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Simcoe-Grey for the Simcoe-Greyvians!

Andrew Coyne on why Stephen Harper shouldn’t be the one who decides whether Helena Guergis runs again


 

I’m with the  burghers of Simcoe-Grey on this: it’s up to the riding association to decide whether Helena Guergis should remain as their candidate, not party central command.

The way we choose riding nominees is one of many outstanding weaknesses in Canadian politics. On the one hand, it is unconscionable that candidates should be obliged to get the party leader to sign their nomination papers before they can stand for office. It’s a direct affront to local democracy.

On the other hand, well, local democracy is a joke. Nomination races are too often decided by busloads of instant members and other abuses, the sort of 19th century shiv-and-whiskey politics that is unique to Canada among the advanced democracies.

We’d get better candidates, and better races, if being an MP meant something — that is, if they were not so tightly controlled by the leader’s office. But the first step on cracking the leaders’ iron grip is for riding associations to stand up for themselves.

MPs with strong riding associations are better placed to challenge the leadership. In particular, a cleaner, more legitimate process for choosing candidates would give MPs the democratic standing, as legitimate representatives of the membership in their ridings, to take back the process of leadership selection — the key to righting the balance of power between caucus and leader.

In a proper Westminster system, the leader is selected by the members of the Parliamentary caucus. In our run-down, degraded version of Westminster, the leader picks the caucus.


 

Simcoe-Grey for the Simcoe-Greyvians!

  1. My question would be: what information does Harper know about this Jaffer-Guergis case that he refuses to divulge that would cause him to already pick a replacement candidate?

    • Pure optics, is all. It would harm the overall Con campaign to have Guergis on a Con ticket. Harper thinks Canadians are stupid.

  2. Get a grip Andrew.

    Its up to the CPC to pick their candidates because the words of one loose cannon can be used against all 307 other candidates!

    There is a clear interest for the national party, campaign team, strategist, and leader to be involved in this process.

    • "One loose cannon" is one more than Conservative party strategists are willing to risk so they clamp down on all 308, even the sweater king himself.

      The irony is that these same "representatives" who allow themselves to be herded from photo opp to photo opp, who agree to dodge all candidates meetings, media interviews and any appearance that could come with unscripted questions, and then once elected read from their PMO scripts 4 years later, also seem to believe that a 15 year old boy should have been able to stand up to his father and Osama bin Laden and just say no to participating in El Quaeda!

      Yay democracy!

      More like 307 captured cannons who only fire when loaded by campaing headquarters. Unelected frat boys in the war room have more freedom of expression than Conseravtive candidates who are under orders to dodge candidate meetings, media interviews and pulbic appearances that might include questions.

  3. Helena must step down, she should pay for the price of her bad behaviours. Hope she can fade out ,let this scandal can go away.
    From a CPC supporter

    • What are her "bad behaviours?"

  4. Andrew, how do you reconcile your defence of riding associations with your favouring proportional representation?

    If I understand proprtional representation corrrectly, there would be no riding associations, just a list of candidates from which the elected members are drawn. And who would determine the selection order of listed candidates? I assume the party leader. Proportional representation would result in a greater centralization of power, not less.

    • There are several different PR systems out there. Party list systems are one variety, and not a variety I've really seen advocated save by the Greens, who obviously stand to benefit the most by such a system.

      Here in BC we almost went with a Single Transferable Vote system, which would have created multi-MLA ridings, but still every single elected representative would have had to stand for election. You wouldn't vote for the party, you would still vote for candidates, ranked by preference. The goal of STV was to still maintain the strengths of the first-past-the-post system by not letting every goofball party like the Marxist-Leninists or the Marijuana Party gain disproportionate power, while still giving smaller but still reasonably popular parties like the Greens or some independents, a shot at winning.

      Ultimately there is no such thing as a perfect voting system, it's pretty much mathematically impossible. But you can create voting systems that do a better job of matching popular vote to actual representation and minimize phenomenon like vote splitting, which, here in BC, allowed the NDP to gain a very narrow victory despite getting less of the popular vote than the BC Liberals, followed by an extremely imbalanced election in 2001 which saw the BC NDP reduced to two seats in the Legislature despite still garnering 21% of the popular vote.

      And on the topic of the BC NDP and riding associations, it was after some scandals with last-minute sign ups in a number of ridings which forced the party to do the smart thing and require that anyone who wanted a vote on a candidate had to have been a member for a year. I think pretty much every party should do the same, and prevent one of the dirtier tricks used by guys trying to get the nomination.

  5. "Choo-Choo-Choose Me!"

    – All aboard The Greyvi Train

  6. Well, er, you don't understand proportional representation correctly. No one is proposing to do away with local representation. The Mixed Member Proportional model proposed for Ontario would hae been mostly made up of members elected locally. The Single Transferable Vote on which British Columbians voted was based on multi-member ridings.

