Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Helena Guergis and Canadian Nominations

Andrew Coyne has weighed in on the fight brewing in Simcoe-Grey over the CPC's ousting of Helena Guergis as the nominated candidate for the next election. Mr. Coyne, as is so often the case, has decided to stand on principle in the face of reality. The principle is that local constituents should decide who is their next candidate for election. There's nothing wrong with that idea in theory. In fact, it becomes an absolute mess. Political parties are very strange entities in Canada. While heavily regulated, they remain at their core private clubs working in the public spheres. Mr. Coyne points to the requirement of candidates to receive the written endorsement of a party leader in order to stand for election as an affront to local democracy. It's not. The regulation doesn't come from any of the political parties but rather from Elections Canada. The reason is pretty simple: during a federal election, Elections Canada doesn't have the time to monitor the nomination process of the local Marijuana Party. Thus, they ask any candidate who claims to be the Marijuana Party candidate to receive the endorsement of his or her leader proving that they are the real candidate and not just trying to use the party's name to advance their cause or confuse voters. That way they know the candidate is actually nominated.

Now, this rule can be used by party leaders to veto unwanted candidates. It's not why the rule exists, but it can be used that way. While I agree that local members should have the power in nominating candidates, there has to be a limit. Political parties need to be able to remove candidates who have ceased to represent the best interest of the party. In the course of a federal election, speed is crucial. If a candidate is embarrassing the party, they need to be removed in short order. It may not be possible to schedule, announce and hold a new nomination meeting in order to get that candidate approved. When Sir John A. was the Conservative Party candidate (in numerous ridings at once), the media in Halifax wasn't reporting what his candidate in Vancouver said at a community meeting that morning. There wasn't video on the internet showing his candidate in Windsor making a fool of himself (or Sir John A. debating drunk off his rear-end). The media cannot expect perfect discipline from political parties and expect free-for-all nomination processes. They are mutually exclusive. Likewise, in a system with short election periods which may occur at any time, you cannot have an American style open nomination process.

Canadian political parties are very small clubs and they operate as such. However, our system allows for the election of independent candidates. If people in Simcoe-Grey want Helena Guergis to continue to serve as their MP after the next election, I wholeheartedly encourage them to start working on an independent campaign. Bill Casey and Chuck Cadman have both done it successfully after falling out with the Tories. Our first-past-the-post system allows independent candidates to win election and serve their constituents in the House of Commons. The party leader only controls his or her caucus members if they don't feel they can be elected without the party banner at their back.


penlan said...

If I lived in her riding I wouldn't want her as my candidate. Not just because she's a Con but because she hasn't even shown up to work since she was ousted from caucus. She's a no-show so how is she representing her constituents if she isn't even there?

CanadianSense said...


Can you name 3 "cons" you could tolerate in your riding.

In 2008 her gap increased against her competitors.

Witch hunt aside do you have any facts to add why she has not done a good job for her riding?

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