It is difficult to understand the fuss about Christian activists helping to
secure the nominations of at least eight federal Conservative candidates in the
Yes, it is difficult to understand why some newspapers would splash a headline on the topic across their front page, thereby starting the entire insanity in the first place. Obviously the Globe & Mail editorial board needs to have a little chat with…uhh…the Globe & Mail.
But, there are enough fanatics in the CPC caucus that I’m personally not too concerned about another few who might be running in kamikaze ridings, so I won’t comment on that specifically. This does bring up the interesting topic of how candidates are selected. And it also provides another example of why the current process is extremely flawed and should be scrapped for a Primary system, similar to that in the United States.
First off, let’s look at the problem with the current system. By signing up a group of people to pack a nomination meeting, the chances of nominating a candidate who the party and constituents do not want is dramatically increased. I could, for example, line up outside a movie theater and buy the Star Wars geeks a Yoda pez dispenser if they agree to come out and vote for me so that I can impose my Jedi beliefs on the population. I’ll, of course, pay for memberships and a kegger afterwards so whatever party we decide to take over will be powerless when they see the strength of the force.
With the current system it’s very easy to trade votes for money, booze, or favours, and it becomes about stacking meetings rather than being the “best” candidate. At the ALP convention this weekend, there was a lot of talk from some Edmonton ridings about Conservatives signing up for Liberal memberships en mass to nominate weak Liberal candidates.
On the flip side, during the Liberal leadership race, we saw blatant restrictions of membership forms. If you didn’t support a certain candidate (let's call him "Raul Lartin"), it was impossible to get a membership form from the party, and when you were granted one, it would often take months to get it, or it would be mailed to the wrong address. Since it’s all about being on the membership list and it’s pretty easy to keep people off the membership list, abuse is practically encouraged.
So why not switch to the primary system? Every Canadian could register with a party or as a non-partisan on their income tax by checking a box. Elections Canada could keep the lists and when it comes time to nominate candidates, select delegates for conventions, or vote on leadership, the meetings would be open to everyone registered to that party. Sure, you could still truck in your church members to vote so long as they’re registered to the party in question but with many more eligible voters, it would become a lot harder to take over a riding or win a nomination. With a wider range of people voting, it would presumably allow for candidates the general population prefers to be nominated. It would also become impossible to restrict membership forms, leaving leadership races more wide open and democratic.
There are a lot of reasons this change won’t happen, but considering the bad press all parties get through nasty nomination battles and leadership races, it would be a solution everyone would benefit from.