What would Michael Chong’s Reform Act mean for riding nominations?

‘It becomes a very different dynamic’

by Aaron Wherry

As a pro-life group targets Conservative nominations, Radical Centrist reviews how nominations are handled by the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in Britain and suggests the same system could be applied here.

Would such a process work here in Canada? I don’t see why not. With regards to the Reform Act proposal, some concerns have been expressed regarding leaving the decision up to local party riding associations, since some of these local associations aren’t particularly healthy. Some parties may not have a very active membership in some parts of the country, which could make candidate selection problematic if decentralized. This is a legitimate concern, but I don’t see why our parties couldn’t set up Parliamentary Assessment Boards consisting of sitting MPs and long-time party volunteers who could assess candidates anywhere in the country via Skype, for example. The PAB could be supplemented by one or two local party members. Yes, the Canadian situation is different, but none of the problems or objections I’ve yet seen raised are insurmountable.

Do some oddball MPs get elected to the UK House of Commons? You bet they do! And that no doubt adds to the liveliness of the place (when compared to the Canadian House of Commons, for example). But here’s the thing – there are plenty of oddball MPs who get elected here in Canada even with the party leader signing off on nomination papers. The main difference here is that our party leaders can more easily keep their oddballs on a tight leash.

The concern raised by Tim Harper and Paul Wells is that, without the Elections Act requirement of the leader’s signature to run under a party banner, parties will find it hard to manage 338 nominations—some riding associations, for instance, will be more susceptible to being stacked by special interest groups.

I asked Michael Chong about those concerns yesterday. He thinks the argument that there are ridings without riding associations is a “thin argument.” When we spoke by phone, here is some of what he had to say.

First, it takes only four members for a riding association to be established. Second, if four members cannot be found, should a party run a candidate in that riding? Wasn’t that why we did away with the quote-unquote “rotten boroughs” of the time past?

There used to be these things called rotten boroughs, they were essentially client constituencies beholden to a particular person and we did away with those, for good reason. It’s not representative democracy.

… It only takes four members for a riding association to be established. A riding association that could then nominate a party candidate. What it forces parties to do is to ensure that their structures are very grassroots. And that’s the power of the bill. It reconnects political parties in a much stronger way to the grassroots membership of the party throughout the country.

… When people say it’s relatively easy to take over nominations or these people don’t fit with the party? What does that mean? Taken over by people who don’t look like us, or people who don’t pass the ideological smell test or taken over by people that are too young or too old?

My view is that provided a party member meets the requirements to vote in a nomination campaign, in other words, they have been a member for a sufficient amount of time in advance of the nomination vote, shouldn’t riding associations and parties be open to new members and shouldn’t they want to attract new members?

And the argument that, well, wouldn’t this bill allow unhealthy riding associations to be easily taken over. Well, why is that a bad thing? If a riding association isn’t quote-unquote “healthy” it means it doesn’t have very many members, so why would we not want new members to join that association to grow its membership?

At the end of the day, registered political parties are not closed clubs. They are quasi-public institutions that receive large sums, millions of dollars of taxpayer money and also are granted special powers. These parties should be open to all Canadians who wish to participate in the political process.

We discussed other issues and aspects of the bill and then I came back to this issue of riding nominations. Here is that exchange (with my comments in bold).

Just to go back to this because I want to make sure I understand it. The issue of nominations and this question that has been raised by Tim and Paul, that there are 338 ridings, there aren’t robust riding associations in all of these ridings, they could be easily overrun…

Well, they’re in part not robust, I would argue, because what powers do members of a local electoral district association have? Ultimately, in the final, final analysis, what powers do they have? They do not have the final say over the nomination candidate.

Now, more often than not, the leader of a political party defers to the riding association, but ultimately it’s up to the leader of the party to approve the nominated candidate. I would argue that that rule, the veto that party leaders have over party candidates, along with the other two rules that have weakened the parliamentary party, the combination of the three is one of the reasons why there’s a disconnect between Parliament and constituencies across the country.

