Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"The ass will carry his load, but not a double load; ride not a free horse to death."

So last week we heard about the Liberal Party's plan to save incumbents from the time and expense of holding nomination meetings - they're awfully busy in Ottawa doncha know - and this week it's the Tories. This is scary stuff (although far from novel) and members in both parties need to address the issue. Scary too when you look at the similarities between what the Liberals said in similar circumstances in 2004 to what Peter Goldring says of the Tory circumstances now.

An October 30, 2004 editorial in the Ottawa Citizen, entitled "Democratic reform was nice while it lasted", described
PMPM's announcement about protecting the nominations of incumbent MP’s – in October, remember they had been elected in June and the House had barely resumed – before any of the “new ones” had even been given a chance to prove, to either their own constituents, or to the party “members” who nominated them in the first place, whether they were worthy of re-election, re-nomination or both. What was the motivation for this action? According to the editorial a spokesperson for the Prime Minister (presumably commenting in capacity as spokesperson for the Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada) said that “it’s to keep [Liberal MP’s] from having to worry about rivals organizing against them at home while they’re trapped in the House of Commons making sure the government wins parliamentary votes.” Key word: trapped.

Now look at Goldring's words in the Hill Times of this week:

"Mr. Goldring said in a minority Parliament trying to address the ongoing economic crisis it's critical for MPs to be able to focus on their work and be available in Ottawa for crucial House votes that could topple their government, without having to be worried about watching their backs.

"It takes time and anything that takes time away from them [MPs], if their focus has to be on doing work in the riding as well as working here, it's certainly much better to spend your time working on issues here that are for the people rather than just trying to spend time increasing your chances of being nominated or working on memberships because you're trying to protect your nomination," said Mr. Goldring."

And, of course as noted above, we have a not-so-new new internal policy from ILMI that says incumbents will be protected only if they meet certain membership and grassroots fundraising thresholds (400 members (adjusted for region) and 40 Victory Fund members). The CPC would be wise not to take lessons from the LPC in this regard.

You know, it's not that we don't get the logic of all this. It's just that it is sooo undemocratic. Considering that there are many MP's, most certainly in the Liberal Party as well as the CPC who haven't faced a real nomination since their first divissive slugfests many moons ago. A Party nomination is not a Senate seat - it's not an appointment for life (oops silly naiive me, there I go again!) It's just that we don't want to put them through the bother.

Wouldn't you think that ridings with MP's would always have healthy memberships so they shouldn't have to worry? (Note careful phraseology here: I did not say MP's with healthy memberships; the members are not the MP's, they are the Party's and the ridings'.) And so what if they did?! I think most members in held ridings looove their MPs and vice versa. A healthy membership that wishes to turf their nominated candidate should have the same right as the electorate does (and the electorate does fairly often; there's a farily high incumbency turnover rate in Canada compared to many other jursidiction such as in the US, where incumbents must always be re-nominated (primaries), but I kinda digress...).

I know that the original premise for incumbency protection, as was the case for the Leader's "right" to appoint, had its genesis in takeover attempts by various "special interest groups" in the days where a Liberal nomination East of Manitoba pretty much secured one a seat - or at minimum a very competitive crack at one, but those problems themselves came more themselves from a genesis of manipulated and truncated membership voting rules including brief and moving-target cut-off periods. Reactions to undemocratic processes with even more undemocratic processes - hmmm, isn't there a word for that?

Instead of continuing this charade, why don't we just fix the real problems? There are two things that ILMI and the National Executive and the Campaign Committee and all the other mucky mucks who run this stuff could consider to make Quixotique feel a little more listened to and a little less hot under the collar. And they're not biggies.

Firstly, if you must put in place incumbency protection for this one very last time give it a sunset clause timed for any election (and obvisouly nomination process) initiated after the conclusion of the Biennial Convention in Vancouver, where, whether binding or not, Party members just might like to have their say on some of this stuff and maybe even put in place a more democratic membership-nomination regime, or at least a sanctioned one.

Secondly, while the thresholds, if they represent minimum expectations, ain't necessarily a bad thing for MP's, impose a regime, where, as now, any incumbent not meeting the thresholds may be contested, but also where the membership in held ridings where the thresholds are met, will be the ones to decide. Let them decide if their MP can be contested or not. What a way to work together (always work together).

UPDATE: Well someone out there agrees with me!

UPDATE 2: And they did again, and um again, kinda.

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