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EDITORIAL: Parachute candidates

How attentive to the needs of an adopted riding's residents can a candidate really be, at the end of the day?
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Parachute candidates are a reality of our political system, but one we think many Albertans could do without.

It’s one thing if a party cannot find a local candidate to come forward to run, but it’s another thing entirely when a party decides to plant a so-called “star candidate” in a riding where they do not live simply because they have a better chance of winning there. 

Such was the case last fall, when newly elected UCP leader Danielle Smith decided to run in the riding of Brooks-Medicine Hat. While Smith's home base is in High River, the former UCP MLA for Brooks-Medicine Hat dropped out, offering Smith the chance to vie for that rural seat as a parachute candidate instead.

Then, last week, the UCP announced the return of former Calgary-North East MLA Rajan Sawhney, who will now be representing the party in Calgary-North West. Previously, Sawhney (who ran against Smith in the UCP leadership contest last fall) had announced she wouldn't be seeking re-election in Calgary-North East. Her departure from the UCP caucus made sense considering Sawhney had been critical on the campaign trail of Smith's proposed Sovereignty Act.

Parachute candidates are nothing new in Alberta's political system, and it's something pretty much every party is guilty of. Unfortunately, it kind of makes one feel as though provincial politics isn’t truly about helping local residents at all, but rather a game where someone should try to win at all costs – where ridings are looked at not as people and communities to represent, but as seats that need to be won in order to gain power.

Of course, the counter-argument would be that you first have to be elected in order to represent those people, and do the local good that can be done in support of the community.

However, it still begs the question: how can a candidate parachuting in honestly represent a riding they have no previous association with, no understanding of, and no emotional attachment toward?

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