The counter scenario, I guess, or one scenario that might come out is, there are all these ridings—first of all, there aren’t riding associations in some of these places because there isn’t much of a chance of winning. So to use the NDP example, in Quebec, most of these people, excluding what happened in 2011, most of those ridings didn’t ever imagine that there would ever be an NDP MP for them. So, in theory, these ridings could be easily—issues-based groups or mischief makers or what-have-you could go into these ridings…

But, no, no. But that is—language is very important. We don’t have voters who are eligible to vote because they’re not mischief makers and they’re not issues-based. In other words, the franchise is universal in Canada. And that means that everyone has the right to participate in the political process.

And the idea that we should somehow restrict the franchise within political parties because people don’t look like us or because they don’t think like us or because they’re too young or too old, I don’t think makes sense. It’s not logically coherent.

Because a group of people who believe in something strongly join a local riding association shouldn’t preclude them from membership.

Right. I guess the counter argument to that would be that parties have a certain amount of sovereignty and right to decide sort of what they’re about and what their ideology is and what their agenda is. And in the situation sort of that this bill would allow, you could have some group of a dozen people or whatever either take over one riding or take over several ridings and present some platform that doesn’t at all correspond to what the party, the larger party, has and suddenly the national party has to account for that.

You know, that can happen within the current system.

But doesn’t the leader’s veto prevent that from happening in the current system.

Yes it does, to a certain extent. But nevertheless, the leader can’t veto every single nominated candidate that’s presented. So that can happen in the current system.

Look, I really believe that all these arguments are quite thin. Every other Western democracy has a system where local associations, local districts, nominate the party candidate and have the final decision. And I don’t see why we are so different in this country that we can’t adopt that kind of a system. And frankly, it was the system that we had in place prior to 1970. And to my knowledge, the history of parliaments prior to 1970 weren’t filled with MPs that were anymore single-issues based or anymore different than the parliaments that would happen under this bill.

How do you see it playing out with an election campaign, in terms of a party ends up with 338 candidates and there are, let’s say, half a dozen or some small number or maybe even a larger number that disagree with the party platform or disagree with the leader or the leader disagrees with them? The response becomes, either the leader has to wear those people or he doesn’t have control of his party.

Well, first of all, that’s not a hypothetical, that happens in every election campaign.

Yeah, to a certain extent, but…

So it happens in every election campaign today. And so under today’s rules, the onus to respond to that conflict rests on the leader because it is the leader’s responsibility to vet the candidate, to approve the candidate. Under the system proposed under the Reform Act, that authority rests with the local electoral district association. And therefore, the focus becomes not on the leader, as to what he or she is going to do with respect to this candidate that’s gone off message or has other problems, the issue becomes one for the local electoral district association. And so, in my view, it will actually reduce the media focus during election campaigns on those candidates that go off-message or that have other troubles during the campaign. Because the leader’s response will be, well, don’t look at me, this was not my decision as to whether this candidate should stand for election, phone up the local electoral district association, it’s their decision. It becomes a very different dynamic.




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What would Michael Chong’s Reform Act mean for riding nominations?

  1. I should have added in my post that the UK parties (Tories and Lib Dems) start the candidate recruit process at the start of each new Parliament – they don’t wait until days before an election is called. If our parties did that, it would be easier to manage 338 ridings as they’d have 4 years to find people.

    • Depends on who’s doing the searching (local riding association vs. party central), and, if it’s the former, it depends on the health of that local riding association. When parties get trounced, and especially repeatedly trounced, one inevitable result is that certain local riding associations atrophy. When that happens, they cease to be functional. The people disappear, there’s no money, no volunteers, no infrastructure etc. etc. To think that an entity like that can even do a candidate search, never mind a good or effective one, is magical thinking.

      • There’s nothing in this bill to prevent a party from allocating efforts and resources into searching out local candidates in particular ridings. All they then need is to scare up 4 association members and voila, problem solved. All this bill would do is prevent the leader from shutting out challengers.

      • If “there’s no money, no volunteers, no infrastructure etc. etc.”, then the riding association won’t be able to get anyone elected anyway, will they?

