Democracy in short order in Conservative party
The Conservative party has surrendered any democratic high ground it may have had today, as all of its sitting MPs have been automatically renominated for Canada's next federal election -- whenever that may be.
The party had sent mail-in ballots to all of its members to ask them whether or not they wished to challenge the nomination of their local MP. A two-thirds "yes" vote was necessary in order to challenge.
Conservative party President Don Plett and sometimes-Tory strategist Tom Flanagan have both defended this move based on pragmatism.
"In a minority Parliament situation, our MPs were forever looking over their [shoulder] to try to figure out whether they were going to be challenged in a nomination and couldn't properly do their job they were elected to do," Plett explained.
"Politics isn't like mathematics," Flanagan mused about the decision, which is a departure from traditional Conservative party policy on nominations. "[it's] not a realm of eternal truths. When circumstances change radically you may have to change some of your organizing principles."
Yet when one of those organizing principles is a fundamental principle of your party -- in this case the populism championed by Reform party and Canadian Alliance founder Preston Manning -- compromising on it is a very bad idea.
In this case, the move has left the Conservative party facing a very severe democratic deficit within its own ranks.
NDP MP Judy Wasylycia-Leis hits the nail on the head when he suggested that, for any party with the ambition to lead democratically, democracy must begin within the party itself.
"Every nomination race is a challenge to the sitting MP to prove that they've still got the support of their riding's members," she said.
Which is a very important point. Even if the Tories wanted to reserve nomination contests for when they're truly necessary, a simple majority vote would be a much more democratic margin than a two-thirds margin.
Even Canadian Christian Coaliton President Charles McVety has his share of concerns about the move. "The democratic deficit in this country is already large enough," he said. "We don't need the governing party to be sinking deeper into ... a culture of entitlement."
Pragmatim is no excuse for a political party undermining its own fundamental principles -- particularly when one of thoe principles is supposed to be grassroots democracy.
Other bloggers writing about this topic:
Richard Evans - "Fiddlefudging by the Conservative Party"
Views from the Lake, eh? - "Where 'No' Means 'Yes'"