Thoughts on the By-election in Scarborough-Rouge River—Risky Business, by Allen Small
By-Elections are risky affairs for smaller parties or any party, really. They are of course an opportunity to expose some voters to our ideas. In doing that we can change opinions, recruit new members, even get some media attention. All the good things that we exist for, the things that give us a purpose.
The downside of by elections is that the majority of voters generally ignore them just because they will not be involved. These elections also tend to attract more than the usual number of special interest lobby and independent candidates because this single election often gets undue media attention. Worse yet is the likelihood of a much lower voter turnout than usual. Rarely do these elections change the balance of power in the Legislature, so they have little tangible effect. But sometimes media inflate the importance of the outcome as a referendum on the existing government; maybe that’s true, maybe not.
All of these things were evident in Scarborough Rouge-River, and add to that mix, the fact that it was not my riding, but very close by. When I made the decision to run, months ago, I knew the risks and the calculation was made that running a limited campaign was worthwhile for the party. The location of the riding, its demographics and history dictated that the Party should not bet the bankroll on this particular election. Rather, we were going to do some things, test some things and try and maintain our fifth place position relative to the other parties, and at the same time covet our resources for the bigger battle ahead.
The Ontario Libertarian Party has been the fifth largest party since the 2011 General Election. To appear to lose that spot, even in a by-election, would be embarrassing. That was a risk. In the end we did maintain our fifth place position among the main parties, but a one-issue independent candidate spoiled my final outcome to sixth place overall.
On the positive side, we did have a large turnout of volunteers for a one-day blitz of the riding and the entire campaign was funded by donations. There are at least two more by-elections in the offing, in Ottawa and Niagara Falls. We plan to run in both and we hope everyone will offer support.