Many people have written about the financial cost of the 78-day campaign, but I haven’t seen anybody look at the human cost. What this is costing candidates, leaders, staff, and volunteers? To start figuring out the human cost we have to rewind back to 2013 when most political parties opened up nominations, the process by which candidates are selected to run in each of 338 ridings. Tens of thousands of hopefuls applied to the various parties to run in the 2015 election, starting in 2013, and were vetted by the internal parties and either accepted or rejected. Imagine that many people in each party who applied were told, after many weeks or months, that they were not suitable candidates for any number of reasons. Some prospective candidates signed up party members as they were told to do in anticipation of a nomination in their riding. Friends, family members, colleagues and acquaintances were asked to sign membership forms; usually a small fee is also involved. Dozens, hundreds, perhaps thousands of people signed and paid the fee, and their candidate was not even allowed to test themselves against other same party candidates in that riding. Of the lucky few who were accepted after the vetting process, still many thousands of potential candidates, they then had to compete against other hopefuls to win their party nomination. Although the spending limits for nominations are strict during the nomination process, many would spend untold fortunes in advance of the nomination on promotion, a campaign in itself involving handfuls of volunteers and in some cases dozens or hundreds of people. Many months can go by awaiting the official call of a nomination, and those lucky enough to be accepted sign up new members to vote for them. Nobody knows when the date will be called; there is no defined finish line for nominations.
Once the nomination is called, all candidates are informed of the date and location and then it’s usually a sprint of a final few weeks to solidify the majority of the votes of the members who are eligible. This means calls, letters and flyers, going door to door to speak to individual members. Each candidate has a team of volunteers who believe that they will win, and be able to represent their party in the coming election. Most of them are wrong. Depending on the party and the riding, many of these nominations have three or more candidates. Hundreds of volunteers and thousands of members who show up at a local school, community centre, or similar venue and vote over a few hours to select the candidate. They often have to negotiate for second and third ballot support from their competitors’ supporters if they don’t believe they have enough to secure a majority outright on a preferential ballot.
Someone wins eventually, hooray! What about those who don’t win? Their friends, family, volunteers and members go home and likely are disappointed with the result. The months of work, the tens of thousands of dollars, the time away from loved ones, all wasted. Again, the pool of hopefuls reduces down to the winners: 338 candidates per party, in most cases.