      • So you mean the Reform party never existed? Wow.

  2. I’m growing increasing uncomfortable with objections to this bill that centre on the spectre of ‘crazies’, ‘special interest groups’ or ‘single issue candidates’ overtaking the nominations in ridings. As Chong points out, everyone has a right to participate in our democracy, and I’m not sure we need elites to decide who is too fringe to be involved. That’s an issue for the voters to decide, no?

    More particularly, I keep encountering reference to anti-abortion interests somehow running amok should this bill become law as a form of definitive evidence against it. I am staunchly pro choice on that matter, but am not about to suggest people be denied partcipation because I disagree with them. I’d rather they have their position exposed to the full light of public scrutiny as candidates or MPs. Again, let the voters decide.

    • When you think about it, the argument rests on the idea that the person the ‘crazies’ nominate will be unpalatable to the more moderate middle that the party relies upon to get their votes.

      Yet the party obviously doesn’t appeal enough to that more moderate middle for them to become involved in the riding association and prevent the crazy take-over. So it is in fact *more* representative of the riding for the “sane” candidate from another party–the party that has a great enough approval in the riding to be able to prevent a “crazy” takeover–to have a better chance of winning the representative seat.

      • Agreed. The objectors to Chong’s bill too often treat particular parties as codified components of our democracy. Parties can and should wither, regrow, merge and be invented. They ought to be no more than an effective means of enabling ciitzen voices to be reflected in parliament.

    • They can do all these things without being guaranteed of a place as a party candidate if they can worm their way into a candidate spot.

  3. One reason I’ve never backed any proposed versions of proportional representation is that it would create MPs who are not directly representative of – or beholden to – citizens. But I know I’m often in the minority on that count, so I’m wondering the bill would be problematic for those envisioning a partly PR system down the road? (presumably, the non-riding candidates would not be put forward via grassroots nominations – at least in the proposals I’ve seen, and thus would consititute an even more distinct class of MP)

    • We just need my double-percentage PR system, man. No party lists, no complicated voting, just percentages of the total vote both across the nation and within each riding.

    • New Zealand uses Mixed Member Proportional – doesn’t seem to be an issue there.

    • May I strongly, strongly recommend that you check out STV, and its somewhat simpler cousin P3. These electoral systems retain the direct representation that many citizens favour as well as giving results that are more proportional to overall votes.

      These systems also have some other smaller benefits that you might be interested in.

    • Here is a link to the details of P3, assuming you didn’t know the particulars.

    • Please Sean, buddy, don’t repeat that again. Because, EVERY serious proposal on PR for CANADA has all MPs directly elected from a specific region of Canada, just like we do now. Also, candidates nominated that way. Please see the links under resources here http://www.electoralreformforcanada.ca for a couple of the proposals, and do be sure to check out the Carey/Hicks thing on the “sweet spot” of moderate proportionality. And if you want more, I’m taking this course on Democratic Development and can send you some of the lectures . . .

      • Jenn, Jenn, Jenn,

        There is no system of PR where all the representatives are DIRECTLY elected. The only way to create party proportionality in parliament is to have lists of candidates available to fill the allocated number of non-constituency seats. No matter how those candidates are selected (party appointed, regionally nominated), or how those candidates are “categorized” or intended to better reflect the population (regional, gender, multicultural, etc…), there will necessarily be a dimension of voters casting ballots for parties, not individuals.

        Which means you end up with two types of MPs. Those directly accountable to constituents, and those who are not. I don’t care how you tweak it, candidates sent to parliament on the basis of aggregated percentages are a deviation from the relationship between an MP and a defined group of citizens. (A fact that has proven to be a bone of contention in many European cases – save Germany where they seem to love parties an awful lot – in that the traditional MPs argue they carry a heavier burden of constituent responsibilites compared to their proportional peers )

        There is no form of PR that will lessen the power of parties, and arguably they all would serve to enhance and entrench their role. Chong’s bill, among other things, promises to diminish the status of party and reinvigorate the role of elected members.

