Inside Politics

Tories call on Bloc leader to run in Bourassa by-election

Inspired, perhaps, by the grand opening of Green Party by-election hopeful Georges Laraque's campaign office in Bourassa yesterday evening, Infrastructure Minister Denis Lebel is challenging -- or, as the Conservative Party press release puts it, "inviting" -- the currently Commons seatless Bloc Quebecois Leader Daniel Paille to join the race to replace now departed Liberal MP Denis Coderre:

"Mr. Paillé is very silent about his intentions. I think he should run for the upcoming by-election in Bourassa. After about 20 months as the leader of his Party, he has the opportunity to ask for a mandate to the constituents of Bourassa," said Mr. Lebel.

"In December 2011, Mr. Paillé said that he would not immediately look for a seat in Ottawa. We must now see if 20 months later is "immediately" or if enough time has passed for him to try to become an MP. "If he does not run in Bourassa, the leader of the Bloc will only show once again that his Party is useless in Ottawa. The Bloc is already a backseat driver. Currently, Mr. Paillé is not even in the passenger seat, he's only waiting for a call from Pauline Marois to return in provincial politics as soon as possible," concluded Denis Lebel.

UPDATE: Lebel's interest in the Bourassa race may also have been sparked by Quebec Liberal MNA Emmanuel Dubourg stepping down from his current gig in hopes of running under the federal party banner.  

Intrigued, I dropped a note to Conservative party headquarters inquiring whether Lebel's challenge means the Conservatives intend to extend the traditional by-election courtesy of not fielding a candidate against a rival party leader. I'll let you know what, if anything, I hear back. 

In any case, despite the minister's campaign to convince Paille add his name to the ballot in Bourassa, it's worth noting that his boss has yet to ask the Governor General to drop the writ for any of the four by-elections currently pending, although that may be at least partly due to the surprise departure of veteran Manitoba Conservative MP Merv Tweed earlier this week.

If the PM wants to hold all four votes on the same day -- which he almost certainly does -- he'll have to hold off on the call until ten days after the Chief Electoral Officer receives the notice of vacancy for Brandon-Souris, which isn't expected to arrive until Tweed's resignation officially takes effect on August 31, which would push the earliest possible voting date from September 17th to October 21.

In any case, it appears that Toronto Centre New Democrats are unfazed by such scheduling uncertainties: the local riding association has called a nomination meeting for the afternoon of Sunday, September 15th -- which, given the high public profiles enjoyed by the two leading contestants, Jennifer Howlett and Linda McQuaig, it's likely to be a standing-room-only event. 

Hit the jump for the full post. 

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