    • Sorry, Andrew. The list does matter. If you're on the list, not elected locally and your party needs a top-up, you get a seat. Did the Ontario proposal require a candidate to be selected by a riding association in order to be on the list? If not, you'll need to do more to explain how this is compatible with a strong advocacy of riding associations.

  7. Could not agree with you more.

    You could go a fair ways by just reversing the onus. Let the ridings pick the candidates, but if the leader really feels strongly about it s/he should be forced to issue a veto.

    I think I would premise that change on also adopting a one-member-one-vote for the party leadership. This is something I used to be against, but when I've seen it in action it did tend to elevate the meaning of party membership beyond being a source of funds and insta-crowds, which is something to be encouraged in a democracy.

    Anyways, this way the riding association represents all the members in that area, while the leader represents all the members across the country.

    Then let the caucus members elect the Cabinet. That'll balance things out !

  8. So in other words, shut up and give us your money? Sorry, shut up, give us your money, and get out the vote. That's what riding associations are for, right?

    I confess to a certain sympathy for Harper–it would not be pleasant to see her back in caucus with the daggers aimed for one's back, but a) she hasn't been convicted of anything, b) she was legitimately voted in by the citizens of her riding, c) she (so far) maintains the confidence of her riding association. Riding associations are fairly largish things–encompassing much more than just the executive. If enough Conservatives in the riding don't want her as their candidate, they are well able to go to the meetings–even call one–to review the candidate selection. At least I assume that's what they could do, not having read the Simcoe-Grey riding association's bylaws.

    If enough Conservatives in the riding do want her as their candidate, that's great because she already is. But it should surely be up to them. This is a good test case, because if Simcoe-Grey can withstand the fire with such a controversial candidate, there is hope for us all.

  9. I think you both are just discussing two different models of proportional representations. I've certainly heard of a single ranked list model. Rather than mr. Anderson being wrong because there is only one way to do it, there are models which go a long way to addressing his concerns.

  10. Mr. Coyne's sensible views of what constitutes democracy seem to rankle True Believers lately. 'Cats' n' 'connie' seem 'specially rankl-ish in this specific instance.

    • You may be mistaken in taking Cats at face value. All sleek, self confident and aloof on the outside, a jangle of nerves, phobias and hairballs on the inside.

  11. I can't agree enough. Anyone who talks about putting the focus back on the MP gets my support.

  12. I'm not wedded to the idea, but I'm just trying to think of a way that balances the different sources of power and authority without throwing the entire system into a US-style checks-and-balances chaos. People who wanted to run would have to pre-qualify by passing a security clearance. Spots would be set aside for the different regions, languages (and god forbid, genders ;-)). I've seen other large organizations manage this kind of thing.

    The PM would still pick the DMs in concert with the Clerk of the Privy Council.

    Ah well, I'm just thinking aloud. You might be right. But we need a few more checks and balances on the PM that are still fairly consistent with our British Parliamentary democracy. MMPR would sure help.

  13. A candidate for Member of Parliament for the Conservative Party of Canada appears to Joe Voter to have the endorsement of Stephen Harper. It makes sense to me to require this to actually be the case.

  14. It is interesting that several Conservative MP's such as Michael Chong, Maxime Bernier and Hugh Segal appear to making statements in recent weeks that appear to NOT be official PMO talking points. The three mentioned are fairly well respected unlike say Rob Anders and not easy to get rid by the PMO so that might have something to do with it.

  15. If Ms. Guergis is no longer caucusing with the CPC is she still a member in good standing of the CPC? Awkward!

  16. So which came first, the inability of local riding associations to embrace star candidates, or the parachuting in from head office of star candidates?

  17. I'm with Andrew 100% on this one; the caucus should pick the leader, but party member should pick the candidates. This, a process that would happen every 4 years or so; would give the members real clout, not "one leader one vote" for a leadership that happens on average every 10 years. However; I would add one safeguard: the President of the National party (not the Leader) would have to endorse the candidates; to protect against riding takeovers and the like; and the President could be chosen by one member one vote. that way, the Party debates and chooses policy, and picks the best candidates to advocate that policy; but once elected they caucus and pick the best leader amongst themselves…and having a say in the leader would make each MP vitally important.
    Its ridiculous we have a system where the PM can be voted out if he doesn't have the confidence of the House in a minority parliment; but if its a majority and he doesn't have the confidence of his caucus, that never sees the light of day….

    • I agree with Pundit's Guide. This is the best I've heard yet in balancing the importance of the voter with the importance of the MP. Good one!

  18. Hugh Segal isn't an MP.

  19. You may have hit on the right formula for me, there, James. Also, Elections Canada should run the nomination meetings under a standard set of rules about membership, balloting and spending.

