH to host second WC vaccination clinic (June 8, 160 pageviews): Bringing the vaccine here is important to West Carleton residents.
  3. Carp waste facility catches fire again (June 1, 145 pageviews): Second time in three years.
  4. City receives Carp road closure proposal (June 2, 132 pageviews): Any news on the Langstaff development is big news.
  5. Carp road closed in both directions this morning (June 7, 122 pageviews): Two people injured.

Numbers popped back up in July after a lower than average June, as West Carleton Online enjoyed 21,673 pageviews in the hot, rainy month. Here are our Top Five stories from June based on pageviews.

  1. Carp Fair drive-in bingo back this July (June 17, 2,846 pageviews): That’s right, June’s most popular story was also July’s most popular story, growing in popularity by 14 times. People love bingo.
  2. Community raises $40,000 for expectant Marathon mom following tragedy (July 7, 308 pageviews): Community comes together again.
  3. Wind turbines in West Carleton? (July 3, 248 pageviews): Councillor says they’re not coming. Some of the community is skeptical.
  4. The Carp Fair Returns (July 29, 185 pageviews): We have a feeling we’ll see this story in the August Top Five.
  5. Huntley Hollow project purchases curling club land to add units (July 8, 184 pageviews): One again Carp’s largest proposed development makes the news.
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