Jim Furlong: Democracy In Action

A tale told today about district nominations in our province. I tell it against a background of the recent warm-up for the provincial election that is coming. 

Nomination issues in two different districts. In Mount Pearl Southlands Gillian Pearson is the nominee for the PCs. She almost had an incumbent opponent in Independent Paul Lane. It is said Lane was on the verge of re-joining the PC Party he had once fled but something happened and he withdrew. There is a story rattling around Confederation Building that Lane didn’t want to run in a contested nomination. Somewhere in there is a tale for another time. 

Past tales

Now also on the opposition side of the House is the ongoing saga of the NDP nomination debacle where Sheilagh O’Leary has indicated, to the surprise of many, that she is challenging incumbent and former NDP Leader Lorraine Michael for the NDP nod in the district of St. John’s East-Quidi Vidi. That game is still on the table. 

Now today let me tell you a tale from the past and the rough and tumble days of district nominations. There was a time when nominations were real ‘down in the trenches’ street politics. 

In the St. John’s districts you could help yourself along in the process of nomination by insuring that a certain number of people who were unknown to you or your workers, would come out and cast a vote. It wasn’t buying votes. It was helping the democratic process. 

That enterprise ran through some individuals associated with what we will call ‘politically active’ cab companies. I will use the names of two companies no longer in business. One was ABC Cabs in the west end down by the railway. They could get you 30 for a nomination meeting for about $150. That’s a bargain. The word is they encouraged people they knew in the district to come out and vote for you. It is said the new activists might be offered a beer or two. Beers then were about a buck so there was a profit margin. 

The other company no longer in the taxi trade was Churchill Park Cabs. Same deal. A few dollars in the right place could deliver some people of your political persuasion or not; to your nomination. 

An insurance policy?

Now it wasn’t hundreds and hundreds of people. It was more like an insurance policy for a would-be candidate. Really it can be argued it was democracy in action. If you could get people to come out through some other agency and YOU didn’t buy anybody any beer or pay them money… well; no harm, no foul. I should say, in the interest of clarity, I am not aware that the ownership or senior management of either of those two companies were aware of ‘the political involvement’ of some of their drivers.

Those were the days of a different politics. More speeches and less media. More pounding of the pavement. Three sweeps of a district street by street with poll captains and assistants; a ride to the polls and at the nomination level; maybe a beer.

NTV’s Jim Furlong can be reached by emailing: [email protected]

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