  20. Cats, reasoning like that is the precise reason why the balance of our democracy is in such a mess.
    The PM, PMO or party leader should never, ever have supreme power. The will and power of the people come through their duly elected MP, the candidacy of which should be chosen by locals members of a party.
    If you look at the true Westminster Parliament (that one in England), the MP's have much more power and much more autonomy. That is the ONLY way you can truly represent your constituency. This centralized power is very, very bad for the average voter. The fact that you justify it by touting the leader and parties interest shows why.

  21. Better to let caucus pick the leader, I think. You want a cabinet that has some coherence to it, and for that you need a "cabinet maker," as Sir John A. used to list as his profession.

  22. Well the senate is part of parliament and Segal is a member …

    but yes, in the conventional use of the word he is not.

    Kittens are the best part of life !

  23. Rural Ontario can be a joke sometimes, even at a municipal level. I live in rural Ontario and everyone pretty much knows everyone and Guergis' support would be mostly stubborn country folks saying don't tell me what to do combined with enough friends and family, especially if it's an old, old family in the area. Many vote whatever pappy and grandpappy voted.

    Just look at the Guergis family – most of them in municipal politics.

    I personally know everyone on our town council, for example. They expect to be voted in by friends. It does cause problems. Our current council are just not knowledgeable enough for the times as our town is growing and I hope things will change. We sure need a better level of people and with new people moving here, maybe we can get some really qualified people on council.

  24. Hey, I come from the 6th largest city in the country, and municipal politics isn't exactly inspirational here, so it's not just a rural thing.

  25. Andrew it was particularly cruel of you to mix together the important conservative principle of local democratic autonomy with a specific unsavory yet photogenic principal and her supporting band of locals.

    One area that this government and its supporters have been completely consistent is their willingness to jettison any principle no matter how foundational to their beliefs to achieve a specific tangible outcome no matter how minor.

  26. Riding associations aren't staffed by dumb people. If their nominee turns into a loose cannon and does something really stupid, the riding association can turf the candidate out.

    And I'm not that impressed by the CPC's selection criteria, given that they like Rob Anders even when his riding association doesn't.

  27. If they can get Dr. Kellie Leitch to run in that riding, it would be a great "get" for the Tories. She would instantly add credibility and heft to the caucus, which they sorely lack currently, and would be a shoo-in for the Health Ministry, possibly even Finance.

    Her impressive bio is at =>http://www.ivey.uwo.ca/MBA/health/kellie_leitch.h

  28. "…it is unconscionable that candidates should be obliged to get the party leader to sign their nomination papers before they can stand for office. It's a direct affront to local democracy."

    So I guess this brings an end to your shilling for proportional representation.

  29. Last time I checked you were a hardcore lefty, not a Conservative …

    Not sure where you get off speaking for the party, let alone having an opinion on this subject.

  30. Cats raises a good point.

    A political party is a brand. No party, be it Liberal, Conservative, NDP, or Green, can afford to have its entire national brand tarnished by the nut-job selection of a single candidate from a rogue riding association.

    I'd like to see star candidates win a nomination somewhere rather than be parachuted in, but I do firmly believe that the parties need to be able to veto obvious troublemaker candidates.

  31. Actually what rankled me was this post.

    Smiles!

    Cats are dreams from Heaven.

  32. you forget yourself sir! If people don't like the party they don't need to vote for it.

    Get your own party if you don't like how its done.

    A cat on the PM's lap,
    tis the most powerful cat in the world.

  33. It's interesting to see the Guergis supporters rally against a parachute candidate, considering she herself ran as a parachute candidate in 2003 for the Ontario PC's in Trinity-Spadina.

  34. "“Immigration has gone up which is creating friction within communities. The country is getting bigger and messier. The role of ministers has gone bureaucratic and the action of ministers has gone downhill — it is corrupt.

    “The loss of social values is the basic problem and this is not what the Labour Party is about. I believe Gordon Brown has been the worst prime minister we have had in this country. It is a disgrace and he owes an apology to the people and the Queen.” Manish Sood, The Times, May 4 2010

    This is good example of why parties need to control potential candidates. Mr Sood is a Labour candidate and here he is calling his own leader the worst PM the country has had – now Mr Sood might be correct but he should not be saying things like that a day before election.

    I think the problem in Canada is that leaders use their power too much and should not be used as threat or punishment. There has to be a better balance between local ridings and national party – maybe have party approve 400 people as potential candidates and let local riding decide on who specifically they want to represent them.

