Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Trench Warfare

The big news over the past week is that several high profile Christian advocates are winning Conservative nominations across the country. The Globe & Mail had a rational analysis of the situation in an editorial today, commenting that:

It is difficult to understand the fuss about Christian activists helping to
secure the nominations of at least eight federal Conservative candidates in the
next election.

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.


  • Or...unlimited membership forms, but only those who have been members for, say, 6 mo. can vote.

    By Blogger matt, at 1:02 AM  

  • Why not just have more publicity for nomination contests and make it easier to join a riding association? All a primary system would do is substitute the effort of signing a membership form and attending a meeting for the effort of being semi-permanently registered to one party, listening to the primary campaigning and then voting in a primary election.

    I don't think that Canadians have the same obsession with being seen participating in a supposedly democratic system that Americans do.

    By Blogger Rhetoric, at 9:33 AM  

  • I have long thought that the Canadian nomination system needs to be changed in one of two ways. Eitehr a US-style primary system, which would end the current method of 'campaigning' by signing up members, and would result in primary elecgtorates to large to be manipulated, or a closed membership where voting was only open to long-term members, leading to elecgtorates too motivated to be manipulated. What we have now is the worst of both worlds.

    By Anonymous Ken Ketchum, at 10:31 AM  

  • Idea stealer, give credit where credit is due

    By Blogger iloveLaP, at 1:15 PM  

  • Former Conservative MP Ted White gave some historical background on the issue back in late 2001.

    "The Reform Party did adopt a very important, but little known, restriction on the power of the Leader, and it has worked well in terms of encouraging free votes by Reform, and now C.A., MPs. This control of the Leader did not, however, come without an internal struggle.

    That struggle occurred back in 1988, when a very controversial and colourful columnist, the late Doug Collins, was chosen by the West Vancouver Reform Party Association to be their candidate for the 1988 election.

    The Constitution of the Reform Party gave the sole right to choose a candidate to the members of the local association. This rule had been included in the Constitution in order to prevent the Leader, or the Party administration, from parachuting in candidates or from directing the Association whom to choose.

    The Leader of the Party at the time though, Preston Manning, was unhappy with the choice and announced that he would not sign the candidate nomination papers unless Doug agreed to a set of conditions in writing related to his controversial views. Doug refused, so his papers were never signed, and a new candidate had to be chosen.

    The local Riding Association was furious with Preston and made sure that Party members across the country recognized the Collins incident as highlighting a problem in the Party structure which we had not foreseen.

    I should make note at this time that under the provisions of the Canada Elections Act the Leader IS required to sign a candidate's nomination papers, so in a traditional party structure the Leader has absolute control over who becomes a candidate.

    In the Reform Party though, a resolution was put forward at the Party convention following the Collins nomination. That resolution was adopted and changed the Party Constitution so that the Leader could not refuse to sign the nomination papers of any candidate who had been endorsed by a majority of National Council, which is the elected body of party members who are responsible for the running of the Party.

    I have to say that this part of the Constitution has turned out to be somewhat empowering for incumbent Reform and C.A. MPs."


    For those how do not know, Doug Collins is perhaps best remembered for a column entitled "Hollywood Propaganda". Having first admitted that he had not seen the film, Collins referred to Schindler’s List as "Swindler's List" and said of the film that it was an example of "hate literature in the form of [a] film…." According to Collins, the holocaust, and he puts the word in quotation marks, is “not only the longest lasting but also the most effective propaganda exercise ever.” To buttress this claim, Collins said this: “Only one critic has described Spielberg's effort as three hours of propaganda. He was with the Jewish-owned New York Times. Good for him. And them. The exception that proves the rule.”

    By Anonymous koby, at 3:03 AM  

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    By Blogger obat herbal, at 8:33 AM  

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