Standing down

Elizabeth May suggests that, in the event of a by-election in Etobicoke Centre, the Greens and NDP should stand down to allow for a straightforward grudge match between Ted Opitz and Borys Wrzesnewskyj.

Although Ms. May she said would not normally urge her party to stay off a ballot, the situation in Etobicoke Centre is highly unusual. If anyone was unfairly denied a seat in that riding it was Mr. Wrzesnewskyj, she said, and if there is a by-election it should be “a clean vote between Borys and Ted.”

Ms. May has some history in this regard: Stephane Dion agreed in 2007 to not run a candidate in Central Nova in an ill-fated attempt to help Ms. May defeat Peter MacKay.

There is some general notion that parties might not field a candidate when a by-election occurs to provide an opportunity for the new leader of another party to win a seat, but, at least in recent history, it has been inconsistently applied. The Liberals, for instance, didn’t run candidates against Stephen Harper (Calgary Southwest) in 2002 or Joe Clark (Kings-Hants) in 2000 and the Progressive Conservatives didn’t field a candidate against Jean Chretien (Beauséjour) in 1990. But the Liberals did field candidates against Stockwell Day (Okanagan-Coquihalla) in 2000 and Brian Mulroney (Central Nova) in 1983. The NDP fielded candidates in all of those by-elections.

The last time an election result was declared void and a by-election ordered—York North in 1988—the dispute involved a close finish between a Liberal (Maurizio Bevilacqua) and a Progressive Conservative (Michael O’Brien). The NDP fielded a candidate in the by-election and ended up getting ahead of the Progressive Conservatives to finish second.

Astute reader Derek Leebosh notes that in 1942, the Liberals officially stood down in York South when Conservative party leader Arthur Meighen sought a seat, but the CCF candidate (with Liberal assistance) went on to win the by-election. This post from Torontoist explains the situation in lavish detail.

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