  35. The main weakness to party members picking candidates and leaders is that they are not very representative – last numbers I recall seeing suggest that about 7% of the country are members of parties and I have no idea what % of that group actually get out and vote for candidates/leaders – and that parties are unregulated and so the single most determinative force in choosing our choices is comprised of a small fraction of the population and they do it according to their own rules. As citizens, we have to get more involved and those of us who want to remain independent have a direct interest in the processes followed by the parties being open, transparent and democratic.

  36. Ooo, no rights to even opinions?

    Is that you, harp?

  37. "Demand Better" would make a great election slogan.

  38. "MPs with strong riding associations are better placed to challenge the leadership…"

    Andrew, I would be curious to know what you mean by 'strong' riding assoctaions. Since changes to political donation regime in this country took effect, riding associations have seen their potential donor base dwindle to crap. They are completely beholden to (and in direct competition with) their own central party offices. The eliminationof croporate and union donations has forced Party HQ to turn to local donors, where they essentially take up the terrain that used to belong to local riding associations.

    On a related note, 'strong' riding associations tend to be ones which are ecompletely controlled by inucmbent MPs or canddiates, and while they may have some financial independence from Party HQ, they are hardly bastions of democracy.

    In all three major national parties, the number of contested riding nominations has gone way, way down since severe donor limits were introduced in 2003. I challenge anyone to illustrate how this has in any way helped our democracy.

  39. Cat are you saying that complete control is ok as long as it maintains power?
    That is crazy. I'm pretty sure you wouldn't agree if it were a Liberal government exercising the same control over riding associations and MP's. You'd be calling it a scandal. The Liberals were bad enough with this. The Conservatives have taken it from a science to an art form. But, that's ok because you happen to be sitting in the lap of the current PM. Warning: the bar has been lowered. This government won't be in forever. Your defense of stifling democracy means you will have zero right or credibility to bitch about such things when the next government does it. Even if that's a Liberal government of some point. Short sighted and unprincipled if you ask me.

  40. You're right. Under the current system, riding associations are controlled by small numbers of party supporters, likely only a handful in most cases. But that's a reflection of the fact that the members they select and help get elected have no real power or profile on the national stage, and can't do much for the riding except to bring in a project from time to time. So as Andrew is suggesting if MPs had had some real voting power in the House of Commons, membership and interest in local riding associations would pick up.

  41. "MPs with strong riding associations are better placed to challenge the leadership…"

    John Major, propelled to victory by the solid administration of his riding association president. Who knew? Let's all wait for Andrew's forthcoming biography of this unsung hero of Westminster before we get sarcastic.

  42. Riding associations aren't staffed by dumb people. If their nominee turns into a loose cannon and does something really stupid, the riding association can turf the candidate out.

    And I'm not impressed by the CPC's selection criteria for choosing candidates. Case in point (as is mentioned elsewhere on this page): Rob Anders.

  43. Of course. But there's a world of difference between approving the riding association's choice and forcing the riding association to accept whoever CPC headquarters wants to put in the riding.

  44. Trinity-Spadina isn't parachuting for PC's, it's more like dumpster diving.

    Parachuting is when you get to bypass the nomination in a riding where the grandfathers can't remember any other party paving their roads, including during those back to back mistakes they made in splitting the vote in '97 and 2000. (See Simcoe-Grey).

  45. A possible cure for this kind of ward heeling might be to have some sort of open nominations. The US is able to handle Dems and Reps and Indies in their primaries.

    Haven't thought it through, but while we're open to discussion on PR maybe a kind of primary process to approve the candidates of registered parties would prevent unrepresentative candidates in the locally favourite party from becoming completely entrenched.

  46. And why shouldn't a candidate criticize a leader? I'm sure the leader would disagree, but considering Brown's performance during the campaign, if I were a candidate, I'd probably be throwing in a few put-downs myself in the hopes of gaining a few votes.

    There's far too much made of party loyalty, and too little made of personal responsibility and responsibility to one's constituents. Frankly, if a Tory MP in the next election were to condemn Harper's attempts to undermine over 300 years of constitutional compromise, I'd probably vote for him or her in a minute. Elections, to my mind, are not about me and the party leader, a person I'm pretty much unlikely to ever meet or have any kind of real connection to. My MP, on the other hand, has an office about a fifteen minute drive from my house. I want him to listen to my concerns, not just be a loyal minion regurgitating talking points. That applies for most of the other candidates as well. Whether the candidate is NDP, Liberal or Bloc, at the end of the day they are under direct orders to deliver a focused message and not to move away from the script. Talking to a candidate during an election is about as productive as talking into an unplugged phone.

  47. I'm all in favour of party leaders having less power over their MPs, it's a bit ridiculous that we vote for the MPs but that they have to follow the leader no matter what (except on abortion!)

  48. Nope there's a guy on here who does everything in verse to make his points. Or poems or something !

    Cats can sing and dance too you know.