        We can debate whether or not the party ought to be a more meaningful unit of representation, but it needs to be acknowledged that PR systems decidedly assume that they ought to be.

        • Are you making the case that STV and P3 representatives are not directly elected?

          • P3 involves 5 member ridings. While the election of candidates is somewhat more direct, the outcome is one where any particular MP can dodge accountability to citizens with ease.

            STV variants suffer from the same problem – multi-member districts, where the representation often has be calculated by computer, serves to distance the MP from citizens.

            I get that these methods may enhance representation of parties and varied interests. But I’ve yet to be convinced the locally bound and defined nature of an MP is something that ought to be diluted, particularly since so many of parliament’s dysfunctions seem to be the result of party and leader interests trumping the role of our elected representatives.

          • As Dion has defined P3, he has 5 member ridings as the defalut, although he does indicate that in sparsely populated areas it would make more sense to reduce that number down, even down to one member for the 3 northern seats.

            Personally I would vary the number of seats per riding to match geographic realities. Ie the Kitchener area would have a single riding with 3 seats (encompassing existing Kitchener-Waterloo, Kitchener Center and Kitchener Conestoga.

            With P3 in that proposed riding the three winners (in 2011) would probably have been Harold Albrecht (CPC), Peter Braid (CPC) and Andrew Telegdi (LPC)….but you probably new that already.

            If we could use this fictional Kitchener riding as an example, how would Harold or Peter or Andrew be able to dodge accountability with ease? Presumably CPC supporters are going to be just as forceful with Albrecht and Braid, and with this outcome the almost 30,000 LPC voters actually have someone that they can hold to account.

          • The MP is supposed to represent all citizens in a riding. What you’ve just outlined is a situation where they become more beholden to their own partisan supporters.

          • I’m 100% confident that you know that the operative word is supposed.

            In Stephen Woodsworth’s riding 49,809 folks voted. Of those, 28,690 did not vote for him. How much effort do you think Woodsworth is making to consider their input? Is he not now beholden to the 21,119 people who voted for him?

            Dion makes the case that P3 puts pressure on candidates from all parties to at least think about how to appeal for second and third preferences, rather than just focusing on their own partisan supporters.

            Got to get going right now, but interested in continuing on if appropriate…

        • Sean, Sean, Sean. Simply not true. There are things called ‘open lists’ which means you pick the individual of the party. And, while the candidates are ‘categorized’ by party (including independent) they are now, as well. PRs purpose isn’t to lessen the power of parties, although we could argue about that, too, I suppose. Its purpose is to give genuine voice to the people of (in this case) Canada. Now, there is something to be said for the purposes of a majoritarian system, or at least there was until we got to the point of the abomination that is our majoritarian system today. Which is why absolutely nobody (that I’m aware of, and I’m pretty aware) is advocating pure proportional representation. And why, in my opinion, the Carey/Hicks study is so important. We need a balance between fairness, inclusion and our genuine voice, and stability, accountability, and decisiveness.

          But electoral reform is only the first of many reforms needed. Chong’s bill is a good start, too, but so much more needs doing.

          A little unfair to argue that since PR won’t lessen the party power we should stay with the party power elections we have now, don’t you think?

          • OK, I’ll go all in: PR will inevitably strengthen party power. It will dillute accountability.

            Appeals to fairness and inclusion are well intended, but such concepts are highly subjective, and it’s arguable that representative houses that include PR have done little more than provide symbolic appeasement of marginalized groups.

            Give our MPs a role and accountability that is closer to that of municipal politicians, and I’d suggest we’d have a more robust democracy and engaged citizenry.

          • You mean municipalities under a PR system. Because what we have now gives us Rob Ford, LOL. PR (as is being discussed in Canada) actually won’t strengthen party power, and the argument can be made that it can dilute it. Because, the parties will not have more power in selecting their ‘lists’ if we go that route, which is where the idea that parties get power comes from, I think. Personally, I think its likely a wash. Did you look at the evidence I made available to you? Do you have any evidence you’d like me to look at? Or, where do you get your assertions from?

