Not all strategies are created equal in the “wonderful” world of politics. This is something that I quickly learned after unsuccessfully running in provincial politics. Having a game plan that incorporates the many facets of the political world is key to being successful. One of those facets is the inclusion of the local electoral district association (EDA) into your strategy (more on this below).
The ultimate goal of any political candidate should be to receive a broad-base of support from grassroots groups. This is usually achieved by getting involved in local community associations, and causes, and volunteer groups.
Grassroots support alone, however, will not get your foot into the door of the political world, as a more powerful group holds the key to that door – the EDA, who are referred sometimes as “gatekeepers”.
The single biggest mistake that a candidate can make is assuming that their ties with the leader of the party will ensure them the nomination. Yes, the leader can influence the decision, but it will lead to a short-term career in politics. You will be held hostage to the winds of change.
An EDA, among other things, is the group in charge of running a local nomination for a political party. They are able to set the parameters for the election of the party’s riding nominee. They set the rules, and are ultimately able to influence the outcome of a nomination election, if the members of the EDA are stacked by a candidate, or an incumbent.
I, for example, experienced this the hard way, when I ran for the PC nomination provincially in Calgary Montrose back in 1996. I ran against Hung Pham, a MLA that was unpopular among the grassroots in the constituency. While I had a broad-base of support among members in the constituency, Pham controlled the EDA. They were able to influence the outcome of the rules of the nomination.
Pham used his influence on the EDA to place his competitors at a disadvantage by changing rules at the last minute to favour him. This change in rules was sudden. Pham notified his supporters about the rule change, while the EDA kept notice of the rule change to a minimum. This ultimately resulted in a huge number of PC members not able to exercise their right to vote, as people do not carry their proofs of citizenship on them. This of course, led to my defeat.
Using this as a learning experience, I was able to navigate the roadblocks put by the Reform Party EDA in my quest for the federal Reform nomination in 1997, which I won. (You won’t believe this but Jason Kenney helped me draft my first speech!)
What I learned from this nomination and others were the following:
- You must be actively involved with the EDA of your riding – failing to do so will come at your own peril. Ensure you have a supporter on board so you can challenge rules that are unfavorably passed.
- Do not expect the party to step in and rectify the situation – the party is more concerned its reputation of avoiding scandals. You do not play any role in this decision.
- Open nominations ensure that candidates engage with the larger electoral base, which can be of immense benefit during the election. You are then seen as a people’s person, not as the party’s choice.
If you’re thinking about one day running for federal/provincial office, you must keep in mind that, without getting engaged in your EDA, you will be at a disadvantage.