  49. Ah, but will she be willing to do what Stephen Harper and the PMO tell her to do? There have been a few high-profile Conservatives that haven't managed to clear that hurdle.

  50. I guess I wasn't clear – whether it's municipal, provincial or federal – small towns pick folks they know, related to, etc.

  51. Andrew – a bit of background information might help you reconsider your position somewhat. When she first elected, Helena's riding association was a blend of old progressive conservatives (including members of her extended family – who are close to the predominant voters in that riding – and a group with more of a Reform bent. Soon after her initial win, rumour has it that Helena asked the riding association to pay for her "personal perquisites". A good deal of execitive members baulked at this – and when she was insistent – resigned in protest. Most who resigned seemed – as far as I can gather – to be of the more progressive conservative ilk. The ones remaining seem to be closely connected to her family…not surprising that they remain loyal to the lady!

  52. And here we all thought that Harper's roots were in the grass, er, grassroots. This is one more manifestation of his utter contempt for anything open, accountable or democratic if it interferes with his ruthless quest for a majority.

    Stand up Canada! Demand better.

  53. And just for balance – Helena won her riding from a Liberal – Paul Bonwick – who rode into Parliament on Jean Chretien's coattails. Bonwick's initial campaign was run by a very smart campaign team – who were part of the riding association. When HE was elected – he asked his riding association to pay for HIS "perquisites". They too declined. Bonwick's response was to engineer an AGM meeting – where he stacked the deck and brought in members – largely of his own family – to replace the team who got him elected. Bottom line – while I agree with your premise that the ridings should pick their own candidates – there are shortcomings to that democratic process – largely due to the lethargy of the average voter out there!

  54. How insulting a comment! Since you live in rural Ontario, I assume you are talking about yourself, not your neighbours.

  55. And what exactly would you describe Canada as having been under the open and egalitarian leadership of Da Little Guy From Shawinigan? As a user of PMO power to further bald political ambition, Harper can't hold a candle to Chretien – remember the federal election called for the sole purpose of screwing with Paul Martin?

    • As a user of PMO power to further bald political ambition, Harper can't hold a candle to Chretien.

      On the contrary, Harper is building on Chretien's legacy, as Chretien built on Mulroney before him, and the next PM (of any stripe) will doubtless simply keep right on building. What's impressive about Harper is how vociferous and sincere he seemed when claiming to be different (and a new hope for accountability and transparency) and how quickly he managed to fall into the pattern of concentrating and consolidating power in the PMO as those before him had done. He seemed least likely to build on the dubious legacy of previous PM's, and yet was incredibly efficient in doing so once in power. Harper seemed like the antithesis of Chretien when in opposition, but in reality he morphed into Chretien much faster than Chretien morphed into Mulroney, imho. Hell, point number one in the great big book of Tory talking points is now "It's OK because Chretien used to do it".

      The speed with which the Tories pivoted from using Chretien as an example of all that is wrong with Canada, to using Chretien as a foundation upon which to build was stunning. I can't even remember the last time a conservative brought up Chretien in a context other than "we're just following in the footsteps of…"

  56. And what exactly would you describe Canada as having been under the open and egalitarian leadership of Da Little Guy From Shawinigan? As a user of PMO power to further bald political ambition, Harper can't hold a candle to Chretien – remember the federal election called for the sole purpose of screwing with Paul Martin?

  57. Out on a limb, here, but I thinkk Cats may be having a larff.

  58. I don't buy the argument that riding associations not being allowed choosing their own representatives is an affront to local democracy, mostly because there's no reason individual parties need to be democratic within their own structure. However a party chooses its candidates is up to them, the democracy element comes in the general election. If they put forth a bad candidate, I won't vote for that person, nor should anyone else who also believes that person to be a bad candidate.

    We see in the US what happens when parties "do the democratic thing" in picking the party candidates through primaries. The candidates that come out of the process don't seem to be of high quality, or at least not higher quality than we have here. With Guergis, it's more than obvious that she would be a bad candidate for the Conservative Party. Her riding association may want her, but that doesn't make her a good candidate – if she wants to run, she's still welcome to do so as an independent, and if the riding association wants to support here, I don't think anything's stopping them from dropping their positions within the Conservative party to do so. There's no subversion of democracy there – the people of Simcoe-Grey can still elect her. Whether she represents the Conservative Party as a whole, however, is up to the the federal Conservative Party – just as her inclusion in the Conservative caucus now is not up to her riding association, but rather to the Conservative brass.

  59. I htink it would be more accurate to say that riding associations aren't uniformly good or uniformly incompetent. That we can count on some to do the right thing and not on others, regardless of the system in place. However, if participation rates in a locall association are high, then RAs will be held to account which leads to MPs being held to account etc…

    Selection criteria would be one fo the most interesting places to start if we were to get to the point AC is promoting. Do we want MPs who are independent, thoughtful leaders, capable of assessing issues and reflecting the community values of their riding, or do we want slaves to the local riding? If slaves to the local riding, do we want them slaves to the local party members who elected them, or the whole riding? (Remember, successful candidates are often elected by less than 40% of the riding).

