So the Liberals finally have a local candidate (Marie-France Lalonde, surprise, surprise) and the real election campaign can finally begin. But the local nomination process did not come off without a few hitches, over 1,600 to be exact, or at least that's the number being thrown around by the camp of Lalonde's fellow nomination candidate Khatera Akbari.
The crux of the complaint is that more than 1,600 supporters were disqualified from voting because they either had the wrong birth date or no birth date at all on their membership forms. When they tried to prove their date of birth using their driver's license, they were told it didn't matter, they didn't fill out the form properly and therefore they couldn't vote.
Let's ignore the argument that supporters of all three candidates would have been subject to disqualification if their date of birth was missing from the form. (I tend not to believe in conspiracies, this case included.)
Unfortunately, this is just another black eye for a party that is running out of black eyes. Even more egregious than would-be members being turned away for not indicating their correct birth date on the form is that several long-term members were missing from the voting list entirely. People like Gerald Poulin – who has lived in Orléans for more than 50 years and has supported the Liberals all his life – or Laura Williams, who has volunteered for the past three local Liberal campaigns, often working the phone bank for hours on end. Despite suffering from fibromyalgia, Williams waited in line for over an hour before she was told she wasn't on the list. Understandably, she wasn't pleased in the least and is thinking of planting herself on the sidelines for this go-around. Personally, I don't blame her.
This election is going to be close. Ridings like Orléans could mean the difference between staying in government or being relegated to the opposition.
For a party that claims to be inclusive, the Liberals seem to be doing everything possible to exclude as many would-be supporters as possible. Remember 2014 when then candidate David Bertschi was disqualified from running in order to pave the way for "star” candidate Andrew Leslie? A great many of Bertschi's supporters either stayed on the sideline in 2014, or voted for one of the other candidates.
Skip ahead five years, and the same party is disqualifying supporters over what is essentially a technicality. The party could have just as easily allowed those same supporters to vote if they could produce a proper ID indicating their birth date. But it didn't. Just like it didn't allow long-time supporters like Gerald Poulin and Laura Williams to exercise their franchise.
The Liberals are going to need every vote they can get on Oct. 21 just to make up for all the ones they lost on Sept. 19.
– Fred Sherwin,