The Canadian Imagination

What it means to be Canadian; examining and reworking Canada as a nation.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Slip, slide, sludge

Derek Zeisman just can't seem to catch a break.

One of only five non-incumbent candidates fighting over the riding of British Columbia Southern Interior and running to replace a Conservative MP (Jim Gouk, who "chose" not to run in this election): in a time of rising Conservative poll numbers this one should have been a given. Gouk would have had no chance of winning -- but unlike too many other western Conservative candidates, Zeisman, a former foreign-service officer, comes across as intense, passionate, intelligent, and above all having a plan : ironically enough, everything Stephen Harper, until the beginning of this campaign, was not.

(A less known side of Zeisman was his essay published as part of Magna's "As Prime Minister, I Would ..." contest, where, among other more mainstream conservative tenets, he also wrote that he would establish monetary union with the United States and abolish the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. I think he might have had a bit of a fight over that last -- even if he could have managed enough provincial and federal support to force through a constitutional change without dealing first with the issue of Qu├ębec still not having signed. More than one prime minister since P.E.T. have bogged in this constitutional morass: and though it is something that is necessary to resolve in the semi-near future, the wise ones stay well clear of the issue.)

The camera likes him, he comes across well in front of audiences, never mind that some of Zeisman's indirect campaigning comes across as ... amateurish ... yet potentially oddly effective for all that. (Hard to get some of those rhymes out of one's head!) Even after the serious automobile accident on the campaign trail which landed him in hospital on December 22 with serious injuries (being mountainous and getting part of its weather from coastal patterns, BC-SI is one of the worst ridings in Canada for travel in the winter) and placed future campaigning in doubt, I had still expected him to win this seat more easily than his predecessor.

How a single day can change the course of an entire campaign.

Today, Zeisman is no longer a representative of the Conservative party: or rather, if he were to be elected, he would not be a member of the Conservative caucus. Even if the Conservatives could have fielded a new viable candidate at this late date, election nominations ended last week and the ballots showing Conservative affiliation might already be at the printers. Unlike the Liberals -- or perhaps learning from their example -- it seems the Conservatives are anxious to disassociate themselves quickly from any hint of criminal charges. Interesting, though, that the clear policies of the Magna essay -- monetary union and increased free trade -- helped establish Zeisman as a candidate; while the practical application of one variant of free trade, as it applies to a 1989 Mercedes Benz and 112 "containers of alcohol", is verbotten.

If a newly-independent Zeisman chooses not to withdraw his candidacy, Scott Leyland of the Green party just might come up through the middle (since some potentially NDP votes are almost certain to be pulled into the Liberal camp through strategic voting), robbing second-time NDP candidate Alex Atamanenko to win the Green party's first-ever seat in Canada. This is Leyland's second campaign in this riding for the Greens, and he had already made an exceptionally strong showing last time for an "other-party" candidate.

On the other hand, if Zeisman does withdraw, Atamanenko will have been handed virtually the only "free ride" win outside Conservative Alberta.

Alex Atamanenko, New Democratic Party. 2nd-time candidate.
Scott Leyland, Green Party of Canada. 2nd-time candidate.
Bill Profili, Liberal Party of Canada. 1st-time candidate.
Brian Sproule, Marxist-Leninist Party of Canada. 2nd-time candidate. Sorry, no website, just a picture.
Derek Zeisman, Conservative Party of Canada. 1st-time candidate. (I don't expect this weblink to remain very long.)

Oh, but if I tried to pick a cabinet roster sheerly for entertainment value, I could scarcely do better than this.

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