    Like any kind of reform of a public institution, the devil is in the details. Are we capable as a society of thinking about and getting those details right?

  60. Well, there was JM, who would use prose from time to time, and then there's God, who likes to speak in the third person…

  61. Yeah but we've seen riding associations being taken over the rabble organized over the internet.

    Like in the case of Anders. A bunch of left wing activsts staged a coup!

    Cats and Anders, Anders and cats, both have 9 lives despite attacks from the left!

  62. I spent a lot of time covering assorted small-town council meetings back in the day. He's being generous.

  63. Way to stay on point.

    You know, it's well worth pointing out that this problem — rogue/embarrassing candidate put up by local riding association process — is hardly unique to the current CPC. In British Columbia, the NDP, both at the federal and provincial level, has had a few doozies of its own (e.g., nominating a practising witch).

  64. Breathing.

  65. Brown has been the subject of a number of revolts, and now that it's seeming more likely that Britain will have a hung parliament with David Cameron as PM, I imagine you're going to find more private and semi-private musings on the lack of performance by Brown. That's the nature of a party in our system in crisis. Much worse happened to Thatcher, who found herself without a job when her caucus openly revolted against her. In Canada, of course, the parties have much more control than they do in Britain, which has retained some of the more positive elements of the 19th century Westminster system.

  66. If the Simcoe-Greyvians really care about any of this and find that they don't like the candidate selected for them by either their riding association or Harper, they'll elect an independent candidate and show the CPC who is boss.

    And perhaps this time they'll look a little further than favoured demographics when choosing a candidate.

  67. Andrew, you neglect to mention that the Conservatives have taken no steps to keep their 206 election promises to "Ensure that party nomination and leadership races are conducted in a fair, transparent, and democratic manner" and to "Prevent party leaders from appointing candidates without the democratic consent of local electoral district associations."

    What would have happened if the spirit of these promises had been kept? The Canada Elections Act would have been changed by adding rules for nomination races preventing party leaders from appointing candidates (except in situations such as when there is no local riding association, or no one running for a nomination), and other rules such as how long you have to be a member of a party to vote in a nomination vote, and probably rules allowing parties to have reasonable criteria people must meet in order to run for a nomination (e.g. no past criminal convictions, agreement to support party platform and policy and only dissent for justifiable reasons), and overall giving Elections Canada the mandate and power to run nomination races in the same way it runs general elections.

    Andrew, you also neglected to mention that none of the opposition party leaders have criticized the Conservatives for breaking their promises. Of course, this is the problem — all the party leaders don't want MPs, they want MPLs — Members of Party Leader Supporters, and so they don't want to end their control of nomination races.

    The question is, why haven't a critical mass of MPs (30 or so from all parties) banded together to push a private member bill that would change the Canada Elections Act in these ways? They have nothing to lose but their own chains.

    See all the details about the Conservatives record on democratic reform and government accountability at: http://www.dwatch.ca/camp/RelsDec1609.html

    Hope this helps,
    Duff Conacher, Coordinator
    Democracy Watch http://www.goodgovernment.ca

  68. Andrew, you neglect to mention that the Conservatives have taken no steps to keep their 206 election promises to "Ensure that party nomination and leadership races are conducted in a fair, transparent, and democratic manner" and to "Prevent party leaders from appointing candidates without the democratic consent of local electoral district associations."

    What would have happened if the spirit of these promises had been kept? The Canada Elections Act would have been changed by adding rules for nomination races preventing party leaders from appointing candidates (except in situations such as when there is no local riding association, or no one running for a nomination), and other rules such as how long you have to be a member of a party to vote in a nomination vote, and probably rules allowing parties to have reasonable criteria people must meet in order to run for a nomination (e.g. no past criminal convictions, agreement to support party platform and policy and only dissent for justifiable reasons), and overall giving Elections Canada the mandate and power to run nomination races in the same way it runs general elections.

    Andrew, you also neglected to mention that none of the opposition party leaders have criticized the Conservatives for breaking their promises. Of course, this is the problem — all the party leaders don't want MPs, they want MPLs — Members of Party Leader Supporters, and so they don't want to end their control of nomination races.

    The question is, why haven't a critical mass of MPs (30 or so from all parties) banded together to push a private member bill that would change the Canada Elections Act in these ways? They have nothing to lose but their own chains.

