The Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner byelection is being held today after a month-long campaign in which the Liberal Party of Canada has been devoting significant resources and money.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took time off from his hectic schedule and prime ministerial duties to fly to Medicine Hat earlier this month to campaign with Liberal candidate Stan Sakamoto. The visit—drawing a large crowd of 2,500 constituents (i.e. Hatters)—was somewhat surprising as the riding has been a Conservative stronghold for the last 44 years.
Furthermore, the last federal election in the riding the Liberal candidate at that time only received 17.9 per cent of the vote compared to deceased MP Jim Hillyer’s 68.8 per cent.
In an article with a misleading headline from the Medicine Hat News site (“PM’s trip cost taxpayers nothing”) an LPC spokesperson claimed “taxpayers will not be on the hook” for the cost of PM Trudeau’s trip. In the same article a PMO staffer explained that the LPC would reimburse the cost of travel for the PM and his accompanying staff to Medicine Hat. This is deceiving because Trudeau can only fly on government aircraft—which costs tens-of-thousands-of-dollars per trip—and “the longstanding practice” for non-governmental flights is that the party reimburses the federal government the equivalent cost of a commercial flight to the same destination.
Sheila Gunn Reid, a reporter at The Rebel, estimated the actual cost of Trudeau’s trip—$14,400 an hour while in the air—at over $120,000 for the one flight to Medicine Hat. Reid questioned how the LPC could afford to reimburse the trip when the cost goes well over the $78,000 campaign spending cap. However, the LPC’s campaign is only reimbursing the commercial equivalent cost, so taxpayers will be left likely paying well over $200,000 in flights so the PM could campaign in a deeply conservative riding.
Unless Trudeau and Sakamoto are able to charm many more thousands of Hatters into voting red this byelection it would appear the trip was a large waste of taxpayers’ money (if you believe taxpayers should be paying for partisan trips in the first place, or PM’s should devote time to campaigning), especially when the Liberals already have a strong majority and the riding is non-consequential for them, other than perhaps bragging rights.
On top of the gross waste of taxpayers’ money, Trudeau’s staffers, Liberal MPs and their staffers all spent evenings calling constituents in the riding. Minister of Public Safety Ralph Goodale and Minister of Veterans Affairs Kent Hehr both recently visited Medicine Hat to campaign with Sakamoto as well.
Not to be outdone, late last week the Conservative Party of Canada had Interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose door knocking with CPC candidate Glen Motz. Several days prior, former speaker of the house and MP Andrew Scheer—now a candidate running in the CPC leadership race—campaigned with Motz.
All of this excessive time and money spent on a riding that’s not likely contestable reiterates the notion that the Liberals have never quit campaigning since winning the federal election last year.
5,723 constituents voted in advance polls in Medicine Hat-Cardston-Warner and those results will be made public at around 8:30 p.m. local time tonight, the same time polling stations close. The results of the polling stations and the byelection winner will be announced shortly thereafter.
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