The Nomination - A Black Box- Overview

The Nomination - A Black Box: Overview

The Nomination - A Black Box: Overview

Once a citizen decides to run for office there is a key hurdle to clear before the election: securing the nomination of one’s political party. It is extremely rare in Canada for candidates running as independents to win a seat, so this means that to secure a place in Parliament a contender must first win the support of their political party. This process is usually (although not always, as we’ll see) coordinated by the local riding association, which is both the local representation of a political party and the organization charged with identifying, selecting and supporting candidates. This is a crucial step in our electoral process, particularly for candidates representing a “safe seat” – a riding that is consistently represented by MPs from the same political party – where the nomination process is akin to the general election.

At first glance, the nomination procedure seems straightforward: the candidate with the most votes wins the nomination. While this may appear simple enough, it often isn’t. It is perhaps best described as a black box – a system whose purpose is known, but whose inner workings cannot be easily seen or understood. A candidate must earn the support of as many members of the political party’s local riding association as possible. Often the easiest way to do this is to get new people to join the party, usually by selling memberships to family, friends and colleagues. If others are also seeking the nomination (which is often, but not always the case), sometimes fierce competitions ensue. Generally the rules provide that, on the day of the vote, the candidate must ensure that friends, family and other supporters not only show up at the convention, but also remain on-site throughout what can be numerous consecutive rounds of voting until the result of the final ballot is declared.

Even within this group of MPs – all of whom were their party’s nominees –nearly all found the process to be perplexing and uncomfortable. Many struggled at times to articulate how it functioned, citing a lack of clarity in timelines, sources of decision making, and the application of the rules. Descriptions varied widely from riding to riding and the process appeared subject to a host of idiosyncrasies.