    See all the details about the Conservatives record on democratic reform and government accountability at: http://www.dwatch.ca/camp/RelsDec1609.html

    Hope this helps,
    Duff Conacher, Coordinator
    Democracy Watch http://www.goodgovernment.ca

  69. Andrew, you neglect to mention that the Conservatives have taken no steps to keep their 206 election promises to "Ensure that party nomination and leadership races are conducted in a fair, transparent, and democratic manner" and to "Prevent party leaders from appointing candidates without the democratic consent of local electoral district associations."

    What would have happened if the spirit of these promises had been kept? The Canada Elections Act would have been changed by adding rules for nomination races preventing party leaders from appointing candidates (except in situations such as when there is no local riding association, or no one running for a nomination), and other rules such as how long you have to be a member of a party to vote in a nomination vote, and probably rules allowing parties to have reasonable criteria people must meet in order to run for a nomination (e.g. no past criminal convictions, agreement to support party platform and policy and only dissent for justifiable reasons), and overall giving Elections Canada the mandate and power to run nomination races in the same way it runs general elections.

    Andrew, you also neglected to mention that none of the opposition party leaders have criticized the Conservatives for breaking their promises. Of course, this is the problem — all the party leaders don't want MPs, they want MPLs — Members of Party Leader Supporters, and so they don't want to end their control of nomination races.

    The question is, why haven't a critical mass of MPs (30 or so from all parties) banded together to push a private member bill that would change the Canada Elections Act in these ways? They have nothing to lose but their own chains.

    See all the details about the Conservatives record on democratic reform and government accountability at: http://www.dwatch.ca/camp/RelsDec1609.html

    Hope this helps,
    Duff Conacher, Coordinator
    Democracy Watch http://www.goodgovernment.ca

  70. You need to look up "parachute candidate" in the Big Dictionary of Canadian Politics.

  71. Above comment applies to you too !

  72. Usually people who are really good and qualified for a job have difficulty putting up with a boss who insists on my way or the highway, don't you think?

  73. I've always taken parachute candidate to mean some facilitated access to power, picking a winnable riding for a star candidate who doesn't live there. Finding a willing standard bearer in a no-win riding is either a thankless task or at best prep school for young candidates.

  74. Very few people who support proportional representation support a pure PR system. A lot of what's being proposed domestically is either single transferrable vote (where your second or third choice can have some influence) or mixed-member proportional, which uses lists to bring the proportion of MPs somewhere close to the proportion of votes.

    But to answer your riding association question, I see a couple of ways this helps matters. Firstly, it lets parties avoid the issue of parachuting in candidates to particular ridings, since you can just add a star candidate to your list instead (if you end up going with a mixed list system).

    it also does away rather neatly with the polite fiction that Cabinet ministers can doubly function as MPs for their constituencies throughout the year. I'm okay with the PM spending most of his or her time on the affairs of the country, frankly, and while I'm sure he has a very strong constituency office in Calgary Southwest to help his residents with routine matters like petitions and help with passports, etc., it would be best for everyone involved to separate the two tasks. Put the party leader and a few potential cabinet ministers (generally the most qualified ones) on your list and you have elected MPs who can devote their full attention to the needs of their constituents.

    You might also get some more substantive debate on specific issues – if you know ahead of time that Lawrence Cannon, Paul Dewar and Bob Rae are the prospective list candidates for Minister of Foreign Affairs, then they can concentrate on the FA aspects of their parties' platforms and debate issues without having to spend 6 days out of 7 back in their ridings making sure they don't lose their seats.

    Let directly elected MPs concentrate on being great constituency MPs. Let the list candidates concentrate on being stars on their specific issues. I see a lot of positives.

  75. Not at all. There are means to do riding level representation while maintaining proportional representation.

    Of course, each system has its flaws (my own system, for instance, has the flaw that in areas where the constituency does not evidence a strong leaning in one way or the other, their pluralative "winner" may be supplanted by a candidate better representing the national desire — also, it has difficulties dealing with regional parties vs. low vote national parties as in the Bloc and Greens. Of course, it has benefits in that voting is exactly the same as now, the party does not get to choose which candidate gets in via lists, and that ridings which have strong preferences can elect their chosen representatives, even independants, while the system maintains decent levels of proportionality)

  76. Well said

  77. "And why shouldn't a candidate criticize a leader? …. There's far too much made of party loyalty, and too little made of personal responsibility and responsibility to one's constituents."

    I agree. You are preaching to the choir but it is never going to happen. Unless we abolish parties, they are always going to have a say in who their potential nominees are. I was just thinking of some compromise that both sides – MPs and Party – could agree to.

  78. GROMBLES.

    Somebody likes dogs.

    Well I say that post was for the dogs !

  79. Correct. See Ignatieff, Michael.

    • I'd agree with that. I've never liked the idea of finding a riding for someone to run in, and don't vote for candidates who are suddenly enthusiastic about the long traditions of Upper West SlowDitch.