          • Oh, and what do you think is the point of the representative body in the representative democracy?

          • Sorry it took me so long to reply – I was away from a computer.

            Yes, I did look at the evidence. Carey and Hix include Spain amongst the exemplars of the “sweet spot”, which is a bit of a red flag. They also fail to control for non-governmental influences on the UN HDI rankings of countries.

            But my main criticism of such studies is that they uncritically take the “party” to be the ultimate unit of measure for representation. The idea that representation can occuri from within a party, the role of public and special interest influence from without, or the concept of riding/district citizen representation (which is Chong’s aim), are absent from their calculations. The party becomes the final word on representation, and the relationship between representatives and their ridings/districts is unexamined.

            Accountability is measured via the ratio between spending and services (more or less), which pretty much ignores things like international relations, arts and culture, and a myriad of government roles that would not significantly affect the balance sheet, yet greatly define particular nations according to citizens’ desires. The paper also asserts that majoritarian governments will be more efficient – yet we have ample evidence that they can be every bit as wasteful as more coalition-oriented systems.

            to be continued…

          • CONTINUED….

            As for my evidence…. Well, you can start here:

            http://www.upf.edu/dcpis/_pdf/ablais.pdf

            In a way, Blais and Bodet reaffirm the pro-PR position that we need not worry about unmandated coalition governments or the undue influence of small parties on government, because all parties get pushed toward the median voter ideology. (what they call “convergence”) In less ‘representative’ systems, voters do this themselves at the poll when being forced to choose parties less aligned parties to their own ideologies. Their takeaway conclusion: “The bottom line is that there is a push towards the center in both systems. There is no theoretical reason to
            suppose that the push is stronger in one system than in the other. The moment of convergence is different but the result is the same.”

            Which supports my assertion that PR does little more than make people feel better, under the somewhat naive belief that votes are “wasted” if not for a party that lands in parliament.

            I cannot find a source explaining how PR governments do anything that better than our own current system, other than throw a bone of symbolic inclusion to currently disaffected citizens. And to me, that’s nowhere near enough benefit to justify the further dilution of accountability between a sitting member and her or his district’s citizens.

          • Well, I suggest to you that the evidence disproving the assertion that all parties converge on the centre is currently sitting as our Prime Minister. But, not completely of course, as Wells says, it has to be an incremental move away from the centre. But incremental or not, look at the number of government policies that have been rolled back and/or completely reversed in the last seven years. The good old days of Trudeau and Mulroney don’t hold a candle to the wild swings left and right that we are pretty much guaranteed to see from now on. (yes, that was sarcastic about Trudeau and Mulroney)

            I don’t know what is naive about feeling you deserve A VOICE in your representative democracy even if it doesn’t relate to government policy in the end. That your view is respectfully heard in the debates can go a long way in the sense of ownership–of being included–in our democratic country. I have a friend (one I’ve even met!) who is roughly my ancient age, and while she has voted in every election she’s been eligible to vote, she has never, not once, elected someone to parliament. And she’s not a die-hard of one of the “fringe” parties, either.

            But the part that concerns me is “further dilution of accountability between a sitting member and her or his district’s citizens.” because every MP would be accountable to a region.

          • I’ve been voting for 24 years. In all three three levels of elections, I’ve only twice seen my vote be for the winning candidate. Green Party – pre May – is the fringest I’ve ever gone. But I’ve never felt unrepresented.

            Yes, Harper has altered many things, and has been responsible for the contined neutering of of the HoC (Chretien got the ball rolling in a serious way) but in terms of the core policies and functions of our federal government, things are not so radically altered that the country is unrecognizable as compared to pre-Harper regimes. Because even with a majority, every leader and party knows they have to pay attention to the “median ideology” of citizens. Whether that happens via more parties in parliament, or via paying attention to the proportion of votes in FPTP, the result is the same.

            My losing vote is not wasted, and there are many many means of expressing opinion that can influence those in power.

            see my response to MyFriends below for a few more thoughts on accountability….

