Thursday, January 26, 2006

comments on the socon factor and the election

(Update. See now also Jay Currie)

Over at the Ambler, Kevin Michael Grace (who is always a good read) reacts to my nose-counting of the other day and opines: "If Canadians were so hell bent on punishing those known (or suspected) to harbour retrograde notions on the dignity of gay nuptials, they would have rejected Conservative MPs en masse."

There may be some truth there. But we have to keep things in perspective. Same-sex marriage was only one of a number of questions competing for the voters' attention. And even if a candidate were out of step with their constituents, ssm could hardly turn a safe-seat into a marginal one.

What we need to be interested in are those marginal ones, and the fate of socially conservative candidates within them.

Last spring, the Globe and Mail published a couple articles pointing out that several Conservative nominations had been won by candidates who seemed to reflect a religious right agenda. I tried to identify candidates that fit (see here) and, coming up with only a dozen or so names, concluded that they were not numerous enough to be a threat (here and here).

What happened to those candidates? Here is last summer's list, with some figures:
  1. Andrew House in Halifax. Lost. Came in third with 18%, improving on the 2004 candidate's 15%.
  2. Rakesh Khosla in Halifax West. Lost. Came in third with 23%, improving on the 2004 candidate's 21%
  3. Paul Francis in Sackville-Eastern Shore. Lost. Came in third with 22%, improving on the 2004 candidate's 21.5%.
  4. Darrel Reid in Richmond. Lost. Came in second with 39%, improving on the 2004 candidate's 35.3%.
  5. Cindy Silver in North Vancouver. Lost. Came in second with 36.7%, improving on the 2004 candidate's 36.4%.
  6. Marc Dalton in Burnaby-New Westminster. Lost. Came in third with 27.6%, slipping from the 2004 candidate's 28.3%.
  7. Kevin Serviss in Sudbury. Lost. Came in second with 21%, the same as the 2004 candidate's 21%.
  8. Ron Cannan in Kelowna. Won with 49%, improving on the 2004 candidate's 48%.
  9. Rondo Thomas in Ajax. Lost. Came in second with 32.8%, slipping from the 2004 candidate's 33.6%.
  10. David Sweet in Ancaster-Dundas-Flamborough. Won with 39.1%, improving on his 34% of 2004.
  11. Harold Albrecht in Kitchner-Conestoga. Won with 41.2%, improving on the 2004 candidate's 35.4%.
So, what's the pattern? Most Conservative candidates' totals improved, perhaps not as much as we'd otherwise expect--the Conservatives nation-wide were up 6%, and only Albrecht had that much of an increase. (Rondo Thomas, who was perhaps the most openly evangelical about his evangelicalism, actually went down.)

But even so, these figures suggest that being regarded as a religious activist would only cost a candidate a couple percent. In some races, of course, that can be enough.

1 comment:

late said...

His analysis misses much of the important point about the debate in Canada about SSM, perhaps intentionally. Of course only a very small percent of people are directly affected by that legislation, that much is plainly obvious. But banning SSM would mean that Harper's government would be acting intentionally in contradiction to the very clear ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada.

If the matter was not one that was covered by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as ruled by the Supreme Court of Canada, the debate over SSM would be very much different. Indeed, it was just a few years ago that the Liberals made a clear statement preventing SSM including many of the now prominent supporters of that law.

The difference is that while a small percentage of Canadians are directly affected by SSM, all Canadians are affected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If an MP wants to deliberately pass a bill in violation of the Charter, this says something about the character of that MP. What other Charter rights may that MP be willing to forfeit just because they only apply to a minority? And pretty much everyone is a minority of _some_ kind.