are three qualifications needed to succeed as a Member of
Parliament: 1) winning a nomination, 2) getting elected
and 3) doing the job. The hardest part about getting elected
is winning a nomination for a party that stands a chance
in any given riding. The 2006 election shows that even that
rule may not always be valid as Liberals will probably go
down to defeat in what were previously considered "safe"
Liberal seats; nevertheless, running for the party that
finished second in a constituency in the last election or,
better yet, becoming a party's candidate in a riding where
the incumbent is retiring after winning for years, is over
half of what it takes to start a successful political career.
That is why nomination fights are so nasty in "winnable
seats" and dull or non-existent in others. That is
also why some parties make extra effort to assist women
and minorities preparing for nominations in winnable constituencies.
elected is a simple matter of winning the most votes under
our first-past-the-post system. That would change if proportional
representation were adopted. Successful election campaigns
for the major parties are very complicated; just ask the
Liberals, who seem to have been abandoned by strategists
with the know-how. Campaigns consist of the central campaign
focused around the leader, and the constituency campaigns.
The central campaign includes the leader's tour (daily announcements
and the campaign bus and plane), the "air war"
(television and radio advertising), polling, research and
central support for local efforts (for example, help with
questionnaires). The local campaigns usually focus on voter
identification for the purpose of getting supporters out
on election-day (e-day). Successful voter identification
and e-day campaigns require hundreds of volunteers. Endless
door-knocking and phoning is all about being able to pull
the vote when it counts. Some local campaigns may restrict
their efforts to attending all candidate meetings, putting
up signs, distributing leaflets, placing local advertisements,
fund-raising and responding to inquires from potential voters
- all essential elements for any campaign, but not a replacement
for the essential e-day "ground war" that gets
identified support to the polls.
in nomination contests and election campaigns is not easy
but it can be very exciting. The hard part comes for the
poor devil who wins; suddenly it becomes necessary to consider
what the job of MP actually involves. For someone from BC
it means weeks away from home, like the life of a traveling
sales agent or a long distance trucker. When home it means
attending as many local functions and meetings as possible
and acting as an advocate for local constituents, both in
terms of delivering community grants and in terms of representing
aggrieved individuals. That can be all there is for many
MPs; they may never see a cabinet room or participate in
forming public policy. The skills it takes to do that are
not learned in winning elections. Advocacy groups and the
media can have more influence on public policy than any
MP, which is why effective MPs need to learn how to work
with the media and community groups. It is why more New
Democrat MPs can be more effective than another member of
the government whether it is minority or not.