Donning white attire, former Liberal stars Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott announced on Monday they will run in the fall federal election as independent candidates.
“White goes with everything,” Philpott told the crowd at her Markham-Stouffville riding minutes after Wilson-Raybould made her announcement from Vancouver-Granville. The pair made the same pledge — separately — to represent their constituents and not be beholden to party politics.
“This is a cry for co-operation,” Philpott said. “Let’s co-operate. Let’s collaborate. That’s the only way we’re going to solve these hard problems.”
But the experiences of previous candidates who have gone it alone show the difficult road to Parliament that lies ahead. From campaign finance laws for independents to a lack of infrastructure that comes with an established party, the odds are stacked against them.
About a handful of independent politicians have ever been elected federally in Canada. And most of them were ousted from the party for which they originally ran.
“Independent candidates are rarely elected in our system, and the ones who have a prior connection with an existing mainstream party have a better chance. But it still remains highly unlikely,” Dennis Pilon, a political science professor at York University who specializes in Canadian politics, told Global News.
“A lot depends on how much coverage they get.”
So far, Philpott and Wilson-Raybould have been able to garner a great deal of media attention due to the circumstances involved in their removal from the Liberal caucus.
Earlier this year, Wilson-Raybould accused Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of attempting to politically interfere in the criminal prosecution of SNC-Lavalin. Both she and Philpott resigned from cabinet over the controversy.
“Typically, candidates who turn against their party or fail to receive their party’s nomination, and particularly if they don’t get the nomination from a viable (i.e. potentially winning) party, lose,” Pilon said.
WATCH BELOW (April 25): Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould speak in Richmond
Pilon pointed to John Nunziata, who was elected as an independent MP for York South-Weston in 1997 after he was expelled from the Liberal caucus for voting against the budget. Nunziata was successful as an independent, in part, because of the significant media attention he received, Pilon said.
However, he was defeated by the Liberal candidate during the next election.
Prior to that, a pair of independent candidates were elected during the 1957 election, which brought about a Conservative minority government led by prime minister John Diefenbaker.
The last time a federal independent candidate won was in 2008 when Nova Scotia MP Bill Casey ran as an independent after he was booted from the Conservative caucus for voting against the party’s budget in 2007. Casey, who has been in federal politics for decades, said the budget was not fair for Nova Scotians. It was the first time an independent MP had been elected by the maritime province since 1874.
Quebec radio host Andre Arthur also was elected in 2008 as an independent candidate for Portneuf-Jacques-Cartier.
“I like to think of it as a people’s campaign because there was no party involved in my campaign,” Casey told CBC News at the time. “To me, it was the perfect example of democracy.”