Monday, July 11, 2005

Chuck Cadman, R.I.P.

The fact that Chuck Cadman's final vote allowed the Martin government to hang on to power should not be considered his final legacy. It's only a part of the public record, nothing more.

And Cadman himself would have argued that his true legacy would be the changes to the Criminal Code and the proclamation of the new Youth Criminal Justice Act, making life super-tough for young offenders, as well as his work for victims' rights.

But I think a case can be made that Cadman's true legacy lies in the lessons people could learn about the relationship between an MP and his constituents.

Cadman, it must be remembered, did not resign from a political party to sit as an independent. Instead he ran for office in the last election -- and won -- as an independent, a far more difficult accomplishment than you might think.

He did, admittedly, have the advantage of incumbency. He came to office in 1997 as a Reform, and later an Alliance MP. When the Alliance and the PCs merged in 2004, a party rival signed up more members and managed to displace Cadman as the official Conservative candidate. Cadman, however, had amassed enough loyalty among his staff and co-workers that he could set up an run an independent campaign.

Normally, this would have meant a shoo-in for the NDP candidate, because the natural Tory vote would have split. But Cadman's reputation with his riding was so strong that he won handily, facing down both the NDP and Tory electoral machines.

It's a good lesson for all MPs to learn: if you have a solid relationship with your constituents, you can still win your next election. To be an example of a dedicated MP, I think, is Chuck Cadman's true legacy.