          • I don’t know where you live, Sean, that you think MPs are voting in accordance to what their constituency would want. I mean today, and I pretty much mean all MPs, with a few wonderful exceptions (not just picking on one party here). But I do know where you live, and it could be your gender, but do you really think I feel represented in that riding? Because generally, your representative isn’t also your worst nightmare. I think if Canadians got a direct vote (which I’m not advocating BTW) they would vote NO to being spied on, and YES to environmental protection. But not unanimously. The problem is that so many “seat bonuses” are given under our current system–a majority government on 6,201 votes difference!

            My nephew is friends with Andre Blais, btw, and I could get you an introduction if you like :)

          • I’m going to overlook the backhanded critique of my position via my gender, cuz I respect the heck out of you.

            Here’s your point of confusion: No, I don’t happen to feel all that represented by the POS MP in my riding right now (despite the fact that we both have penises). But I do know there’s an election around the corner, and I will have every opportunity to publicly argue as to why he, and his party, are not the optimal choice for us. I don’t actually need a clone of myself in parliament to feel like my voice matters, and I don’t care about token symbolism – it’s results that matter. Even if our house had 4 or 5 libertarian socialists (my own contradictory orientation), I don’t think policy or legilslation would be too much different.

            Do you have data to suggest that a majority of Canadians would vote in favour of environemntal protection, as one example? I would, but my sense is that most of our citizens are complacent sheep who are more worried about big screen TVs and cheap gasoline than the environment. If they weren’t, there’d be marches in Ottawa, and any party willing to enact robust environmental protections would find itself in power.

            Can you please point me to an example of a state where PR is part of the mix, and where that sytem has been correlated with policies that are more in line with varying (and otherwise ignored) ideologies? I’ve looked in vain.

            Symbolic tokenism via PR (hey, there’s a Marxist in parliament! the revolution is all but won!) will ultimately work to make some people feel better (presumably, you’d rest easier with more vaginas in the HoC?), but has not been proven to alter the ultimate course of policy and ideological orientation of a government.

          • Sean, I was speaking not of your MPs gender particularly (or yours) but of his life’s work, specifically. It was a gender comment only in the sense that he’s not attacking yours and he is attacking mine. My representative is attacking my gender, and hence me.

            No, I don’t have data, but I do know that the majority of voting Canadians did not vote for this government. As I believe every other political party would include environmental protection as a part of its governing, and I believe voting Canadians know this, I sort of inferred it. As to non-voting Canadians–I simply don’t know, they didn’t vote to give me any indication one way or another.

            And, I’m not even sure what you’re saying about PR and otherwise ignored ideologies. If you’re saying that a PR system would enact, say, all Christian Heritage policies, that would be a ridiculous non-representative result. The point is, they would be part of the decision making mix as opposed to the single party proclamation we do have, right now.

            With a more inclusive electoral system, we would have environmental protections (as I inferred people want), likely still have the court challenges program, and possibly the long-form census. These might not seem like a big deal to you, but I don’t have a time machine for us to go ask our kids in 30 years. I don’t know how you can prove an alternate timeline, although I do enjoy reading alternate history books from time to time.

          • Been thinking about this accountability contention…is there an example of accountability that the current system delivers that you would like to offer up? I ask not in the sense that I disagree, but interested to explore why P3 wouldn’t be able to deliver just as well.

          • Sure thing.

            As it stands now, each MP knows there are certain issues of local citizen interest that must be heeded – regardless of party affiliation. Re-election depends on observing some minimum level of adherence to the opinions of constituents. An MP can speak on behalf of the riding in caucus, on the house floor, and via votes on motions and bills. At the end of the term, there is a record that an MP has to wear, since there is an unambiguous relationship between that individual and the citizens.

            Under multiple representative scenerios, the relationship gets complicated. Is an MP more beholden to the segment of citizens who voted her in? Since parties gain importance as the vehicle of representation in PR systems, is an MP more bound to follow party dogma?

