Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Georges Laraque as the Green Candidate in the Bourassa Federal By-Election is very interesting

The Bourassa by-election will have one major change from past elections that will make it very interesting -  the Greens are running Georges Laraque, a former player for the Montreal Canadians.   The impact of the by-election could be very interesting.

Since the last federal election there have been five by-elections, the Greens have run in four of them but only really campaigned like a major party twice - Victoria and Calgary Centre.   In those two by-elections the Greens spent more money than anyone else in the race and managed to come a close second in Victoria and a competitive third in Calgary Centre.

Not everything has gone well for the Greens in by-elections since 2011.  In Toronto-Danforth the party spent close to $58,000 but did not manage to do well at all.

Here are the factors why the Greens could come out of nowhere and do well in Bourassa:
  • The Greens will be actively campaigning and spending on a scale of a major party, they have not done that in Bourassa in the past.   Past candidates have only been paper candidates.  If they spend anywhere over $60,000, that would be the first time since 2000 that anyone will have spent anything close to what the Liberals have spent in past elections.
  • The party is sending some of the more experienced campaigners they have to run things.  
  • Running a former Hab player who is a franco-phone in Montreal has got to be worth some votes.  Many people in politics do not pay much attention to hockey players, but anyone that can play 695 games in the NHL is a serious household name in the towns where he played. 
  • Bourassa is the riding in Canada with the highest population of Haitian decent at 13.2% of the people identifying as such.  Though if Larry Rousseau is the NDP nominee that would be two candidates of Hatian descent in the race.
  • The riding is about 50% Quebecois, 5% Anglo-phone and 45% Allo-phone
  • Laraque has a history of activism and not it is not just the more recent animal rights and veganism, he has always been community minded.   In 2007/08 in Pittsburgh he won the Community Service Award from the Penguins even though he was there for only a bit more than a season.
  • He is not a dumb jock.  Laraque has managed to write a book, his autobiography "Georges Laraque: The story of the NHL's unlikliest tough guy".   You can listen to him talk about the book he backed in Canada Read 2011
  • Laraque has an entrepreneurial streak in him - having two raw vegan restaurants is not easy and they are not his only business ventures since leaving the NHL
  • At 36 Laraque is old enough to be taken seriously but young enough to still connect with youth voters
  • If the by-election is not called till the fall, this gives the Greens the time to organize a strong team on the ground

There are factors that will work against him and the Greens
  • The Greens have no history of running any serious campaigns in Quebec.  It is still very much a fringe party federally and provincially in Quebec.
  • Race seems to matter more in Quebec politics than elsewhere in Canada
  • Hatians are not seen as pure laine francophones
  • People still see hockey players as dumb jocks especially enforcers
  • He may be too rich from playing a game.  He earned about $12,000,000 from hockey from 1996 to 2010, though with taxes, agent fees etc his take home over those 14 years is likely about $6,000,000 or not quite $500,000 a year.  I am not sure how this plays in Quebec, though Justin Trudeau does not seem to suffer from being one of the 1% in Canada
  • The ad he chose to do for alcoholic energy drink Octane 7.0 in 2009 is "interesting"
The negatives are not going to stop the Greens from doing much better in this by-election than they have ever done before but they will be reason the Greens have no realistic chance of winning the seat.   If the Greens managed to come second in the by-election, this would change media coverage of the party and assumptions of how well it can do in the 2015 election.  However you look at it, Georges Laraque running for the Greens in the by-election will be an unpredictable wildcard for the results.

Much will depend on who the other parties run, though I suspect Laraque will be the best known of all the candidates.   What will also matter is how much money the other parties spend and how many volunteers they can find.  I am not sure the Conservatives or Bloc will even try to put much effort in,   The NDP, I have no idea who might run for them or how much effort they can muster for the race.   In 2011 the NDP put in very little effort and came a competitive second to the Liberals.
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