Campaigns spend considerable energy recruiting star candidates to run in elections. They are generally people with a relatively high profile at any level of public life. The parties search for municipal councilors, sports figures, journalists, local personalities, business leaders, military leaders, indigenous leaders, women leaders, racialized leaders and other recognizable, credible people to place prominently in their team.
Certainly, star candidates can give a campaign a boost and provide a bump in enthusiasm. They can also be instrumental in telling the story of the campaign in a compelling way. This means they should be representative of the campaigns’ values and message. From time to time they may also be representative of a ‘counter to brand’ individual who can indicate to potential supporters that the party cares about a particular group that might not fall within their traditional constituency or universe.
Star candidates can also sometimes be a double-edged sword. In particular, if the star is a disenchanted floor crosser from another party they may have a particular axe to grind that can take a campaign off message. It has also happened that a star candidate may be well known because of some out of step opinions and commentary. In those cases that can result in distracting messages that are not helpful to the central campaign.
That said, there are also circumstances where very effective stars are drawn from other levels of government or opposition and who have a history with the party at another level or from another time. There are many examples of former elected officials returning to run again and sometimes can be pivotal in re-capturing a riding that may have been recently lost. Very often these candidates have enough experience that they bring great experience and skills to the campaign, but they can also be quite aware of their value and require significant central resources to ensure their win. Resources and promotion of their candidacy are usually part of the negotiations when a star is being courted.
There have been cases where the nominations of star candidates can run afoul of local democratic nomination procedures. Accusations of parachuted, centrally selected and promoted stars are sometimes not well received by local riding level activists and volunteers. This can sometimes have an effect on what riding is chosen for that particular star.
In 2004, NDP Leader Jack Layton recruited former NDP Leader Ed Broadbent to run in Ottawa Centre. It was generally seen as an audacious move. Recruiting a well-known former Leader to run in what was at the time considered a safe Liberal seat was a risky move from several angles. It indicated a bravado and self-assuredness that came to be a hallmark attribute of both leaders. In that case, Mr. Broadbent did run in a contested nomination against a young teacher and riding activist, Paul Dewar, son of beloved former Ottawa mayor Marion Dewar. Mr. Dewar was a star in his own right. Mr. Broadbent went on to win the nomination and the election and played a key, immensely positive role in the caucus and in the country. Mr. Broadbent’s victory paved the way for Paul Dewar to run and win in the following campaign.
Generally speaking, the recruitment of star candidates is a high priority for any campaign despite the potential pitfalls. They can attract attention, boost the campaigns’ spirits and fundraising, and motivate grassroots volunteers to sign up, get involved, and work harder.
In the lead up to the 2019 federal election, each of the major parties has recruited star candidates which they hope will form part of their caucus in the 43rd Parliament. We’ve listed some candidates to watch here:
Liberal Party of Canada (Liberals)
The Liberals hope that long-time Vancouver area news anchor Tamara Taggart will be victorious over NDP veteran Don Davies in Vancouver-Kingsway. Taggart’s past as a broadcaster is a significant boost for the Liberals in strong NDP territory as Taggart is a household name throughout the city and across the Lower Mainland.
Conservation activist Steven Guilbeault is contesting in Laurier – Sainte-Marie, a Montreal-area seat that is open for the taking after the incumbent NDP MP Hélène Laverdière announced she is not seeking a third mandate. Best known as the founder of Équiterre and as an environmental activist, Guilbeault may have to bite his tongue on issues such as the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project.
The Liberals are betting on Olympic gold medalist and 2008 Canadian Olympic team flag bearer Adam van Koeverden to unseat Conservative front-bencher, Lisa Raitt. A former Transport Minister and Leadership Contestant, Raitt is the Deputy Leader of the Conservatives and has held the riding since 2008.
Conservative Party of Canada (Conservatives)
Canadian country music legend and Juno Award winner George Canyon is challenging Liberal incumbent Sean Fraser in the Nova Scotia seat of Central Nova. One of his Juno Awards for Country Recording of the Year was for his acclaimed album, One Good Friend, however, Canyon will need more than one good friend if he wants to win this election and take his seat in Parliament.
In the Montreal-area riding of Alfred-Pellan, former NHL first-round draft pick Angelo Esposito is facing off against current Liberal MP Angelo Iacono. As a high-profile candidate, Esposito will hope that his political career is ultimately more successful than his career as a highly touted hockey prospect.
Hamilton Mountain voters have a hometown hero, former TiCat offensive lineman Peter Dyakowski as their Conservative candidate. Dyakowski will go head to head with NDP stalwart Scott Duval, a veteran of municipal and federal politics. Named as Canada’s Smartest Person in 2012, Dyakowski may be looked at by his fellow Conservatives as a leader in their caucus huddles should he be elected.
New Democratic Party (NDP)
Hoping to increase their Indigenous caucus numbers, New Democrats recruited Chief Rudy Turtle in the northwestern Ontario riding of Kenora against a former federal minister and veteran of Liberal politics Bob Nault, who is running in his sixth campaign. Chief Turtle put his Grassy Narrows First Nation in the national spotlight in recent times as his community grappled with mercury poisoning because of industrial contamination.