Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Why Reform Will Fail

Source: CBC News: Conservative MP Michael Chong Makes Bid to Fix Parliament

Even with Perrin's e-mails being found amongst the clutter, and some shake ups in the Senate, let's take a bit of a break and look at a 'non-releated-but-totally-releated' consequence of the Senate Scandal fallout.

Ontario Conservative MP Michael Chong is bringing forward a bill to redistribute some of the power of the Prime Minister, and all party leaders. It would take the leadership establishment out of the nomination process, and even establish a method by which the party caucus could remove a leader from power.

The biggest change here, obviously, is going to be felt in Electoral District Associations; but not in all of them.

All parties are scrambling to say that their party doesn't have a top down leadership structure when it comes to nominating candidates. I can speak to my experience as a NDP candidate, and there certainly wasn't any top down control there. The only real outsider presence felt was the need to undergo a criminal background check, as part of the nomination package. Other than that, I never needed a 'green light' from Jack Layton to seek the nomination.

So, from my own experience, the NDP is already pretty good at letting EDAs run the show in their own ridings.

However, Liberals and Conservatives don't have the same legacy.

Liberals, dating back ages, have been accused of (and caught) parachuting in candidates to ridings. There was complaints in 2008 from Saskatchewan politician David Orchard that he was being squeezed out of running in Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River, after then leader Stephane Dion appointed Joan Beatty rather than have a nomination.

The Conservatives suffer from the same perception. As seen in the nomination battle for Brandon-Souris, which saw two candidates disqualified for 'late paperwork' which led to the party's preferred candidate being acclaimed as the candidate in that riding.

So, when it comes to finding candidates, the record for the NDP looks best when compared to the rest.

However, I suppose there is an argument being made that this will have the largest impact on incumbent candidates. After all, the argument seems to be that current MPs need their leader to sign off on their nomination papers for the next election; which, not being an MP, I couldn't speak to a record for any party on this issue.

By removing this check, and putting into the hands of the EDAs, makes for an interesting dynamic. After all, it would give MPs a bit more liberty in what they say and do in Parliament as they are beholden to their EDAs over their leader. Of course, this could also lead to an increase in problematic issues being brought forward and debated. (Such as the number of Tories chomping at the bit to reopen the abortion or same-sex marriage debates.)

Handing over nomination signing to the EDAs, however, isn't a sure fire fix.

If a MP runs afoul of their party/leader, I'd imagine we see an increase in contested nominations in incumbent ridings. After all, the party could likely find a replacement who is a better fit for the party and work towards getting them nominated over the incumbent. And while this doesn't spell the death knell for all incumbents, since many will likely continue to enjoy the support of their constituents, it would be a new hurdle for incumbents prior to the election.

But, the main thing I want to discuss is the leadership review being proposed.

Conservatives already seem like they're getting ready to defeat this bill; as Minister for Democratic Reform Pierre Poiliever has already spoken out against the bill. And while it may look like bad optics for the Cons to vote down a bill on democratic reform in a time when many Canadians are looking at the abuses of consolidated power; I would suggest they will go a different tact.

The leadership threshold is 15% of caucus members. This is a number that I imagine the Conservative leadership will see as far too low. I'd imagine a 'Rathegabering' of this bill is going to happen; with the threshold being lifted to 50% or higher in the aim of 'protecting stable government'. Which in turn, I imagine, would lead to the willing members of the opposition to condemn the bill; which the government will then use as sound clips for them being anti-democratic.

It's the most likely scenario I can see from this.

The Conservative majority will not allow this bill to pass as it stands; the statements and reactions from the front bench members of caucus highlight this. So, it will either be killed outright or neutered of any real power through amendments. It's also looking like the NDP and Liberals will allow a free vote for their members on this issue, while the Conservatives have stayed silent.

In the end, it's a good attempt at reform and of returning a modicum of power to the electorate; but in its current form, it won't survive. And if it does, I imagine it will be amended beyond recognition and usefulness.