            Representatives would be freer to engage in game theory driven behaviour (if I’m the third ranked MP by proportion for a riding, and know that the first two will vote in line with local interests, I may be freer to vote against, and use my relatively marginal status as cover). The potential for Rovian style politics WITHIN a riding becomes much greater as part of this (since all MPs are equal, an MP could pander to a very fringe and core proportion of voters, with the knowledge that third or fifth place is good enough – we could well see representatives being more “political” than representative as a matter of their own self interest).

            Also, it’s not unheard of for MPs to remove themselves from caucus in situations where they cannot support the party. But in a multiple-member system where the party is even more integral to assigning seats, the morality of such a decision becomes less clear.

            Finally – the issue of accountability runs two ways. Let’s say I think my MP is a vacuous weasel. A reprehensible sack of poop. A depraved and twisted – well, you get the hypothetical idea. That individual is still my representative. I respect his presence at parades, in being my voice in Ottawa, in helping me navigate federal services, and so forth. With multiple representatives, that respect is now more subject to personal preference and makes it easier for citizens to “shop around” for their prefered MP of contact. That sounds like a good thing, but the long term effect is to take the onus off any particular MP to be universally representative of constituents, and for citizens to view their MPs like fast food restaurants.

            Anyway, just a few thoughts…

          • Wrt opinions of constituents and the voting record that an MP has to wear…MPs from multi-member ridings will still have a “record to wear” and will be just as beholden to constituents as current MPs, IMO. I really don’t see a difference here, at all.

            In terms of the “party or the person” dilemma, that problem exists today – it seems pretty clear to me that more than a handful of today’s MPs were elected almost entirely on the basis of the party banner. In fact, multi-member is superior…as proof I offer you the theoretical 4 seat riding of Calgary West – in that riding CPC voters would have the opportunity to vote CPC AND withhold votes from Rob Anders. No longer is party endorsement enough, you would actually need to have some personal qualities that voters care to endorse. This makes it somewhat easier for MPs to claim that they got in on their own merits, not harder. Granted, running as an independant is the ultimate test, but we are debating directional differences.

            Same with an MP who decides to leave a caucus – I just don’t buy into this idea that the moral dilemma is any more significant than today, and in fact would suggest that party is less important.

            I do agree with the shopping around concern, sort of. In my example riding of Kitchener, I don’t see it as a concern for Andrew Telegdi – it seems obvious to me that folks who voted LPC are almost entirely going to go to him for constituent help. Amongst CPC voters, they would be able to approach both Harold and the other guy. If I was Harold or the other guy I would arbitrarily split the Kitchener in half – no worse than today.

            My bottom line is that the gains (much higher percentage of voters who get a rep that they actually voted for outweighs the concerns that you outlined, should they occur at all.

            Anyhoo, as you were, and thanks!!

          • Double percentage handles most of that. Federal percentage gives number of seats available for each party, but which candidate gets those seats is determined by their percentages in their riding, with candidate competing for those seats with the other members of their own party.

            This forces candidate to try to ensure that they’re in line with what the bulk of the riding wants, not just a party based plurality.

  4. Something about this i’m not getting.[probably because i know nowt about the nomination process, never having been involved]
    Who provides the money, logistics for the nominee? The party? The candidate? If it’s the party can’t party HQ simply pull the plug regardless of who signs the forms? Or is it simply a question of not knowing – as with Dion, when he didn’t know he had a racist on his hands. But isn’t that just a question of better vetting, whether at the riding level or Party?
    Another thing, what’s to stop the party getting solidly behind another nominee…the non crazy [ or more moderate] nominee if it doesn’t like the look of the first one up? No need to shut anyone out then from the leader’s office.After all it is the public who decides gets the nod in the end.

    I find it hard to fathom though, as in the case with Dion’s rogue candidate, that a leader should not have the right in extreme circumstances to say: non – you don’t meet party criteria, go form your own skin heads association, but not here, not on my watch.The argument against that is that we have had racists in Parliament before this and survived it. But again, how often does this extreme example come up?[ i don't consider pro lifers extreme in this context, even if i don't agree with them. That's something a party like say the libs have simply got to learn to deal with. If they get too stroppy caucus can turf them out under Chong's proposal] I don’t think the inertia crowd has made its case here.

