Setting his sights on the fall election
By Bill Phillips
Sheldon Clare is probably giving Todd Doherty fits.
Clare, the outspoken president of the National Firearms Association, is considering running as an independent in Cariboo-Prince George. Clare posted on his Facebook page in early May that several people approached him about running as an independent and just last week posted that he is still considering running and it looks like plenty of people are pledging financial support.
There is no doubt Clare would pull right-of-centre voters and that will hurt Conservative Doherty.
It’s interesting to think that Clare, who one would think would be a staunch Conservative, would consider running as an independent. You can probably thank Bill C-51, the anti-terrorist bill, for that one.
Clare and the National Firearms Association oppose Bill C-51. The National Firearms Association was one of several organizations signatory to a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper calling for the government to scrap the legislation (before it was passed in the House of Commons).
Clare, in an interview with CBC, cited a several problems with the bill, saying that while the current Conservative government may not wish to use the draconian provisions in the bill, a future government may. In addition, he said the association has privacy concerns in the bill and suggests it may end up recreating a gun registry in Canada, something the association vehemently opposes and fought hard to get rid of.
That’s not to suggest that Clare would consider running as an independent simply because he opposes Bill C-51, far from it. However the association’s opposition to the bill show’s how at least some core Conservative support has been eroded because of Bill C-51. Plenty of Canadians, on the left and on the right, have lined up to oppose Bill C-51 and, even though it has been passed, could still come into play during the election.
The other interesting thing about Clare possibly entering the race in Cariboo-Prince George, is that he would give disaffected Conservatives a place to park their vote.
There may be an ABC movement (anybody but Conservative) here and around the country, but unless there are some viable options for those on the right side of the spectrum, it won’t go anywhere. While a lot of New Democrats can fathom voting Liberal and vice versa, not a lot of Conservatives can imagine voting NDP or Liberal.
I suspect a lot of Conservatives, however, could see themselves voting for someone like Sheldon Clare … he’s outspoken, is will known in Prince George, and as the head of a national organization has experience operating at a national level (he’s even presented to the United Nations). A Conservative looking for place to park their vote (without voting NDP or Liberal) may see Clare as a viable alternative.
The question then becomes can he pull enough support to win? Are there enough disaffected Conservatives who may want to send a message to Ottawa? Or would he simply split the right-of-centre vote in the riding allowing a left-of-centre candidate to come up the middle? And that, of course, depends on whether the NDP, Liberals, and Greens all run candidates because just as vote-splitting can happen on the right, it can happen on the left.
And that could make the difference. The website ThreeHundredEight.com tracks polling across the country collates those results. In Cariboo-Prince George it lists the Conservatives as having a 63 per cent chance of winning the riding. Sounds pretty good, except compared to Prince George-Peace River-Northern Rockies where they incumbent Bob Zimmer has an 88 per cent chance of getting re-eleccted. In Cariboo-Prince George, it pegs Conservative support at 40 per cent, NDP at 35 and Liberals at 12. Throw in a viable right-of-centre independent and should the Liberals and/or Greens prove to be a no-show, and those numbers could change.
Take a week or two off for summer holidays, but then hang onto your hats, it’s going to be an interesting fall.
Bill Phillips is a freelance columnist living in Prince George. He was the winner of the 2009 Best Editorial award at the British Columbia/Yukon Community Newspaper Association’s Ma Murray awards, in 2007 he won the association’s Best Columnist award. In 2004, he placed third in the Canadian Community Newspaper best columnist category and, in 2003, placed second. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org