Let the caucus choose

Christopher Moore considers the BC Liberals’ current predicament in the context of how party leaders are chosen in this country.

The caucus, having done in Campbell, declined to take responsibility for selecting his successor.  They had one of those vote-buying orgies that are the rule in Canadian political leadership selection. A radio talkshow host, Christy Clark, with NO support from any member of the Liberal caucus, acquired the party leadership. She won a seat in the legislature (just barely) but, with no support from MLAs and no electoral mandate, she has been premier for more than a year. That parliamentary accountability thing….?  Naaah, this is Canada. Turns out the leadership convention’s choice was not so successful. Clark’s Palinesque performance has won few friends, and now she has polling numbers akin to Campbell’s. She too faces abandonment by cabinet and caucus members who never wanted her to be their leader. Latest out the door is leadership runner-up and finance minister Kevin Falcon.

Look where the caucus fire/convention hire system has left the BC Liberals. The caucus could probably muscle Clark out as it did Campbell. Except there must be a provincial election by next spring, so there is hardly time for a traditional leadership race — even if there was any faith that the hey-I-just-bought-a-vote party masses could make a better choice this time.  The whole convention system is simply too inflexible for the pace of parliamentary politics. Stuck with the leader imposed on them, the Liberal MLAs just have to go down in flames .

I’m somewhat torn on this one. I like the idea and the principle that the parliamentary caucus should be empowered to choose its leader. But I suppose the people who join political parties should have something to do. And I’m interested to see how the next Liberal leadership race functions with this new “supporter” thing. What we have is something like a cross between the American system of primaries and the traditional parliamentary system of letting the party caucus decide. And so we should probably choose one. Either we regard our Prime Ministers and Premiers as Presidents (and thus should open leadership elections to a wider vote beyond the card-carrying party membership) or we regard our Prime Ministers and Premiers as parliamentary leaders (and thus we should let the parliamentary caucus decide). And faced with those two choices, I side with the latter.

Update 2:47pm. It’s pointed out to me that Ms. Clark had one supporter in the BC Liberal caucus. He resigned in March.

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