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Letter: MP’s name not on the voters’ list

Do you know why it is that in municipal elections, in order to both run as a candidate and to vote, you must live in that particular city/town for at least six months before the election, but in federal/provincial elections it is different?

I have no idea why it is this way. In federal/provincial elections, you can run in another district/riding but you can’t vote there. Past members in a rural riding/district were often heard to say on the last day of the campaign, usually the day before the election, “I have to go back to Ottawa/St. John’s now and vote.” In other words, he/she couldn’t vote for him/herself in his/her own riding/district that he/she represented in the House of Commons/House of Assembly. Very odd, to say the least!

 According to Wikipedia:

“A parachute candidate, also known as a ‘carpetbagger’ (is a) term used for an election candidate who does not live in and has little connection to the area he or she is running to represent. The allegation is thus that the candidate is being ‘parachuted in’ for the job by a desperate political party that has no reliable talent indigenous to the district or state or that the party (or the candidate himself/herself) wishes to give a candidate an easier election than would happen in one’s own home area.”

I know the notion of a parachute candidate is not unique to Newfoundland and Labrador, but why does it work so well in this province, with little or no discussion to change from the status quo? It is quite obvious: the population of N.L. is skewed towards the Avalon, the northeast Avalon in particular (in 20 years, according to the recent Harris Report, it will be much worse). Therefore, it is really tough for all those living in Ottawa/St. John’s with political ambition (be it old-stock individuals or recently arrived as born-again townies), to have an opportunity to run in their local riding/district; it’s just too competitive, like everything else in St. John’s, be finding a teaching or nursing positions, getting a spot on the PUB, C-NLOPB, etc. It’s all townies, with no regional or geographic balance. Therefore, if someone from St. John’s runs, say in Mount Pearl or elsewhere on the Avalon, they consider it a “short jump,” and if elsewhere in N.L., maybe they might call it a “long jump”. They would avoid using the term parachute candidate, for certain. How many voters in a rural riding/district would be unaware that the MP/MHA lives in Ottawa or St. John’s?

Of course, following in the great tradition of Jack Pickersgill from Ottawa, Joey Smallwood, the little fellow from Gambo who left Gambo at six months of age (remember Joey’s line about running a yellow dog in Bonavista North), Joey was a townie. Same with the other fellow from Gambo who left Gambo at 17, the fellow from Ladle Cove, plus three former premiers, etc.

One of the candidates in an upcoming federal byelection is only making vague overtures at this stage about living in the riding. I suspect what is really meant is a summer cottage that will be sold upon departure from politics.

We want someone who will represent us in Ottawa, not the other way around, and not be like many other MPs over the years, who faded into the woodwork.


Terry Burry

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