Seamus O’Regan becomes the latest star candidate for federal Liberals: report

Andy Radia
Canada PoliticsAugust 11, 2014
Seamus O'Regan
Seamus O'Regan (photo via speakers.ca)

Another 'star' candidate has joined the ranks of those vying to be a Liberal member of parliament.

CBC News is reporting that former broadcaster Seamus O'Regan is seeking the federal Liberal nomination in the riding St. John's South-Mount Pearl in Newfoundland and Labrador.

O'Regan — a co-host of the popular CTV program Canada AM from 2001 to 2011 — isn't necessarily a political neophyte. He once served as an assistant to federal environment minister Jean Charest and as a speech writer to former Newfoundland premier Brian Tobin.

If he wins the nomination, he'll have to go up against NDP MP Ryan Cleary in the 2015 general election.

[ Related: Despite revelations, Justin Trudeau says he would overhaul First Nations transparency law ]

The growing list of star candidates evoke memories of the Chretien/Martin era when the Liberals consistently parachuted-in big names while, in many cases, ignoring the will of grass root members.

While there's no proof that Team-Trudeau is blocking lesser-known candidates, they certainly are wooing big names: There was author and newspaper editor Chrystia Freeland who won the federal byelection in Toronto-Centre and former Toronto city councillor Adam Vaughan who is the new MP for Trinity—Spadina.

The list goes on: there's retired general Andrew Leslie, Jim Carr, president of the Business Council of Manitoba, Bill Morneau, head of one of Canada's largest HR companies and and Jody Wilson-Raybould, a B.C. regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations.

[ Related: Jody Wilson-Raybould, B.C. aboriginal leader, to run for Liberals in Vancouver ]

But do star candidates actually help parties win votes?

Christopher Alcantara, an associate professor of political science at Wilfrid Laurier University, says they can.

"A star candidate could, on average, produce a 10-percentage point bump at the polls," Alcantara, who has researched the topic, recently wrote in an op-ed for the Toronto Star.

"But, there are two important caveats to this finding. First, our research found that partisan voters were less likely to be swayed by star candidates than non-partisans. So, no matter how reputable or famous a star candidate was, partisans still tended to support their party’s candidate.

"Second, this 10-point bump, while relatively large, was tempered by the fact that only 5 per cent of Canadian voters in previous federal elections voted decisively because of the local candidate."

[ Related: Tories seem to have trouble defining Justin Trudeau to voters ]

With regard to the Liberals, however, they might have another strategy in play.

Aside from Adam Vaughan, most of these 'star' candidates are younger, fresher faces with no experience as elected officials. These aren't the likes of Lloyd Axworthy, Alan Rock or John Manley coming back for a second go around. Moreover, there's not a plethora of provincial politicians making the jump to the federal party.

That certainly fits in to the Trudeau narrative that his Liberals are intent on doing politics differently. It also distances the party from past scandals (see: sponsorship scandal) and internal squabbles.

In other words, this isn't your father's Liberal party.

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