  80. I agree 100%. I used to be involved for many years in federal politics at the local riding assocation level. Especially if the party, or the riding association, becomes organizationally or financially weak (as, e.g., happened to the old PC party in several geographic areas after the decimation of 1993), it is incredibly easy for a riding association to be hijacked by any number of well-organized nutbar/rogue groups. There is no way a national party should have to tolerate that.

    This is a classic case of general rule with an exception. General rule = riding assocation autonomy. Exception = where that autonomy leads to a result that is clearly bad for the nationial party.

    • General rule = riding association autonomy. Exception = where that autonomy leads to a result that is clearly bad for the national party.

      It's like the Tories overall approach to government. General rule = democratic accountability. Exception = where democratic accountability leads to a result that is clearly bad for the government.

  81. Trinity-Spadina, for a conservative, is a political suicide mission. An absolute exercise in futility. It's like getting your parachute caught in the trees so the Nazi machine gunners can easily pump you full of bullets.

    • 4985 votes and 12.29%, it wasn't a total suicide mission. She may even have lived there at the time.

  82. Yes, if you want a majority government, that means you're a bad person.

    Got it.

  83. Mark, that's a great point. I do recall that there's always been that tension between the national party's need for money and donors to fund national operations, versus the need at the local level. It hadn't occurred to me that our campaign finance law changes would have affected that, but of course it makes perfect sense that they would have.

  84. As opposed to, say the Liberals?
    How about asking Dennis Coderre his opinion on Montreal-Outremont fiasco?
    Do all Libs have such a short memory span similar to the dog in the movie "Up"?
    What dweebs!

  85. If the Simcoe-Greyvians really care about any of this and find that they don't like the candidate selected for them by either their riding association or Harper, they'll elect an independent candidate and show the CPC who is boss.

    And perhaps this time they'll look a little further than favoured demographics when choosing a candidate.

  86. Frankly, Mr Coyne, I don't give a d……….(or, why am I reading this sh…..?

  87. Cats – to quote a C,onservative Senator – 'Shut the …' – on no, that would be rude. Why doesn't Harper just cook up some breach the way he did with Garth Turner, and be done with her?

  88. I haven't seen one of them yet that is any different from the next. Preston Manning tried and look where that got him.

    • Don't kid yourself. Preston Manning made a virtue out of pretending to try, same as everyone blames the NDP for doing. Some honourable gentlemen are more honourable when they aren't faced with deciding where to arrange the furniture on Sussex Drive.

  89. Dogs – man's best friend. Cats – nobody's friend

  90. No no no. Canadians are better served by parties willing to trample their riding associations. Has anybody gone to a riding association meeting? These people are not a broad, representative swathe of the public. They are narrow-minded folks with an axe to grind and an agenda to hawk. Party leaders care largely about the electability of candidates. However electability is not a shallow concern – the most electable candidate will be the one closest to the views of the average citizen (as opposed to the average dues-paying party member) in a riding.

    Secondly, riding associations can easily be stacked. For instance, Chuck Cadman lost – badly – in his nomination race, but went on to trounce his opponents in the general election as an independent (the Conservative got something like 12% of the vote). If there are 100,000 dues paying members of a party in the country, that makes a bit over 300 members per riding (and of course some ridings will have far fewer). In other words, most people could win a party's nomination largely by getting all of their facebook friends to join a party and vote for them.

    Parliament is well-served by the exclusion of folks like Larry Spencer from high office. The power to nominate by fiat has not been abused by party leaders – it is rarely used and only in fairly egregious cases.

    • Agreed, hth. I'm willing to venture that many people who advocate for the sanctity of riding association autonomy have never belonged to a riding association (I have) and never attended a riding association nomination meeting (I have). They are vastly overrated as icons of our democratic system.

  91. "I'm with the burghers of Simcoe-Grey on this: it's up to the riding association to decide whether Helena Guergis should remain as their candidate, not party central command."

    Without question, the funniest thing you've ever written, Coyne. The central party has the obligation to defend the brand, not Guergis and her errant husband. The local riding association ought to shut the f**k up.

    • All hail the central party. LOL

      • Coyne is so terminally obsessed with proportional representation, I would like to see him continue on the subject of that very obvious oxymoron, 'party democracy' for a while. I love irony.

  92. An impressive bio to be sure. I would just add that with our current cabinet and government caucus, the ability to "instantly add credibility and heft to the caucus" isn't really a big selling point.

    I have house plants that could ""instantly add credibility and heft" were they added to THAT caucus.

  93. "In a proper Westminster system, the leader is selected by the members of the Parliamentary caucus. In our run-down, degraded version of Westminster, the leader picks the caucus."

    Roger on that Andrew.

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