Friday, March 27, 2009

Undemocratic, Not Prudent

Tories make it harder to contest nominations

Most Canadians have long been fed up with Conservative MP Rob Anders.

A recent bid by Donna Kennedy-Glans to challenge Anders for his nomination has, unfortunately, hit a snag as the Conservative party national council issued a rule change requiring a two-thirds affirmative vote by the members of a riding association's membership in order to have a nomination challenge.

In Calgary, Anders must be breathing a sigh of relief.

But in Vegreville-Lloydminster, where local MP Leon Benoit is at no risk of a nomination challenge, Conservative riding association Danny Hozack doesn't like the change. Despite the fact that his MP is beyond secure in his nomination, Hozack has his concerns about the change.

“Imagine if the equivalent happened at a federal election,” he mused. “We just want to make sure everyone gets out and votes.”

“We spend a lot of time convincing people to become involved,” he added. “At least before they felt included, some might find the change offensive.”

If one accepts the rationale of Conservative party President Don Plett, the move was simply to keep Tory MP's attention focused on the current economic crisis.

“If we don’t do something like this then the incumbent doesn’t know whether he or she will be challenged and so they have to spend an unbelievable amount of time in the riding securing their own job if you will and not doing the work they were elected to do,” explained Plett. “We had nominations less than a year ago in many of our ridings across the country.”

“At a time like this when we are focusing so much and working hard with a serious financial crisis, it’s hardly time to take our attention away to fight nominations,” Benoit agreed. “I know the Prime Minister was very concerned that MPs [would] have their focus taken away from the business at hand."

"[My last nomination] a little more than two years ago was a very clear decision," Benoit added. "I’ve had five nomination races in my 15 years and none of them have been really heavily contested lets just say.”

All of this is well and fine for someone like Benoit who has served his constituents honourably.

But as it regards an individual like Anders, who has embarrassed Canadians on numerous occasions -- including denouncing Nelson Mandela as a terrorist -- this move may prove unwelcome to his constituents.

While Don Martin continues to hold out hope that Conservatives in Calgary West may yet get to Anders by throwing out the riding association board of directors that supports him, a two-thirds affirmative vote to challenge his nomination may be difficult to muster. A simple majority may not be.

If the Conservative party were really prepared to live up to the populist credentials its roots in the Reform party would otherwise demand it would scrub rule changes such as this and allow members of riding associations to make their decisions unencumbered by the fiat of the party's national council.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

Buckdog on Politics - "Trouble Ahead for Rob Anders"

Pierre Trudeau is my Homeboy - "Does Stephen Harper Support Rob Anders?"

Calgary Grit - "Closet Liberals"

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