South Dundas - March 26, 2015 - Cornwall city councillor Bernadette Clement’s
announcement to run for the Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry Liberal
nomination should come as no surprise, to the public, or the other two
candidates vying for the nomination. What does surprise this scribe is
that anyone would continue to contest the nomination against Clement.
Clement was the nominated candidate in the 2011 General Election,
finishing a close second with 8,510 votes. A close second because the
NDP candidate Mario Leclerc finished third at 8,313 votes and was
second for a good part of the election night. In comparison,
Conservative candidate Guy Lauzon won the riding with 29,538 votes.
There were three factors that hindered Clement’s success during the
last kick at the can.
First, Michael Ignatieff was a weak, uninspiring, feckless leader that
his opponents had successfully rendered unelectable. Ignatieff’s
intellectual-style of politics does not play well in the
consumer-based electoral process we now live in. It was hard to fit
his 30 minute lectures about the evils of Stephen Harper’s “agenda”
into the typical 30-second sound bite.
Second, the NDP did surge in many areas across Canada, and that helped
steal some of the soft-left vote in the riding towards the NDP. The
support for the NDP in SDSG came more from those interested in
supporting Jack Layton than the candidate.
Third, Clement had no profile outside of Cornwall. She was an unknown
quantity. Yes she did receive Liberal votes from the counties, the
traditional “always votes Liberal” supporters. However few knew who
she was. Look at the polling numbers from the campaign and it is clear
that she received the bulk of her support from inside Cornwall.
Clement faces similar challenges this time around. She was a part of
Kathleen Wynne’s transition team when Wynne took office. A great
honour for Clement, but Wynne is not so popular in rural-Ontario, just
ask anyone who’s opened a hydro bill. Clement also moderated federal
leadership debates where Justin Trudeau was eventually elected leader,
but does anyone remember who moderates a debate? In order to win the
riding, Clement will need to be seen as a viable alternative to Guy
Lauzon in the riding, in all of the riding.
These challenges are why it would be wise for the SDSG Liberals to nip
this nomination battle in the bud sooner-than-later. The party has a
lot of work to do, to have a chance to unseat Lauzon and the
Conservatives. Local party members should not rely merely on the
persona of Trudeau 2.0 to get them a seat. There will not be an
“red-wave” across Canada based on the feeling-based politics of “Hope
and Hard Work”. For the local Liberals, it will be a lot of hope and a
lot of really hard work to build a candidate profile in the counties
that can be seen as a viable replacement for the Conservatives.
Not to say it cannot be done, however the Conservatives have a strong
base in the counties. Lauzon has been, by many accounts, a good Member
of Parliament, and he is a likable guy. He has a very strong team,
presumably led by his right-hand man and perceived heir-apparent Eric
Duncan. Duncan knows his stuff and has run a number of successful
campaigns. The old adage of “you can paint a post blue in Dundas
County and people would vote for it” need not apply here.
If the local Liberals want to take the riding in October 2015, they
are going to need a strong candidate for the job, and a lot of hard
work. Clement fits the bill as the strongest candidate to date.