    • Unless the funding comes from the federal party, or a tax receipt is given to an individual donor, ridings are the wild west of political spending….

      http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/little-accountability-for-millions-spent-by-riding-associations-1.1366909

      I disagree about the need for the party leader to have veto. Presumably, an avowed racist could be kicked out of caucus on Day 1, and the party could make it known in advance that the voters would be wasting their time if they wanted party affiliation from the candidate in question.

      Again, if a majority of voters are willing put a wing nut of any stripe into parliament, then I guess that’s their will.

      • Strong argument for not having a veto there Sean. I think i could live with that.As i was trying to say, there’s more then one way of shunning someone, without denying them their right to have their say in the political arena. Certainly no leader should be able to say down the road: ‘ i wont sign your papers next time out’, not once an individual has been elected,

  5. This debate reminds me a bit of a funny story in Ralf Mair’s memoirs[forget the tittle] about life as a cabinet minister in Bill Bennett’s govt. Apparently they had no choice but to allow Vander zalm into cabinet because he was too popular and had a power base. According to Mair they would let him have his say, make his proposals, but he couldn’t recall anybody ever implementing even one of them – presumably cuz they were off the wall in most cases. He did get to be Premier, so i don’t know if there’s a moral there too? Other than you can’t protect the country by wrapping up its polity in cotton wool or banning everything – a sin that the left is particularly partial to.

    Moral being, there are a lot of ways to sideline difficult people without banning them or simply making it impossible for them to run.Maybe the larger moral is our institutions if functioning properly can deal with almost anyone? I guess i’m a bit old fashioned in that way. But really, what would a govt of robots truly look like in a democracy as diverse as this one? [And what would it really gain us in the long run?] The Harper govt – close maybe? But it could happen to other more progressive parties too if they were too zealous and controlling.

    • nicely put!

      • Forget what it was, but a fun read. Mair is just about as crazy as Vander zalm.
        I worry a bit we make a mistake to shut these characters out. Where are these guys now? The Crosbies and the Copps? The new breed all seem so humourless. Maybe it’s just they way we cover politics now. But i miss those old guys like Jack Webster and Mel Hurtig.

    • They can run. Now they just have a method to legally force a party to let them run for that party.

      • No. The riding association gains the entrenched legal right to do so.

  6. Many in the Liberal Party (of which I’m a member) use ‘this riding association will get stacked by single issues groups’ argument not just against this particular reform bill, but against such things as riding reform for choosing delegates to leadership conventions or picking candidates for ridings, etc.

    I’m still undecided on Chong’s bill, but I’ll note that even with the argued tight controls in place needed to prevent single-issue groups from ‘stealing a riding’, mostly to do with anti-abortion groups as the example given here, I note it didnt stop or affect the # of LPC MP’s that were “pro-life” in the Liberal caucus, as Iggy to his embarrassment found out… so I find this argument a bit of a straw-man as well.

  7. Alternative Energy expert Frank Raso is running for the Liberal Nomination in Niagara Falls, he has known and supported the local former Liberal MPP for years and he is not running against party policy, but he has several good policy suggestions on his website. The riding association has told him he cannot run, but today, Deputy Premier and Finance Minister Charles Sousa said he should be able to run if he wants to. I do not believe that Kathleen Wynne is going to act the way the Harper Conservatives do and allow anyone to screw around with nominations, indeed there is not a backbencher in the Ontario Liberals who has introduced a private members Bill to take control of the nomination from the leader in her party like there is in Harper’s Conservative party. “Ontario Liberals Blocking Riding Nomination in Niagara Falls” http://frankraso.ca/index.php/web-links

  8. Not so long ago there was no need to have HQ approve candidates, and then somehow it became the law.

    Perhaps we should go back and look at the reasoning that led to this requirement. Then we could decide if the objective is still important. We could also look at other options that were considered at the time, and maybe select one of those.

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